Obituary: Glen Buxton

Glen Buxton, guitarist: born Akron, Ohio 17 June 1947; died Clarion, Iowa 18 October 1997.

Striking, outrageous frontmen often obscure the contribution other musicians make to a particular band. Indeed, before its singer branched out as a solo artist, the American act Alice Cooper was very much a group creation. Glen Buxton was one of the original guitarists with the Seventies shock- rockers and contributed to some of their most enduring and influential hits like the immortal teenage rebel anthem "School's Out", a British No 1 in 1972.

Born in Akron, Ohio in 1947, Buxton was the guitarist in the Sixties with the Spiders (originally the Earwigs), a Midwest garage band which also featured the singer Vincent Furnier (the preacher's son from Detroit who would later assume the Alice character) and the bassist Dennis Dunaway. They had met at Cortez High School in Arizona while working on the school paper - and taking part in sports events. Having impersonated the Beatles at a talent show, they had moved on to performing Rolling Stones covers around the Phoenix area but, with the arrival of guitarist Michael Bruce from local rivals The Wildflowers, they started to write their own material and even put out a single, "Don't Blow Your Mind", on the local Santa Cruz label.

However, in 1968, rednecks didn't take too kindly to long-haired musicians playing psychedelic rock. So, hoping for a major record deal, the Spiders relocated to Los Angeles, adding the drummer Neal Smith to the line-up and became the Nazz. Todd Rundgren was already using this name and, in desperation, the band and their friends convened a seance with an ouija board. To their amazement, it spelt the name Alice Cooper. A legend, involving a 16th-century English witch, was born.

In California, the late Sixties were heady days. The members of Alice Cooper hung out with the Doors, Love, David Crosby, and supported Led Zeppelin and Buffalo Springfield. Frank Zappa was setting up his own label, Straight Records, and saw in Alice Cooper kindred spirits to his infamous Mothers Of Invention, who were already attacking the hippie dream from within. He signed up Alice Cooper and, at the end of 1969, released Pretties For You, which reached number 193 in the US album charts.

Furnier, Buxton, Smith and Dunaway were art majors and started to complement their recordings' cinematic feel with theatrical stage effects. The singer would fight with the drummer, then tear up pillows and feathers would fly everywhere. The director Frank Perry used this stunt when the group appeared in the 1970 film Diary Of A Mad Housewife.

Despite being tagged the worst band in Los Angeles, Alice Cooper made some headway, appearing at the Toronto Peace Fesival with John Lennon and Gene Vincent. D.A. Pennebaker filmed them throwing a chicken in the audience and the ghoulish grapevine of rumours started. Given the group's name, their long hair and flashy stage clothes, some people even thought they were transvestites. But Easy Action, their second album, went nowhere and Warner Bros took Zappa's label over. The band moved back to their Midwest stronghold and concocted a new stage set which would reflect the dark hole in the heart of America.

In 1971, under the guidance of the Canadian producer Bob Ezrin, Alice Cooper stepped up a couple of gears and recorded Love It To Death, featuring their first hit single, "Eighteen", as well as "The Ballad Of Dwight Fry" which became one of the high-points of their live set, complete with the singer tied up in a straitjacket and tortured by a nurse. They also used an electric chair but, for the Killer album and tour six months later, graduated to gallows, a boa constrictor and plastic babies. America was truly shocked but teenagers loved it, flocking to the concerts as if to a horror film.

School's Out, released in the summer of 1972, saw the group become a worldwide phenomenon. The album, packaged in a mock-up of a schooldesk with a pair of disposable paper panties inside, had parents gasping, but the rousing title track remains one of rock's finest moments. Glen Buxton came up with the opening guitar riff, though originally only fellow guitarist Michael Bruce and Vincent Furnier were credited for the song (a later ruling split the credit between all five members).

According to Bruce (who wrote the excellent and revealing book No More Mr Nice Guy: the inside story of the Alice Cooper group, 1996), "Glen never wrote a song, he wrote great guitar parts. He played real good slide guitar and, ironically, he got in Guitar Player magazine's best riffs of all time for for 'Eighteen'."

In 1972, the glam, gory, macabre and glittery Alice Cooper show triumphed at Wembley Arena (with Roxy Music as support) and the band topped it all with Elected, another nightmarish vision for America to contend with at the time of Watergate. They then recorded part of the following album, Billion Dollar Babies, in the UK with hangers-on like Marc Bolan, Donovan and Harry Nilsson contributing. It entered the British charts at No 1. The group had their own plane and were making millions of dollars, playing a live set which now climaxed with a guillotine execution.

"Hello Hurray" and "No More Mr Nice Guy" were hit singles in 1973, but by now all five members were drinking heavily, especially Buxton. This became a major problem and, little by little, he was edged out of the recordings for the Muscle of Love album. The producer Bob Ezrin brought in session heavyweights such as Mick Mashbur to replace Buxton while he was in a rehab clinic. On the next tour, Mashbur was actually hiding in the wings, filling out the sound while, on stage, Buxton had become a shadow of his former self.

By 1974, the Alice Cooper identity had become to all intents and purposes the band's singer. He was now holding court with Salvador Dali, Liaza Minelli and Groucho Marx. There was talk of a movie, of solo albums by various members and law suits were festering between Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper's manager and Herb Cohen, Frank Zappa's manager who had sold the group on to Warner Bros.

Cohen won the publishing rights on all recordings up to Billion Dollar Babies and, in a desperate move, Gordon convinced Alice to ditch his colleagues and go solo. "Welcome to my Nightmare" (which used Vincent Price's portentous vocal tones a good nine years before Michael Jackson's Thriller) was a great success for the singer, while Bruce, Smith and Dunaway floundered with their own Billion Dollar Babies offshoot band.

Later, Buxton drifted back to Arizona, tried to commit suicide and lost his house to the Internal Revenue Service. He eventually moved to Iowa, got married, and worked on his farm while still jamming with local bands.

The original Alice Cooper act strongly influenced Kiss's use of make- up and pyrotechnics and the New York Dolls' louche debauchery. Along with MC5, the Stooges and the Velvet Underground, Alice Cooper lit the fuse for punk via the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. In 1976, Johnny Rotten actually sung along to "Eighteen" on the juke-box when auditioning to join the Pistols. More recently, shock rockers like Marilyn Manson have taken on Alice Cooper's theatrical mantle and reintroduced horror spectacle to the grunge generation.

Glen Buxton's original guitar riffs remain at the core of Alice Cooper's solo concerts to this day. On hearing of Buxton's demise, the singer paid him a fond tribute: "I grew up with Glen, started the band with him, and he was one of my best friends. I think I laughed more with him than anyone else. He was an underrated and influential guitarist, a genuine rock'n'roll rebel. Wherever he is now, I'm sure that there's a cigarette and a guitar nearby."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Installation Manager

£35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Tax Investigations Manager/Senior Manager

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits: Cameron Kennedy Recruitment: This rapidl...

Scrum Master - Southampton, Hampshire - Excellent Package

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited:...

Senior Scrum Master - Hampshire - £47k

£47000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Key skil...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice