Article Search...
  • Alice Cooper

    October 12, 2018

    Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium – Chattanooga, TN

    This year has been a great year of for checking off items on the Boomerocity Bucket List. In fact, in the case of Alice Cooper, two items were check off – one of them twice.  

    1. alicecooperchattanooga004Photo by James PattersonInterviewing the man, himself and,

    B. Getting to see him twice in concert – in the same year!

    For the second time this year, Boomerocity got to see one of its all-time favorites, Alice Cooper, in concert and, dare we say, though both shows were phenomenal, he and the band were even better than his concert back in March. 

    Coop and the band gave a capacity crowd twenty-one hits – each one bringing back memories to each and every fan.  From the opening tune (Brutal Planet) through the encore (School’s Out), Alice and the band left fans aching to hear more.

    Boomerocity has been a fan of Alice’s since “Love It To Death” came out, loving every note and syllable of “I’m Eighteen” and later finding the “School’s Out” and “Billion Dollar Babies” 8-Tracks under the Christmas back in the seventies. With songs like No More Mr. Nice Guy, Billion Dollar Babies, I Love The Dead, and School’s Out, Coop brought back very special memories to Boomerocity’s mind.

    Alice also served up work from his more recent albums including cuts from “Paranormal” (Paranoiac Personality) and Dirty Diamonds (Woman Of Mass Distraction). 

    We’ve enjoyed shows at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium in the past (Joe Bonamassa) and think it’s a great venue to catch shows if you live or visit the Chattanooga area often. 

    We’re looking forward to catching more shows there in the future.

  • Alice Cooper

    March 17, 2018

    Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort – Cherokee, NC

    IMG 1610Photo by Randy PattersonAs a kid growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, one of my dreams was to see one of my rock heroes, Alice Cooper, in concert. It took over forty years, but not only did I get to interview him (here), I finally got to see the legendary shock-rocker live.

    And what a tremendous show it was!

    Alice told me in my interview with him that he’s “Busby Berkley meets Bela Lugosi” and that he may be remembered “as maybe the Barnum and Bailey of rock and roll.”

    After catching his show at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, I would have to say that those descriptions barely scratch the surface of Cooper’s performance and talent.

    There were monsters, swords, corpses, guillotines, electrocutions, and dollar bills (okay, play money, but one can dream, can’t they?) flying around everywhere.

    At seventy-years young, Alice was in as great and full of form as he’s ever been in his storied, fifty-year career. His voice was as strong and raw as ever and the band was just flippin’ amazing!

    If anyone was at risk of stealing the show from Alice (not a chance but just gee-whizzing here for a moment), it would’ve been one of his three guitarists, Nita Strauss. That girl can flat rock any venue down. She’s a one-person rock show all on her own.

    Alice played tons of his hits but still left the sell-out crowd begging for more.

    And speaking of the crowd: The Cherokee crowd reminded me of going to a theater screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Many of the attendees were dressed as Alice, one of the nurses (the lead nurse played by Coop’s daughter, Sheryl) and other ghastly characters.

    If you’ve never caught Alice in concert, do. It’s an amazing experience.

  • Posted March 2018

    As a pre-teen growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, my only real exposure to rock and roll was whatever Elvis music my parents listened to and the Rolling Stones records my cousin (and now business partner) had in the spare room of my paternal grandparents’ house.

    Alice Cooper Paranormal press pictures print copyright earMUSIC credit Rob Fenn 1Photo by Rob FennAs I crawled into Junior High, some of my friends turned me on to the Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and a few others. Somehow or other, even the Osmond Brothers creeped into the mix.

    Don’t laugh.

    Back to my baptism into rock and roll.

    While in eighth grade, the fad was for us to bring battery operated cassette players to school (not Walkman size. Much bigger) and listen to the latest cassettes we’d bought or borrowed.

    One night, I was at a friend’s house and he started playing this new tape he’d just bought. It was by some band called “Alice Cooper”. As I recall (and as luck would have it), the first song I heard from that tape was “Sick Things”. It creeped me to the deepest part of my pre-pubescent being. THEN, two songs later, “I Love the Dead”.

    I was convinced that I was listening to the voice of the devil himself. EverythingKnoxvilleLogoEdited

    Who the heck was this Alice Cooper anyway and why did “she” sound like a dude . . . and a devil dude, at that? I bet they even had a house littered with satanic bibles and dead babies.

    OH MY GOSH! I soon learned that Alice even had a song called “Dead Babies”. WHAT. THE. HECK!

    I quickly learned that she was a he and that he was actually from right there in Phoenix, Arizona, by way of Detroit. The band and its sound quickly grew on me and I became a fan. Becoming a fan was certainly helped by the fact that my parents hated them/him and by the urban legend/rumor in my church that one of our local pastors was mentioned in the Cooper song, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”.

    Here's how the rumor went and some background on it:

    In the very small denomination that I grew up in, it’s largest church in the city – as well as the state – was the 44th Street Church of God. The pastor of said church was the (now late) Herschel Diffie.

    Coop fans can see where this is going.

    The story goes that Alice slipped into the 44th Street CoG one Sunday night and was “preached under conviction” by Rev. Diffie – so much so that he immortalized the religious experience in “No More Mr. Nice Guy”. That, alone, solidified me as a rebellious, pre-teen fan.

    I’m told that the story was repeated at Rev. Diffie’s funeral many years later.Alice Cooper Paranormal press pictures online print copyright earMUSIC credit Rob Fenn 4Photo by Rob Fenn

    But the rumor isn’t true.

    Forty-plus years later, I found out indirectly from Mrs. Cooper that the rumor isn’t true. That the truth is as the lyrics are written (“. . . the Rev. Smith, he recognized me . . .”). A couple of years later, in an interview with Alice’s original bassist, Dennis Dunaway, that it was definitely “Rev. Smith”.

