Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson and the History of Shock Rock
With Halloween Just around the corner, I figured it would be a great time to do a review of the new KVNTVM Debut, but since no one cares about KVNTUM. I thought I would do a History of Shock Rock!
And what a great "genre" it is, giving rise to hundreds of bands and imitators. Surprising to me in my research was just how old the term is and its purported musicians.
When you ask someone who their favorite shock rocker was, their answer will greatly depend on the era of music they come from. If you listened to the bulk of music in the 90’s, you'd probably think Marilyn Manson started shock rock. Or if you grew up in the early 70's, you might think Alice Cooper was the originator of shock-rock. In both cases, you'd be wrong.
Shock rock got its start in the 50's when Screamin' Jay Hawkins began singing his hit "I Put A Spell On You" live. To shock audiences, Hawkins would emerge from a coffin and sing into a skull microphone amidst smoke and flashing lights. His on stage antics were both entertaining and something never see before in rock music dawning a new era in rock music.
In the early 60's, David Sutch was so inspired by this, he changed his name to Screamin’ Lord Sutch and began to shock audiences at live performances of his own. Sutch became known for his horror-themed stage shows and frightening stage antics. It would take five more years for shock rock to become truly shocking though.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s, Alice Cooper took shock rock to a new level. Alice was routinely hung, decapitated, beaten, and tormented his audience to the point of hating him. Alice Cooper’s stage show featured expensive props, carefully orchestrated theater lighting, and elaborate special effects. Cooper also incorporated controversial lyrics and offstage antics into the act. The contributions of everyone in Alice Cooper 40 years ago keep inspiring bands to this day and they are often credited with the advent of shock rock.
KISS drew from a lot of what Alice Cooper started, elaborate costumes and lighting but weren’t shock rockers. The 80’s gave rise to band’s like W.A.S.P., Gwar, and King Diamond who all took various aspects of what Alice Cooper did and blew it up. W.A.S.P. led the way with shocking lyrics and stage antics while Gwar was happy impaling and covering audience members in blood while dressed as monsters.
Marilyn Manson was the first rocker since Alice Cooper to take shock rock to a whole new level. Manson’s entire persona was built around shocking and entertaining fans. Never before has a mainstream rocker garnered as much negative attention from religious and political groups. Manson was the best at getting under everyone's skin.
Several people and groups were left out like Iggy Pop and GG Allin. They both had shocking stage shows but what they did was more real than for shock value alone. When Iggy Pop violently threw himself on bandmates causing injury and GG Allin attacked people and ate his own shit, shock rock was left behind.