30 Fascinating Early Bands of Future Music Legends

From Billy Joel's heavy-metal duo to Madonna's post-punk act and Neil Young's Motown outfit, these are the primordial groups that rock forgot

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Alice Cooper's High-School Beatles Parody Act

In 1964, a 16-year-old named Vincent Furnier – later known as Alice Cooper – was hard up trying to book acts for the talent show at his Phoenix-area high school. "Nobody had any talent," he said later in his memoir, Me, Alice. "Nobody even deluded themselves." Instead, he recruited fellow members of the cross-country team to form a fake group spoofing the Beatles, who were still dominating the charts in the wake of their American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show earlier that year. Donning Beatle wigs, they took to the stage in the cafeteria-cum-auditorium as "the Earwigs." Only one member of the group – Glen Buxton – could actually play an instrument, so the others merely mimed to Beatles songs, rewritten as paeans to track-and-field. One of the better examples, "Please, Please Me," opened with the line: "Last night, I ran four laps for my coach." The rapturous response from the crowd propelled them into first place, persuading the "band" to seriously consider dumping their track cleats for guitars. "People complimented me the next day for having the guts to do it," Cooper wrote in his memoir, "and girls started talking to me who never before would have anything to do with the skinny guy with the big nose from the track team. It stimulated my entertaining chemicals like never before. I got hooked on the limelight."

Having purchased cheap instruments from a local pawnshop, the band changed their name to a different kind of insect – the Spiders. Over the next year they performed at small clubs around Phoenix, toting an enormous black spider web backdrop. Although the Fab Four had provided inspiration, their musical influences lay in the grittier, blues-oriented sounds of bands like the Yardbirds. "We weren't interested that much in the Beatles, but we were more interested in Jeff Beck's guitar sound like on 'Happenings Ten Years Time Ago' or the Pretty Things doing 'I'm a Roadrunner,'" Cooper told Sounds magazine. "All those early, really rotten, raunchy things. [Like] the early Kinks when they sounded like they were gonna break your eardrums."

By 1965 they had recorded their first single, "Why Don't You Love Me" (originally done by an obscure English group called the Blackwells), backed with a cover of the Marvin Gaye hit, "Hitch Hike." After graduating high school the following year, they released an additional song, an original called "Don't Blow Your Mind," which became a local hit. Emboldened by the success, they moved to Los Angeles in 1967 in pursuit of fame, renaming themselves the Nazz after the Yardbirds' song, "The Nazz Are Blue." Once they discovered that Todd Rundgren already had a band by that name, they chose a new name: Alice Cooper. 

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