Dubious Claims To Fame – 5
I’ve told Alice Cooper that I love him. And I meant it.
Not in any kind of gay way, you understand, more in the manner that you love a parent or a close friend. Or your absolute hero. Here is the man who shocked the world with antics that are part horror, part theatre, and with a strong undercurrent of satire and wit; a man who counted his drinking buddies as Keith Moon, John Lennon, and Jim Morrison; was best friends with Groucho Marx, had a sculpture of his brain made by Salvador Dali, and was armed and then promptly disarmed by karate expert Elvis Presley. A disarmingly charming man, with a sharp sense of humour and enough anecdotes to keep you rapt for weeks.
Then consider his longevity, his constant musical reinvention, the stories and characters he has created, his embracing and spearheading of contemporary musical styles and trends. Piano ballads, orchestrated numbers, disco and new wave, garage rock, good old-fashioned rock n’ roll, industrial/nu-metal – Alice has done it all and more. While collaborating with musicians as diverse as Slash, Donovan, Kei$ha, Steve Vai, Rob Zombie, Bernie Taupin, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Bob Dylan considers him under-rated as a songwriter, and Sinatra covered him live – saying “you keep writing them, and I’ll keep singing them.”
It was 2010, and I got an email through his mailing list, inviting me to enter a competition to win VIP tickets to see his Halloween show in London. That was a Sunday, and I found out on the Wednesday that I’d won. It didn’t take much thought before I booked an extremely expensive train journey, for an 800-mile round trip, knowing this was my one chance to meet my hero, and get to speak to him at some length.
Finding someone to go with me was a problem though, being short notice and not cheap – I can’t even find anyone in Glasgow who’ll come to his local concerts with me. One friend agreed, then realised he’d double-booked, and so he offered to hook me up with one of his pals in London instead – someone already in the vicinity. As it happened, the friend he put me in touch with is a man called Erkan Mustafa. Or, to the 80s kids among you, Roland from Grange Hill.
So Roland from Grange Hill and I went to see Alice Cooper, on Halloween, in Camden’s Roundhouse. And then we went backstage to meet the living legend, where I spotted Noel Fielding from The Mighty Boosh while waiting. As it happened, I had crewed their show in Glasgow, and deliberately elected to wear an Alice shirt while working as I knew Noel was a fan. I approached him and reminded him of this fact, and spoke to him briefly about this and that. In lieu of a proper costume, I had taken with me a white doctor’s coat that I’d painted “Trust Me” on the back of in ‘blood’, and covered in spatters. It was folded up and tucked under my arm at that point, and Noel asked “What’s that?”
“It’s quite cool,” I said reflexly, unfolding it to show to him. “I doubt it,” he said in the manner you’d expect. Then he looked at it and conceded “That is quite cool actually.”
Alice was sitting at table like Rock’s own Santa Claus, patiently meeting and greeting each eager fan and competition winner in turn. I got to the front, knowing I only had one question for him. It’s the only question I’ve ever wanted to ask him, and here was my chance – would he ever bring back the “magic screen” that he used on the Welcome To My Nightmare tour? He told me to catch him on his next tour, and at the time of writing it looks like it might yet happen. I told him, matter-of-factly, that I love him, and that he is without doubt the coolest man on the planet – a compliment he accepted graciously. Asking on behalf of my friend who couldn’t be there, I enquired if he was ever a fan of Laurel and Hardy, as my friend runs a dedicated fan site and has secured interviews with numerous famous fans. Alice told me that he and Harry Nilsson used to mimic them when they were drunk, and then treated me to a passable impression of Stan Laurel. In keeping with the Santa’s Grotto feel (“I got a job in Atlanta/In a mall playing Santa/Not because of any talent/But because I was the only one the suit would fit”), I had my photo taken with Alice, and left.
They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but if your hero is Alice Cooper then you definitely should.
For those who only know Poison and School’s Out, here are some of my favourite songs. Starting with the visual stage effect that I hope to see performed live some day, where he runs out of a projected film and onto the stage.