Tuesday, January 10, 2023


This was prepared as a chapter in my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but is not part of the project's current blueprint. That may change, but right now it's planned for the even-more-hypothetical GREM! Volume 2.

An infinite number of tracks can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! 

ALICE COOPER: "School's Out"
Single from the album School's Out, Warner Brothers Records, 1972

To an adolescent or young teen in the early to mid 1970s, nothing in the world was cooler than Alice Cooper. Before KISS, before punk, Alice Cooper was gaudy and dangerous, potentially the most scandalous, depraved character on AM radio. It didn't matter that it was all an act--show biz!--or that David Bowie was ultimately a far more potent threat to the straight-laced status quo; at the time, Alice Cooper seemed the most dangerous, and therefore the most alluring. Within this fist-pumpin' time frame, a kid that couldn't relate to "School's Out," or didn't want to turn the radio up louder than it could actually go whenever that song came on...well, that kid just would not have been me.  

I discovered Alice Cooper when I was, I think, twelve or thirteen, 1972 or '73. "School's Out" was my gateway; even though the hit single "Eighteen" preceded "School's Out" by two years, I don't recall ever noticing it until after I was under the thrall of "School's Out." The lurid collective image of the band and its ghoulish, bloodthirsty frontman was fascinating, and I longed to experience that thrill in a concert setting.

In 1975, I was a sophomore in high school, still aching for more. Some older kids on my school bus had seen Alice Cooper's Syracuse stop on the Billion Dollar Babies tour (in 1973, I think). When the Welcome To My Nightmare tour scheduled a May 1, 1975 date at the Onondaga County War Memorial, I knew I had to be there. Ooo, and Suzi Quatro was opening! Suzi Quatro!!! In '75, I doubt I'd yet heard a note of Suzi Quatro's music, but I knew I'd seen her in Rolling Stone, and I knew I was madly, deeply in love with her. This was a show I could not miss!

But...I missed it. By parental decree. Mom and Dad may have considered letting me go to the show, but they determined I was still too young (and, though this was left unspoken, that Alice Cooper was too awful an influence on impressionable li'l me, plus Dad wasn't likely to let his son see a guy named Alice, no way, no how). I guess I could have counter-argued that their decision was preventing me from meeting their future daughter-in-law Suzi Quatro-Cafarelli, but I don't think it would have helped. Suzi and I went our separate ways, and we each found happiness and wedded bliss in the arms of True Love elsewhere. Suzi was too old for me anyway. I finally got to see my first rock concert about a year and a half later: KISS with Uriah Heep in December of 1976. Yeah, KISS was a much better influence than ol' Alice.

I don't think Alice Cooper--the singer or the original band that shared his name--gets the credit they deserve. I guess we should go back at least to Screamin' Jay Hawkins' outrageous stage persona in the '50s for the roots of shockingly flamboyant presentations of the rock and the roll, and certainly we have to go through Elvis air-copulating on stage, the destructive displays of the early Who, the guitar arson of Jimi Hendrix at Monterey, and the fiery get-up of the Crazy World Of Arthur Brown in discussing this idea of rock as SPECTACLE!! Alice Cooper brought it all to a new and unprecedented level, with a theatrical stage show that drew from Grand Guignol, horror movies, and Tales From The Crypt comic books. This was not approved by the Comics Code Authority, nor by any arbiter of good taste. That's why the kids loved Alice.

Cooper himself is mesmerizing, fully committed to the character he's created for himself, subtly winking all the while, yet not really breaking character at any point in any performance. Hell, when he was cast as King Herod in a 2018 TV production of Jesus Christ Superstar, he stole the whole show as only Alice Cooper could.

More than "Eighteen," more than "Elected," more than "No More Mr. Nice Guy" or "Under My Wheels" or "Billion Dollar Babies," more than Alice playing a witch on TV's The Snoop Sisters or hammin' it up with Vincent Price in a Welcome To My Nightmare TV special, and more than the unexpected ballad "Only Women Bleed" that forced the dropping jaws of DJs and listeners when it cooed sweetly and incongruously from AM radios in '75, "School's Out" is Alice Cooper's legacy in microcosm. Rebellion. Insolence. Depravity. Destruction. Showtime!

As an annual clarion call for kids champin' at the frothy-mouthed bit to ditch pencils, books, and teacher's dirty looks for summertime action, "School's Out" delivers a snarky dismissal of rules, regulations, decorum, good manners, and probably decent posture and reasonable hygiene to boot. Because screw all of that--school's out for the summer! Sing it, Alice. School's out completely. The lesson's been learned.

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This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

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