Over the past fifty years, Alice Cooper has established himself as one of the most recognizable rock artists, earning the title of “godfather of shock rock.” Because of his distinctive voice and extravagant performances, he has sold millions of records, received several Grammy nominations, and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But from whence did Alice Cooper get his first musical inspiration?
‘Maybellene’ by Chuck Berry was the first song Alice Cooper recalled hearing, he said in a previous interview with NME. He remembers his upbringing in Detroit: “My parents were very much into music. My dad was a big band guy. I remember my uncle coming over and putting a 45 on, and it was Chuck Berry. I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever heard.”
Berry became “the basis of everything we do and the greatest lyricist of all time,” concludes Cooper. Cooper was very impressed with Berry’s writing skills as he described: “He could tell a story in three minutes. That’s how I learned to write.” Cooper’s stage presentation had many props, so perhaps his passion for storytelling came through.
The two artists have different sounds. Cooper’s music carried the guitar in a harder, more glam rock direction whereas Berry’s basic rock and roll also included rhythm and blues components. Despite this, Cooper’s sound wouldn’t exist if Berry hadn’t invented the genre.
‘She Loves You’ by The Beatles, however, is the song he cites as the one that altered his life: He said, “It was the first song by The Beatles I ever heard, and it literally changed something in my brain. It inspired what Alice Cooper became.”
Cooper praises American boybands in addition to the original British group, mentioning The Beach Boys’ 1964 album All Summer Long as the first one he purchased: “I was a big Beach Boys fan because we listened to Top 40 radio all the time on our little transistor radios and the Top 40 was the king of everything. The Beach Boys were America’s Beatles – they could do no wrong. Everything they did was great.”
It is not surprising that Cooper adopted this sound in his musical endeavors given the fact that his musical upbringing was deeply steeped in the pioneers of rock and roll. He changed the genre of classic rock by incorporating the element of shock.