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Who’s Afraid of the Hollywood Vampires?

Who’s Afraid of the Hollywood Vampires?

Crawling out of the dankest drinking hole in Los Angeles, the Hollywood Vampires stalked the night. Or, more likely, stumbled from the darkness and into a recording studio.

Made up of some of the biggest names in rock music history, they’ve recorded two albums and have a third on the way. 

But who are these denizens of the night, and should you be afraid?

Let’s find out!

The Story of the Hollywood Vampires

Before recording music together, the Hollywood Vampires were something much more lowkey. At the height of rock n’ roll’s excess in the 1970s, Alice Cooper formed a drinking club with some famous friends. Initially, they met in the upstairs lounge of the Rainbow Bar on the Sunset Strip.

Former members include Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, and Micky Dolenz of the Monkees. Occasionally, John Lennon even made an appearance. Their goal was to drink until no one could stand. And they all chose to accept the mission!

That all stopped when Cooper went cold turkey in 1983. But, in 2012, a new incarnation of the group rose from the crypt. Members Johnny Depp and Joe Perry began jamming with the Godfather of Shock Rock. Together, they formed a supergroup for the ages. 

The band quickly followed their success with two great performances at the 2015 Rock in Rio and the 2016 Grammy Awards.

Since then, they’ve approached their music with vigor. Recording a self-titled album in 2015, they also put out a second called Rise in 2019. Live in Rio, released in 2023, set the stage for their comeback.

While the first record consisted of cover songs, Rise had all new work from Cooper, Perry, Depp, and Henricksen. Their live album is a mix of covers and originals. The Hollywood Vampires’ sound is a mix of heavy metal, classic rock, and some shock for good measure.

Unfortunately, their 2020 tour was interrupted due to world events, but the group headed back out on the road in the summer of 2023.

Why Are They Called the Hollywood Vampires?

As we mentioned, the band is named after Cooper’s drinking club. Alice and Keith Moon had famous alcohol problems, and the club’s aim was no different. If anyone could walk out after a meeting, they considered it a failure.

For men at the height of fame, it provided a zone where hangers-on weren’t welcome. 

Famous musicians passing through Los Angeles could drop in, but there was a catch. To be considered a Hollywood Vampire, they had to out-drink the members. Moon famously put down 36 brandies in a sitting, so it was a legitimate challenge.

When Cooper quit drinking, the club faded away into obscurity. When Depp and mutual friend Perry decided to pay homage to the former wild group, the Godfather jumped at the chance.

Joe Perry is quite a songwriter. Check out the story: Who Did Aerosmith Write “Dude Looks Like a Lady” About?

About the Rainbow Bar and Grill

Founded in 1972 by two PR managers, Gary Stromberg and Bob Gibson, The Rainbow Bar and Grill calls back to an earlier time. Previously, Vincent Minelli owned the club while married to Judy Garland. It had a long history in Hollywood before it shut down in 1968.

When they reopened the restaurant, the two men reserved the second floor as a hangout for rockers. Tastes on the Strip changed in the 1980s, and heavy metal ruled the scene. Instead of bumping into Marilyn Monroe, you’d see Poison and Mӧtley Crüe. 

At the Over the Rainbow bar, kings of rock held court, and for Cooper, it was the ideal spot to straddle the generations.

The club remains open for business with live music every Wednesday night from 10 PM until closing. 

An illustration of a Hollywood street sign at sunset with bats flying around it. Who are the Hollywood Vampires?
The Hollywood Vampires aren’t really vampires…we think.

What Was Special About the Hollywood Vampires’ Live Debut?

After playing with Depp and Perry for a few years, Cooper and the band decided it was time for something new. They emerged from the shadows in September 2015 at the famous Roxy Theatre next door to the Rainbow. Taking their name from the drinking society, luminaries of the hard rock scene joined them for the live debut. 

None other than Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum from Guns N’ Roses filled in on bass and drums. Tommy Henriksen of the German band Warlock rounded out the group on rhythm guitar.

During their two-night stand, they brought on guest performers to wow the crowd. Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath, and Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction made appearances. Kesha performed alongside the group, and they added Marilyn Manson for the second night.

They’ve kept an open door policy of sorts for drop-ins from other lost souls from the rock roll call. They’ve played with Dave Grohl, Brian Johnson, Slash, and one other you might know. Sir Paul McCartney even traded bars with the crew. 

Was Alice Cooper the subject of a song? 7 Great Songs About Psychos.

The Hollywood Vampires’ Best Original Songs

While you won’t hear any original tunes on their first album, their second contained all-new music. Each member contributed songs to the record. Check out these great tracks from the Hollywood Vampires for examples of their best work.

My Dead Drunk Friends

My Dead Drunk Friends sings like a dirge to pals who passed away. The lyrics tell the story of the drinking club long gone. Cooper provides lead vocals on the track. His gravelly voice recalls the wild times he and his friends had. And also the women they loved and lost. 

It’s a classic story that carries the listener through four toasts honoring the different aspects of life. 

Standing all alone here, in a tavern full of ghosts
It's three AM, we're back again, here's my toast

Each gets more elaborate over a classic blues rock shuffle. It’s the perfect opener for the Hollywood Vampires.

As Bad as I Am

Johnny Depp penned this banger that feels like an homage to Lemmy Kilmister, a one-time club member. And there’s something about the charging beat that feels just like it could’ve come from a Motӧrhead record. 

Shouted by Cooper, the self-loathing of an alcoholic is clear. You’ll even hear a reference to his own moment of realization, puking blood. 

Shall we pop you open wet our proverbial whistle
Oh Pardon me I seem to be bleeding

Raise the Dead

Raise the Dead features a blistering Joe Perry solo that reminds us of a particular type of rock n’ roll. You know, the heavy metal type. The song focuses on raising a style not at the top of the charts. 

Hey you
The soul of rock'n'roll
Was buried in a hole

And the leather-clad musicians on stage certainly let us know where their loyalties lie. 

Purchase or stream the latest live album: The Hollywood Vampires Live in Rio.

The Hollywood Vampires Still Gets the Blood Flowing

Born from an all-night drinking club, this rock n’ roll supergroup is melting faces around the world. With members of Guns N’ Roses, Alice Cooper, and Pirates of the Caribbean, dark humor is the name of the game. And while the band doesn’t party like they used to, they know how to revel in the old days.

With a hint of irony, the Hollywood Vampire boys remind us that they’ve still got something to talk about. It’s not surprising that they might frighten you by memories of your younger, more wild, days!