Poison is an American glam metal band that achieved great success and popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They have become icons of the 80s MTV era and have had widespread commercial success. To date, the band has sold more than 25 million records worldwide, including 18.5 million in the United States alone. The band has also charted ten singles to the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, including six Top 10 singles and one #1. After 25 years, the band is still recording music and performing.
Early Years (1983-1986)
Poison began their journey in 1983 under the name Paris and consisted of lead vocalist Bret Michaels, guitarist Matt Smith, bassist Bobby Dall, and drummer Rikki Rockett. Moving to Los Angeles on March 6, 1984, they started playing big clubs and several other clubs. The name Poison was picked by the band after seeing Spinal Tap.
During this period, Poison's manager negotiated a deal under which West Hollywood club The Troubador would pay for shows. At this time Smith left the band to return home to Pennsylvania, which lead to an audition session which was won by C.C. Deville.
Michaels, Dall, Rockett and DeVille signed to independent label Enigma Records in 1986 (see 1986 in music) for approximately $US 30,000. Their debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged In was released on August 2, 1986. It included one single, Cry Tough. Followed by three hits, "Talk Dirty to Me", "I Want Action", and "I Won't Forget You".
In 1987 the band also recorded a cover of the Kiss song "Rock And Roll All Nite" for Less Than Zero's soundtrack.
Career expansion (1987–1991)
Poison's second album, Open Up and Say...Ahh!, was released on May 21, 1988. It peaked at #2 on the American charts and would ultimately go on to sell 8 million copies worldwide. The album included the band's biggest hit, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," along with other top 10 hits, "Nothin' but a Good Time", "Fallen Angel", and the Loggins and Messina cover "Your Mama Don't Dance." The album had created a controversy with its initial cover, a depiction of a female demonic figure with an apparently obscenely long tongue. A censored version of the cover followed, focusing on the figure's eyes. By the time the band toured with David Lee Roth in 1988 on the Skyscraper Tour, it was apparent that Poison had become a major live act. As the end of 1989 neared, the band had become the fifth-best selling hard rock band of the 1980s, behind Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, and Guns N' Roses.
Poison's third album, Flesh & Blood, was released on June 21, 1990. It also was highly successful, peaking at #2. It too features an alternate cover, as the original featured what appeared to be running ink or possibly blood from the tattoo. (Subsequent versions of this cover removed this "extra" ink.) The record went multi-platinum, spawning three gold singles: "Unskinny Bop," "Ride the Wind," and the ballad "Something To Believe In". The last single released was the title cut, "Flesh & Blood (Sacrifice)". The video was banned from MTV due to its explicit nature, but did surface later in the video compilation, Flesh, Blood & Videotape, in early 1991. The album's success prompted the impetus for a further world tour.
One of the band's few appearances in the UK was on August 18, 1990 at Donington's Monsters of Rock festival in the summer of 1990. Whitesnake headlined with Aerosmith, Quireboys and Thunder supporting them. This event was broadcast on BBC Radio.
Poison recorded a number of performances during its 1990/1991 Flesh & Blood tour which were released in November 1991 as their fourth album, Swallow This Live. The double album features live tracks from Poison's first three studio albums and four new studio tracks, which were the last recorded before C.C. Deville's departure from the band later that year.
Changing times (1992–1999)
Despite Poison's success, DeVille's cocaine and alcohol addictions had begun to cause strife in the band. Conflict between Michaels and DeVille culminated in a fistfight backstage at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, provoked by DeVille's inept live performance. After bringing "Unskinny Bop" to a grinding halt, DeVille launched into "Talk Dirty to Me", forcing the band to switch songs in mid-performance. DeVille was fired and replaced by Pennsylvanian guitarist Richie Kotzen.
Poison's fifth album, Native Tongue, was released on February 8, 1993. It was strongly influenced by Kotzen's fresh songwriting contributions and guitar performance. It marked a change for the band as they abandoned their anthemic party tunes to focus on more serious subjects, and was far more blues-rock oriented than glam metal. Containing the single "Stand," the album received generally positive reviews, but sales were comparatively sluggish, selling only 1 million copies worldwide. The band toured in support of the album, but tensions mounted between Kotzen and the rest of the band. Kotzen's future in the band was doomed when it was discovered that he had become romantically involved with Rockett's ex-fiancée Deanna Eve. Kotzen was promptly fired, and replaced by Blues Saraceno.
