That time Alice Cooper scared the pants off Fredericton

Category: music 908

When legendary shock-rocker Alice Cooper visited Fredericton for the first time, some people reacted like it was the end of the world. But it wasn’t. In fact, it was so much more. One reviewer called the show, “the best entertainment-combination rock history lesson Fredericton will ever see.” 

Matt Carter

On January 20, 1987, Deborah Rathwell, vice president of Donald K. Donald Productions, a major Canadian concert promoter, announced American shock-rocker Alice Cooper would play Fredericton on his current world tour. The concert, one of only two Maritime dates Cooper would play that year, would take place February 21 at the Aitken University Centre. Tickets would be $17.50. 

At the time, Alice Cooper was touring in support of his new album Constrictor, his ninth studio album and his first in three years. The album’s hit single, He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask), had been featured in the latest Friday the 13th movie, released the previous summer. 

By this time, Cooper had already established the shock-rock genre with more than a decade of elaborate, theatrical stage shows under his belt. Performances typically included gory illusions, a guillotine or a gallows, lots of fake blood and of course, a live boa constrictor which Cooper would wear around his neck during part of the show. 

All of this was a far cry from what Fredericton audiences were used to seeing in their hometown. Prior to Cooper’s planned performance, the biggest touring artists to visit the city included Tina Turner, Bryan Adams and Johnny Cash. And when it came to long hair and loud guitars, Canadian rock groups Rush and Triumph were about the hardest acts the city had ever seen. Cooper’s concert announcement also arrived during the height of the Satanic Panic, a unique moment in time when various religious and parent groups sought to demonize hard rockers for their lyrics and chosen imagery. As a result, there were more than a few parents concerned about the risks Cooper’s visit to Fredericton would pose to their children. 

Rev. Hazen Ricker of the Wesleyan Church of Corbett Avenue in Fredericton was among many to voice their concern over the upcoming performance. 

“You don’t hear too many men with the name Alice,” said Ricker. 

“I’m very concerned about this gentleman coming to our city. He’s known for doing things that are way, way, way out and I can’t believe that’s good for our society and our younger generation. They should be bringing in things that are wholesome and good.” 

A few days before the show, Mayor Brad Woodside told a reporter for the local newspaper, “I’ve had a horrendous number of telephone calls, so many it’s been tough to get any business done. If he [Cooper] breaks the law while he’s here, then there’s something we can do. We can’t act in advance. It’s a free country.”

A regular meeting of the Fredericton City Council took place the night before the concert. During the meeting, Police Chief Mac Carlisle answered several questions from councilors curious as to how events like these affect policing in the city. Carlisle explained how the AUC hires extra policing and the city redeploys police staff so there was in fact no extra cost involved. No cost beyond the souls of our youth, that is. 

“So just that there’s no panic here, you’re not doing anything more than you would for Kenny Rogers or anyone else. Is that what you said?,” pressed Mayor Woodside.

Chief Carlisle concurred.

According to Sylvie Brunetta, a spokesperson for Donald K. Donald, Fredericton was the only city on the tour where the show was receiving such heavy pushback from parents and religious groups. 

“I tell people, if they want to be frightened by something, be afraid of the news,” said Cooper. “Be afraid of reality. Don’t take music seriously. It’s only rock and roll.”

“We haven’t had complaints from any other city during Cooper’s North American tour,” said Brunetta. “The act does not involve anything Satanic and there is no mutilation of animals.”

Cooper himself even released a statement in response to the city’s concerns saying, “I don’t even know one person into satanism. There’s no devil workshop. There’s no foul language. There’s no nudity. There’s no anything like that. It’s like a rock and roll halloween party.

“I tell people, if they want to be frightened by something, be afraid of the news,” said Cooper. “Be afraid of reality. Don’t take music seriously. It’s only rock and roll.”

The concert went ahead as planned. More than 4000 fans crammed into the AUC, passing a handful of protesters on their way in. The following day, a review in the local paper claimed the show to have been, “the best entertainment-combination rock history lesson Fredericton will ever see.” 

Fredericton Police laid 56 charges at the show. 53 for open liquor, 2 for narcotics and one for criminal obstruction. Despite the seemingly high number of tickets handed out by police, Gordon LeBel, director of the AUC, reported the event to be one of the most trouble free rock concerts ever held at the Aitken University Centre. 

A week after the concert, a letter to the editor published in the local paper summed up what the majority of the population had known all along.

I haven’t grown horns or tails, nor did I or anyone else act any differently as a result of seeing an Alice Cooper concert. My parents didn’t even have to call an exorcist. 

Now in 1987, Alice Cooper returns as do the little closed minds with nothing better to do in our society than dream up all sorts of nasty little things an Alice Cooper concert will do to our youth. The only nasty evil things that will affect our youth are going on in those tiny heads. 

Stop criticizing something you obviously know nothing about. Furthermore, it takes more than a rock concert to lower the standards of a city.

Steven J. Covacs – Stanley, NB

School’s out.

Related: That time Teenage Head played a pizzeria in Oromocto, sort of.

alt text

Related Articles