    One more Alice Cooper story from my youth before moving on into the interview y’all are dying to read:

    The School’s Out album had just been recently released. My high school girlfriend of the moment, Adrienne (RIP), had loaned me her copy for me to listen to.

    Now, I’ll stop right her to ‘splain to you newbies about this album. Through shear brilliance, Alice’s manager, Shep Gordon, came up with the idea of replacing the dust sleeve that routinely protected albums within their covers with a pair of paper panties. It was shear marketing brilliance on Shep’s part.

    Back to my story.

    Knowing that the panties were on the album, I came home, and my parents asked me about the album. I told them that it was the new Alice Cooper album that Adrienne let me borrow. I showed them how the album cover opened like an old school desk. Then, I pulled out the album.

    The look on my parents’ face was priceless as they saw the panties on the album was absolutely priceless! I shrugged my shoulders and said something to the effect of, “Oh. Adrienne must’ve lost the dust cover and improvised.” I went to my room and had a good laugh and later told them the truth.

    I don’t think they believed me.

    Back to the devil and Alice Cooper.

    Alice Cooper Paranormal press pictures online print copyright earMUSIC credit Rob Fenn 3Photo by Rob FennOver the years, there were all sorts of other rumors and urban legends about our favorite Phoenician. But the fact was, Alice Cooper (born one Vincent Furnier) rocked our world with incredible – if now shocking – rock and roll as well as theater. Yes, theater. He did so before KISS. Before Marilyn Manson. Before Insane Clown Posse. Before a whole lot of other knock-off bands.

    Since those days, Alice Cooper has recorded some 27 studio albums, 11 live albums that are all joined by 21 compilation albums.

    Because Alice was going to be performing at a venue near me, I was given the opportunity to interview him by phone. When I called him at his Paradise Valley, Arizona, home, we made some small talk before starting the interview. When I mentioned that I grew up in Phoenix, he wanted to know what high school I went to. When I told him that I went to Moon Valley – the rival to his beloved Cortez High School, it started a great, impromptu chat about our high school days.

    For instance, when I told Alice that I ran Cross Country my freshman year, sucked at it, and not invited to run the following years of high school, he said:

    “Wow. That was my sport. I was a four-year letterman at Cortez. The Cortez Colts, when I was there, we couldn’t win a football game to save our life. But we were 72-0 in Cross Country. I was running a 4:40 mile and I was the seventh guy on the team. There were guys running 4:20, 4:19, 4:16 on the mile. So, I mean, we were pretty unbeatable in Cross Country. Anything else? We got killed in.”

    “We ran the canal. Monday would be sort of the long run. We would do, maybe, an eight to ten mile run on Monday. Tuesday, was Hell Day, and that was eight 80’s for time. Wednesday was more of a sprint kind of thing just for kicking at the end and, then, Thursday was a little bit of a layoff because Friday was the meet.”

    Just prior to our interview, Alice celebrated his 70th birthday that was celebrated via a fundraiser for his charity, the Solid Rock Foundation. His life-long career manager, Shep Gordon, put the whole thing together, including an amazing cake that looked just like Alice.  When I mentioned it (and wished him a belated Happy Birthday), Cooper said:

    “Shep did the whole thing. You know, it was a fundraiser for Solid Rock, which is my charity here. It was a very eventful AliceCooperBirthdayCakeAlice's Birthday Cake - Photo by Danny Zeliskobirthday. On my birthday was the Super Bowl. All my friends were there from Bernie Taupin to Richie Sambora. I mean, everybody was there at the party.

    “Two days before that, I was in a head-on collision. It hurt my shoulder, but it wasn’t that bad. And, then, I announced that night – on my seventieth birthday – that some period during the year, I would shoot my age in golf. The very next day, I shot 69. I shot a two under par at Arizona Biltmore Country Club. It was great! I made everything!”

    Before cutting to the purpose of our interview, I mentioned a mutual friend of ours, Cherylanne Devita, founder and CEO of DeVita Natural Skin Care and Color Cosmetics

    “Oh, yeah! Cherylanne is on our board – the Solid Rock board! She does a great job with Solid Rock, too. She’s one of the people that really – she’s a go-getter that we really like!”

    Shifting from the personal to the paranormally professional, I asked Alice about his latest CD, Paranormal.

    “You know? It’s funny. Every once in a while, you hit on an album with the right people at the right time with the right producer and the right songs. This album was in the top ten in thirty countries. It was just one of those albums that caught on. I don’t know if it was the fact that I switched things around. I used Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums – from U2 and that was a big shock to people. They said, ‘Well, that doesn’t sound like it would fit.’ It fit perfectly!

    “Getting Billy Gibbons to play on, ‘Fallen In Love (and I Can’t Get Up)’. It was the perfect song for him! Roger Glover (current bassist for Deep Purple) playing on ‘Paranormal’ – the idea was to put the right person on the right song. And Bob Ezrin and I and Tommy (Denander), we sat down and our only goal on this album was we all have to get off on every song. It has to be a song that all of us go, ‘Yeah! That really works!’

    “And, then, adding the original band for three songs made it even more of an eclectic kind of album but it all stayed to hard rock. That’s all we’re gonna do is hard rock. It’ll have a different flavor here and a different flavor there depending on who’s playing on it but it’s always going to be a hard rock album for Alice Cooper.”

    Coop is an amazing lyricist/songwriter that is often underappreciated. I asked if writing songs was getting easier or harder for him now.

    “No, that’s actually the easiest thing for me. To me, writing lyrics is, for some reason, that’s the easiest part for me. I’ve got a rhythm to it. I’ve got a certain – not a formula – but I kinda write in the same way. I try to write about things that are interesting to me about people. Not necessarily situations, but people.

    “I think when Bob Dylan heard ‘Only Women Bleed’ or something like that, that was the one song that he mentioned in Rolling Stone. He said, ‘I think that Alice is the most underappreciated writer in America.’ For me to get a compliment like that from Bob Dylan was, you know, you can’t get any better than that! I didn’t think he even knew I existed! That was a nice push.

    “Then, being nominated for the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame this year is one of those things, also, you never expect. I expected the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I didn’t really expect the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. I would love to be in the same Hall of Fame as Burt Bacharach and people like that. Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney.”

    When I said that I appreciated the intricacies and tongue-in-cheek humor in his lyrics, Cooper replied:

    “I think that I got a little bit of that from Kurt Vonnegut. I used to read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut. His sense of humor matched up with my sense of humor. I think that shows up every once in a while in the songs.”

    Even at seventy-years young, Alice is still a touring animal, performing concerts around the world for much of each year. I asked him what fans can expect from shows in the upcoming tour.

    “Right now, the number one drummer in rock and roll, Glen Sobel, was just voted Best Drummer in Rock and Roll. He’s my drummer. 

    “I’ve got Hurricane Nita Strauss on guitar. She was with The Iron Maidens. I needed a shredder. I had Orianthi in the band and she left and went with Richie Sambora and, so, I wanted another girl guitar player. I didn’t even go after a girl guitar player, but I heard Nita play and she was exactly what I was looking for: a shredder. Because I already had Ryan Roxie, who is one of the great rock and roll players. And I had Tommy Kenriksen, who was a producer and writer.

    “And, then, Chuck Garric has been with me for almost twenty years. What I love about this band is that nobody has ever heard an argument backstage.

    “Everybody in the band are best friends and they all can’t wait to get onstage. They’re there for all the right reasons. It’s funAlice Cooper Paranormal press pictures online print copyright earMUSIC credit Rob Fenn 3bPhoto by Rob Fenn being with a band that is having fun in what they’re doing rather than complaining all the time. Even on off days, a lot of bands on days off, everybody goes their own way. In this band, everybody goes to the movies together. And, then, everybody goes to the sushi bar together. And, then, I go back home with Sheryl (Mrs. Cooper) and they all go out to clubs and find clubs to play in.

    “The show is just absolutely pure Alice Cooper. I mean, it’s got everything you could imagine in it. It’s got every element of Alice Cooper in it. I’ve never seen such good reviews as this tour and it’s just going to keep going on and on.”

    Many feels that the music business is horribly broken. I asked Cooper if he felt that the music business is broken and, if so, what would he do to fix it.

    “Well, right now, there’s very little rock and roll in the music business. It’s what I call ‘modern music’ or it’s ‘young adults music’. But there’s very few outlaws out there. There’s very few bands – Guns ‘n Roses, Alice Coopers, Aerosmiths – those were the bands whose signature was the fact that they were already pirates. They were already outlaws.

    “Rock and Roll should have an outlaw attitude to it and everybody is so wimpy at this point. That’s why I like young bands that come up and they’ve got attitude. Foo Fighters. Great band. Bands like Green Day. High energy bands like that. That’s what we need. We need young kids, right now, in the garages learning Guns ‘n Roses and bands like that. And I think that’ll happen. But, right now, the most exciting guy out there is Bruno Mars. I don’t even like that kind of music and I really think he’s the most talented guy out there. But the rest of it to me is just so – I watched the Grammy’s and I went, ‘I don’t know who any of these people are!’ There was no rock and roll in the whole show.

    “What’s it about now is the metal bands are the only bands that have an attitude. They’re the only ones that get up there with attitude and having fun with what they’re doing. I see bands up there that, Geez! I go, ‘How boring can you be?’ And they think it’s rock and roll. It’s not rock and roll.”

    Alice Cooper has accomplished a lot in his career. Still, there has something he hasn’t done yet, professionally, that he still wants to do.  What would that be?

    “Well, I mean, you know, the Broadway thing, doing Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar, that’s only a one-night thing. But I would love to see Welcome To My Nightmare on Broadway. The show’s already written. I mean, all you have to do is get up and plan it. So, if somebody comes up to us and says, ‘I would like to produce Welcome To My Nightmare on Broadway,’ I would say that would be a great idea.”

    When I asked if he would want to star in it or have someone else do it, Cooper replied:

    “I could but at the same time, somebody else could play Alice Cooper, too. I would want to be involved in the direction of it only because I wrote the whole show. I would want to see how this guy plays Alice and sort of direct him and say, ‘Alice would never do that’ or ‘Alice would never take it there.’”

    When I posited that it was kind of like the “Love, Janis” stage show, Alice piped in and said, ‘Yeah, except that usually Alice Cooper Paranormal press pictures online print copyright earMUSIC credit Rob Fenn 4Photo by Rob Fennhappens when you’re dead!’

    Wrapping up our chat, I asked the legendary shock rocker how he wanted to be remembered and what did he hope his legacy would be.

    “Well, I think that it’s pretty much written that Alice will always be the Busby Berkley meets Bela Lugosi. Shock Rock has always been termed with Alice Cooper. But, really, we brought theater to rock and roll. I mean, we brought really legitimate theater to rock and roll, and nobody had done it before us. Being very modest about this, I don’t think anybody’s ever done it better than us. That’s always been my key thing.

    “If you’re going to be an Alice Cooper show, it has to be guitar rock, take-no-prisoners rock and roll. And it has to be theatrical. To me, that’s what I think I’ll be known as: maybe the Barnum and Bailey of rock and roll.”

    You can keep up with Alice and the latest in his career by visiting AliceCooper.com. Be sure to see where he’ll be performing near you and snag up some tickets. It will definitely be the experience of a lifetime.