Poison began recording their sixth album, Crack a Smile, in early 1994. Recording was brought to an abrupt halt in May 1994, when Michaels was involved in a car accident where he lost control of his Ferrari. Michaels suffered a broken nose, ribs, jaw, and fingers and lost four teeth. After his recovery in 1995, the band continued recording the album. However, in the face of 1980s-style hair metal being almost completely gone and with a shift in staff at the label, Capitol Records offered little support for a new Poison record. Recording the album was halted for a second time. Instead, the label opted for a Greatest Hits compilation, which featured two new tracks with Saraceno on guitar, "Sexual Thing" and "Lay Your Body Down". The record was released on November 26, 1996, and went two times platinum, despite the lack of an immediate tour to support the album.
Bret Michaels made his movie acting debut in the Charlie Sheen movie A Letter From Death Row in 1998, which Michaels also wrote and directed. He also released his first solo album that year, which is the soundtrack to the movie. After seven years apart, Michaels and DeVille were able to patch up their differences later on that year. The Greatest Hits reunion tour finally took place in the summer of 1999. With the original lineup intact, Poison hit the road. The band's supporting tour was a success, with its show at Pine Knob Amphitheater in Detroit, drawing a sell-out crowd of 18,000. Tour dates averaged crowds of 12,000. A summertime appearance on VH1's Behind the Music appeared to solidify the reunited lineup's newfound popularity.
Original line up back and new-found popularity (2000–2005)
Hardcore fans uncovered copies of Crack a Smile from the numerous bootlegs that were beginning to surface, but it wasn't long before a shortfall in supply became evident. Fans clamored for an official release fearing that not only was the album becoming a collectors piece but was also quite possibly "their best album to date." On March 14, 2000, Crack a Smile...and More! was finally released with extra tracks to combat the bootleg industry. That being Poison's seventh album after the Greatest Hits: 1986-1996 album took its place as the sixth, fans were calling it "The Lost Album". Crack a Smile...and More! was a bright and raunchy series of party anthems, containing few traces of the seriousness of Native Tongue. However it did host one outtake from the Open Up And Say...Ahh! session as well as two outtakes from the Crack a Smile session. "One More For The Bone" and "Set You Free", both outtakes, were originally planned for use as B-sides though no single selection was ever made. In addition to the outtakes, live recordings from the 1990 installment of the MTV Unplugged series were included.
Later in 2000, C.C. DeVille released his solo album Samantha 7 and Poison also released Power to the People, their first album with DeVille in eight years. The record contained five new studio songs: "Power to the People," "Can't Bring Me Down," "The Last Song," "Strange," and "I Hate Every Bone In Your Body But Mine," the latter with DeVille on lead vocals for the first time. The remainder of the album featured live performances from tours during 1999 and 2000.
Poison's sixth full studio album, Hollyweird, was released on May 21, 2002. It was Poison's first full album of new material with C.C. DeVille back in the band. The album was heavily criticized by both critics and fans, feeling it had poor production quality and an unimpressive new sound. One popular site said "It's muddy, under-produced, badly mixed and features crappy drum and guitar sounds". Other reviewers were more impressed, such as Allmusic, who declared it "one of their best records, if not their best."
Bobby Dall on The Who cover "Squeeze Box" stated,
...Actually, that was Rikki's idea. When we came into rehearsals...to break the ice for the new record...before we started fightin' and arguin' about songs, we went through a list of covers and remakes. ...It was the song that stuck and I think it fits perfectly for our band. It has a great melody and a great vocal, but it's also kinda sparse and undefined...it was kinda like an open pallet for us.
Poison released their second compilation album, Best of Ballads & Blues, in 2003. It contains a new acoustic version with new lyrics of "Something to Believe In" and acoustic version of "Stand." Bret Michaels also released his 2nd solo album Songs Of Life. On January 7th that year, after almost 20 years with Poison, Rikki Rockett released his first solo album Glitter 4 Your Soul which was distributed online. The album was a tribute to 1970s glam rock.
During the summer of 2004, Poison were invited to serve as the opening band on Kiss's "Rock the Nation" tour. Apart from the release of Bret Michael's third solo album, the country-rock-influenced Freedom Of Sound, the band were largely inactive for 2005.
"Nothing But a Good Time" is featured in the 2003 film Grind. The song comes about when Joey Kern's character put in a Poison CD, which made everyone in the van start to sing the song and air guitar the solo. "Nothing But a Good Time" also appears in the 2005 film Mr. and Mrs. Smith.