Friday, May 28, 2010

Shock Rock Horror Shtick

Shock rockers Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper have just wrapped up their 17 city tour. Both have proven themselves to be enduring figures who combine the best of B grade horror movie theatrics with rock music.

But, it wasn't Alice Cooper or Rob Zombie who created the shock rock genre of music. That credit probably goes to Screamin' Jay Hawkins who began combining weird horror movie theatrics into his music around 1957. He would appear onstage in a coffin and sing into a skull shaped microphone, and spook audiences with creepy songs like "I Put A Spell On You".

In the 1960's Screaming Lord Sutch was greatly inspired by the antics of Screamin' Jay Hawkins. And The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown managed some truly shocking and macabre performances using bizarre props such as a flaming helmet and strange makeup. He did a decent remake of "I Put A Spell On You" as well.

Alice Cooper brought shock rock to it's highest level yet, with increasingly elaborate and bizarre shows during the 1970's until much of his chart popularity began to wane around the 80's. Alice Cooper's outrageous theatrics were a serious inspiration to my own band, The Inputs. Our band combined the outrageousness of Alice Cooper with the new punk music scene genre, creating one of the most unusual punk rock acts ever for the Portland, Oregon era. With master guitarist Jim Haskett, the band played shows with notable recording artists such as Frank Zappa, Black Flag, The Dils and Dead Kennedys under either The Inputs name or as the re-branded Theater Of Sheep featuring Courtney Love's then boyfriend, Rozz Rezabek on lead vocals, doing more conventional new wave music.

Some groups like The Mentors and The Cramps successfully combined some outrageous theatrics or musical styles together to acquire cult followings during the punk and post punk eras.

Rob Zombie probably best combined his talents both as a horror film maker and as a musician to create a modern shock rock phenomenon with his group White Zombie and later as a highly successful solo act. Besides his music, Rob Zombie has produced some very good horror films in recent years.

If anything, shock rock pioneer Alice Cooper probably had the most to gain by appearing on the tour with Rob Zombie. By all appearances, this past tour looked to be a success for both performers.

Interesting how a few performers have combined horror movies and music into their stage gimmicks.