  • Posted July 2019

     

    Alice Cooper Paranormal press pictures online print copyright earMUSIC credit Rob Fenn croppedPhoto by Rob FennTo the uninitiated, one may still think of Alice Cooper as some psycho with a girl’s name, wears eye make-up, and gets his head chopped off via guillotine every show.

    Everything but the psycho part is true.

    Actually, Alice is your typical husband/father/grandfather/Bible believer. Okay, all but the “typical” part is true. Seriously.

    I called up the man formerly known as Vincent Furnier at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, to chat about his upcoming brand spanking new tour that starts this year and a few other things. Boomerocity readers will recall that we spoke with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer early last year. So, when Alice called up, I asked him what has been happening with him since we last spoke.

    “Things have been going great. I was just speaking with my assistant. He lives in Nashville and he says the NFL draft thing is insane over there. Ha! Ha! Pretty crazy. He says it’s pretty insane over there. They were going to pull down the cherry trees just before the Cherry Tree Festival. What does that have to do with the NFL?! Oh, the NFL guys don’t like cherry blossoms. I get it.

    “Since I talked to you last, I think I’ve done 191 cities. The last tour was 191 cities, 17 countries, 4 continents, and that’s not counting the Hollywood Vampires in Europe. We did about 20 shows – 20-something shows in Europe with the Vampires. I’ve been off the road for three months now and we’re getting ready to go back.”

    When I said that the tour would start just in time to miss the heat in Paradise Valley, Arizona, he said:

    “Yeah, well, it’s gonna be 100 here on Friday.”

    Continuing on with describing the upcoming tour, Coop said:

    “Actually, it’s going to be more like the end of the last tour – the last time we’re ever gonna do this show that we’ve done for the last year and a half is in Mexico City with Kiss. It’s big – eighty thousand or ninety thousand people – then we’re putting that show to bed. Then, I start rehearsing with the Vampires. Then I go out with the Vampires for about two weeks or three weeks. Then that’s done for a while. There’s a new Vampires studio album coming out and a live album, so that’s going to be another thing. And, then, we start rehearsing for a brand-new tour which I’d say will be another one hundred and fifty shows.

    “There’s twelve to fifteen songs we have to do on stage. You have to do School’s Out. You have to do Eighteen and No More Mr. Nice Guy, Poison. Those are the songs the audience have to hear. Then how do you produce that on stage visually different from the last time you did it? That’s really where the fun puzzle comes in. You start putting pieces together. You know you can’t use the Frankenstein again because we did it two shows in a row. So, now, that’s put to bed. Something else has to take its place.

    “It is, actually, part of the fun – is knitting the show together from beginning to end in rehearsal.”

    Cooper has an incredibly strong fan base that he calls his minions. I belong to several of the fan pages/groups on Facebook and they are as loyal and fervent as any star could ever hope for. Alice had this to say about them:

    “Oh, I know! They let us know all kinds of things. Of course, they want us to do songs from Zipper Catches Skin and Special Forces. I’m going, ‘Guys. We only have two hours.’ We’re gonna put as many things in there that you haven’t heard as we can.

    “One nice thing is you play to the band’s strengths. In other words, I wouldn’t be able to do songs like Roses On White Lace or songs like The World Needs Guts or things like that if I didn’t have Nita Strauss because she is a shredder. She can play the Kane Roberts stuff. If she was the only guitar player, then it would be very hard to do things like blues rock oriented – Under My Wheels and stuff. She plays all that stuff great. But her strength is really – when it comes to those solos – in a little bit more modern rock. So, we can throw those songs her way and the audience goes, ‘Oh, man, I never thought you would play that song!’ I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for her being in the band.”

    Speaking of songs, I had always been curious about a song from his Welcome 2 My Nightmare album entitled, “I Am Made Of You”. To me, it sounds like a song you would hear in many of the “big box” churches across the fruited plain. Knowing that he is, in fact, a Christian (for those of you who didn’t know that little factoid, you can close you gaping mouth now), I wondered if it was a song about his faith and if it was written for use in church.

    “It has been. It actually has been done by a church choir. Here was the deal: Desmond (Child), Bob Ezrin, and I sat down and wrote it at Desmond’s house. Desmond wrote it as a love song between a guy and a girl, right? Or a guy and a guy, whatever. I Am Made Of You. In other words, I am connected to you. Totally connected to you. I am nothing without you.

    “Bob wanted it to be Alice singing to the audience; that he’s connected to them. I am made of you. Without you guys, I’m nothing. I wrote it as a hymn. I wrote it as from me to God. I am made of You. In the beginning, I was just a shadow. In other words, I was empty until You filled me.

    “It really works as a three-pronged song; however, you want to take it. But I have heard it, now, by a choir and it is BEAUTIFUL by a choir! The guitar on that, by the way – Steve Hunter’s guitar solo on that is one of the best solos I’ve ever heard. But there’s another song on Along Came A Spider called Salvation which was also done by a choir. I listened to it lyrically and it totally makes sense.

    “In all honesty, when I look back at a lot of my songs – even when I hadn’t yet come back to the church – Second Coming – there are certain songs that are talking against Satanic (things) and pro Christ. They may be disguised, but when you listen to them, you go, ‘Yeah! I get that! I totally understand what he’s saying there!’

    “Last Temptation. I mean, people were really surprised when they heard Last Temptation because it was being sold in Christian bookstores. Christians were going, ‘Oh, I get it – what he’s saying here.’ Same with Brutal Planet and Dragontown. It was saying, ‘What is the worst thing that can happen to you? The worst thing that can happen to anybody is the fact that you had your chance on earth and you didn’t accept. And, now, you’re here in Dragontown and there is no. getting. out. It is the worst horror you could ever imagine. More scary than any vampire. More scary than anything is you’re here. That’s it. I wanted whoever was Christian to hear that and go, ‘Wow! You’re right!’ And other people that did hear it go, ‘What do you meant there’s no way out?’ I want those questions, yeah!”

