In Alice's wonderland, even trash turns platinum

After years of celebrity, Cooper had become used to accepting the accolades of longtime fans. But the people who seemed to like him most were the people who could do his record sales no good: thirty- and fortysomething yupsters who grew up on his outrageous garage-band rock and subsequently moved on to more mellowed, mature pop. They still loved Alice--as a character. The way they still loved, oh, the Tasmanian Devil. But they didn't watch cartoons much anymore and they didn't go in for the wildman-rock Cooper still specialized in.

"The old fans remember where they were when Alice was their rebellious mentor," Cooper shrugs. "They remember when he was the guy who said it for them. But I hate nostalgia myself, more than anything."

In effect, he was a rock star stuck between generations: The people who still held a warm spot for him wished he had kept on doing the ballads he did to pass time through the disco era, and the young hard-rock audience couldn't remember anything he'd ever done except "Only Women Bleed" and "You and Me."

Bon Jovi's support, then, was a godsend to Cooper. The Bonj was just old enough to remember Alice in his championship days. "Oh man, I remember playing Welcome to My Nightmare so much on my eight-track I wore it down to where you heard two tracks at once."

Bon Jovi was hot and happening enough with the record-buying kids to deliver Alice the audience he needed simply by attaching his name to a Cooper album. It's an association the rocker does not dole out lightly. "Yeah, it's possible I could get exploited as a kind of career reviver," he admitted. "But Alice--that's the kind of thing you can put your name on and it's credibility for both of you. I mean, for the opportunity to work with him, I woulda driven to Phoenix to pick him up myself!"

Alice was equally awed by the young rock champ and his red-hot producer. "At first I thought, you know, maybe these people could care less about working with Alice Cooper," says the modest star. "But then I get there and I find out they were terrified of working with me!"

Eventually, the mutual admiration society settled down long enough to get some work done. Child, in particular, grew comfortable enough with Cooper to offer criticism: Give the boa and guillotine a rest, Child advised, and give the kids what they really want--sex! The result was an album steaming with more colorful boasts of sexual prowess ("You'll be the target on the bed/I'll be shooting hot lead," "I'll drive you like a hammer on a bed of nails") than you'll find on most rap records.

Was this truth in advertising by the 42-year-old married father of two?
"I didn't even think about that when we were writing the songs," laughs the object of a lot of sudden groupie intrigue. "A lot of it was done in satire. And certainly some of the songs, like `I'm Your Gun,' were purely sophomoric--you know, `Pull my trigger/I get bigger.' But I like the idea that a song as sixteenish as that is included on the album. We tried to hit on a lot of levels of sexuality on the Trash album. On `Poison,' I was addressing the question, `Why do some people get out of abusive relationships and then the next thing you know, they're going out with a biker?' What is that masochism about? Is there an infection in them, where orgasm doesn't mean as much now without a bit of abuse? And you know, that was a fascinating issue to me. Of course, I don't think a fifteen-year-old kid is gonna listen to the album and get that."

INDEED, NOW THAT ALICE has the ears of the new generation, will his satirical and surrealistic slant on life play in Pimpleville? This is, after all, a hard-rocker with an artistic bent far beyond the finger-painting of most of today's MTV metal bands.

Let's face it: Would Salvador Dali have gone ga-ga over Great White the way he did over Cooper's Seventies shock-rock act? Would Cooper fan Groucho Marx have gotten a good chuckle from the precision double-entendre of Skid Row?

"I think sometimes we do overshoot the audience," Alice admits. "That's why it's good I have somebody like Desmond to pull me back. Because we'll start writing something, and I'll go on a rampage--`Oh, yeah, we'll do this, and then we'll do this, and oh, this'll be so clever.' And then Desmond will say, `They're not gonna get any of that.' Sometimes it's a blow, 'cause he'll be talking about what I think is the best line in the song. But then he'll say, `Now, if you say it this way, everyone will get it.'"

Occasionally, Alice misses the days when his audiences were sprinkled with arty Dalis. "He had seen the show and felt that it was extremely surrealistic," Cooper recalls of the late painter. "And he really got the idea that if you pull out a crutch during a song like `Eighteen,' it has no apparent reason for being on-stage. And yet, when you put the images together, the audience has to make up their own story."

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