Alice Cooper overcome a debilitating addiction to alcohol and drugs decades ago, but he has had to fight a new ordeal in the last year since catching Covid-19.
The ‘godfather of shock’ joined Sunday Morning to talk about his brush with the coronavirus, as well as reaching the top of the Billboard charts 50 years into his career with his new album Detroit Stories.
Alice – born Vincent Furnier – is a survivor in every sense of the word, having given up his addictions to alcohol and cocaine 38 years ago, after realising that he was heading the same way as his “big brothers and sisters” like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin – all of whom he used to drink with.
“When they started dying at 27 and they were your big brothers and sisters, you started getting the picture that okay, ‘there is going to have to be an adjustment on this rock and roll thing, if I want to live to make 30 albums’.”
Now at 73 years old, Alice is still working constantly. He plays in two touring bands and had to cancel 180 cities when the pandemic hit.
But he had to slow down late last year when he caught the coronavirus.
Speaking to Sunday Morning from Phoenix, Arizona, where things are now “pretty good”, Alice said everything was open and more than half of the population have been inoculated.
While life was getting back to normal, Alice tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after Thanksgiving.
Although he did not show many of the nasal and congestion symptoms, Alice says it still hit hard.
“I was just exhausted, I felt like I got hit by a truck. And it just took a long time to get back. And then after that, I’ve been at 100 percent. But I did lose 15 pounds (6.8kg). If you want to go on the Covid diet, I don’t recommend it.”
Stories from Detroit
Alice’s recovery has been helped by the success of Detroit Stories, his 21st solo studio album. Released on 26 February, it debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart – the first chart-topper for Alice in the 29-year history of the album sales chart.
A love letter to the US city where Alice was born and the band was first embraced, Alice says central Detroit is no longer as full of drugs and crime as it used to be, but also remembers the day when the city could support three or four major rock shows a night, as well as a strong Motown sound.
“The Motown guys and the rock and roll guys all partied together, we were all friends. So in the music business they separated us – here’s Motown and here’s rock and roll – but in reality we were all just musicians.”
Alice says Detroit has always felt like an “outcast” to him, and the Alice Cooper band was the same thing.
“We were the outcasts, we were not the norm at all. When we first started, we were hated by the press, we were hated by the clergy, we were hated by parents and we were hated by a lot of rock and rollers. Because we were the future, and we were bringing theatre to rock and roll, we were bringing showbiz to rock and roll, and a lot of rockers didn’t like that idea because now you couldn’t just stare at your shoes and play, now you had to do a show.”
“And finally people started liking it of course, but we forced their hand. At the beginning we were totally outcast and the only place that really wanted us was Detroit . LA didn’t like us, San Francisco didn’t like us, but Detroit said ‘yeah, that’s our kind of band’.”
Putting on a show
Alice says the secret to still topping the charts and still drawing a crowd after half a decade of touring is that it all comes down to the quality of the record.
“You can’t stop a good song, you can’t stop the energy. Alice has become sort of a household name now, but everybody still views me as rock’s villain. And sort of rock’s Ziegfeld or Busby Berkeley. They know that when the show comes to town, it’s almost like a Cirque du Soleil or some kind of strange vaudeville. And every year, we try to change it so you’re going to see a different show every time.
“But I think people come to hear the songs. We had 14 Top 40 hits, songs were getting played on the radio all the time, for 50 years! And if you keep that kind of quality up, I think that it will get played.”
While the dozens of songs he has created might last forever, Alice says the persona he has crafted over the years could also last long after he has departed this world.
“When I’m dead 50 years from now – I’m giving myself 50 more years – somebody else should play Alice Cooper. He’s a character like Jack the Ripper or like Jekyll and Hyde. People go out at Halloween dressed like Alice Cooper.
“So when I’m gone, somebody else should play Alice Cooper. I created the character and I play him the way I would play him, but I would like to see how somebody else would play him.