Classic Rock

The Cruel Story Of A Chicken Killed In An Alice Cooper Show

todayMarch 23, 2024 1

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Forget the manipulative tactics of tabloid newspapers. Sometimes, the wackiest headlines come straight from the minds of the celebrities themselves! Alice Cooper, the godfather of shock rock, was a master of this art.

Throughout his career, he reveled in pushing boundaries and leaving audiences speechless. His outrageous on-stage antics were legendary, often blurring the lines between reality and theatrics.

Journalists covering his shows were left bewildered, struggling to decipher fact from fiction in their attempts to capture the essence of his wild performances.

But one incident, more than any other, continues to cling to Alice Cooper’s legacy: the infamous chicken incident. This singular event has followed him for decades, a bizarre and unforgettable moment that continues to spark debate and raise questions about what truly transpired on that chaotic night.

The showmanship of Alice Cooper

The name “Alice Cooper” originally belonged to a band, not a solo artist. This band, featuring Vincent Furnier (later known as Alice Cooper) on vocals, brought theatricality to rock and roll. 

Their shocking stage shows, complete with elaborate costumes, black makeup, guillotines, and even reptiles, were unlike anything audiences had seen before.  These dramatic performances pushed the boundaries of entertainment and forced other artists to up their game.

However, one incident cemented Alice Cooper’s (both the band and the solo artist) place in rock history and that was the said chicken incident. At the 1969 Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival, a twist of fate, or perhaps an overzealous fan, threw a chicken on stage.

Furnier, in a moment of confusion, tossed the bird back into the audience, assuming it would fly away. “It’s a bird, you know,” he later explained, referencing his Detroit upbringing and lack of chicken expertise.

The chicken takes flight (unfortunately)

Things took a dark turn when Furnier threw the chicken back into the crowd. Instead of soaring majestically, the unfortunate bird was reportedly ripped apart by the excited audience, a fate more akin to a backstage mishap at KFC. 

The next day’s newspapers sensationalized the event further, claiming “Alice bites head off a chicken and drinks the blood.” Not only was the story fabricated, but it also inflated the band’s future audience numbers!

This wild rumor became so ingrained that Furnier and the band found themselves discussing the “chicken incident” in every interview for over five decades. Initially, they embraced the outrageous publicity, following Frank Zappa’s advice.

Zappa, upon hearing the news, called Cooper to confirm the story. When he learned it was false, he famously advised them to “play along” as it was a fantastic publicity stunt.

The incident becomes shrouded in fowl mystery

The true story behind the chicken has become shrouded in mystery, fueled by the band members’ ever-changing accounts. This has left both media and fans frustrated in their quest for the truth.

In They Call Me Supermensch: Untold Stories Of Alice Cooper, Michael Bruce, a former band member, offers a different perspective. He claims the band was desperate to make a splash at the festival and used various outrageous tactics.

These included kicking a football into the crowd, chopping watermelons with a hatchet, and littering the stage with feathers. Amidst this chaos, Bruce recalls seeing a chicken strutting across the stage.

Knowing it wasn’t a fan’s pet, he admits to introducing the “feral chicken” roaming backstage onto the performance. He justifies this by referencing the feather theatrics, claiming, “We’ve been doing the feathers, why not a whole chicken?”

Was it just a feathery conspiracy?

The question of whether the chicken incident was a spur-of-the-moment act or a pre-planned stunt continues to spark debate. While some sources claim it was entirely unplanned, Michael Bruce, a former band member, paints a different picture in a 1997 interview.

Bruce seems to suggest the chicken was part of a larger, ongoing performance theme. He references a prior routine where they used feathers from stolen hotel pillows, leading to trouble with disgruntled club owners. This, according to Bruce, led them to the idea of throwing a chicken “with the feathers attached” – a more “clever” alternative.

However, Bruce’s admission that they also threw “doves, chickens, whatever” throws some shade on the story. His claim that the whole period is a “blur” adds to the suspicion that the band might be deliberately obscuring the truth, leaving fans to wonder if the “chicken incident” was truly an unplanned moment of chaos.

Larry, Pecker, and the mutilated chicken

The plot thickens with the introduction of Dennis Dunaway’s memoir, Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!: My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group. Here, Dunaway claims the band actually toured with two pet chickens named Larry and Pecker.

This contradicts the “thrown from the audience” story and seems to be a cover-up to appease animal rights groups who emerged after the infamous incident.

So, was the chicken murdered on stage? The answer, as with most aspects of this story, remains unclear.

They Call Me Supermensch offers another perspective. This account describes Alice throwing the chicken into the audience, unaware of its flightlessness. The crowd, already riled up, pounced on the bird, tearing it apart in a frenzy. This brutal scene casts doubt on the “pet chicken” theory and suggests a more tragic fate for the unfortunate fowl.

A blurred line between performance and cruelty

Despite the various narratives, one element seems consistent: Michael Bruce suggests Alice Cooper (Furnier) himself wasn’t responsible for the chicken’s demise.

Bruce claims Cooper portrays the audience as the source of the violence, with the band acting as a “parody on stage.” This aligns with Cooper’s explanations, where he throws the chicken expecting it to fly, and the frenzied crowd tears it apart.

While the truth may be forever obscured by the “blur” of the era and the band’s playful obfuscation, the story undeniably remains a wild one.  Modern audiences would likely find the incident disturbing, and rightfully so.

However, the sheer absurdity and controversy surrounding the event cemented its place in rock history, ensuring it will continue to be a source of fascination and debate for years to come.

Written by: Best Classic Bands Staff

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