Some local hard rock fans will probably check out Mötley Crüe at Sunday’s concert promoting their “The Final Tour” (yeah, right), but the real deal starts the show — the venerable Alice Cooper. The now-66-year-old is surely best known for his de facto rock classics like 1971’s “I’m Eighteen” and the following year’s “School’s Out,” but the dark prince of ’70s shock rock boasts a full career that rivals, if not wallops, many of his contemporaries.
Admittedly, my genuflection toward Cooper is highly biased. As a child of the ’70s and the following decade’s Ronnie Raygun era, I grew up in a time of increasing repression, suppression, depression and nuclear war-fueled-doom that now seems almost quaint. My antidote to this pervasive nonsense was a devotional love of loud-ass rock.
I had the benefit of having that classic bad influence — an older sibling — turn me on to Cooper and band’s early releases when I was but a mere child.
Yet my moment of being completely infected by Cooper’s twisted vision occurred while, almost appropriately, being physically sick. In the spring of 1983, when I was 11 years old, I had a brutal case of gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that was possibly a result of my creepy childhood eating habits, i.e., mustard-and-onion sandwiches, mustard-and-banana-pepper-ring sandwiches, anything on bread slathered with mustard, etc. Two things occurred during my gradual convalescence that ultimately affected my development: my mom (reluctantly) let me stay home alone, as she had to go to work for a few hours, and my pediatrician prescribed paregoric. The “medicine” is an opiate-based liquid used to quell, ahem, malevolent diarrhea. My mom would give me the bitter, smoked-banana-flavored stuff as prescribed (over the years a Calvinist habit that I eventually broke) and, miraculously, the roiling storm in my innards settled. Yet let’s not bullshit ourselves — it also got me completely high.
While in this languid state, I grew bored with the daytime TV offerings, so I sleepwalked toward the turntable. I pulled out my brother’s Cooper albums, which included 1971’s Love It to Death, and Killers, as well as Billion Dollar Babies (1973). I had heard some of these tracks before, but in my drug-modified condition I was completely leveled by the music that seemed to slither out of the speakers. Tunes like “Second Coming/The Ballad of Dwight Frye,” “Halo of Flies,” and “Generation Landslide” were completely unlike the drivel of the then-current pop music (for further study, listen to Laura Branigan’s “Gloria”).