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I’ve written dozens of artist “bios,” both as a record company scribe and freelancer, but no one have I enjoyed writing bios more for than Shep Gordon, legendary manager of Alice Cooper and Blondie and too many acts to mention, and without a doubt the most creative manager I’ve ever met in show business.
Shep and I became friends when Alice was just breaking through with his first hit, “I’m Eighteen,” and I was writing for Billboard in New York. I wrote a brief column and review of Alice’s show, and before I knew it I was one of the boys on the team, adding in my two cents on ad copy, publicity and packaging.
When I first met Alice – a nicer guy you’ve never met – he noticed some similarity in our general appearance. “Do you realize you could be my body double?” he joked. “Would you ever consider standing in for me during a concert one night?” I just laughed it off as a Budweiser moment and said, “I’ll think about it.”
But considering that Alice was repeatedly hanged, stabbed and guillotined on stage for years, and paranoid he might not like me, I feared I’d lose my head playing Alice’s double and didn’t ponder his friendly “offer” too long!
In 1978 I wrote the “bio” tied into Alice’s new album (with Bernie Taupin), “From the Inside,” featuring the hit “We’re All Crazy.” I asked Shep if I could interview Alice for the piece. “Don’t bother,” he said. I asked what the album was about and he said, “Alice goes into the nuthouse.” I asked, “Is that it? Does he get out?” “That’s up to you,” he said. “Be creative.” The paper the bio is printed on has a large red “Rorshach” pattern on it – almost blotting out the words. The Certificate of Insanity is clear proof that being crazy can be fun and profitable.
In 1979 I wrote the “bio” for Blondie’s soon-to-be-classic new album, “Eat to the Beat.” I asked Shep, “Can I interview Debbie Harry?” “Nope,” he said. “They’re tired of being interviewed.” I asked, “Do they want the history of the band in the piece?” “Nope,” he said, “they’re tired of talking about the past.” I asked if he had any guidance for me.” He said, “The album’s called ‘Eat to the Beat.’ Make up the rest. Be creative.” Lacking any facts whatsoever, I wrote the mildly perverse “Blondie’s Travel & Restaurant Guide” … with which to “Eat to the Beat.”
In 1980, thanks to Shep, I wrote a four-page newspaper, “Roadie Gazette,” to publicize the movie “Roadie,” starring Meat Loaf, Alice and Blondie, which produced a huge hit soundtrack.
Shep never let me down. When he had something wild and creative up his sleeve, he always rang me up and gave me a shot. As a result, I tried to push the envelope and take advantage of the lack of limitations and the restrictions that “facts,” “reality” and “history” usually impose on any project. Shep always gave me the opportunity to be as free-form as I could be with artist and project bios, knowing no matter what I wrote, at least the effort would be more creative than the standard record company fare, and the music would surely survive me and stand on its own.