How Vincent Furnier Became Alice Cooper at a Moment’s Notice
Manager Shep Gordon recently recalled how Vincent Furnier became Alice Cooper at a moment’s notice, and how he later tried to persuade the unhappy band to remain together until they were all millionaires.
He told the story during an in-depth interview on The Bob Lefsetz Podcast.
Noting that Cooper was credited as Furnier on the band’s early releases, Gordon recounted a meeting with a PR executive. “She asked the band to go out in the lobby and she said, ‘Listen, Shep, you gotta give me one person named Alice Cooper. I don’t know how to make five guys with a girl’s name famous. You give me one of them, that I know how to do.’ So I go out in her lobby and I said, ‘Listen guys, we gotta pick one of you to be Alice Cooper!’ And right there in the lobby we picked Alice."
You can listen to the interview below.
The ploy was a success, especially since Cooper had already been the band’s “focal point,” Gordon said, but he was aware that the rest of the band – Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith – might feel disenfranchised. When the decision was made to change Furnier’s name legally, the manager recalled telling them, “‘Until we’re all millionaires, nobody is leaving this thing. Once we’re all millionaires, we sit and talk.’ And we all shook hands on it.”
When tensions boiled over in the mid-‘70s and the rest of the band wanted to go in a different direction, Gordon refused to assist them. “My take on it was, ‘Hey, we shook hands … just wait!’ And they wouldn’t do it," he recalled. "I said, ‘I’m gonna go with Alice. I’m not going to be part of your guys’ journey.’” Still, he added that they "never had a fight, we never had an argument, we’re all still friendly.”
He also remembered the team talk he’d given them when they decided to chase the big time. “We had no other dreams,” he said. “This has to work. We make a pact amongst us – I said, 'Listen, it took 12 guys, or 11 – I’m not a religious guy – to make Christianity. We don’t have to be that big. We got six.’ We just gotta believe, because, just like in Christianity, it’s belief. If we believe strong enough, we’re going to make this happen.”
Securing a record deal with Frank Zappa’s Bizarre label in 1971 wasn’t the straightforward route to success he’d hoped for. Instead of looking for a big hit, Gordon argued that it had been in the producers’ interest for the opposite to happen, since the label had a dedicated budget, and if it wasn’t spent, it could be kept.
“[Zappa] came at 9 o’clock and introduced us to his brother,” Gordon said of the studio experience. “The band thought they were rehearsing, he came back at five o’clock, took the tapes, and that was the end of the album. … So he pocketed a lot of money. The only way he would have to give up that money, if anybody sold records. … We ended up in a major lawsuit.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Gordon recalled how his one and only fistfight had been with promoter Bill Graham, how Beatles manager Allen Klein had attempted to get him jailed in Canada as revenge for having released a series of bootleg recordings and how producer Bob Ezrin, who established a long-term partnership with Cooper, was given the job of refusing Gordon’s approaches by his then boss, Canadian producer Jack Richardson.