David Libert Chronicles Crazy Career in ‘Rock and Roll Warrior’
When it comes to having juicy material for a book about a life in music, David Libert may be second to none.
The New Jersey native started as a performer, having hits with the Happenings ("See You in September," "I Got Rhythm") during the mid-'60s before switching to the business side of the industry. He became famous, or at least notorious, as Alice Cooper's high-flying tour manager between 1971-75, then moved on to work as a manager and booking agent, with clients that included George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy's Rubber Band, the Runaways, Brian Auger, Sheila E., Living Colour, Cactus and many more. These days he's mostly retired and spends time as an animal-rights activist living in California's Yucca Valley.
Libert's new memoir, Rock and Roll Warrior: My Misadventures With Alice Cooper, Prince, George Clinton, Living Colour, the Runaways and More ... is indeed a juicy 273 pages, he strived to keep it free of cheap shots and gratuitously tawdry details.
"When I started to write it I decided I didn't want it to be a tell-all, salacious kind of book," Libert, 79, tells UCR. That said, he is the guy who kept the "ball scores" on the Cooper tours, dividing the entourage into "teams" that scored points based on who indulged in specific extracurricular activities.
"There’s a little bit of that in there - it's rock 'n' roll, you can't help it," concedes Libert, who also spent time in jail for dealing cocaine. "But I didn't want it to be that kind of book. I wanted it to be more of the adventure I went through. In the end, I had to decide if there was some stuff I didn't want to put in the book. I didn't want to throw anybody under the bus. I was just hoping it would be a good read for somebody who just wanted to see what it was like to be on the inside of all this stuff, what it felt like to be there. That was my goal."
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Libert's glimpses are nevertheless detailed and, for the most part, unapologetic. "There's no question that I did have a good time, and there's nothing wrong with that," he says. Rock and Roll Warrior is filled with great and occasionally historic characters, from his Happenings bandmates and early record executives to Libert's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame employers. He particularly credits Cooper's manager Shep Gordon for schooling him on the many nuances of building and maintaining a global superstar act.
"Shep Gordon was a real ballbuster and just fascinating to deal with because he was so creative in terms of marketing Alice Cooper," Libert says. "So I learned an awful lot there, and I learned a lot about the infrastructure itself - how the whole booking process worked, how the money was broken down. You can't buy that kind of knowledge. You can’t read it in a book, and you can't really go to college for it. It's mostly on-the-job stuff.
"So I consider myself fortunate in that I was sort of like a sponge, soaking up everything that I could possibly learn. And I had some great teachers."
Libert maintains a friendship with the Cooper camp, and he considers the artist "a really cool guy who never really took himself very seriously. He never wanted to be perceived as a prima donna by his friends and other tour members. We were just having fun. Everybody wanted to have a good time, and I made sure, at least from my position, to make sure that it was smooth and fun, like a big party.
"It was pretty crazy when you look back on it, but it really functioned pretty well. And that was my job."
There were bumps in the road, of course. Libert had a front-row seat to the dissolution of the original Alice Cooper band and watched the situation deteriorate as Alice Cooper, the man, became the star of the show, much to the chagrin of his bandmates.
"When I first got the job it seemed like everybody was on equal footing," Libert recalls, noting that the downward spiral began when Gordon decided that Cooper should conduct the pre-tour press conferences solo because he didn't feel the others were as comfortable in the situation.
"That's when I started to realize there was sort of a wedge growing in between Alice and the rest of the band. I used to tell them, 'Look, let Alice be the star. It's good for business. You're all making great money.' But they had a tough time dealing with it, and they started to resent all the gimmicks and props onstage, which is the reason people came to the Alice Cooper show. The rest of the band felt that sort of took away from the music. It was an untenable situation. Oddly enough, they're all friendly today. So it wasn't irreparable, and it's a good thing because I like those guys. When the band broke up it sort of saddened me, but I'm happy to see them doing things together again."
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Rock and Roll Warrior portrays Libert's time with Clinton as the most arduous of his career, juggling a circus of shifting desires and inspirations as well as myriad personnel and hangers-on - including drug dealers to whom Clinton was indebted - that were part of the Parliament-Funkadelic universe. "If I threw anybody under the bus in this book ... I suppose it would be George, as much as I praise him about a lot of things," Libert explains. "Let me put it to you this way: When I worked with Alice Cooper I had a lot of bushy hair. I'm completely bald today, and I blame George."
Libert's relationship with Prince, meanwhile, seems almost random. Libert, who was involved in managing Sheila E. during the early '80s, first met Prince at a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Clinton on his farm near Detroit. When Sheila E. was on the road as an opening act during the Purple Rain tour, Libert was often invited to hang out in Prince's hotel suites and help critique the concerts.
"I liked Prince," Libert says now. "He was a tough guy to deal with, but not for me. He was very nice to me. Prince was very antisocial; he felt awkward in social situations. He didn't really know how to deal with people on a certain level, so he just pretended he was angry all the time. But he was nice to me because, I guess, he didn't want to look stupid in front of me, which is amazing that Prince would even care what I thought about him. But I was older than anybody else in his inner circle, and because I worked with George Clinton, that got me some respect. But I’m guessing on all of this."
Watch Prince's 'Purple Rain' Video
Humorously, Libert writes about how he eventually tried to find ways to avoid or escape from Prince's company. "I liked him, but I didn't want to be obligated to have to go to his room every night with the select group of people he invited," Libert explains. "Prince was not fun to hang out with, that's for damn sure. But, yeah, it was an interesting experience. I seemed to go there every once in awhile and it seemed like he was happy to see me whenever I did, so that was nice."
Libert acknowledges that "they're talking about a movie" based on the book, while he's staying involved with the marketing and promotion aspects of the project. "This book is one of the high points of my life, probably the last high point, so I want it to do as well as it can, and we'll see what happens," he says. But Libert won't rule out doing a little more Rock and Roll Warrior-ing at some point in the future.
"I get calls all the time from people who want me to produce something or manage them," he says. "I turn almost everything down because unless it sounds really interesting or I can make a quick buck or they want to hire me as a consultant, I’m not really interested in doing that much anymore. I'm sort of enjoying my life of leisure, hanging out with my girlfriend and my dogs. It would take a lot to take me away from that."