Poison (band)

Poison (band)

Poison performing at the Moondance Jam on July 11, 2008
Background information
Also known as Paris
Origin Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, US
Genres Glam metal, hard rock, heavy metal[1]
Years active 1983–present
Labels Enigma, EMI, Capitol, Cyanide
Website poisonweb.com
Bret Michaels
Rikki Rockett
Bobby Dall
C.C. DeVille
Past members
Matt Smith
Richie Kotzen
Blues Saraceno

Poison is an American glam metal band that achieved great success in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. To date, Poison has sold over 30 million records worldwide[2] and have sold 15 million records in the United States alone.[3] The band has also charted ten singles to the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, including six Top 10 singles and the Hot 100 number-one single, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn".[1] In the 2000s, with the original line up back together, the band found new popularity after a successful greatest hits reunion tour in 1999. The band toured almost every year in the 2000s to sold out stadiums and arenas. Band members have released several solo albums and starred in successful reality TV shows. After 25 years, the band is still recording music and performing.

Since their debut in 1986, they have released eight studio albums, four live albums, five compilation albums, and have issued 28 singles to radio.


Band history

Early years (1983-1986)

Poison was formed in 1983, and consisted of lead vocalist Bret Michaels, guitarist Matt Smith, bassist Bobby Dall, and drummer Rikki Rockett. Bret Michaels and Rikki Rockett first joined forces to form a band called the Spectres in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and then teamed up with Matt Smith and Bobby Dall to form Paris. After playing mostly rock cover songs in Mechanicsburg-area bars they moved to Los Angeles on 6 March 1984 and changed the name of the band from Paris to Poison.

Rise to fame (1986-1991)

Poison promoted themselves up and down Hollywood's Sunset Strip, passing out flyers and making the rounds performing in the famous local clubs. During this period, Poison's manager negotiated a deal under which the West Hollywood club, The Troubador, would pay for shows.[4] At this time, Smith, who was about to become a father and was concerned about the band's future, left the band to return home to Pennsylvania. The band auditioned for a replacement guitarist, eventually narrowing down the field to three candidates: Slash, who would later join Guns N' Roses, Steve Silva from The Joe Perry Project, and New York-born guitarist C.C. DeVille, although Michaels and Dall did not intially get along with Deville, the band eventually agreed that DeVille's "fire" made him the best choice.[5]

Michaels, Dall, Rockett and DeVille signed to independent label Enigma Records in 1986 (see 1986 in music) for approximately $30,000. Their debut album: Look What the Cat Dragged In, was released 2 August 1986. It originally included only one single, "Cry Tough"; however, Look What the Cat Dragged In became a surprise success and subsequently spawned three charting hits: "Talk Dirty to Me", "I Want Action", and "I Won't Forget You",[6] The record became the biggest-selling-album in Enigma's history. With heavy rotation on MTV, their debut earned the band tours with fellow glam rockers Ratt, Cinderella, and Quiet Riot, as well as a coveted slot in the Texxas Jam in Dallas. The album ultimately has sold 4 million copies worldwide.

In 1987 the band recorded a cover of the Kiss song "Rock and Roll All Nite" for the soundtrack to Less Than Zero.

Poison's second album, Open Up and Say...Ahh!, was released 21 May 1988.[7] 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, the #1 hit single "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", along with other hits like: "Nothin' but a Good Time", "Fallen Angel", and the Loggins and Messina cover "Your Mama Don't Dance". The album's first cover was controversial, as it depicted a female demonic figure with an 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 and the band moved from support status to headlining their own tour in September 1988. As of 1989, the band had become the seventh-best-selling hard rock band in the US of the 1980s, behind Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, Aerosmith and Van Halen. In 1989, the band released their first video album titled "Sight for Sore Ears" which featured all their music videos from the first two albums.

