Take 5: Alice Cooper

For the most part across his more than five decades as a professional musician, Detroit-born Vincent Furnier has focused on making music under his own (stage) name, originally with the group called Alice Cooper, and then as a solo artist. But along the way, the godfather of shock rock has guested on quite a few outside projects. Fittingly for an artist who made his name getting his head chopped off by an onstage guillotine, here are five of the more unlikely/unusual Alice Cooper tracks not originally featured on his official releases.

“Space Pirates” from Flash Fearless Versus the Zorg Women Parts 5 & 6 (1975)
In the mid 1970s, the carousing, hard-partying members of the so-called Hollywood Vampires – a gallery of rockers including Harry Nilsson, Micky Dolenz, Keith Moon and other legendary bad boys – embarked upon all-star solo projects. Flash Fearless was one of those, a comic book concept set to music. This track features Cooper on lead vocals, backed by Moon and Who bandmate John Entwistle plus Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues), Bill Bruford (King Crimson) and others.

“Because” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
Though it would come in for a critical shellacking – and is remembered today as an overindulgent, ill-advised vanity project for everyone involved – the 1978 film had its occasional moments. The film and soundtrack were built around musical performances by Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, but other stars took their turn as well, covering (some would say desecrating) classic Beatles songs: Aerosmith and Earth Wind & Fire were among the most notable. Alice Cooper weighed in – backed by the brothers Gibb – with a reading of this classic from Abbey Road.

“Road Rats” from Roadie soundtrack (1980)
Perhaps bitten by the acting bug during the cocaine-fueled filming of Sgt. Pepper, Cooper signed on to appear in another all-star rock movie. Roadie starred veteran actor Art Carney (The Honeymooners) alongside Meatloaf, the latter then riding high on the success of his blockbuster Bat Out of Hell. Backed by the ace quartet Utopia (featuring Todd Rundgren), Cooper turns in a remake of “Road Rats,” a song that first appeared on his 1977 LP Lace and Whiskey. This self-cover version is a bit more stripped down and proto-new wave in character.

“I Got a Line On You” from Iron Eagle II soundtrack (1989)
West coast progressive-psychedelic band Spirit scored a number of hits during their years in the spotlight; 1968’s “I Got a Line On You” was one of their biggest singles, peaking at #25. The song has been covered by a myriad of artists, including Cooper’s all-star aggregation Hollywood Vampires (only tangentially related to his drinking club of the sane name) on their 2015 debut. But Cooper first cut a version of the classic for the soundtrack of a derivative, Top Gun-styled 1989 action film. With the gunshot snare sound and pig-squeal lead guitar, this recording could have only come from the ‘80s.

“Celebration Suite” from British Rock Symphony (1999)
A universally well-liked artist, Alice Cooper always seems to be on hand when a collection of rock’n’roll pals embark on a superstar busman’s holiday. While’s he’s a quintessentially American artist, Coop was somehow roped in to be a part of a project called British Rock Symphony, alongside fellow yanks Tommy Shaw (Styx), Ann Wilson (Heart) and Grammy-winning r&b star Thelma Houston. They all took part in this tribute to some of England’s biggest stars. And the project gave listeners the opportunity – whether they asked for it or not – to hear Alice Cooper help re-interpret the songs of the Rolling Stones, Beatles and The Who.