Originally posted at http://Disruptorbomb.com
I just got a new tattoo today, and it got me thinking. You see, the tat is of a logo named Lil’ Evil Eye, from the "you either love them or hate them 'Glam, Slam, Kings of Noise,'" Poison. I am unashamed to admit that Poison has been my favorite band since the age of 10. My introduction to the group was in 1987 while I was on vacation at the tip of Michigan’s thumb, in a place that had something that we were unable to receive where I was from (at the time Detroit, didn’t provide cable), they had, what was to a 10 year old boy, the Holy Grail: MTV. I’ll never forget sitting in my aunt and uncle’s cottage, while the babysitters were watching MTV. It was there that I saw a bunch of young men looking like the coolest ass drag queens playing a catchy ass song: I Want Action .
Poison would eventually settle out of court with a Swedish band called Easy Action over the song. If you listen to Easy Action’s We Go Rocking, the choruses are very similar, but I’ll give Poison the benefit of the doubt, and assume it was done subconsciously. But I digress, as the real point is that I have forever since that day in Port Austin been Poison's biggest fan. That year for my 10th birthday, my friend Sean bought me their debut (and still my favorite) album, Look What The Cat Dragged In. From the ages of 10 until 13 my room was dedicated to Poison. One wall for each member, while the stairs headed up to my room was dedicated to the band as a whole.
Poison was formed in 1983 in Harrisburg, PA by, as he was known then, singer Bret Michael Star, drummer Rikki Rockett, bassist Bobby Dall, and original guitar player Matt Smith. Originally called Paris, it was a local rag that gave them the idea to change their name to Poison. The article said something along the line of “Paris is poisoning the youth of America today." Starting as a cover band, with a few originals mixed in (I’m fortunate enough to own a live Paris bootleg from 1/15/1984 from Old Forge, PA,) they played the songs of the day, from such artists as Motley Crue, Kiss, and Judas Priest. Realizing, that staying in PA was in no way going to bring them stardom, they set forth to L.A in an old ambulance converted van. It’s been said that Michaels literally never once looked back, for fear of returning.
Poison was known for their excessive fliering. But if the accusations that they posted their own fliers over those of other bands was true, it was a winning gamble, because Poison became a huge draw early on, gaining the management of Vicky Hamilton. Hamilton had been an early consultant for Motley Crue, (and would later become Guns ‘N Roses first manager,) and she had the local pull to strike up a deal with the West Hollywood rock club "the Troubadour." According to the deal, in exchange for Poison performing once a month, the club would agree to pay their phone bills, which proved to be very expensive, as the boys were calling back home to PA quite often. Being so far from home, the band found other creative ways to get by, like using groupies to secure groceries. In Penelope Spheeris’ documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, Rockett more or less admits that this was probably a form of prostitution. The women were paying with food and toilet paper to have sex with the guys!
Poison was well known for their live show, which consisted of choreography and confetti bombs. They were soon the top draw in all of Los Angeles. Through Hamilton, they were able to secure a deal with the independent label Enigma, for a very small amount of money (I’m also fortunate enough to own these demos, and as a side note check out YouTube for their first video Rock Like a Rocker, featuring Smith on guitar.) It was around this time that Smith, with a pregnant girlfriend, decided to pack things up and go home to PA. This left the biggest draw in L.A. stuck without a guitarist. In one of rock n’ roll’s more famous stories, the audition came down to two players, C.C. DeVille and Saul Hudson. Hudson would eventually become better known as "Slash" of Guns ‘n Roses fame, but while one of the greatest guitarists in the world, he was clearly not meant for Poison.
DeVille almost didn’t get the job either. A veteran of bands such as Roxx Regime (later to be known as the Christian, yellow and black wearing outfit , Stryper) wouldn’t play the material Poison had chosen for the audition, opting to only perform something of his own. the song? None other than Poison’s first hit Talk Dirty To Me. So, while Michaels and Dall found DeVille to be obnoxious, it was Rockett who talked the two into letting DeVille join the band. After eventually falling out with Michaels, Hamilton sold her contract. With new management, major label Capitol ended up buying Poison's rights out from Enigma, and the rest is rock n’ roll history.
Since the time DeVille has joined the band they have had ten top forty singles, including the iconic number one hit Every Rose Has It's Thorn, and have sold over 20 million records worldwide. Yes, over the last 25 years there has been much turmoil, but in my opinion you’ll never see a band who has more fun performing live. Poison is a band that has more than paid their dues. Starting from humble beginnings to being worldwide superstars, Poison still perform every summer. In 1991, when I was 15 years old, I was fortunate enough to meet Bret Michaels outside of a club in metro Detroit. I remember him asking me how I had enjoyed the show, and when I told him he was my idol, he very graciously thanked me. That night, he sat at the front of his bus, until anybody who wanted one received an autograph, picture, or both. I still have mine. Though, I may not care for all of his reality shows, it is for this reason he will always have my respect. Last summer, 20 years later, I had front row for a Poison show. Michaels saw that I clearly knew all the words to all the songs, and was cool enough to let me sing back up’s on three different occasions from my spot in front of the stage. Thank you Bret, for making this fan’s dreams come true not once, but twice, and thank you Poison. It's been nothin’ but a good time.