Conflict pursued the band persistently. Bryn Bridenthal, head of publicity at Geffen Records, slapped a $1.1 million lawsuit on the band for drenching her with drinks and a bucket of ice at a music industry party. Then, Sanctuary Music, Poison's former management company, filed a $45.5 million breach of contract suit against the band. Poison retaliated with charges of mismanagement of funds. Michaels's frequent brawling garnered him further lawsuits in Tallahassee, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.[8]

Poison continued their adherence to the "work hard, play hard" motto, following up with their third album, Flesh & Blood, which was released 21 June 1990. It also was highly successful, peaking at #2 and selling more than 7 million copies worldwide.[9][10] The album's success prompted the impetus for a further world tour. Shedding their big-haired image as they moved into the 1990s, Poison took a more mature approach to their third album. In Screamer magazine Michaels explained how Flesh and Blood signaled a change in the band: "I think that the same way that we shocked people in the beginning with the look, this one might shock them with the music a little bit. This one's the one that's going to show that there's a little bit of another side to the band."

Poison received a letter from Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney thanking the band for contributing 20,000 CDs of the album Flesh & Blood to lift the morale of U.S. Troops during Desert Storm, and their continued support of the Armed Forces.[11]

The album also features an alternative cover, as the original featured what appeared to be running ink or possibly blood from a tattoo. (Subsequent versions of this cover removed the "extra" ink.) The record went multi-platinum, spawning three gold singles: "Unskinny Bop", "Ride the Wind", and the ballad "Something To Believe In" which was dedicated to the band's security guard and close friend James Kimo Maano who died. Life Goes On was the fourth single and the last single released was the title cut, "Flesh & Blood (Sacrifice)". The video of "Flesh & Blood (Sacrifice)" was banned from MTV due to its explicit nature, but did surface later in early 1991 in their second video compilation, Flesh, Blood, & Videotape.

One of the band's few appearances in the UK was on 18 August 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 1.

After two consecutive years on the road, band members were at each others' throats with personal differences, drug addictions, etc. Poison recorded several performances during its 1990/1991 Flesh & Blood tour, which were released in November 1991 as the band's fourth album, Swallow This Live. The double album features live tracks from Poison's first three studio albums and four new studio tracks including the single "So Tell Me Why", which were the last recorded before C.C. DeVille's departure from the band later that year. The band also released their first video concert on VHS from the same tour titled Swallow This Live: Flesh & Blood World Tour.

Changing times (1992–1998)

Despite Poison's success, DeVille's cocaine addiction 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. The band was scheduled to play Unskinny Bop but was brought to a halt when they were playing during the commercial break. High and drunk during the performance, Deville missed the cue when they came back live and forgot what to play and started playing "Talk Dirty To Me". During the song his guitar lead disconnected mid-performance. DeVille was fired and replaced by Pennsylvanian guitarist Richie Kotzen.

Poison's fifth album, Native Tongue, was released 8 February 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 singles "Stand" which featured the Los Angeles First A.M.E. Church Choir on backing vocals , "Until You Suffer Some (Fire And Ice)" and "Body Talk", the album received generally positive reviews and did go Gold, but sales were sluggish compared with the first three albums, selling only 2 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 then-fiancée Deanna Eve. Kotzen was promptly fired, and replaced by Blues Saraceno who completed the world tour with the band including the famous "HOLLYWOOD ROCK" concerts in Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo, Brazil, where they played to over 165,000 people. A concert from the Native Tongue world tour was released on VHS/DVD titled "Seven Days Live".

Poison began recording its 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. The album became shelved shortly after this, with no release date anywhere in sight. 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 first Greatest album was released on 26 November 1996 and went on to reach platinum status.

After several years apart, Michaels and DeVille were able to patch up their differences, welcoming C.C. DeVille back into Poison in 1996 replacing Blues Saraceno.[12]

Bret Michaels was involved with Pamela Anderson. An abridged version of an explicit sex tape the couple made appeared on the Internet in 1998.[13]

Bret Michaels and actor friend Charlie Sheen co-founded a production company called Sheen Michaels Entertainment. In 1998, Michaels made his acting debut along side Charlie and Martin Sheen in the movie A Letter from Death Row, which was also written and directed by Michaels. Michaels also released his first solo album that year, which was the soundtrack to the movie.