    When I told Alice that I Am Made Of You is one of the most beautiful songs he’s written, he added:

    “I had five ballads in a row. I had Only Women Bleed. I had You And Me. I had I Never Cry and How You Gonna See Me Now. They were all Top Twenty hits. It was because disco was going on and it (radio) would not play any rock and roll. Kiss had Beth. Aerosmith, all their hits were ballads. And all Alice Cooper songs that were being played were ballads. It was a weird time.

    “Ezrin and I and Wagner, I said, ‘I want at least one song that people go, ‘What?!’ It’s more shocking. It’s easy to write a shock rock song. It’s even better when you write a song that is so pretty that it’s shocking. Wagner and I wrote a song – it was on my Welcome 2 My Nightmare album: ‘Something To Remember Me By,’ which is one of the prettiest songs ever, after Dick passed it away. It was really a tribute to him. There’s another called, ‘Might As Well Be On Mars,” that I think might be the best song I ever wrote. That was never a single. It was just an album track. When you work with Ezrin, he said, ‘If you’re gonna make a ballad, make it a heartbreaker.’”

    Alice’s new tour is being joined on a many of its dates with Halestorm. I asked Cooper why he made that choice.

    “Lzzy has been a friend of ours for a long time. We met Lzzy the very first time the Vampires hit Rock In Rio. Lzzy was down there and we were gonna do ‘Whole Lotta Love’ in honor of Bonham. Lzzy was there and I think Johnny (Depp) or somebody said, ‘Let Lzzy sing this.’ And I went, ‘Yeah! Absolutely!’ She came out and sang it with us and killed it, of course, and we’ve been friends ever since. So, when it came time to pick an opening act for this tour, and when her name came up, everybody went, ‘Hell, yeah! Halestorm would be great on this show!’

    “So, it’s a little variety, Halestorm, and I think there are other shows that are gonna come up. The Strut’s maybe playing with us in Australia. We have different people at different segments of the tour. Lzzy’s a great hit for us.”

    If you haven’t been keeping up with Alice when he’s not on stage, you might be surprised to hear that he has established a ministry for youth in the Phoenix area. It is called Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock. He and his wife, Sheryl, established Solid Rock in 1995 with their close friend, Chuck Sevale. According to its website, “Like all great ideas, Solid Rock began on a simple premise. That inside every teen, there is a purpose. It all begins with hope.
    A faith-based organization, Solid Rock’s primary mission is to make an everlasting difference in the lives of teens by helping them meet the spiritual, economical, physical, and social needs of teens in the community by offering a safe, engaging environment during non-school hours. Maintaining ‘a teen’s worst enemy is too much time on their hands,’ Solid Rock provides the music, arts, vocational programs and fellowship that challenge teens to discover their passion through music, dance, video and sound production, self-expression, and creativity.”

    I asked Cooper to tell me more about Solid Rock.

    “The idea behind was I was watching two sixteen-year-olds do a drug deal on the corner. It came to me, ‘How does that kid not know he might be the best guitar player in Arizona? Or how does the other kid know that he might not be the best singer or might be the best drummer?’ Because neither one has ever had the opportunity because they were born into drug dealing. They were born into gangs. They were born into – their mom and dad. Everything.

    “I said, ‘Why not provide them with a place where they could actually have an option?’ I got a bunch of Christian business men together and we sat down as a board and for twenty years we made money and gave it away to teenage organizations. Then, we built our own place. It’s thirty thousand square feet. We get a hundred kids a day in there – from ALL walks.

    “The whole idea is come on in, find your talent. If it’s art, if it’s photography, if it’s dance, if it’s guitar or bass, drums, whatever, come in and find your talent and it’s all free. All of it’s free. We’ll foot the bill for it. We get gang kids and we get rich kids. We get Muslims. We get Christians. We get gay. We get straight and they’re all teenagers and we say, ‘You’re all welcome. We’re not going to beat you over the head (with a Bible).’ That’s the whole idea. They’re not stupid. They go, ‘Why are you doing this? What’s the catch?’ And I say, ‘The catch is you show up. You do it. Why we’re doing it is because we’re taught to do it.’ I say, ‘That’s the only catch there is, is that we see what your problems are, and we can help. We don’t need anything else from you.’

    “And the thing about it is – I had one girl. Sixteen years old. She comes up to me and she goes, ‘I want you to see the list I made last year.’ I said, ‘What list?’ She said, ‘I do everything by lists. Every morning, I get up and I write down what I have to do that day on a list.’ I go, ‘Oh, okay, let me see,’ and it said, ‘Get up in the morning. Have breakfast with the family. Go to school. Due my morning classes. Have lunch with my friends. Do my afternoon classes. Go to the park. Kill myself.’ And I went, ‘What?!’ And she said, ‘I had a pocket full of pills and a razor blade.’

    “We don’t go in and ask them why. That’s not our job. We’re not psychologists. We’re just there to provide some sort of relief from whatever their life is. And on her way to the park, a friend of hers said, ‘Have you heard about Solid Rock?’ and she said, ‘No’ and she said, ‘It’s a bunch of kids over there. You can learn guitar, bass, drums’ and she said, ‘Well, I got nothing to lose.’

    Alice Cooper Paranormal press pictures online print copyright earMUSIC credit Rob Fenn 5Photo by Rob Fenn“So, she comes over, and she’s there every day at 3 o’clock. Every day. Some of these kids say, ‘We feel safer here than we do at home.’ Other kids go, ‘This is exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t know where I was headed. Now I can sort of explore my talent.’ You’ll get a kid from the worst barrio; from the most expensive house; get them in the same room playing music together and neither one of them care where they came from. All they care about is the song or the music or what they’re doing. It’s been working. We get a hundred kids a day in there.

