A British rock journalist told me years ago that especially in the rock and roll world, if it has that ‘What the hell is this?’ quality it’s likely to be something worth listening to or watching out for. I would say that somewhat describes the Alice Cooper mission statement.
Yeah, I think so. You know the guys in the Alice Cooper band were lucky to start out in high school as art students and journalists. We were verbal and had a certain artistic way of looking at things, so when we put it in a band it suddenly came together. Maybe because of this we got the joke sooner than anybody else. I mean we were very serious about playing in a rock band and making great music, but I always saw the absurdity of it and capitalized on it. I remember the first time I read Kurt Vonnegut and went, ‘What is that? There’s something very funny about this, but I don’t know what it is…but I like it.’ Like the first time you see Monty Python and it upsets the entire boat and you’re laughing and just really inspired by it. When the Beatles first came along I was like everybody else, I looked at them and said, ‘What is that?’ (laughs)
Yeah, like me trapped in my bedroom listening to ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ on a gloomy autumn day, dusting my dresser. To this day I cannot smell Lemon Pledge without getting that same chill up my spine.
(sinister chuckle) How odd is that? (laughing harder) No, I understand that. There was a certain sexual side to my life when I was a kid; every time I went into a public bathroom and smelled those little urinal cakes…Oooh, remember when everything gave you a hard-on?
Ah, that brings me to the music. For me, the finest anthems of the rock genre are ‘My Generation’ and ‘School’s Out,’ both having two of the greatest lines: ‘Hope I die before I get old’ and ‘We can’t even think of a word that rhymes.’
Now, I‘ve not had the privilege to ask Pete Townshend about the former, but when you wrote that or sang it or listened to it back did you think, ‘What a fucking great line that is!’
Yeah, it really was one of those coloring out of the lines—‘We got no class, we got no principles, we got no innocence, we can’t even think of a word that rhymes!’ Because I couldn’t! (laughs) I could not think of a word that rhymed with principles, and I went, ’Okay then,’ and it perfectly illustrates the character’s dumbness. (laughs) Paul Rothschild, who produced the Doors and Paul Butterfield and Love, and who we’d tried so hard to get to produce us, told me years later that when ‘School’s Out’ came on the radio he was driving in his Porsche and he pulled over and said, ‘That’s the greatest line I’ve ever heard.’ (laughs)
Well, if nothing else, it captures the entire ‘Who cares?’ bit.
It just fit in. It was the last piece of the puzzle on that song. It’s like the stuttering in ‘My Generation.’ I loved that. And that line, ‘We can’t even think of a word that rhymes,’ was kind of the capper on that one.