Original line up back, new-found popularity, solo albums and reality TV (1999–2009)

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 metro Detroit drawing a sell-out crowd of 18,000. Tour dates averaged crowds of 12,000. A summer appearance on VH1's Behind the Music appeared to solidify the reunited lineup's new-found popularity. Hardcore fans uncovered copies of Crack a Smile from the numerous bootlegs that were beginning to surface, but it was not 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 14 March 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 such as the single "Shut Up, Make Love" and power ballad "Be the One", 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. In addition to the outtakes, live recordings from the 1990 installment of the MTV Unplugged series were included.

After The poison reunion C.C. Soon released his solo album Samantha 7 and Poison also released Power to the People, their first album with DeVille in nine years. The record contained five new studio songs: "Power to the People" which features a music video, "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 the greatest hits reunion tour in 1999. In 2001 Poison released the web single Rockstar as a preview of the upcoming new album.

Poison's sixth full studio album, Hollyweird, was released on 21 May 2002. It was Poison's first full album of new material with C.C. DeVille back in the band. The album was heavily criticised 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".[14] 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 single “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.[15]

"Shooting Star" was also released as a single for the album and was referred to as part 2 to the Fallen Angel single from Open Up And...Say Ahh.

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 a new acoustic version of "Stand". Bret Michaels also released his 2nd solo album Songs Of Life which featured singles "Bittersweet" and "Raine" which featured a music video and was dedicated to his daughter. On 7 January 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 was invited to serve as the opening band on Kiss's “Rock the Nation” tour. Poison were largely inactive in 2005 which is when Bret Michael's released his third solo album, the country-rock-influenced Freedom Of Sound, which included the single "All I Ever Needed" featuring Jessica Andrews, which also featured a music video and appeared on Billboard's "Hot Country Songs" chart, with its best position being number 45.[16] It also included the singles "Right Now, Right Here" and "Open Road" which Bret performed live on Nashville Star, a country reality television program which featured Michaels as one of the judges.

"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. & Mrs. Smith, and in the film The Rocker (2009).

Poison live at Holmdel, New Jersey in 2006. Left to right: C.C. DeVille, Rikki Rockett, Bret Michaels and Bobby Dall.

After a year off, Poison returned to the music scene. They celebrated their 20th anniversary with a "20 Years Of Rock" tour in the summer of 2006, with fellow rockers Cinderella and Endeverafter opening. The tour swiftly became one of the most successful tours of 2006 in the U.S., averaging about 10,000 people per night. To complement it, the band had released an anniversary compilation album The Best Of Poison: 20 Years Of Rock, in April that year. The album also features a new single, a cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band", produced by Don Was and also features a music video. The compilation debuted at #17 with a first week sales total of 39,721, which marked Poison's return to the top 20 charts for the first time since 1993.[17]

On 1 August 2006, Capitol Records released remastered versions of the first three Poison albums: Look What the Cat Dragged In, Open Up and Say...Ahh! and Flesh and Blood, in honor of Poison's 20th anniversary. All three include bonus tracks. Look What the Cat Dragged In features the extra track "You Don't Mess Around With Jim", Open Up and Say...Ahh! (which uses the previously banned album cover instead of the censored one) has the extra track "Livin' For The Minute" and an interview with the band, and Flesh and Blood features two extra tracks: an alternate version of "Something to Believe In" and an instrumental cover of the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen".

DeVille appeared on VH1's reality television show The Surreal Life in March that year, the same day he got out of rehab. "Your Mama Don't Dance" was played in the movie "RV" in 2006.

During the show in Atlanta on August 25 that year, Bret Michaels and Bobby Dall had to be separated by members of the road crew and the rest of the band after the two came to blows right before the encore, with Michaels throwing his mic at Dall, and Dall retaliating by slamming his bass into Michaels, injuring his knee. Michaels apologised later and stated, "You may have just seen the last concert by Poison in its current formation". The altercation happened before the band's set ended with "Talk Dirty To Me". After some tense moments and Michaels's apology to the crowd including his explanation that "like brothers, sometimes you have to air things out", the band did finish the set. Dall left the stage immediately.[18] There have been many physical conflicts within the band over the years, but this is the first onstage since the fistfight between Michaels and DeVille at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1991, but that took place after the performance, not during. The band took time out while Michaels continued with his solo tour.