    “We’ve only got one open. We’ve had people trying to open these places all over and I’m always afraid to farm them out because the original idea – there are certain things that we want to be at the bottom of it. It’s usually Christian business men – not that you have to be Christian, either. There’s no Bible study – unless you want there to be. There’s no requirement. You don’t have to learn Bible verses or anything. There’s no beating you over the head with a Bible. BUT it is available.”

    At the end of our chat, Solid Rock came up again. Alice said:

    “If you ever get a chance – if you’re ever in Phoenix and get a chance, come in and see it because we love for people to come in and just watch the kids working and watch the kids having fun in there. It’s a lot of lives changing in there! A lot of kids got dealt really bad hands in the beginning and this changes everything. Yeah. Yeah. All we have to do is be faithful to it. That’s all.

    Another thing that the uninitiated might not know about Alice Cooper is that he and his wife are grandparents. I asked him if bedtime stories with the grandkids were frightening coming from Grandpa Alice.

    “No, no, no! In fact, I had the twins over yesterday. Sheryl and I had Falcon and Riot over. They live up to their names. Riot, especially, was living up to his name. And they have a new little brother named Rexington who we call T-Rex. They got the power trio already going. They’re just absolutely so much fun! They’re a lot of work but they’re fun!

    “They know that I’m not the same guy on stage. They know that’s Alice Cooper. I’m Pop Pop. I play Alice Cooper. They all get that. And their dad is in a band. Co-op (the band’s name) is really good. They sorta sound like Linkin Park – a heavier Linkin Park, and they’re Christian! I’m tellin’ ya, they have an album out that’s really, really good – Co-op does. It’s really, really a good record! The band is really good. I’m a little jealous of them, they’re that good.

    “Calico (Alice’s daughter) is out with Beasto Blanco. She’s lead singer for Beasto Blanco and she’s still doing improv comedy. Sonora (Alice’s other daughter) is a make-up artist and her husband had Stage 5 kidney failure and got a new kidney. It’s not rejecting. It’s right there. So, we’ve been very, very blessed with that one.”

    When can fans expect a new album from Alice?

    “To be honest with you, I’m going to be writing the album with Tommy (Henriksen) on the road with Bob Ezrin. We don’t really have a target date for that album but a lot of it’s written right now. I think when there’s time off of the road, we’ll be going into the studio on that time off. We do albums fairly quick because Bob and I and Tommy work really well together, really quickly and we surround ourselves with great players. And we know – absolutely know if a song is right or if it isn’t right. We always over record everything. If we want twelve songs, we do eighteen. We do eighteen songs and pick the best ones.

    “The legacy? You know, I would love to think that nobody wanted to go on after us. Do the show that nobody’s ever gonna forget and do it consistently for fifty years. I want to be the one that people compare to. That’s not out of ego, that’s out of the fact that a lot of work goes into writing and producing these shows. I like the fact that people still come to me and say, ‘I saw you in 1978. Best show I ever saw. I saw you in 1986. Best show I ever saw. I saw you in 1992. I saw you in 2005. Best show I ever saw.’

    “To me, the consistency of how good the show was has a lot to do with the fact that Sheryl and I have been in show business since we were fifteen. Both of us kind of like really know if it’s right and really know if it’s wrong. Then, we have Shep (Gordon) and Bob Ezrin that are kind of the overlords that get it all done.

    “I think the fact that Sheryl’s a perfectionist; I’m a perfectionist, and when it comes to getting it perfect – I don’t want it to be so perfect that it’s not fun. I want it to have a looseness to it. But I know you can be loose and still be perfect up there. I can tell now if one little thing is not quite in tune – and I’m never gonna yell at anybody. But I come over and I go, ‘I should tighten that bit up a little bit.’ And, a lot of times, mistakes stay in the show because, sometimes, mistakes are so good.’ They say, ‘Hey, I’m so sorry that happened.’ And I go, ‘No, no! They reacted great to it. We’re gonna do it again tomorrow!’

    As our time to visit drew to a close, I asked Alice if he is staying with the same band as he has been touring with, he said:

    “Yeah, yeah, same band. I’d never get rid of a winning combination like that. My job as a rock star is probably is fourth or fifth on my list of importance in life. But, it’s something that Shep and I and Sheryl have been doing for as long as I can remember, and I don’t see any way of stopping it. So, we’re just going to keep going until we can’t anymore.”

    You can keep up with Alice and his band by visiting and signing up for his newsletter at AliceCooper.com. Also, please do visit his charity’s website, AliceCoopersSolidRock.com.

  • Posted March 2017

    jesse dittmar shep gordon croppedPhoto by Jesse DittmarOdds are pretty good that unless you’re a real music business geek (or a celebrity chef business geek), you have never heard of Shep Gordon.

    I became aware of Shep many moons ago because I’ve been an Alice Cooper fan for over forty-five years and Shep just happens to be Alice’s one and only manager.

    In 2015, Mike Meyers (Yeah, Mike “We’re Not Worthy” Meyers) produced a documentary about Shep entitled, Supermensch. The phenomenal response to the film is one of the reasons that prompted Shep to write his autobiography, They Call Me Supermensch.

    The book and movie certainly delivered what I had hoped and expected with regards to stories about Alice Cooper. However, it was a real eye-opener because of the mountain of other accomplishments Gordon has achieved in his momentous career.

    Chief of those accomplishments (at least, from my view) is the role of adoptive parent and grandparent. I don’t want to spoil the story in the book but let’s just say that Shep stepped up to the role and challenge in a huge way. The book is worth the purchase just for that story alone.

    Suffice it to say, because of the movie and book, I requested an interview with the legendary 

    manager to the chefs and stars (now mostly retired), and Gordon was gracious enough to accept.

