When Alice Cooper Saw Syd Barrett Laugh at Cornflakes: Exclusive
Alice Cooper was no stranger to hedonism in his heyday, but even he was shocked by Syd Barrett's drug intake when he met Pink Floyd.
The veteran shock-rocker revisits pivotal moments in his life and career in "Who I Really Am: The Diary of a Vampire," the latest installment in Audible's Words + Music series. In an exclusive excerpt, which you can hear below, Cooper recalls spending time with Pink Floyd while both bands were still making a name for themselves in the late '60s.
After playing a show together at the Cheetah Club in Los Angeles, Cooper and his bandmates invited Pink Floyd to stay at their house for a few days. "The memorable moment of this, of course, was one morning when I got up early — I always got up early — walked into the kitchen, and there was Syd Barrett sitting at the breakfast table, staring at a box of cornflakes and laughing and having the best time of his life," the singer recalls. "And I'm looking at the cornflakes and looking at him, and he'd point at them and go, 'Huh, look at this.'
"I couldn't imagine how anybody could be that high, that early in the morning," Cooper continues. "I mean, we got high, but we didn't get that high. I went in and said to [guitarist] Dennis [Dunaway], 'Dennis, Syd is sitting in the kitchen, staring at a box of cornflakes, and apparently it's television to him. All the little cornflakes are dancing and singing for him, and he's having the time of his life.' And Dennis said, 'Cool. You got any more of that stuff?'"
Cooper praises Barrett as "one of the most brilliant songwriters, guitar players and a true rock star through and through," but concedes that "he wasn't on our planet, and it probably was a fun ride for him, until it eventually caught up with him." Barrett, who is believed to have suffered from schizophrenia, grew increasingly erratic as his drug use escalated and was ousted from Pink Floyd in 1968. He retired from the music industry a few years later and remained a recluse until his death in 2006.
Barrett was far from the only rock 'n' roll casualty in those days. As Cooper himself admits: "Rock 'n' roll is a dangerous business. Little did we know that the guys we looked up to, the guys we learned from, our heroes — the Jim Morrisons, the Jimi Hendrixes, the Janis Joplins — would all check out at 27 years old. That was the expiration date for a rock star."
Cooper's "Who I Really Am: The Diary of a Vampire" is out today; you can listen to it at Audible's site. U.S. fans can also catch him on tour this month with support from Ace Frehley. "It's such a relief to be on the road again," Cooper told UCR. "Everybody in this band, it’s like [we're] kids in a candy shop. We can't wait to get onstage after a year and a half of sitting around."