Alice Cooper was giving parents nightmares long before the current crop of rockers tried doing the same. He trotted out electric chairs, gothic torture chambers and other gleefully twisted stage props during his career.
Sure, those antics seem quaint today. Back then, they proved a sordid sensation. They also helped forge his decades-long career.
Shock has been very, very good to Cooper. And it was all part of the marketing plan.
Now, at 68, he fears that rock stars can no longer shock us.
“With ISIS, with people shooting cops, with cops shooting blacks – now CNN is so much more shocking than Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson or Alice Cooper.
“It was easy to shock the audience in the ’70s. Easy. Because we were much more wholesome. Now, with the Internet, it’s literally impossible to shock an audience.”
The Web does bring every horrific event right into our living rooms. We still saw plenty of mayhem in the ’60s courtesy of our TV screens, though. And shock rockers were channeling their inner Cooper in the ’80s and early ’90s, before the Internet became ubiquitous.
He still has a point.
What could a rock star do today that would truly cause shock waves? Miley Cyrus doesn’t get out of bed before sharing near-naked photos on her social media platform du jour. Rock feuds are so common today they barely make us look up from our iPhones.
Trashing your hotel room? Been there, got sued for that. Just about everything’s been done.
Or has it?
Here are four ways rockers could still send shock waves throughout the culture:
- Stop Lecturing Us: Imagine going to a Madonna concert and not suffering through a soapbox rant on feminism, the current state of politics or foreign wars. And she’s not alone. Way too many bands think we paid way too much to hear them sound off on their pet causes. Play the music. Thank your fellow band mates. Say goodnight. Shocking, no?
- Vote GOP: If rockers can’t help themselves, why not switch up their lectures? Hammer home how gun-free zones are where too many mass shootings take place. Remind audiences that socialist Venezuela is a roiling nightmare, and it’s no accident. Don’t instinctively tell GOP politicians to stop playing your song. Give them your blessing and write ’em some more. What could be more shocking than a rock star embracing limited government?
- Show Eternal Gratitude: Part of the rock star pose is being a bad boy or girl. Smash a guitar. Arrive to the venue an hour late. Preen. Why not do the opposite? Be unfailingly polite, and still deliver a kick ass set. Thank the crowd effusively. Shower them with free goodies, like links to a hidden track from their last album. No one would expect that pose.
- Ego-Free Riders: Being a rock star offers plenty of perks. Fame. Fortune. Women who may be slightly more willing to chat with you, and maybe more. Riders are one of the very best perks. Rockers create them to make sure they get the most out of a given venue. Some of the most aggressive riders are the stuff of rock legends. Take Van Halen’s now-classic, 53-page rider circa 1982, which included demands for K-Y Jelly and M&Ms with the brown versions removed. Why not flip the script? Insist that any leftover materials go directly to a local food shelter. Ask for the bare minimum, and not an iota more. That would make headlines, no doubt. And, in a way, would give the rockers in question a curious new cred apart from their peers. Selflessness could be the new breed of rock star cool.