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Content Cooper; Elder statesman of rock says he's living the dream

Three and a half decades ago, Alice Cooper -- the band and the man -- was the scariest rock show around.

Concerned parents, politicians, religious groups and members of British Parliament were shocked and horrified by the band's macabre stage show, which included Cooper beheading himself with a guillotine, dismembered baby dolls, bloody mannequins and a chorus line of dancing teeth, among other sights not usually seen in rock 'n' roll shows.

Cooper and the classic lineup of the Alice Cooper band, which included Neal Smith and the late Glen Buxton, gave many adults nightmares, and gave the kids anthems such as the spot-on "I'm Eighteen," "School's Out" and Cooper's solo tune "Department of Youth," which expressed the confusion, boredom, insecurity, hormonal craziness of being young in three-minute, fist-pump-inducing rock songs.

But now Cooper, 63, is an elder statesman of rock, a recent Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductee (along with the original band), and one of music's most beloved figures.

The man formerly known as Vincent Damon Furnier who was at the center of one of the most controversial acts of the 1970s is now a golf-loving rock icon and workaholic (as opposed to the depressed alcoholic he was 30 years ago) and is arguably one of the happiest rock legends on the planet not named McCartney. While some rockers grow disillusioned or just plain tired of the travel and the interviews, Cooper is pragmatic about his chosen job.

"Now, a rock 'n' roll guy like me, we only have to work two hours a night," he said from his home in Phoenix during a tour break. "So I golf in the morning and go out shopping and go to the movies and then do the show that night. So, I can't complain that it's really a hard job."

Cooper is on tour while putting the finishing touches on his next album, "Welcome 2 My Nightmare," a sequel to his best-selling 1975 album "Welcome to My Nightmare," due for release in September. Cooper performs tonight as part of Buffalo Place Rocks the Harbor.

The album finds Cooper reteaming with producer Bob Ezrin, who besides helming the original "Nightmare" also produced several of Cooper's biggest-selling albums, including "School's Out" and "Billion Dollar Babies."

The album continues the story of Steven, whose nightmares populate the songs of the original, which included the empathetic domestic abuse ballad "Only Women Bleed" along with the title cut and the anthem "Department of Youth."

Cooper said he was inspired to revisit the "Nightmare" concept during the rock hall induction process, an accolade that means a lot to him.

"The Hall of Fame experience was graduating, because the guys that vote you in are your teachers. You look out there and you realize the guys in the Hall of Fame -- McCartney, Jagger, Clapton, Beck -- all these guys are the ones that vote on you."

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PREVIEW    

WHO: Buffalo Place Rocks the Harbor with Alice Cooper, Anvil and Klear    

WHEN: 6 tonight    

WHERE: Erie Canal Harbor Central Wharf    

TICKETS: $20    

INFO: www.buffaloplace.com    

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