“School’s Out” was released in 1972. More than 50 years later, Alice Cooper’s signature song is as fresh as ever. Every spring, for generations of students — and teachers, and parents — the hard rock anthem signals the start of summer.
Dennis Dunaway played bass guitar with the band. He co-wrote “School’s Out” (and other classics like “I’m 18”).
Decades later, the royalty checks keep coming.
And Dunaway keeps playing.
Alice Cooper — the group Dunaway co-founded in 1964 — stopped touring and recording in 1975. He went on to form Billion Dollar Babies (with several other Alice Cooper musicians).
His current band, Blue Coupe, includes Joe and Albert Bouchard of Blue Öyster Cult fame.
Tonight (Friday, March 10, 7 p.m.), they’ll rock the Westport Library’s Trefz Forum. It’s a preview of VersoFest, the Library’s March 30-April 2 music and media festival. Dunaway will be there then too, displaying Alice Cooper memorabilia and signing copies of his memoir “Smoke! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!”
Dunaway now lives in Stamford. “Not too many fans come to my door auditioning — the way we did with Frank Zappa,” he says, referring to a legendary Laurel Canyon ’60s morning. (“Let me have my coffee first,” the musician growled.)
Alice Cooper grew out of Dunaway’s friendship with Vince Furnier, and 2 other cross country teammates at Phoenix’s Cortez High School. They performed as “The Earwigs” (from “Cesspool”) at the Letterman Club’s talent show, mocking the suddenly popular Beatles. (They changed the lyrics of “Please Please Me,” for example, to “Last night I ran 4 laps for my coach.”)
They won the talent show. But neither Dunaway or Furnier could play an instrument.
They learned. The rest is musical history.
Their elaborate, theatrical shows and costumes paved the way for glam rock. (Dunaway’s wife Cindy, who designed many of those outfits, is the sister of Alice Cooper’s original drummer, Neal Smith.)
In 2011, the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The music industry has changed greatly since Alice Cooper exploded (almost literally) on stage. “I can go in my back yard now, and play a studio-quality bass part,” Dunaway says. “I don’t need a recording studio to do it. And there are a bazillion bands out there playing.”
But Dunaway’s music stands the test of time. Tonight, and in 3 weeks at VersoFest, it will blast at a most unlikely venue: a library.
Dunaway loves that juxtaposition.
“When you say ‘library,’ you get a certain image in mind,” he says. “But Westport has an amazing stage. and a big screen with incredible resolution and a great rock ‘n’ roll sound system. It will sound like an original Alice Cooper tour.”
At VersoFest, it will look like one too. Dunaway has amassed an enormous collection of memorabilia, including original Cortez High letter sweaters, their first Earwigs tambourine, a letter from Furnier suggesting which Beatles songs to learn, Dunaway’s own “Frog Bass” he played on “School’s Out” (on loan earlier to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame).
Dunaway — who is also in the Grammy Hall of Fame, for co-writing “School’s Out” — said that writing his memoir took “longer than Alice Cooper was together as a group.” (He and Furnier — who changed his name legally to “Alice Cooper” — shared a journalism class in high school.)
He looks forward to displaying the book — along with his memorabilia collection — at VersoFest.
First though is tonight’s concert.
Blue Coupe will be joined by sisters Tish and Snooky Bellomo of Manic Panic. “They bring harmony and eye candy,” Dunaway notes.
DJ B The T Sr. will start the night spinning formative rock, R&B and blue vinyl that influenced bands like Alice Cooper and Blue Öyster Cult.
Dennis Dunaway is a lot closer to 80 years old now than he is to 18.
But you won’t know it when he takes the stage tonight. School’s out — and the library’s in.
(Click here for more information on tonight’s Blue Coupe concert. Click here for tickets. For more information on VersoFest 2023, click here.)
(School’s out — but supporting “06880” is always in. Please click here to contribute to your hyper-local blog. Thank you!)