On 3 January 2007, Poison announced on their official MySpace page that they would like their fans to help pick favourite classic rock songs for the new studio album that they are to record. The fans replied with suggestions like Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird", Sweet's "The Ballroom Blitz", and AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long", along with what might be an obvious choice - Alice Cooper's "Poison". On 28 January, Rikki Rockett explained,

"The Album will be ready for a summer Poison tour. That is the plan, anyway. p.s. The songs we are doing are NOT what you expect"

On 14 February 2007, it was announced by VH1 that Bret Michaels is going to have his own reality show called Rock of Love with Bret Michaels, where women will have to compete for his love and prove they can keep up with his rock star life. Rock of Love premiered on 15 July 2007.[19][20]

During 2007, Poison went on a summer tour with Ratt. They released their covers album, now named Poison'd!, on 5 June 2007 through Capitol Records. The album entered the Billboard 200 chart at #32 and charted at #12 on the Top Rock Albums, selling 21,000 copies in its first week.[21] The first single "What I Like About You" featured a music video from the band. White Lion was removed from the tour due to legal issues, and Vains of Jenna took their place. The August 2nd sold-out show in at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre St. Louis, Missouri was taped for a live concert DVD and for a HDNet Concert special called: POISON: LIVE, RAW & UNCUT that aired on 26 October 2007 as part of Heavy Metal Halloween. The band also appeared that night on the channel's Sound Off with Matt Pinfield.[22]

The band played at the Rock2Wgtn rock festival in Wellington, New Zealand, on the weekend of 22–23 March 2008. The festival also included fellow legendary rockers Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Whitesnake, and Finnish hard rock act Lordi.[23]

Poison live at the Sweden Rock Festival in 2008

Poison played at the Sweden rock festival 2008.[24] Sebastian Bach is slated to be the opening act on this Summer's 2008 Poison tour, also featuring Dokken.

On 28 March that year Rikki Rockett was arrested on suspicion of rape in Los Angeles after getting off a flight from New Zealand. According to police reports, a woman in Neshoba County, MS, filed a report stating that on 23 September 2007, Rockett sexually assaulted her in his room at the Silver Star Hotel & Casino located on a Choctaw Indian reservation.[25] Rocket was exonerated of all charges on 22 May as it was discovered that he was not in Mississippi during the time of the alleged rape, and that a man by the name of John Minskoff used Rockett's name when he met the woman before raping her.[26]

Bret Michaels also starred in Rock of Love with Bret Michaels (season 2). Both seasons were successful and led to a solo compilation album which featured a few new singles heard on the series, including the theme song Go That Far, Fallen (both of which featured music video's) and Start Again. The album was titled Rock My World and was released in June 2008. The album charted at #40 on The Billboard 200, #4 on the Top Independent Albums, #4 on the Top Hard Rock Albums and #16 on the Top Rock Albums chart.[27]

Poison live in concert DVD titled "Live, Raw & Uncut" was released on Tuesday, 15 July 2008, was filmed in St. Louis, Missouri during the Poison'd tour in 2007. This DVD/CD set will be initially exclusive to Best Buy stores and will include behind-the-scenes footage as a bonus feature as well as a live audio CD with selections from the concert. It sold around 2,400 copies in its first week of release to debut at position No. 8 on Billboard's Top Music Videos chart.[28]

Also in 2008 a live CD version of the Poison DVD "Seven Days Live" was released.

