• Features

Who do you think you are?

written by: on November 5, 2012

We idolize them. We fantasize about them. We want to be them. It’s the appealing nature of rock stars.

It’s hard to believe that the chart-topping supreme beings become so accustomed to their seemingly fascinating identities that they adopt totally new ones. The alter ego has since become a facet of rock ‘n’ roll showmanship that continues to fascinate fans and musicians alike. The following are some of music’s best and most-memorable (and possibly laughable) alter egos.

Jim Morrison as The Lizard King/Mr. Mojo Risin’

The Lizard King is one of rock music’s more abstract alter egos. The character is never flat-out mentioned in a Doors’ song, but it was often alluded to in Morrison’s poetry and behavior. (He often donned snakeskin suits and dubbed himself “The Lizard King.”) But a more recognizable Morrison creation is the suave, ever-so-clever, Mr. Mojo Risin’—an anagram for Jim Morrison. Hear the kooky character’s Doors’ debut in L.A. Woman.

Vincent Furnier as Alice Cooper

Detroit band Alice Cooper’s successful album Billion Dollar Babies began as a hard rocking quintet’s concept album and progressed into vocalist/guitarist Vincent Furnier’s adoption of the bombastic alter ego Alice Cooper. Cooper’s 1970s stage shows included bombastic stunts including staged executions, methodical toy doll beheadings, and boa constrictors embracing the rocker onstage. Combined with a gravity-defying hairstyle and liberal black mascara, the character of Alice Cooper embodied the rock ‘n roll at its roughest, and it never sounded so good.

The Beatles as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Dropping the countercultural acid tab and taking a shining to sitars, The Beatles fully embraced America’s tie-dyed rebellion against authority in the 1970s. From this embracement of the hippie movement and a fascination with Eastern instrumentation, The Fab Four decided to don some garish parodies of British officers uniforms and sing some sweet flower power jams as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. One of the most memorable tracks spawning from band was mystic jam “Within You, Without You.”

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

Following the demise of the 1970s hippie movement, David Bowie rose from the earth-toned cultural ash covered in glitter and ready to impart some killer rock riffs on the disenchanted youth. Heavily inspired by the theatricality of the New York Dolls, Bowie adopted the moniker Ziggy Stardust and created a backstory that Fitzgerald would envy for his eccentric alter ego. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was met with wild success and sealed Bowie in rock history for his unrivaled showmanship and wild experimentation.

Joaquin Phoenix as JP

This is one alter ego that has—thankfully—ended its residency in reality. While the genuineness of this character is still uncertain, it was certainly believable. In 2010 Joaquin announced that he was retiring from acting in favor of pursuing a career in hip-hop. This is where JP shoves himself into the painfully ridiculous picture. Phoenix then tried his hand in the underground rap scene, film crew in tow, and documented his downward spiral in the music industry in 2010 mockumentary I’m Still Here. While fans prefer to brush this “incident” to the wayside, it’s hard to discount the relevance of this alter ego when Phoenix himself seems so convinced.

Brian Warner as Marilyn Manson

Perhaps one of the most memorable shock rockers of all time, Marilyn Manson constantly pushes the boundaries of social mores and taboos with relish. The name of his alter ego—with its juxtaposition of Marilyn Monroe’s shameless glamour against Charles Manson’s bone-chilling name recognition—conveys Manson’s desire to constantly batter social boundaries through his music. Rarely caught without his trademark snow-white face and blood red lips, Manson’s commitment to his public persona makes fans wonder where the showman ends and the true self begins, if at all. And maybe retaining that mystery is best.