As the first performer to introduce horror-movie imagery to Hard Rock, pioneering Shock Rocker Alice Cooper mined social outrage and parental disapproval into transgressive stardom in his 1970s heyday. If his flamboyantly theatrical approach lacked the dangerous edge of his Michigan contemporaries the MC5 and the Stooges, Cooper's macabre imagery and catchy teen-rebellion anthems — not to mention elaborate concerts incorporating guillotines, boa constrictors, decapitated baby dolls, and gallons of stage blood — held considerably more appeal to middle American teens.
A minister’s son born Vincent Damon Furnier, Cooper was a Detroit native who moved with his family to Phoenix. While in high school there, he formed the Spiders, who cultivated a macabre image and who by 1968 had evolved into a band called Alice Cooper, fronted by Furnier, who eventually took the same name (one supposedly gleaned from a witch contacted during a Ouija board session). The band moved to L.A., where Frank Zappa was impressed enough to sign them to his Straight label, releasing the albums Pretties for You and Easy Action in 1969 and 1970. But those early manifestations of Glam failed to catch on with hippie/Acid Rock audiences, leading the group to relocate to Detroit. There the band's increasingly outrageous concerts began to generate notoriety, while a mainstream breakthrough arrived with the hit 1971 anthem "I'm Eighteen" from the third Alice Cooper album, Love It to Death (the first of 11 produced by Bob Ezrin).
The popularity of Love It to Death and a wildly successful U.K. tour earned the band a bigger record deal with Warner Bros. Killer, released in late 1971, introduced the hits "Under My Wheels" and "Be My Lover.” "School's Out," from the 1972 album of the same name, became Alice's biggest hit to date, while the follow-up, 1973's Billion Dollar Babies, which included the hit "No More Mr. Nice Guy," marked the band's commercial peak.
Not everyone loved Cooper, who became a magnet for controversy, his gory antics outraging parents and moral watchdogs. He managed to defuse some of the controversy, however, with a self-effacing, down-to-earth attitude that belied his onstage persona, and made him a popular presence on talk shows and mainstream TV shows.
Cooper broke up the band after 1974's disappointingly received Muscle of Love, and he made his official solo debut the following year with the concept LP Welcome to My Nightmare. He continued to score success and defy expectations in the ensuing decades, making over his image with such sensitive hit ballads as "You and Me" and "Only Women Bleed." In 1977, he committed himself to a sanitarium for treatment for his alcoholism; the experience inspired the album From the Inside. In the 80s, he released a series of New Wave-flavored albums that failed to generate mass interest, but his career rebounded substantially in the second half of the 80s, as he reembraced Hard Rock and horror showmanship, and reestablished himself as an in-demand concert act.