    I called Shep at his beachfront home in Maui. If you watch the movie, you will see that it was a home that he bought for privacy, serenity, and entertaining. The views are spectacular and definitely seem to be key to Gordon’s Zen-like approach to life these days.

    At the outset of our chat, Gordon shared the motivations behind writing his book.

    “It was a combination of things. It was really sparked by being at an event and Anthony Bourdain coming up to me and introducing himself, telling me he had become a book publisher and not just for his own books with Harper Collins and he wanted to do a book with me. I loved his work. I didn’t know him but I’m a bit of a groupie. It sounded like an interesting path.

    “That - combined with the movie - brought a lot of attention to me and it brought a lot of people sort of looking for answers. ‘How come you’re happy?’ How to be successful. How to be happy. Big questions that I certainly didn’t feel qualified to give an answer to but thought that maybe if I spent some time doing my own kind of exploration of my life, I would find common themes that I could pass on to someone that might help them.

    “So that had sort of been in the back of my mind. Then Anthony Bourdain showed up and I said, ‘Okay, let’s take a crack.’ Sort of like seventy years of psychotherapy put into two years.”

    And how long did it take to get it done?

    “Yeah, it took about two years to vomit it up!” he said, laughing.

    jesse dittmar shep gordon 06When I interviewed Joey Kramer about his book, Hit Hard, he said that it was quite cathartic for him. I asked if that was the same for Gordon.

    “Yeah, very much so. That’s what I meant by ‘psychotherapy.’ It really made me be introspective and find a lot of stuff about myself. Hopefully, some people can use it to help them.”

    And the feedback from readers about the book has been enormous.

    “Yeah, quite a bit. Sort of like you. They read it and ‘it really touched me and I’d like to talk about it.’ It’s had an impact.”

    Many authors, when setting out to write about themselves, are surprised by the raw emotions and memories that are unearthed during the process. Shep Gordon was no exception.

    “I got a much deeper appreciation of my father and how much of my life was sort of following in his footsteps. Things that I didn’t really realize beforehand but by writing the book I came to realize that he really sacrificed a lot to raise me and I sacrifice a lot to do what I do and never knowing why I was doing it.

    “My dad died while I was fairly young and my mom passed away about twenty-five years ago. I think my dad was about thirty years ago, thirty five years ago. TheyEverythingKnoxvilleLogoEdited each got to about seventy. I’m seventy-one. I think I was thirty-five when he passed away. Something like that.”

    One of the many surprises in They Call Me Supermensch is learning that none other than Jimi Hendrix is the reason why Shep got into the artist management business.

    “Yeah, in sort of a left-handed way but he introduced me to Alice Cooper. I was sitting around with him and the Chamber Brothers. They asked me what I was doing for a living and nothing I was doing was legal. Anthony Bourdain said that I was a ‘pharmaceutical salesman’. They were great customers but they wanted to know what did I do that was legitimate. I didn’t really do anything and Jimi said, ‘Are you Jewish?’ And I am and I answered him honestly and he said, ‘You should be a manager.’

    “The Chamber Brothers were sitting there – a couple of them – Willie and Lester – and they said that they had a band from Phoenix living in their basement that needed a manager – Alice Cooper. And that’s how it started some forty-odd years ago.”

    When I asked if he hung out with Hendrix anymore after that, Gordon replied:

    “Not a lot. He was on the road a lot. Doing a lot of recording. Going over to London. So not a whole lot. Chamber Brothers were there a lot so we hung a lot more. And Janis Joplin was there. She ended up dying there. So, she was around.

    “But everybody came in and out. I had Pink Floyd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bob Dylan. Everybody. It was sort of the rock and roll hangout.”

    The place Shep is referring to is the legendary Landmark Motor Hotel. Notorious for being Mecca for artists in the early days of classic rock, it is also where Janis Joplin passed away.

    Typical of any major writing project, there are things that are planned to be included in the work that, for whatever reason, just doesn’t make the final cut due to having second thoughts about their importance or reader interest. Supermensch was no exception for Shep.

    “Yeah, I think a lot of the things that didn’t make the cut were – and another part of the effect of writing the book had on me – was maybe some of the things I was holding as anger I had let go. When I saw them in front of me, I realized it was a petty anger and let it go.

    “And, then, there were a few things that Legal cut out of the book that I can’t actually talk about; people who are still living I felt needed to be exposed but I just couldn’t do it legally. It’s part of the reality of living in our world.”

    I’m a huge Alice Cooper fan and have been since I was around eleven or twelve years old. I say that I was a fan then. I think that it was actually a scared and morbid fascination with all the Cooper did in those early days to push the envelope rock performance. All that said, I asked Gordon what the least known or understood thing was about Alice.

    “What a good lyricist he is. I would say that he gets the least amount of credit for that. He’s really a great lyricist. It comes to him really fast. It’s amazing. I’ve never seen anybody write as fast as him.”

    Readers will be fascinated in reading about all the huge names Shep knew on a personal level and/or managed.  It reads like a Hollywood “Who’s Who” - people like Groucho Marx, Salvador Dali, and the Dali Lama. As a kid growing up in New York, knowing and working with the rich and/or famous was never in his plans.

    “It was never on my radar screen at all which I think helped me in the beginning stages of my career because it was never on my radar screen at all. As I became immersed in my business, I found myself becoming more and more of a groupie. I’m really attracted to power and wealth. I think part of it is the fool’s gold aspect of it. But part of it is most of the people who get above the crowd got there for some reason. So, they become real interesting personalities and a lot of them I always felt that I could learn a lot from.

    “But I definitely, in my younger years, could not care less about celebrity. I’m definitely a victim of the times because now I see myself always attracted to fame and power.”

    When I shared that my experience in interviewing celebrities has pretty much been a positive one, Shep added:

    “We’re all just people. In the end, we’re all just people. It doesn’t matter who you are. The same thing happens in a super market. Seventy percent of the people checking you out are nice and thirty percent are, ‘What did I ever do to bother you?’ It’s a human condition more than an entertainer’s condition.

    “I think entertainers have a different set of things where they’re different. The way they touch and feel the world is different than a lot of people because, usually, if they’re successful, they have people who touch the world for them. So that part, maybe, becomes a little different. A little different sense of reality.

    “But, as far as the basic core of humans, they all wipe their ass . . . if they’re still fortunate enough to be able to do it,” Gordon said with his trademark laugh.

    I often ask people in interviews how they would fix the music business if they were made Music Czar – assuming that it needs fixing. Gordon’s response surprised me.

    “Nah, I don’t think it needs fixing. It is what it is. The Grammy show will probably be the most watched show in the history of the Grammy’s, like it is every year.

    “Part of music is if the old people like it, the young people don’t and if the young people like it, the old people won’t. What needs fixing in an art form is a very qualitative question. It’s in the eyes of the beholder . . . in my opinion. I know there’s a wide held belief that music is not as good, it’s not as successful. I don’t feel qualified to say that.

    “I went to see the play, Hamilton. It was just as valid as a Broadway play. It had songs that I wouldn’t call a song. But to my kids, those are songs. One of the main raps that I hear from fellow people in the business my age is that there’s no more songs. It depends on how you define a song. There’s no more songs as we know them. That’s sort of my feeling. It’s sort of a young people’s game to vent and an old people’s game to enjoy.”

    Shep Gordon is primarily known for being an artist manager representing not only Alice Cooper but also Anne Murray, Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, and others. However, many readers will be surprised to learn that he is also credited for making the celebrity chef world what it is today. When I asked what the differences or similarities are between the music and culinary worlds, Gordon said:

    “I think they’re almost exactly the same. In the end, they all do the same. The culinary art form is so developed. It’s great artists the same way that I think Alice is a great artist. I think Emeril Lagasse is a great artist on many levels.

    “For Alice it’s lyric writing. For Emeril, it’s recipe writing. For Alice, it’s on the stage. For Emeril, it’s in front of the camera. They both have to play their hits all the time. If Alice does a concert and doesn’t do “School’s Out,” his audience would be really disappointed. If Emeril didn’t do some Cajun dishes, his audience would be really disappointed.

    “They also have to invent new stuff. If Alice didn’t write new material, he’d become a thing of the past. Same thing with Emeril. Gotta write new recipes. They both spend the afternoon in their street clothes. Show time comes, Alice puts on his uniform and Emeril puts on his whites. Alice gets the band together and says, ‘You know, last night, I’d like to hear the guitar part here a little longer; maybe you could hold the bass down there and I’m going to do one lyric.’ Emeril gets the chefs together and goes, ‘You know, guys, last night there was little salt in that fish and I really want that potato cooked another thirty seconds.’ And, then, the show begins. Alice hits the stage. Emeril hits the kitchen and they, hopefully, make their customers happy and go home. You know, it’s really the same kind of thing.

    “What the chefs didn’t have when I got started was any way to touch their fans outside their kitchens. So, think about if there weren’t record players, radio stations, or arenas, Michael Jackson would be a wandering minstrel. Just like Emeril had one restaurant. It was the invention of the record player and radio and TV and all these outlets that allowed them to touch their audiences. T-shirts with their names on it. That’s what I did for the chefs. All they had was one restaurant.

    “I got the TV Food Network on the air and I got them selling pots and pans and doing videos of their cooking and selling cookbooks – ways that an Emeril Lagasse fan didn’t have to be in a hundred seat restaurant to be a fan and to live part of the experience. He sells spices. He can make his recipes.

    “And now they’re starting to get remuneration at the level of rock stars. Emeril gets three or four hundred thousand dollars some nights to do big parties just like U2 gets paid fortunes to do their thing. Emeril is making a fortune on QVC just like the artists are making their money.

    “So, to me, it was very obvious. They were great artists just like musical artists. They just happen to be culinary artists. They did exactly the same thing. They just didn’t have a way to touch their audience.”

    And what does Shep hope people take away from the movie and book?

    “My first reaction to the question is that I don’t really care. The movie wasn’t my thing. It was Mike Meyers. I never really did it for a reaction. The book, I think more personally, I hope that people take away the fact: live your life. You’re gonna die. Everybody’s gonna die. Live your life and be proud of what you do. You can do it the right way and be successful and be happy. I hope that comes through.”

    As for what is on Gordon’s work radar for the next year or so, he says:

    “I don’t really know. I’ve never really been a planner. I know I’m going to continue with Alice. It’s like a body part. He’s at a point in his life where he really is enjoying being on stage. He loves his band. I think he’s doing a hundred and ten dates this year.

    “Next year I think that we’re doing some things with the Hollywood Vampires, which has been a lot of fun to put together and work on. I just see a lot of charity stuff and projects. I’m starting to do some talks. I’ll be speaking in Orlando and speaking up in Carmel. It’s nice. It gives me a chance to interact with the audience and let them ask questions about the book. I feel very comfortable in giving answers.”

    As we wrapped up our chat, I asked Shep Gordon what I often ask people who have been in the business for a long time like he has. How does he want to be remembered and what does he hope his legacy is?

    “No idea. That he was a good cook and a great grandpa. I loved people. I sorta do what I do for me so I don’t really think about things in those terms. I just hope that it’s not a big funeral that people have to travel to.”

    If you haven’t done so already, you will definitely want to order Shep’s book, They Call Me Supermensch. Heck, while you’re at it, order Mike Meyers’ Supermensch. Both are well worth the investment and are fascinating to devour.

    After you’ve read the book, try to start living life with “coupons” (you’ll know what that means when you read the book).