Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

Halloween

Dubious Claims To Fame – 18

Eighteen, eighteen, eighteen, I’m eighteen and I like it. That was Alice Cooper’s first hit, before School’s Out, and it was the song that Johnny Rotten sang along to on the jukebox when he auditioned for The Sex Pistols. Alice is my hero. My 18th claim to fame is about him again.

I met him once, on Halloween in 2010, and have seen him on the two Halloweens since. He has yet to bring back the ‘magic screen’ as he promised when I asked him about it, but I have since learnt from far more dedicated fans than I that Alice can rarely be relied on when it comes to such things – he has so many ideas for his shows and album concepts that not all come to fruition. No matter how much he might talk them up.

Having recently released a sequel to his seminal solo album “Welcome To My Nightmare”, there was a lot of excitement and speculation that he might do a themed stage show for the first time since 2000’s ‘Brutal Planet’ tour, and even more excitement at the prospect of him doing a new ‘nightmare’ show for the “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” follow-up. It didn’t really happen, and although he said in interviews that there would be three sections to the new stage show and a nightmarish middle section, it subverted expectation. Of course, subversion is what Alice has always done best.

As soon as the first show of the tour happened, a week before I saw him, someone posted a set list and spoilers on the Sick Things fan site. I think we all read it, and there was much disappointment that he had removed so many stage effects that he didn’t even get executed in this show. Add in half a dozen cover versions and only a handful of the newest songs, plus recent staples that have been in the set for years now, and for the first time ever I didn’t feel particularly enthused about seeing him. I was wrong.

Alice’s management pay close attention to the discussions on that fan forum, and the setlist evolved from show to show. By the time I saw him, in Edinburgh on Halloween, he was down to four covers (honouring his dead friends – Morrison, Lennon, Hendrix, Moon) and had added in a couple of long-unplayed classics. With less theatrics, more pyrotechnics than usual, a fantastic array of songs, and the incredible talents of the musicians he has hand-picked to form his band – what a show! Easily one of the best shows I have ever seen him do, and I’ve seen him seven or eight times now. It was also the first time, in twelve years of going to his gigs, that he finally played a track from one of the two albums I bought together as a teenager and which first got me into him – and that was a pretty special moment for me.

The claim to fame is this: Alice always throws items into the crowd – he taunts us with dollar bills threaded all the way up the rapier that he waves above our heads during “Billion Dollar Babies“, sending them fluttering into the air above us, and he dangles beaded necklaces just out of our grasp during “Dirty Diamonds.” His band throw out dozens of guitar picks and a couple of drumsticks at every show too, and my first piece of memorabilia was a Pete Friesen signature plectrum that I found on the floor of the Barrowland after my first gig. As of last Wednesday, I now have five Cooper Band plectra – one from new addition Orianthi (jesus, that girl’s solo on his live cover of Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” – amazing!), the Pete Friesen one, a Steve Hunter one and two Tommy Henriksen ones from last Halloween, plus a dollar bill and a branded balloon that I caught and carefully deflated. The best bit, though, considering how many shows I have been to and how many times I have been down the front and still failed to catch more than one dollar bill (and no necklaces) is that I now have Alice’s cane.

He carried it onstage for his opening number, then threw it into the crowd. There was a mad dive for it, but I got one hand high and one hand low, and although I had to fend someone else off, it became mine. I threaded it up inside my belt, under the doctors coat I was wearing in lieu of  a proper costume, and it stayed there for the rest of the gig. I brought it home to Glasgow, and am very happy to have it. Here is a video of Alice waving it around during “Hello Hooray”, prior to throwing it casually away. I’d like to pretend that he deliberately chucked it to me, but at 3m 05s you can see how disdainfully he tosses it into the audience. Ha, if you look VERY closely, you can see my hand in the audience, giving the devil-horns, and then see as I lunge up with both hands to grab hold of it. 😀

The other claim to fame I have is that, owing to how far in advance I ordered my copy of the latest album, my name was printed along with several hundred others in the background of the poster that came with the limited Fan Pack edition of the album. You can see it highlighted and then enlarged below.

If you ever get the chance to see Alice live, you will not be disappointed – the greatest showman on the planet, and one of the warmest, wittiest people you could ever meet. I love him. Here’s “School’s Out” from that same gig – giant balloons, confetti, bubbles, swords, canes, top hats, a segue into Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 and back again, plenty of audience interaction, and masterful showmanship from Alice and every one of his band members – the biggest rock ‘n roll party going.

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The Insincerest Form Of Flattery.

I put this story in my first ever stand-up set which, as I recall, was 2nd November 2010 – its proximity to Halloween led me to relate this tale at a time when it was reasonably topical. I dropped it shortly afterwards and, although I think I put it back in once or twice in the two years since, it never really worked as an item of stand-up – whimsical but not funny.

One of my friends once dressed up as me for Halloween.

It was 2004, and we were in one of the regular party flats (Kersland Street, for those readers who remember), celebrating with our four friends who lived there and numerous others from the degree course we were all on. At the time, I was wearing camouflage combats and band t-shirts virtually every day. I had long hair, tied back, and sported facial hair. Not the wild, unkempt look of your typical unwashed heavy metal geek, but a neatly trimmed – I don’t know if goatee is the right term, but it was very close in style to what George Michael sported in the late Nineties. I kow this to be true, because the two or three times in my life that I have grown my beard in I have shaped it in the same way, and each time people have quickly pointed out the similarity to the former Wham! singer. I spent a few months of 2002 answering to the name “George” at work, until I shaved. Then it reverted back to “Darius”, but that’s another story.

My friend Roy decided to go to this Halloween party dressed as me, and to this day I can’t decide if that’s because he liked me so much he wanted to be me, or whether I was just the scariest or ugliest fucker he’d ever met.

Either way, I loaned him a pair of combat trousers that no longer fitted my expanding waistline, along with a bootleg Iron Maiden shirt that had shrunk in the wash and a German army shirt that didn’t fit at the time, but which the adherence to a diet now lets me wear. He fashioned himself a false ponytail and drew on a beard. It was quite funny, but it got confusing to all our drunk friends who mistakenly kept addressing him then realised it wasn’t me they were talking to.

I crafted a punchline for the stage version of this story, where I said that I did get all the articles back afterwards, and washed them – twice. Then burned them, because I never wanted to see them near a UV light, for fear of what stains he might have left in the excitement of wearing my clothes…

In its own way, it is quite flattering – not everybody can say that somebody dressed up as them for Halloween. It puts me right up there with Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Beetlejuice, and (on account of the topical news story this past fortnight) Jimmy Savile