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Warn the keepers and lock up the animals: Alice Cooper is coming to the Toledo Zoo. The veteran rocker, who will be in concert tomorrow night at the zoo's amphitheater, says he isn't planning on borrowing any of the local reptiles or bats, “but Snake may make an appearance in this show. I haven't really decided yet.”
Over the last five years, the macabre rocker has made Toledo a regular stop on his national tours, bringing his Rock and Roll Carnival show here in 1998, Brutal Planet in 2000, and Dragontown in 2002.
This time the theatrical musician is cutting down on the props - no guillotine, no headless babies - and cranking up the music, calling his 19-city road show the Bare Bones tour.
“We're still using props, but not massive props,” Cooper said in an interview from Los Angeles, where he was recording a new album and rehearsing with his band for the tour. “There will be a nurse ballet with this ridiculous Nurse Rosetta. Alice will have all the hand props. There will be a straitjacket.”
Among the songs he was polishing up for the tour, he said, are “(We're All) Clones,” “From the Inside,” “Serious,” and “Halo of Flies.”
To the surprise of many music fans, Cooper's guillotine and snakeskin boots have been popular attractions at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, but the artist himself has never been nominated.
“Is that unbelievable?” Cooper said when the subject was brought up. “It's unbelievable that I'm not in there. What do I have to do? I can't think of anything more that I have to do. I've sold 40 million records, had 20 gold albums, and I've influenced everybody in the business. And yet, somebody is going, `Nah, I think we'll induct the Talking Heads.'
“Hey, it's not my problem,” he said, cooling down a bit. “Maybe it's exactly right. Maybe Alice should never be in something like that. But it's a mystery to me. Do you know there are people on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame committee who think I am already in? The worst thing about it is that I started before all of them, before the guys who are in there. They used to go to my shows. Even [David] Bowie used to go to our shows. If KISS gets in before me, then I don't want in at all.”
Cooper released his first record in 1969 on Frank Zappa's Straight label after his band got the attention of Zappa and producer Shep Gordon by sending an offended crowd fleeing for the exits at a Lenny Bruce memorial concert at Los Angeles' Cheetah club.
“Shep Gordon realized that any group capable of evoking so negative a reaction that it could clear a room of 2,000 people in the space of a few songs was not only a force to be reckoned with but also a group destined for truly great things,” Jeffrey Morgan wrote in the liner notes to Cooper's 1999 box set, “The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper.”
The list of musicians and entertainment figures who have either cited Cooper as a major influence or applauded his blend of rock and theater is almost endless, but to name a few: Elton John, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Joey Ramone, John Lydon of the Sex Pistols, David Johansen of the New York Dolls, David Cassidy, Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller, Dick Clark, Burt Bacharach, and movie directors Wes Craven and John Carpenter.
Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone, “I think Alice Cooper is an overlooked songwriter.”
Cooper was born Vincent Furnier in Detroit in 1948, reared in Phoenix, and moved to Los Angeles in 1968 to pursue his rock dreams.
He pioneered the use of elaborate theatrical stunts in rock concerts and by the mid-1970s became one of the top acts in the business, topping the charts with such hard-rock hits as “I'm Eighteen,” “School's Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and “Billion Dollar Babies.”
Though Cooper blackened his eyes with makeup and spilled buckets of fake blood onstage, it was always harmless entertainment, he said, unlike some rockers who claim to be as dark and sinister offstage as on.
Cooper said he was hurrying to finish his new disc, “The Eyes of Alice Cooper,” before his Bare Bones tour was to begin last night in Walker, Minn.
“[The CD] is like very early Alice, like `Love It to Death,'” Cooper said. “Everything is live in the studio with very, very few overdubs. We play the whole song all the way through, warts and all. And I look forward to the warts.
“I think there's a backlash to American Idol, so squeaky-clean and perfect, with bands like the White Stripes, the Hives, and the Strokes, and Iggy and the Stooges making a comeback. I think there's a real demand for the Detroit garage-rock sound.”
He said rock and roll is supposed to be raw and immediate, not overly polished and refined.
“This album will be done in three weeks, whereas that's what it usually takes Metallica to get their drum sound. What are you doing, reinventing the microphone? I don't get it. You write the song, you arrange it, you rehearse it, you play it, you record it, and it's done. That's what gives it life, that's what gives it blood. It's real stuff. If you overcook it, it's done."
Joining Cooper onstage will be longtime band members Eric Dover and Ryan Roxie on guitars, Eric Singer on drums, and newcomer Chuck Garric on bass.
Alice Cooper will be in concert at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Toledo Zoo amphitheater, 2700 Broadway. Tickets are $25 and $37.50 from Ticketmaster.