In the summer of 1991 I was 9 years old and my musical taste was pretty sophisticated; I had moved on from a second grade obsession with New Kids On The Block and had lately been digging newcomers Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. Marky Mark was introducing me to funk music, thanks largely to his backing band, the aptly named “Funky Bunch”. EMF were giving me a British perspective and C+C Music Factory kept me in touch with the dance club scene. Yep, I was pretty on top of things when it came to music. But something wicked this way came. A song that would make me forget about everything I listened to before it, that would make me fall in love with rock music. That song was Alice Cooper’s “Hey Stoopid.”
I know what you’re thinking: “weird.” But is it? Listen to the song. I don’t know, maybe it’s nostalgia but I can still hear what drew me to it 18 years ago. The intro that slowly fades in what sounds like an army of voices chanting “Hey, hey, hey, hey…” and a pounding drum before the percussion stops and the voices finish their sentence: “…hey stupid.” A bending guitar note (courtesy of either Guns ‘n Roses’ Slash or guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani; both played on the track) rips through the silence and the rest of the band comes in. When Alice starts singing with his unmistakable, well-worn, ragged voice, the rhyming might be cheesy but to a 9 year old kid it was infectious and catchy as hell… “Hey bro, take it slow / You ain’t living in a video / You’re flying low with a high velocity.” The lyrics go against heavy metal stereotypes as Alice warns of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. A little preachy for sure, but also a refreshingly unique view compared to the rest of the metal scene at the time.
The chorus brings back the crowd chant for the backing vocals and it’s hard not to join in the singalong. The bridge features vox from Ozzy Osbourne and the over-the-top shredding of Slash and Satriani continue right through to the end. Yes, it’s all a little over-dramatic and silly, but hey, that’s rock ‘n’ roll. Well, actually in this case it’s slick pop-metal, but it’s the same ballpark and has the same effect.
Alice’s 70s output was infinitely surperior and the turn he took in the 80s to heavy metal is still lamented by many, including myself (another blog post for another day), but “Hey Stoopid” is the song that really opened my eyes to music and would lead me to Nirvana which would lead me to punk which would lead me in a hundred different directions. For that alone I would look back on it fondly but what’s amazing is it holds up for me. I still like it. I still have to crank it whenever I hear it. It might be stoopid, but it rocks.