Vincent’s Price: The Purposeful Personality Disorder of Alice Cooper

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Every so often, an Alice Cooper show will still be protested by self-described Christians in small, conservative communities.

Because Alice Cooper shows tend to feature nooses, simulated decapitations and sprays of fake blood, some folks come to the conclusion that Cooper must in league with Satan.

The truth is more wonderfully complicated than that.

Cooper performs May 19 at the Foellinger Theatre.

First of all, when you call Alice Cooper on the phone, you end up talking to a guy named Vincent Damon Furnier.

Furnier is a health nut, an avid golfer, a devoted family man, a devout Christian, a non-drinker and an evident Republican (although he really doesn’t like to talk about politics).

The shocking plot twist here is that Furnier is Cooper.

Cooper is a character Furnier plays. Furnier often refers to Cooper in the third person as if he is someone in the next room.

It wasn’t always so. Furnier has been around long enough to have socialized with some of the late greats of 20th century rock. He calls them his big brothers and sisters and what he learned from them is that he had to split his personality.

“I used to drink with Jimi Hendrix,” he said in a phone interview. “I used to drink with Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. Every single one of the ones that died at 27 years old. I realized that they were trying to live their image.

“That’s what kind of taught me that if I was going to be Alice Cooper, I had to be two people,” Furnier said. “I had to be the character on stage and not the character off stage. That’s the thing they never learned. That’s what killed them. Trying to live up to that image all the time. You have to fuel that with something.”

Furnier was born in Detroit and grew up in Phoenix but he says Cooper’s sound is pure Detroit.

“It’s always guitar rock,” he said. “It’s always going to be hard. 90% of the show is hard rock all the way and then we make it special by adding the icing on the cake.”

The icing to which he refers is composed of theatrical elements inspired by horror films.

Cooper came up at a time when many rock acts were mounting elaborately theatrical shows. Nobody does that anymore, really, but Cooper never stopped.

Furnier said the Cooper character was based on two of the unlikeliest sources imaginable: the soft-core sci-fi film, “Barbarella,” and the camp classic, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”

Cooper’s outfit is inspired by the shocking-then-and-shocking-now getup that Anita Pallenberg wore while playing the Black Queen of Sogo. His makeup was inspired by Bette Davis’ smeared face in the latter film.

At first, Furnier said, the Cooper character was an outcast.

“He was sort of society’s victim,” he said. “He was always getting beat up. He was sort of the poster child for the outcasts and every kid that was on the outside. The ones that were getting bullied. Fans who’d had similar experiences saw Alice as their hero.”

Eventually he evolved into a villain, but one who had more in common with Captain Hook than Hannibal Lector.

“When I quit drinking,” he said, “I decided that Alice needs to be a villain. Alice needs to be like rock’s villain. And with that comes comedy. It’s fun to be the villain. You have to have some fun with it. The villains in anything I’ve seen always have the best lines. They were always the most fun guys in the whole movie.”

Whatever antics and shenanigans Cooper got up to on stage, they never went beyond what Furnier could condone in real life.

“If people look at the lyrics – there was never anything satanic,” he said. “There was never anything satanic in anything Alice ever did. There was never anything where they could ban Alice Cooper. I kept within the boundaries of everything. No, I really don’t have any problem playing Alice Cooper and being a Christian.”

In some senses, Cooper may be the most ingratiating villain in the history of entertainment.

Longtime local media personality Chilly Addams said Cooper’s meet-and-greets – those post-concert opportunities for contest winners and VIPs to meet their idols – were notable for the musician’s enthusiasm.

“I’ve been to meet and greets before where it was kind of a cattle call situation,” he said. “But before [Cooper] was completely out of the room he was coming out of, it was like, ‘Hey you guys! How you doing? Was that a great show or what?’”

WXKE disk jockey J.J. Fabini tells a similar tale.

“Every conversation he had [with fans] wasn’t about him,” he said. “It was about them. He wouldn’t just sit and let them ask him questions. He started the conversation: ‘Hi! How are you? What’s your name? What do you do? Tell me about your family. How long have you listened to rock and roll? What kind of bands do you like?’ He is controlling the conversation and steering it right back at the person he is talking to.”

