Alice Cooper, Norman Greenbaum, Paul Williams, Roger Ball, Talking Heads' Chris Frantz


Alice Cooper on his love for the city of Detroit

He was born Vincent Damon Furnier but is better known to us as Alice Cooper. The legendary rock singer’s career spans over five decades and has always featured that raspy voice and a stage show filled with props and stage illusions including  including pyrotechnics, guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, reptiles, baby dolls, and dueling swords, Cooper is considered by many to be “The Godfather of ‘Shock Rock’ He has drawn equally from horror films, vaudeville and garage rock  to pioneer a macabre and theatrical brand of rock.

Originating from Phoenix, Arizona in 1964, Vincent eventually adopted the name ‘Alice Cooper’ as his stage pseudonym. The band’s 1969 debut studio album had limited chart success but with the 1970 single , ‘I’m Eighteen” the band broke through. They reached their commercial peak in 1973 with their sixth studio album, ‘Billion Dollar Babies.’ It was then that Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper and began a solo career with the 1975 concept album, ‘Welcome to My Nightmare.’ Since then, he has sold more than 50 million records.

A new coffee table book will celebrate Alice Cooper’s life and career. The tome, titled Alice Cooper at 75, arrives January 31st — just in time for the shock-rock legend’s 75th birthday on February 4th.

The book takes readers through “75 career accomplishments, events, and partnerships” including: Cooper’s childhood in Detroit and Arizona and early garage bands the Earwigs and the Spiders; all 28 of his studio albums (including those as frontman of Alice Cooper the band); a rundown of his greatest songs (i.e. “I’m Eighteen,” “School’s Out,” etc.); high-profile collaborations (Slash, Dave Grohl, Johnny Depp, Wayne Kramer, and more); associations with notable guitarists such as Nita Strauss; Cooper’s nonmusical passions like classic cars and golf; his relationship with wife and entertainment accomplice Sheryl; and his frequent charity work. It’s 208 pages and features concert photography and candid offstage shots, as well as gig posters, vinyl record covers, ticket stubs, period-specific ads, and more. The tome comes housed in a slipcase with additional ephemera including a gatefold timeline, two pullout posters, and an unpublished 8×10 photo.

Away from music, Cooper is a film actor, a golfing celebrity, a restaurateur, and, since 2004, a radio DJ with his classic rock show Nights with Alice Cooper

Talking Heads' Chris Frantz on the book and the band

As one of the Talking Heads’ founding members, drummer Chris Frantz provided the backbeat for all of the group’s subsequent recordings (and performances). Born Charton Christopher Frantz at Fort Campbell, KY, Frantz and his family relocated to Pittsburgh during the mid-’60s, where he took up the drums and began playing in local bands. Frantz and his band at the time (the Beans) then moved to New York City, figuring they’d have a better chance of being discovered there. The plan didn’t work out, as Frantz opted to put music on the back burner and enrol into the Rhode Island School of Design by the summer of 1970. It wasn’t long before Frantz’ desire to play music returned, and after meeting another like-minded musician at the school, guitarist/singer David Byrne, the duo formed a group called the Artistics. After graduation, Frantz took up Byrne’s invite to move back to New York City, as Frantz’s girlfriend, Tina Weymouth, relocated as well. With Frantz and Byrne having trouble finding a suitable bass player, Weymouth offered to learn the instrument, and by 1974, the Talking Heads was officially formed. 

 Talking Heads soon built a sizeable following with their quirky music. With the group taking a brief break during the early ’80s, Frantz and Weymouth (who by this time were married) decided to launch a side project, the Tom Tom Club. The group enjoyed a major hit with the track “Genius of Love” off their self-titled 1981 debut, and although they quickly assembled a sophomore effort, 1983’s Close to the Bone, Frantz and Weymouth opted to return to their original band. The Talking Heads would immediately go on to enjoy the biggest commercial success of their career. Frantz’ drumming can be heard on releases by ByrneBrian Eno, and Robert Palmer. A bid in the late ’90s to reunite the Talking Heads fell short when just Weymouth, Frantz, and Harrison agreed, who were soon met with a lawsuit by Byrne, when the trio decided to call their band the Heads. The matter was soon settled out of court, with the trio able to retain their name. Check out my interview with Chris Frantz on this week’s show and make sure you get yourself a copy of his book ‘Remain in Love’

It’s a great read!

