I remember ten years ago going to The Black Cat in Washington DC to see the remaining members of Detroit proto-punks the MC5 reunited for their first tour in more than three decades. I was wearing a chopped-up-and-safety-pinned-together Alice Cooper T-shirt. The MC5’s tour manager told me that she had been staring at my shirt all night and wondering what she could possibly do to convince me to give it to her. I refused, but was enthralled that she recognized that Alice Cooper was, indeed, as brilliant and transgressive as his revolutionary peers of the Motor City. She got that Alice Cooper shared the same blood as beautifully rambunctious punks like MC5 and The Stooges. And although the phrase Alice Cooper now evokes associations with “classic rock” and suburban uncle music, those in-the-know can recognize that “I’m Eighteen” has far more in-common with “Kick Out the Jams” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” than anything penned by the likes of Journey…
… Following its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this April and subsequent theatrical screenings across the country, the definitive Alice Cooper documentary, Super Duper Alice Cooper, will be available from Eagle Rock Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray next Tuesday, June 3rd. The film is billed as “the first ever doc opera film,” although I think the phrase “documation” might be more accurate, as the majority of the film eschews traditional “rock doc” devices, like talking head, for a plethora of clever animations of still photographs, in addition to appropriations of newsreel and horror film clips, along with archival concert footage.
Super Duper Alice Cooper covers the career of Vincent Furnier from preacher’s son to rowdy transvestite to alcoholic pop icon to hard rock god to right-wing, Christian, golf-enthusiast… who still likes to regularly kick out the jams… But, like Eagle Rock’s recently released Stones documentary, Crossfire Hurricane, it focuses on the artist at his most potent and least “legendary” (Yeah, there was a time, before his resume did the talkin’, when a night with Alice Cooper made you want to fuck shit up… and not simply wish the babysitter was willing to work for an extra hour.)
The film does document all that the average “Coop” fan in the 21 century would want to hear about, like his youth spent in church, his time covering Beatles tunes, being in a room where Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin were getting high, getting signed by Frank Zappa, accidentally murdering a chicken while supporting John Lennon, being the cliché Rock’N’Roll alcoholic and drug addict, and, finally, coming out sober on the other end, showing the next generation of “rockers” “how to rock.” Although this is all quite cool, it’s the things discussed that your uncle wouldn’t appreciate that makes Alice Cooper and this doc the coolest: The original band’s love of surrealists like Magritte and Braque, the GTOs convincing them to cross-dress in the retired sequins of the ice capades, violent homoerotic theatrics that scared the beJesus out of hippies, the love of them attested by the likes of Iggy Pop and John Lydon, and the fact that the MC5’s Wayne Kramer described his band as, “Salvador Dali with an electric guitar.”
And while Vincent, or Alice, is very currently comfortable as a married golfer with children, the most touching (and “revolutionary”) moments of Super Duper Alice Cooper are those when he remembers being a viable threat to the status quo and hero for outsiders. Of the band’s earliest goals, he explains, “The whole theme of the thing is just to attack and scare people.” And of the success of his earliest hit, “I’m Eighteen,” he comments, “Kids on the lunatic fringe of society, they finally had someone to represent them.” Although previous generations may write him off as being their parents’ music, not only did Alice Cooper seem to embody the “alienation” of hard rockers like Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, but he clearly had sonic cojones exceeding any of Hot Topic’s biggest sellers.