restricted access Alice Cooper All American: A Horatio Alger Story for the ’70s
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282 deTroıT The ’70s 6 283 rocks ınTo and beyond FROM EVERYONE LOVES ALICE TO CASS CORRIDOR PUNK TO DEATH 284 “What kinda dog is that, anyway, Mister?” “It’s a cross between a Manchurian yak and an Australian dingo.” —W. C. Fields, selling a ventriloqual dog in Poppy COOPERTOWN #1 “Return of the Spiders” is playing, and here stand these two stooges in the old sense, not like guitar hoodlumps cut from Ig-patterns, but just oldtime disgraced schmozoes, except that these two schmozoes are listenin’to this here rabid, highballed motherrhinofuck of a record. And one stooge looks at the other one with a pained expression on his face and sez: “Ugh, what loud unnerving shit! I couldn’t stand to be around music like that for more’n a couple of minutes before my nerves ’d come unstrung! And not only that, but you actually tell me it’s the first thing you like to play when you get up in the morning! You must be deranged!” And Stooge 2, the one with the taste, why he just turns and look at the other one all sly with his eyelids half-cocked down and purrs: “I find it rather bracing myself.” And there you have it.That sense of disjuncture and harmless abrasion is what Alice Cooper’s all about, I think. On the other hand, it might just be that Alice is actually conceived and founded on nothing more outre than plain or,good ol’,reassuring ol’“Show Biz Entertainment.”And Alice’s approach to it, far from deriving from any architectonics of “Future Shock,”actually draws gleefully on the most venerable, storied, sanguinely plebian of the lively Alice Cooper All American A Horatio Alger Story for the ’70s Lester Bangs Alice Cooper in Ann Arbor, 1973. © Leni Sinclair Collection. 285 lesTer bangs arts. It draws on vaudeville and carny and pies in the puss and the baggy pants hitting the sawdust and the bearded lady. And circuses and animal acts and all that superficially wholesome stuff stuck on independent channels that your parents while away their tube hours soaking their nerves in. Mr. Bones, the Beggar and Mrs. Davey, Honest Old Uncle Alice and his Sequin Flapping Drag Brash Cartoonoroony Whoop-up.Take the family. So how do we resolve the contradiction? Well, for one thing, it’s easy to carry garishness too far. Alice’s intricate stage business and sonic assault is an exercise in tactical brinksmanship on several levels. The drag stuff carried over from being truly outrageous, with Alice looking enough like a rather reptilian Vegas hooker that a drunk businessman could’ve took him home for the surprise of his life, and wound through permutations of business over the years until it had petered to the spider-eye makeup and aluminum cocaine jumpsuit zipped open to the navel. All the props and trappings and ’30s horror movie settings have a specific mileage beyond which they muddle downstream into shuck-and-jive. But Alice and the crew, consummate technicians that they are, almost invariably tether the gimmickery and injection hysteria just a shadow’s breadth this side of Gehenna. On the other hand, maybe Gehenna is where it should really be their job to take us, rather than the Laugh in the Dark ride at the amusement park. I think that’s something like what Iggy tried to do, and look at the Stooges era: done too soon. But just maybe there’s a bit of cautionary parable lodged in that great success-and-sharp-plunge story, and that is that perhaps the only growth possible for an artist who doesn’t remove himself at all from his art, so that it and his life are identical (because Iggy didn’t and for a while they were), is a tailspin into welters of egocentric, relentlessly solemn selfconsciousness . Especially if the artist is trying to render or conjure Gehenna, the pit, the darkness of chaos and disintegration. Theincandescenthumandemonpersonifications like Iggy, or more appropriately like the image that Iggy projected, bring to mind the old Dylan song about the house on the hill that was “brighter than any sun,” and the lyric “Don’t go mistaking paradise / For that home across the road.” ’Cuz if you do, you’ll not only wreck your health and lose your apple cheeks and vim-chocked profile but your sense of humor as well! And that’s the worst fate of all. A much more sensible course...


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