One-Hit-Wonder Norman Greenbaum couldn't be happier

Best-known for his 1970 hit “Spirit in the Sky,” singer/songwriter Norman Greenbaum began his musical career while a student at Boston University, playing area coffee houses before relocating to the West Coast during the mid-’60s and forming a kind of psychedelic jug band dubbed Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band. After issuing the 1966 single “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago,” which fell just shy of reaching the Top 50, the group disbanded, and Greenbaum subsequently formed a series of short-lived acts before finally returning to his solo career in 1968. A year later he issued his debut LP, Spirit in the Sky, releasing several unsuccessful singles before reaching the Top  3 with the smash title track, which sold some two million copies. 

Spirit in the Sky proved to be Greenbaum’s only hit as follow-ups like 1970’s “Canned Ham” and the next year’s “California Earthquake” tanked; after the release of 1972’s Petaluma, he retreated from music to focus on his California dairy farm, but returned to show business during the mid-’80s in a managerial capacity, also promoting a number of concerts. Today he’s out there doing concerts wherever, whenever he can.

Paul Williams 'I lost the 80's'

Paul Williams remains one of America’s best recognised all-purpose celebrities in the ’70s and ’80s — while many of us are aware that he was a songwriter, vocalist, and instrumentalist, he also acted in movies and television, was a frequent guest on leading talk shows, competed on game shows of all sorts, and was as likely to pop up in a Planet of the Apes sequel as he was to write a hit song. But if music was just one of Williams’ career paths at the height of his fame, it proved to be the most enduring, and it was his music that won him an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Golden Globe.

Paul Williams was born in Omaha, Nebraska. His father died in an auto accident when Paul was just 13, and the young man soon relocated to California, where he was raised by his aunt. Paul developed a passion for both music and acting, and began appearing in school theatre productions as well as local talent shows. A medical condition stunted Williams’ growth, preventing him from becoming taller than five feet, two inches, and at one point he considered a career as a jockey. But his love of the stage won out. Williams always hoped to break into the movies, but despite landing a plum role in Tony Richardson’s 1965 cult favourite The Loved One, his career in Hollywood didn’t take off right away.

After a spell as a comedy writer, he set out on a solo career as he worked on his songwriting. It was when he landed a job as a staff songwriter at A&M Records that his career finally started to click; working with Roger Nichols, his co-writer on Someday Man, he penned “Out in the Country,” which became a major hit for Three Dog Night, and the group had major chart success with two other Williams tunes, “Just an Old Fashioned Love Song” and “The Family of Man.” And a tune Williams and Nichols wrote for a bank commercial enjoyed an impressive second life when the Carpenters cut “We’ve Only Just Begun” and it became a massive chart success.

Success through the 70s - fog through the 80s

In 1971, as his run of songwriting hits grew, A&M released Williams’ second solo album, Just an Old Fashioned Love Song; in October 1971, Williams appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and Carson was so taken with Williams’ quick wit and mixture of arrogance and self-depreciation that he became a frequent guest on the show, eventually appearing 14 times. Williams’ new visibility helped kick-start his acting career; he was cast in a supporting role as an orangutang in 1973’s Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Williams also earned an Oscar nomination for writing the song “Nice to Be Around” for the movie Cinderella Liberty, a Song of the Year nomination after Helen Reddy cut “You and Me Against the World,” and in 1976 he was nominated for Academy Awards for his compositions for the films Bugsy Malone and A Star Is Born, taking home an Oscar for the love theme from A Star is Born, “Evergreen.”

Between his songwriting work and his acting gigs in everything from the TV shows The Odd Couple and The Love Boat, in 1979 he won another Grammy  for the song “The Rainbow Connection,” written for The Muppet Movie. By the mid-’80s, Williams’ career had gone into a major slump because he had developed a serious addiction to drugs and alcohol, and it wasn’t until 1990 that he got clean and sober and began rebuilding his life and career. Williams is now an advocate for recovery, having become a certified drug rehabilitation counselor and authoring the book Gratitude and Trust

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Martin Wiberg

    Hi Sandy Australian bass player Bob Daisley could you please try di an interview with him. I am a Ozzy Osbourne fan and that’s where I know him from but I would love for you to talk to him and find out his origins/ first bands in Australia and other collaborative endeavours. Pretty please 🙏….thanks Sandy 😊

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