In a new interview with Metal Hammer, Cooper said his work in the early ‘70s helped “open up a huge door” for Bowie and several other contemporaries, but he never thought of the British star as a competitor.
“David used to come to the show when he was a mime artist, he was Davy Jones back then,” the shock-rock legend said, adding that, later on, “he brought his band, the Spiders From Mars, and he was saying, ‘This is what we should be doing.’ But he never did it the way we did it.”
Cooper noted that “when we started doing theatrics and still had hit records, that opened up a huge door for Bowie, Lou Reed and [the] Velvet Underground because you could be theatrical and commercial at the same time. I wanted there to be an artistic movement; I created Alice as a villain … Bowie created all of his characters to fit who he wanted to be.
“I never really saw him as competition, I encouraged him. Bowie and I talked all the time; we’d compliment each other. There was a whole thing about Bowie and Lou Reed talking about my androgynous thing being fake and they were right, of course, it’s fake. It’s a dark vaudeville show, and I play a character. Lou and David knew me and knew I couldn’t be more down-the-middle American. … I just happened to tap into this character and the image – I knew how to make that character scary, sexy, revolting and funny at the same time.”
Cooper was also asked if there were any artists who had influenced him with their own shock factor. “I was seven when I first saw Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show,” he replied. “We were so used to doo-wop music when I was a kid, all of a sudden we didn’t know if Elvis was the hero or the villain. … The second time was when we saw the Beatles – we all went, ‘Wow, look at that hair, look at the boots, look at the suits! These songs are the best songs I’ve ever heard!’ Then the Rolling Stones came, and I got the reaction from my parents that these guys were scruffy, they could be drug addicts – that appealed to me. I looked at them and thought, ‘If I ever get a band together, I’m gonna make these guys look like choirboys.’”