Dennis Dunaway/Chris Hodenfield: Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!

The inside story of the early days of Alice Cooper, told by Vincent’s close friend and bandmate.

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You could be forgiven for thinking that Dennis Dunaway was just Alice Cooper’s bassist for a few years, but you’d be wrong. In many ways, it was Dennis who conceptualised the monster that Alice Cooper became.

Prior to their 1975 dissolution, Alice Cooper was a quintet fronted by vocalist Vincent Furnier, and the Alice character Vince ultimately chose to inhabit was a construct of the five members of that original band.

Dennis, meanwhile, was at Vince/Alice’s side from the very beginning. They ran together on their high school track team and discovered Dali together in an art class under Mrs Sloan, the unsung educator who introduced them to the music of Bob Dylan and the artistic truism that ‘When everything is screaming, nothing is sceaming.’ Take that, modern metal producers.

Ultimately, Dennis and Vince were close, from the very genesis of their mutual musical aspirations, and while the rest of the band were to fine-tune various aspects of Alice Cooper’s trademark shtick, it was Dennis, a surrealistic visionary if ever there was one, who customarily had the vocalist’s ear.

Anyway, the meat of the matter is this: crazy, preposterous, theatre of the absurd, proto-goth, prog-psych, beer-addled lunatics somehow contrive to ride dead-chicken-greased wheels to humungous, worldwide, megabucks rock stardom. Enjoy ‘cubic fun’ along the way. Collide with brick wall.

So what went wrong? Overwork, overindulgence, overambition. The usual suspects. Where the Cooper divorce was especially acrimonious was that it could be construed as, at best, a betrayal, and at worst, wholesale identity theft. The fiercely loyal Coopers stuck with Alice through tough times, but then he bailed, essentially smothering whatever collective legacy the band might have acquired for themselves with his own enduring and substantial individual celebrity.

There could be huge bitterness within these pages, but there isn’t any. Long before Dennis and Alice were rock stars, they were friends, and it’d take a good deal more than a one-sided business decision of 40 years ago to alter that. A killer tale, thrillingly told. Love it to death./o:p

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.