Back in the 70’s Alice Cooper was a young man on the top of the rock world. He was close friends with the top musicians of that time and drinking heavily. But when his friends started dying at the age of 27, he knew he had to take a step back. Soon he himself began throwing up blood.
“Everything that could go wrong was shutting down inside of me,” Cooper, who is preparing to reprise his role as King Herod in NBC’s live version of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” told the New York Daily News’ Confidential
“I was drinking with Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix and trying to keep up with Keith Moon and they all died at 27,” Cooper recalled.
Growing up with a pastor for a father, Alice knew he could find solace in the faith he grew up in.
“My wife and I are both Christian,” the 70-year-old said. “My father was a pastor, my grandfather was an evangelist. I grew up in the church, went as far away as I could from it — almost died — and then came back to the church.”
He wasn’t always able to keep it together he admits. He had been a high functioning alcoholic during the 1970’s but was trying to stay away from illicit substances, but then relapsed in 1981. He slipped when he had a bit of wine, that developed into a cocaine habit. A show on August 19, 1980 in Toronto was a casualty to his relapse after it was delayed for hours and eventually cancelled. Angry fans became uncontrollable and started a riot. At first the delay was blamed on customs, then on an asthma attack, but eventually rumors surfaced it was due to Cooper’s substance abuse.
After that tour he went home to start a family with his wife, and in May of 1981, they welcomed their daughter Calico. But despite the new addition, his drinking returned to a heavier state, until he was almost functioning like he was on autopilot.
“I sorta remember Flush the Fashion,” Cooper told the Phoenix New Times in 1996. “But I lost track somewhere during Zipper Catches Skin, Special Forces and DaDa.”
In later interviews, Cooper admits regret about this period of his life, wishing he could be given a do over both professionally and personally. “I love the songs – I just don’t remember writing them,” he told the Quietus in 2009. “My subconscious was writing some pretty good tracks! There’s ‘Zorro’s Ascent’ and ‘No Baloney Homosapiens,’ for example, where now I’m going, ‘Wow, that’s clever!’”
After recording, his substance abuse became clear that he was destroying himself. He was weak and pail from his habit and lack of eating. He was near death and couldn’t get out of bed. In the fall of 1983, he was checked into the hospital by his family and given vitamins to boost his frail state. He was then diagnosed with cirrhosis. After two and a half weeks he was told he could recover, if he gave up the drugs and alcohol permanently.
While Cooper was ravaging his own body, he was also wrecking his marriage. His wife filed for Divorce and moved out with their daughter in late 1983, but the couple was able to reconcile in mid-1984 after Cooper had changed his ways.
After fixing his health and his relationships, his career began to suffer. Both Zipper and DaDa had been huge flops, due to their experimental nature, Alices’ lack of touring to stimulate the record sales and an absence of promotion from Warner Bros. In 1984, Alice was dropped from his record label by Warner.
He was starting all over again.
He built himself over and returned to music, he brought back his classic mascara and joined Twister Sister in the recording of “Be Chrool to Your School.” He was now working alongside the glam metal bands who had been influenced by him ten years earlier.
“I definitely came back as metal. I like metal,” Cooper admitted in 1996, also reflecting on the new changes to his persona in the mid-’80s. “Before, Alice was always a victim because I was a victim to alcohol. After the alcoholism thing, Alice became more the dominant character, taking the audience by the throat, where he wants to take them.”
His return to the scene was one of the biggest comeback stories in Rock history. The early 80’s was a blacked-out blur where he almost died from his substance abuse. Because of the reality check he endured he was able to rejuvenate his persona and his career. He had a brand-new generation of fans and ruled rock once again.
With his new sobriety he was back on top and back on track thanks to his religion. Most people can’t understand the life of a rock star who’s also incongruence with religion. But he says differently.
“There’s nothing in Christianity that says I can’t be a rock star,” he explained. “People have a very warped view of Christianity. They think it’s all very precise and we never do wrong and we’re praying all day and we’re right wing. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with a one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Also published on Medium.