(Credits: Far Out / Alice Cooper)
When considering the ultimate rockstar, Alice Cooper sits high up on the list. With a career spanning over five decades, Cooper’s brand of highly theatrical rock earned him the nickname ‘Godfather of Shock Rock’. But the musician credits a different genre icon for capturing “the rock and roll spirit”.
When sharing a list of his favourite albums of all time, the records included were surprising. Cooper’s range of inspirations and references weave between some of the greatest and most underrated albums in history. The Beatles’ early work stands out to him, alongside Laura Nyo’s largely forgotten Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. Similarly, Cooper’s favourite album of all time comes from Butterfield Blues Band, with their record East-West being “one of those albums that nobody knows about. Musicians know about it”.
However, one of his favourite albums is an incredibly well-known one, picking out The Who’s classic My Generation. Sitting next to work from The Doors, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and more, Alice Cooper respects The Who as one of the greats. In conversation with Ronnie Wood, Cooper even once said that the track ‘My Generation’ is arguably “the first metal song”.
In particular, it is the band’s guitarist, Pete Townshend, that stands out as a significant inspiration to Cooper. Gaining a reputation for his over-the-top rock shows that turn a concert into a spectacle, Cooper has always loved the most dramatic side of rock music. It’s no wonder, then, that Townshend’s angry, full-of-attitude playing stands out.
“You’ve got this guy, Pete Townshend, who is the antithesis of what a rock guitar player should be,” Cooper told Rolling Stone. Considering his moody, aggressive approach to playing in stark contrast to the rock guitarists that came before him, Townshend stands out to Cooper as an early punk and an example of how angry rock can get. “He gets on stage, and his knuckles are bleeding from hitting the guitar and doing the windmill. He’s the first guy I ever saw wreck the guitar and wreck the amp,” Cooper adds.
But Townshend is also a clear inspiration for Cooper’s catchy radio-pop meets heavy rock sound. “On top of it, he was a pop writer,” Cooper continues. “He wrote pop songs. I mean if you listen to a lot of early The Who stuff, it was very pop-oriented.”
“Daltry could sing that stuff, but Pete Townshend never lost his anger,” Cooper adds, holding the guitar player up as a shining example of rock rage.
Townshend’s inspiration continues today as Alice Cooper remains in awe of him. “I saw him two years ago and his knuckles were still bleeding. Every one of those chords he was hitting, he meant,” he said. In fact, Cooper is still spreading the good word about Townshend’s power, stating, “I tell young bands all the time, if you want to capture the rock and roll spirit, go see Pete Townshend.”