Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Tuesday Tuneage
Alice Cooper - “Reflected”

Some rock ‘n’ roll urban legends are salacious, like the Rod Stewart/emergency room/stomach pump story. Others are curious: Bruce Springsteen supposedly wrote “Billie Jean”, this is backed up by a photo of Bruce mimicking that song’s video on the back cover of the “Dancing in the Dark” twelve-inch. Some are hilarious: In the late eighties a story swirled that Depeche Mode played concerts with backing tapes instead of real instruments, one time the tape machine malfunctioned, and the band had to start the concert over with the tape rolling from the beginning. My favorite of these legends is the “evil rock act has origins in something harmless from your youth” genre. I first heard one of these during my childhood in the early seventies. Alice Cooper was taking the nation by storm (documented in “Elected”) with a double-punch of their horror-movie-influenced live shows and a concurrent takeover of the radio airwaves with hook-filled teen anthems like “School’s Out” and “No More Mister Nice Guy.” A rumor circulated that lead singer Alice was none other than Ken Osmond, the actor who had portrayed Eddie Haskell in the sixties sitcom Leave It to Beaver. Turns out in reality Ken Osmond went on to become a cop in Los Angeles, was shot in the line of duty and survived, which may have been the genesis of the other rumor involving the cast of the show: That show star Jerry “Beaver” Mathis had been killed in action in Vietnam.

The next variation I heard on this legend was in the mid-eighties. My brother said that our cousin had told him that he had heard that the members of Motley Crue used to be the band Bread. To be honest, I love this one more than the Osmond/Cooper rumor. Purporting that Bread, known for a run of saccharine AM radio hits in the seventies, went on to become PMRC bad boys Motley Crue is rich. In The Wonder Years, Winnie Cooper gave Kevin Arnold a Bread album. Kevin feigned enthusiasm (because Winnie, woo woo) but in voiceover admitted his disdain for the band. Which would explain why a fading David Gates knew that the typical teen male wouldn’t go for his songs. So he turned to Tom Werman to punch up some tapes he had sitting around ("they’re like ‘Mother Freedom’, only more rockin"), convinced his bandmates to wear makeup and change their names, and start paying attention to this thing called “MTV” ...

Speaking of The Wonder Years, in the nineties a rumor circulated that Josh Saviano, the actor who was Kevin’s best friend Paul Pfeiffer, grew up to become Marilyn Manson. I didn’t hear of this one in typical urban legend third-hand such as “my sister’s neighbor’s friend told me ...”, instead I read it while surfing the Net via AOL. By this time I was in my thirties, had an interest in urban legends, and spotted the motif instantly. At a family reunion, a teenage cousin was into Marilyn Manson and tried to present his whole shtick as shocking. Her mom, a fellow child of the seventies, simply chuckled and said: “Oh yeah, Alice Cooper.”