Since James Brown is no longer with us, Furnier may be the new “hardest working man in show business.”

To stay that way, he said, he must follow a meticulous health and fitness regimen.

“I actually am in better shape now, at 68, then I was at 38,” Furnier said. “When I was 38, I was a mess. At 68 – I do 4 or 5 shows a week – I come off stage and I’m the only one not breathing hard.”

Last year, Cooper did something that not many 68-year-old rockers get to do: he formed a supergroup.

It’s called Hollywood Vampires. Other members include actor Johnny Depp and Journey guitarist Joe Perry.

Furnier said that the band “pays tribute to all of our dead, drunk friends.”

Pretty much everything about this is a surprise, but the most surprising thing is that Depp has been able to show Perry a few things on guitar that Perry did not know.

“That’s how good Johnny is,” Furnier said. “Johnny is a killer guitar player. Everybody knows him as a great actor – he’s an Academy Award-caliber actor – but you put a guitar in the guy’s hand and he can play with Eric Clapton or he can play with anybody.

“If he weren’t an actor and I saw him auditioning for a band, I would go, ‘I want that guy right there,’” he said. “When I do reference points – like if I say, ‘You know there was this Yardbirds song that went like this – he’ll go, ‘Oh yeah, yeah. I know which one it is’ and play it back to me.’ And it’s always exactly the sound I was thinking of.”

Furnier said he hopes a protégé takes on the Alice Cooper persona after he’s gone (a la the “Dread Pirate Roberts”), although he plans to live “for another 100 years.”

If anyone ever produces a movie about his life, Furnier said Johnny Depp would be able to play him “if he were just better looking.”

 

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Big Tentpole Philosophy: Summer Movies 2016

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Get that popcorn ready! This summer, the multiplexes will be full of superheroes, sequels and remakes…

Whoa! I just got the most intense sense of déjà vu right now.

It must have been the popcorn.

There will be a lot of movies, not to mention optometrists, competing for eyeballs in the coming months.

Will it be a summer to remember? Or a summer to forget?

Wait; what was I saying?

The following guide is designed to help you suss out your cinematic options.

But, be forewarned. I am no ordinary susser. If anything, I am an xtreme susser.

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“The Angry Birds Movie”

Absolutely every movie based on a video game to date has been a critical and commercial failure.

Luckily, this is a movie based on an app.

It’s an appdaptation.

This phone-based game featuring birds being slungshot into battlements and ramparts constructed by egg-obsessed green pigs living under the tyrannical rule of a mad porcine king debuted in 2009 and everyone who plays it has the same thought: “Gee, I wish someone would spend 90 minutes explaining how the events depicted in this game came about…”

Your prayers and secular yearnings have been answered (Opens May 20).

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“Alice Through the Looking Glass”

Loosely based on the work of Lewis Carroll (the way Justin Bieber is loosely based on James Brown), “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is a sequel to Disney’s 2010 update of “Alice in Wonderland,” one of those Tim Burton movies that makes up for in style what the director lacks in passion.

Burton bypassed this sequel, handing over the directorial reins to James Bobbin (“The Muppets”), who has cantered a long, bewildering distance from “Flight of the Concords.”

Bobbin handled a team of thoroughbreds that included Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter) and Helena Bonham Carter (the Red Queen).

OK, I’ll stop with the horse metaphors now.

In this installment, Alice battles a new character, the Lord of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), who until recently was battling Brian May.

There are a lot of antique timepieces in the film, which are sure to delight and amaze adolescents and teenagers who never learned to read an analog clock (Opens May 27).

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“X-Men: Apocalypse”

In this film, an ancient, evil, Egyptian deity is played by Oscar Isaac, a Guatemalan American actor from Miami.

Still, this casting is an improvement on “Gods of Egypt,” in which doughy Australian actor Geoffrey Rush portrayed the Egyptian god, Ra, in such a way that it made many older critics publicly apologize for having trashed John Wayne’s performance as Genghis Kahn.

The afore-referenced supervillain eventually names himself after the thing he most wants to bring about in the world: Apocalypse.

This is an interesting life strategy. It’s the reason I am renaming myself “Unlimited Free Tacos.”

In the comic books, Apocalypse is as big as a blue Hulk and seems to wear the chassis of a Buick Roadmaster as body armor.

So diehard fans were understandably a little disappointed to see Isaac wearing a costume that looked like it was designed for “Apocalypse: The Musical.”

Still, that won’t be enough to make a single one of them stay away from this, the eighth installment in Fox’s X-Men franchise.

Fox has a lot riding on this. It owns the movie rights to a few of the Marvel properties that Disney does not, and it has been a careless steward. Its “Fantastic Four” films have been comprehensively terrible. The only interesting thing about them was that they were all terrible in different ways.

Fox got lucky earlier this year with “Deadpool,” after years of showing that it had little understanding of the character and little interest in gaining an understanding.

Some pundits have reasoned that moviegoers, having already sat through “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Captain America: Civil War” this year, will be suffering from superhero fatigue by the time this movie comes out.

Pundits have said this sort of thing before.

If superhero fatigue exists, it has yet to become an epidemic. Like cooties and the collywobbles, superhero fatigue appears to be something that is keenly experienced by certain individuals, yet is imperceptible by many others.

About a decade ago, Marvel Studios embarked on a cinematic initiative that involved what were then considered a dog’s breakfast of ancillary comics characters.

Everybody scoffed.

Now Marvel rules the roost.

Fox wants some more roost (Opens May 27).

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“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”

Roughly four years after University of Massachusetts student Kevin Eastman co-created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Peter Laird, I started attending that august Amherst institution.

Later, as an A&E reporter for a local alternative weekly, I crossed paths with Eastman quite a bit.

Every so often, one would see him strolling down a sidewalk in Northampton with then-wife Julie Strain.

Strain, the oft-described “Queen of the B-Movies,” is about as tall as Lurch and as zaftig as Jessica Rabbit.

She made quite an impression, in other words.

Interestingly, even though the setting for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” has always been Manhattan, the “cityscapes” in the earliest comics were based on Northampton, a gentrified, ultraliberal and not-very-urban college town with a current permanent population of about 28,000.

It was even smaller back then.

I was in the audience for the “Northampton premiere” of the 1990 live-action film, which featured Jim Henson’s wonderful costumes.

I liked Michael Bay’s 2014 reboot more than I thought I would, but the special effects were odd and a little off-putting in the way CGI often is these days.

How do you create a compromise between an actual turtle and a cartoon turtle that is more ingratiating than horrific?

The apparent answer in this case was: You don’t. Under deadline, you throw up your computer-animating hands.

If you saw these computer-generated Ninja Turtles floating in glass jars in a lab in “Alien 4,” you’d think, “Well, that’s what you get when you try to combine Ellen Ripley’s DNA with monster DNA.”

But in this movie, they’re the adorable heroes!

Context is key.

CGI manifests wonderments that weren’t filmable in 1990, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes miss Henson’s rubber suits (Opens June 3).

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“Warcraft”

When I heard that this CGI-heavy fantasy movie is based on a popular MMORPG, I must admit that I had to go look that acronym up.

It means Massaging Mustard Onto Really Putrefying Gizzards.

Believe me, I was as surprised as anyone.

Computer-generated gizzards.

We truly have come a long way.

No, “Warcraft: The Motion Picture” is, of course, an adaptation of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game of the same name.

The game might be revolutionary, but one word popped into the mind of this game-resistant moviegoer while watching the trailer: Derivative.

The director here is Duncan Jones, son of the late David Bowie and creator of two previous sci-fi films, both brainy.

The hiring of Jones reflects the big studio practice of recruiting independent directors to helm blockbusters because they’re talented and cheap.

It makes perfect sense, of course. “Look over here,” one studio executive might tell another. “It’s a young man who has directed a well-reviewed film about a boy who tries to help the Dutch resistance during World War II. He’d be the perfect person to direct our movie about murderous space cheese” (Opens June 10).

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“Finding Dory”

Everyone’s favorite forgetful fish is back! Forget all those other forgetful fish. This is everyone’s favorite!

Trust me on that.

After the release of “Blackfish,” a documentary critical of Sea World’s treatment of killer whales, Pixar changed the ending of “Finding Dory” so that it casts marine parks of Sea World’s ilk in a slightly less flattering light.

The new conclusion of the film features a dolphin named Caesar staging a revolt at the Monterey Marine Life Institute and instituting new rules such as “Fish Shall Not Kill Fish,” among others (Opens June 17).

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“Swiss Army Man”

Pundits are calling this the first movie about a farting corpse that has also starred Daniel Radcliffe.

I know it’s been a few years, but how is it that no one remembers “Harry Potter and the Farting Corpse”? (Opens June 24)

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“Independence Day: Resurgence”

I was 30 years old when the original was released, which is dead in “Logan’s Run” years.

I didn’t much like it.

To me, the movie was a cinematic junk drawer of bad special effects occasionally interspersed with spectacular special effects, lazy plotting, funny but often ill-timed humor (an Emmerlich/Devlin specialty in those days), and the worst creature designs since “Robot Monster.”

Seriously, guys. Those aliens. Those architecturally absurd heads, like trying to wear a jet ski as a hat. Eyes like spoons with the handles broken off. Cute little Norfin figurine faces. Tentacles, because…why the hell not?

Some of them had even more random crap stuck to them.

However, I will allow for the possibility that the movie had an impact on par with the original “Star Wars” on people who were 10 then and are 30 today.

So, it’s 20 years later and here’s the sequel.

Will Smith did not return because he is busy, Bill Pullman did return because he is not and Randy Quaid did not return because he has since gone certifiably insane (although he has thus far eluded attempts at certification).

Oh, and his character died, not that that means anything.

In this movie, military engineers have had 20 years to improve the planet’s defenses and outside this movie, cinematic engineers have had 20 years to improve this franchise’s special effects.

This sequel’s ace in the hole is Jeff Goldblum, in my opinion.

Everything goes better with Goldblum (Opens June 24).

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“The Legend of Tarzan”

The first screen Tarzan, who Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs allegedly hated, was Elmo Lincoln.

I shall not mince words: Lincoln had dad bod. He had moobs.

Roughly fifty films and 100 years later, we’re getting “The Legend of Tarzan.”

In this latest iteration, Tarzan is played by Swedish actor Alexander Johan Hjalmar Skarsgård, who I will hereafter refer to as “Tarzan of the Moose.”

No, I won’t.

Skarsgård may have had a six-pack at some point, but he left it behind long ago. He may have subsequently had a 24-pack, but he also left that behind. These days, it appears as if his taut abdomen contains the equivalent in muscles of a commercial beer factory and four microbreweries.

His belly resembles a furnace filter.

I don’t think Burroughs would be very happy with that either.

Skarsgård is entirely too pretty to play Tarzan. He does not have the body of a man who grew up in the jungle with apes. He has the body of a man who went to the jungle and opened a Gold’s Gym.

Computer-generated effects will allow Tarzan to swing through the trees in a manner that no live-action Tarzan has up to now, so there’s that.

Disney, which is awash in cinematic universes these days, undoubtedly hopes this property turns into one. Burroughs wrote 24 novels of descending quality, so there’s more than enough material for Disney to ignore.

But I fear that kids aren’t returning to the source material in the numbers they once did and that makes me sad. They aren’t great books. They’re more fun and exciting than that.

I do not expect “The Legend of Tarzan” to do well enough to warrant a sequel and it will be a shame. Pretending to be Tarzan has gotten a lot of kids out of the house and into the woods (Opens July 1).

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“Ghostbusters”

This gender-switch version of the classic comedy has already angered so-called men’s rights activists, a group of manly men who, ironically, always seem to behave as if they’re menstruating.

These men apparently wanted another movie written by Dan Aykroyd, who is currently working on a second animated “Blues Brothers” series, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Oh, who am I kidding? There’s a lot wrong with that.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, Aykroyd had his chance with “Ghostbusters 2.” It’s not a horrible sequel, but it lacks the lightning-in-a-bottle quality of the first film.

Maybe the original Ghostbusters crew was like a rock band that forms, makes a great album or two and then runs out of steam. Like the Police.

Not like U2, in other words. The original cast was never meant to still be playing together in 2016. Some critics might suggest that even U2 isn’t meant to be U2.

I don’t know that I was dying for a new “Ghostbusters” film under any guise, but I seem to have entered the “get off my lawn” phase of my life, so I may not be the best judge.

A Paul Feig-directed reboot starring the best female comics available sounds like the best of the available options.

Still, some men will claim that their childhoods have been ruined.

What I want to say to these men is this: Clearly, your childhoods haven’t even ended yet. There’s still time to make things right (Opens July 15).

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“Ice Age: Collision Course”

The ongoing saga of a prehistoric squirrel (aka “Fox Studios”) on a seemingly ceaseless quest to gain possession of a nut (aka “milk a cinematic property until it is a desiccated husk”).

In their continued committed to paleontological and geological veracity, the creators of this installment decided to send the film’s prehistoric animals into space.

Fox has had a remarkable run with this series, but is this the installment where the franchise finally jumps the Carcharodon megalodon? (Opens July 22)

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“Star Trek Beyond”

I speak as a four-decade trekker: This movie scares me.

We’ve seen one anemic trailer and zero publicity.

The only headlines “Star Trek” is getting these days are related to Paramount’s late-breaking and dunderheaded decision to start suing fans that make tribute films.

Could it be that Paramount knows it has a stinker on its hands and isn’t quite sure what to do about it?

This movie introduces a new alien species, which is always a dicey proposition. Sure, the Ferengi were a success, but how about the Space Hippies and the Space Mobsters and the Greek Gods from Space and the Offensive Irish Stereotypes from Space (aka the Bringloidi)?

I fear that the critical and commercial failure of this film would put a decisive end to the rejiggered universe that J.J. Abrams introduced in 2009.

We “Star Trek” fans have been here before, of course.

The last two “Next Generation” features put “Star Trek” into cryogenic suspension for a number of years.

A clean-slate TV series will debut in 2017, and if it’s strong enough, it’ll end up steering the whole franchise.

“Star Trek” will survive, but it may take a back seat to “Star Wars” for a while.

If you think the bickering between Clinton and Sanders backers is bad, you should see a “Star Trek” fan at a sci-fi convention try to convince a “Star Wars” fan that the former is superior.

I have seen enough lightsaber/bat’leth battles to last a lifetime (Opens July 22).

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“Jason Bourne”

Bourne spent the first three films trying to remember who he is, so I guess he’ll spend the next three trying to forget who he is.

What’s with the title? Where’s “The Bourne Redundancy” or “The Bourne Annuity” or “The Bourne Venerability”?

I’ll tell you thus much: “Jason Bourne” is perfectly positioned to be an antidote to a surfeit of summer CGI.

According to reports, director Paul Greengrass decided to abstain from using his standard “shaky cam” for this installment. Because he wanted to go shakier.

My hope is that Bourne is finally able to relax on a couch at the end of this franchise and hear the voice of his lovely wife calling out from the kitchen, “Would you stop killing people for a minute and take out the garbage?” (Opens July 29)

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“Suicide Squad”

A secret government agency named A.R.G.U.S is created by Amanda Waller, who I really want to believe previously ran a secret beef agency called A.N.G.U.S.

The idea here is that a team of potential superheroes is formed from a previously unaffiliated collection of unapologetic DC Comics supervillains.

Hollywood is showing its range here. It is proving that it can give you everything from superheroes to supervillains pretending to be superheroes.

In press about the film, this atypical team-up is often referred to as a “rogue’s gallery,” a term that hasn’t been in wide use since men were fined for cursing.

Jared Leto plays the latest incarnation of the Joker, and word has it that he stayed in character for the duration of the shoot, whether on-set or off. He even went so far as to send gifts to his fellow cast members that were meant to evoke Batman’s green-haired nemesis – gifts like bullets, sex toys, a live rat and a dead hog.

That reminds me of the time I played Georges in “La Cage Aux Folles” and sent everyone in the cast a gay butler.

Warner Brothers has decided to market “Suicide Squad” as a comedy on the assumption that even a movie with “suicide” in the title is bound to have more laughs in it than “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (Opens August 5).

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“Nine Lives”

Hand’s down, the most genuinely fascinating movie of the summer.

Typically, when studio execs start thinking of doing a “talking animal” version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” there are certain people they tend to call.

Chevy Chase. Sinbad. Chris Kattan. Jim Belushi.

Those kinds of guys.

This time around, however, someone got a little bolder – perhaps a little crazier – and called Kevin Spacey.

To everyone’s eternal bewilderment, Spacey said, “Yes.”

A choice like this doesn’t usually happen when an actor is at the top of his game.

But Spacey’s been doing well.

Trailers for this movie are being shared on social media at the precise moment that Spacey is also touting online acting classes.

You rarely see irony bordered with so much neon (Opens August 5).

Trower’s Finest Hour: Robin Trower Always Saves the Best for Last

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In 1967, a respected British band in the midst of enjoying its first hit single came to guitarist Robin Trower and asked if he’d like to join up.

He said, “Yes,” of course.

From the point of view of an American fan of British Invasion rock, this proposition might seem like one with no discernable downside.

A perusal of that aforementioned single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” might change your perspective, however. There are many impressive things about the song, but one of them is not the prominence of the guitar.

Procol Harum was a piano-and-organ-based band, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if Trower was going to get widely described as a “guitar god,” as eventually occurred, it wasn’t going to be as a member of Procol Harum.

Trower performs at C2G Music Hall on May 5.

In a phone interview, Trower characterized the songwriting of Procol Harum founders, Gary Brooker and Keith Reid, as “very forward-thinking.”

“It was Gary and Keith who wrote those songs and I just added my bit on the guitar,” he said.

Trower was writing a lot of guitar-driven songs on the side that he knew would never be played by the band. Eventually, he decided to take his leave in 1971.

“I needed more room,” he said. “I had a lot to say I wanted to get on and say it.”

But the parting was amicable, Trower said, and he left with no regrets over how he’d spent the previous four years.

“I learned a lot from Procol Harum,” he said. “The band gave me tools I absolutely needed to move forward.”

In 1974, Trower achieved his first monster success as a solo artist: the album, “Bridge of Sighs.”

Critics compared his sound to that of the late Jimi Hendrix.

Trower said he didn’t really discover Hendrix’ music until after he died. Reid wanted to find a way to pay tribute to Hendrix on the band’s “Broken Barricades” album and Trower listened to all of his music in preparation.

Trower became an enormous fan, of course, but he said he didn’t consciously try to incorporate Hendrix’ musicianship into his own style of play – it just happened naturally.

“I can revisit songs now and think ‘Oh, yeah. There’s the Hendrix influence,’” he said. “But at the time, I was just writing songs. I wasn’t stopping to think about what might have influenced them.”

Some critics were less than enamored with the Hendrix echoes in Trower’s music, but Trower said it would be silly for any serious electric guitarist to try to ignore Hendrix.

The guitar god label is one that Trower shares with such countrymen and contemporaries as Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.

Some so-called guitar gods might feel ambivalent about that tag, but not Trower.

“I think it is flattering,” he said, “because the people who describe you in this way tend to place you alongside your own heroes.”

It is rare in the 21st century for a young axman to be granted this designation. Trower said he believes the guitar god era has come and gone.

“I can’t see younger musicians having the same inspiration as perhaps those of my generation had,” he said. “We were inspired by extremely gifted people. It may be that what musicians are being inspired by now is more second and third-hand.”

Guitar gods may have divinity in their playing, but many of them are known for deviltry in other areas of their life.

Trower is a relatively straight arrow. He doesn’t drink and has been married to the same woman for almost 50 years.

“We were married in ’68,” he said. “She was a very special lady. We both lived in the same town and we would run into each other in the sort of places where young people ran into each other back then.”

Trower, 71, is touring on extravagant praise for his latest album, “Where You Are Going To.”

Strong reviews are nice, Trower said, but he doesn’t count on them and never has.

“I’m making the records really for my own personal gratification,” he said. “If people like it, it’s great. It’s really great. But the most important thing to me is that I am happy with it.”