“I’m your choice” shock rocker Alice Cooper snarls in his 1972 hit “Elected,” a song that satirizes the political system with Who-like guitars and a spoken word segment.
Every four years, Cooper brings the song back out, and this year is no exception.
Cooper even staged a fake presidential campaign earlier this year to go along with the reissue of "Elected." His slogan: "I can do nothing as well as they can do nothing.” His ten-point platform includes getting singer Brian Johnson back in AC/DC and adding Motorhead's Lemmy to Mt. Rushmore.
We recently got him on the phone to talk about the tour and the fake campaign as well as ask his opinion about the Trump and Clinton tickets.
Did you anticipate that this presidential nomination process would become such a circus?
Oh yes. I saw this one coming. When I realized how wacky the two final candidates were, I figured there would probably be comedians coming out of retirement because it’s so easy to satirize this election.
Take me back to the beginnings of “Elected.” What’s the story behind the original version of the song?
The funny thing about that song is that when we wrote that song, we wanted to do a song that was very Who oriented with the big power chords and all that. That was the whole idea. We thought that would be the subject. We didn’t realize it would become an anthem. It ended up being John Lennon’s favorite song. I’m so not political so it’s funny that I wrote the song that was one of the most political songs, and I was not trying to be political I was just having fun with it. The most absurd thing in the world in 1972 would Alice Cooper being president. It would be like if you said that Mr. Rogers is now going to sing for the Rolling Stones. It was on that level of absurdity. But it works for every single election. Alice is always put up for election every three years and this one just happens to be even funnier. But please don’t vote for me. I couldn’t handle the pay cut.
The music video is great. Where did you find such a friendly chimp?
The funny thing is that we did pre-video. We did that on film. In 1972, there was no MTV. We just did the film, and we figured they would play it on Midnight Special
or [Don Kirshner's ] Rock Concert
. When we finished it, we didn’t know what to do with it. It wasn’t out on video. There was no place to play it. It would resurface every three years. We were doing everything by the seat of our pants at that point, and that’s what made it fun.
What did you set out to do with the new version of the song?
It’s just a remix. We remixed and re-mastered it. There’s no new version. We made it more of a power rock song. We didn’t do anything that changed lyrically. When you’re writing a song like that, you have to stay very open. It’s like “I'm Eighteen” or “School’s Out.” You have to make sure that 50 years from now, those lyrics still work because you haven’t been so specific that you’ve dated it. When Alice says, “I'm your top prime cut of meat, I'm your choice/I wanna be elected/I'm your yankee doodle dandy in a gold Rolls Royce” — wow does that sound like Trump. That was written in 1972. There was no Trump even thought about then. Back then, politicians had to be bigger than life. They had to be perfect. They had to be gigantic stars and that who this guy says he is.
How much thought did you put behind your decision to throw your hat in the ring as a presidential candidate?
I really only came up with one or two things that meant something to me. One is that I can do nothing as well as they can do nothing. Whoever gets in office will just be face value. He gets dealt the same cards Obama got dealt. Obama got dealt the same cards that Bush got dealt. Really, the president doesn’t have that much say or that much power. It gets to the point about which face do you want to look at and who do you want representing you for the next four years. A president can’t declare war. They don’t have the power. People have all the wrong fears about this thing.
Your platform includes getting Brian Johnson back in AC/DC. What do you have against Axl Rose?
Axl is the only single guy that could have taken Brian’s place. I like Axl. People think I’m anti-Axl but I like Axl. When I heard that he would fill in for Brian, I said that he’s the perfect choice. He has a range like that and can appreciate those songs. He’s the one who can do justice to those songs. I think everybody wants Brian Johnson to get better and be back in AC/DC. Axl needs to be in Guns N’ Roses. They’re doing great. Guns N’ Roses are having a great tour. There’s no infighting. I think they got past that. From what I understand, their concerts have been really good.
You chose Tom Hanks as your running mate. Why?
Well, if I did get elected, the first thing I would do would be to abdicate. I would say,” Ok, I don’t want this job. My Vice President is really the perfect choice.” Who wouldn’t vote for Tom Hanks. Think about it. Does he not look like a president? I would vote for him in a second. And maybe Morgan Freeman. Those are the guys who really should be running for president.
What kind of running mate would Marilyn Manson make?
Marilyn would be interesting. If you were going to do a rock ’n’ roll cabinet, you would put Ted Nugent in the department of defense. He knows more about than anybody else. Paul McCartney would be the Prime Minister of England. You can’t get much better than him. Everyone would fit into a certain thing. Alice Cooper would not fit in at all, —being so non-political he would not fit in. Bruce Springsteen would be Secretary of State. Those are the right guys for that. I would be disinterested. I always tell people that I’m politically incorrect but I’m politically incoherent.
Aren’t you a Republican?
It’s so funny because I never committed to one party at all. I think one time when Bush was up against Gore, we were in a shooting war. We were shooting at people and people were shooting back. I think I said that I would rather have a pitbull instead of poodle. Bush was the pitbull, and Gore was the poodle. I think if you’re in a shooting war, you’re there to win it. You’re not there to break even or back out of it. That’s why I chose Bush. From then on, everyone goes he’s a Republican. And because I’m a Christian, people think that. I’m much more moderate than that.
How has Alice changed with the times?
Certain characters don’t need to change with the times. That man doesn’t need to change. When you’re talking about really theatrical characters, they don’t need to have an age or a time period. I look at him as being a character who’s timeless. If I were a kid looking at Alice Cooper for the first time, I wouldn’t know how old he is. He could be 20. He could be 40. He could be 80. It depends on the song. To me, I don’t think Alice needs to change with the times. He’s pure entertainment out there, and I try to keep it so that it never gets to a point where you can say that it’s 1980s Alice or 1960s Alice or 2020s Alice. It’s like rock vaudeville. It doesn’t have an expiration date.
You describe Alice as "a troubled man for troubled times." But you might actually be the least troubled person out of all the candidates.
Yeah. It’s just such a good phrase. Sometimes that’s just a good phrase. “A troubled man for troubled times — make America sick again.” There’s a million different things you could make up for that. Yeah, it’s a terrific phrase. I’m not troubled at all. I’m the least troubled guy you’ll ever meet.
Alice Cooper, 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, Akron Civic Theatre, 182 South Main St., 330-253-2488. Tickets: $39.50-$99.50, akroncivic.com.