Alice Cooper leaves Phoenix for his hometown on the new album Detroit Stories
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Alice Cooper has a long and illustrious history in Phoenix.
He formed his band as a student at Cortez High School. He has been based in the valley for decades and has used his time, talent and money for numerous local causes.
Despite his status as one of Phoenix’s favorite sons, the fact remains that the man Cooper was born in Detroit in 1948 and the band Alice Cooper rose to prominence on the city’s legendary hard rock scene in the 1970s.
We’re a little jealous, if not surprised, that Cooper’s latest album, Detroit Stories, pays homage to the city he was born in.
“Detroit has always been the outcast city. And Alice Cooper was always the outcast band,” says Cooper. “The only place we ever felt we belonged in was Detroit.”
Cooper’s original plan was to make a straightforward hard rock album (his 28th if you count band and solo ventures). Finding the right place to write and record the album led him to Detroit, which also changed the concept.
“It got ‘Okay, now we’re writing songs about different aspects of Detroit – there’s Motown, there’s blues, there’s hard rock,” says Cooper.
The talent on the album also pays homage to the city’s musical history. Former Alice Cooper band member Steve Hunter shows up, as does Johnny “Bee” Badanjek from Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad and Wayne Kramer from MC5.
“After we put the band together, we decided right there: let’s not layer this record. Let’s not do it like Welcome 2 My Nightmare, which was all layered and produced,” says Cooper. “I said, ‘Let’s just play these songs live in the studio and pick the best cuts. And so we did it. The band was so good I didn’t want to waste them.”
Detroit Stories succeeds as a love letter to a vicious city and the incredible music that produced it.
Songs like “Shut Up and Rock” and “Detroit City 2021” are pure rock’n’roll. Kramer’s influence can be heard on “Go Man Go,” a track he co-wrote; It has the same punk energy and barely restrained enthusiasm as the best of MC5.
The tribute to Motown can be found on $ 1000 High Heel Shoes, a jazzy doo-wop track with backing vocals by members of Sister Sledge and Carla Camarillo. “Drunk and in Love”, a blues song about two people who are unlucky and find romance while living under a bridge, features Joe Bonamassa on guitar.
Detroit Stories does come with a few surprises, however, most notably “Our Love Will Change the World,” a cover of a song by Michigan psych-rock band Outrageous Cherry. The uptempo pop sound contradicts the nihilistic lyrics: “We have very little respect for everything / very little consideration for anything / we have something against so much / and we’re just getting started.”
“It spoke to me because the music was so happy and the lyrics were totally subversive,” says Cooper. “It was like the children of the damned of our generation saying, ‘Can you please get out of the way so we can rule?’
“It was what is played on the radio and I don’t think people hear the lyrics.”
Another unexpected title is “Hanging on By a Thread,” an anthem written before the pandemic in response to Detroit’s high suicide rate. It has additional meaning now.
“Yeah, I know you’re having problems right now,” sings Cooper. “We’re all in different ways / It’s like a new world we don’t even know / It’s hard to sleep, even harder to dream / But look, you have seven billion brothers and sisters in the same boat.”
The message of the song is to fight back against the darkness (whether it’s suicidal thoughts or the virus) and not give up. The second verse has been rewritten to reflect the reality of COVID (“Terrible and Merciless / It Has No Shape or Shape”), and the title ends with Cooper giving the phone number for a suicide hotline.
“Let’s hit the bully in the nose. The pandemic is the bully. Coronavirus is the bully,” says Cooper. “We’re going to beat you, we’re not afraid of you anymore and we’re going to survive you – that was really the whole idea of this song.”
The coronavirus is something Cooper doesn’t take lightly. He and his wife Sheryl spent December fighting the virus. He went to a vaccination site in Litchfield Park to sign autographs and take photos with volunteers. Now he’s fully vaccinated himself.
“And I think they wanted to take photos of me to take my shot so that other people would be encouraged to take their shot,” he says.
With his vaccination out of the way, Cooper looks to the future. He is a member of the famous supergroup Hollywood Vampires who are working on their next album and plan to tour England in August.
“I got in touch with Johnny [Depp];; He writes and Joe [Perry] writes, so as soon as we’re back together we’ll do another album, “says Cooper. He’d also like to tour with his band to promote Detroit Stories later this year.
And back in his adopted home of Phoenix, Cooper is 17 years old on his radio show Nights With Alice Cooper – “The radio show is easy. It’s fun. Because I only play the songs I want to play and tell backstage stories,” he says – and is preparing to open a second location (in Mesa) of The Rock, his Christian youth center, in April or May.
Despite his busy schedule, he takes the time to appreciate the warm welcome from Detroit Stories.
The album has received generally positive reviews from critics, and fans appreciate it too: it was near the top of the charts in several countries (it reached number 2 on the US Billboard Hard Rock charts) and reached number 1 in Germany.
“At 73, it’s great to have a # 1 album,” says Cooper.
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Jennifer Goldberg is the Arts Editor and Best of Phoenix Editor for Phoenix New Times.