In 2009, Bret Michaels starred in the third installment of Rock of Love called "Rock of Love Bus", featuring a music video with clips from the series for the new single "Driven (Rock Mix)" and a Poison box set was also released, consisting of 3 Cd's of music from 1986 - 2000. On 14 January 2009, Bret Michaels unveiled plans to team up with fellow rockers Def Leppard for a summer 2009 tour - ending a bitter feud between the two groups, plus Cheap Trick.[citation needed]

On 7 June 2009, Poison made a special appearance at the 63rd Tony Awards, performing "Nothin' But a Good Time" with the cast of Rock of Ages, which features "Nothin' But a Good Time" as a song in the show. As Bret Michaels was exiting the stage, he was struck in the head by a descending set piece and knocked to the ground. He suffered a fractured nose and a split lip requiring three stitches.[29]

On 23 June 2009, Poison kicked off their 42-city Summer 2009 tour in Camden, NJ with Def Leppard and Cheap Trick.[30]

Recent events: 25th Anniversary, Bret Michaels's health, Glam-A-Gaddeon Tour (2010–present)

In 2010, Bret Michaels started his solo tour "Roses & Thorns" to promote the upcoming release of his autobiography.

On 12 April 2010, Bret Michaels was rushed to the hospital after suffering intense stomach pains, and an emergency appendectomy was performed.[31] On 22 April 2010, Michaels was again rushed to the hospital, this time with an "excruciating" headache. Doctors discovered that he had suffered a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage.[32] He was in critical condition,[33][34] and while some reports suggested that his condition had stabilized,[35] others later stated that this was premature.[36] On 28 April, Michael's representatives reported that he was conscious and speaking, albeit slowly, for the first time since he was hospitalized.[37]

In a news conference on 5 May 2010, Dr. Joseph Zabramski said Michaels has been released from the hospital and that "He's just one of those lucky people" and that "he'll make a complete recovery".[38]

Since being released from the hospital Michaels has stated that he is contemplating marriage with the mother of his two children with whom he has recently reconciled.[39] In an interview with People magazine,[40] he stated:

As painful as this experience has been, I was given a second chance, right? I don't want to sit around every night worrying this is going to happen again. What I want to do is make a positive bucket list and say, 'I'm just gonna go for it.' There's just so much more I want to do and experience.

[Getting married], for sure, is something I have never done. Kristi's such a great person. We'll see if that happens. But yes, that may be one of the big things on the list. My first goal is to get back (to) 100 percent. I want to continue to rock the world, and I want to continue to love my family and be a good father.

In May 2010, Michaels was the winning contestant on the NBC reality television series Celebrity Apprentice 3[41] defeating Holly Robinson Peete in the final. On July 6 Michaels released his new solo album Custom Built, which includes the singles "Wasted Time", "Lie to Me" and "Nothing to Lose" (featuring Miley Cyrus). The album is Michaels highest charting solo album to date peaking at #1 on both the Top Independent Albums and Top Hard Rock Albums chart and also charting at #4 on the Top Rock Albums and #14 on The Billboard 200.[42] The album also includes the song "Riding Against the Wind", which features a music video and is the theme song for his new reality Docu-series "Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It", which officially premiered on VH1 on Oct. 18, 2010.[43]

In November 2010, a double cd package titled "Nothin' But A Good Time: The Poison Collection" was released which includes one compilation album (The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock) and one live album (Swallow This Live - single disc edition).

On March 1, Poison announced a 2011 Summer tour with Motley Crue and New York Dolls to celebrate Poison's 25th anniversary and Motley Crue's 30th Anniversary named the Glam-A-Gaddeon.[44] Also for Poison's 25th Anniversary, 35 of the multi-platinum band's top hits and fan favorites have been gathered for "Poison - Double Dose: Ultimate Hits", a new career-spanning 2CD and digital collection to be released May 3, 2011 by Capitol/EMI.[45]

Band members

Current members

Former members

  • Matt Smith – lead guitar, backing vocals (1983 – 1985)
  • Richie Kotzen – lead guitar, mandolin, Dobro, keyboards, backing vocals (1991 – 1993)
  • Blues Saraceno – lead guitar, backing vocals (1993 – 1996)[12][50][48][49]


Awards and Nominations

American Music Awards

Year Nominated work Award Result
1991 Poison Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Artist Nominated
1991 Flesh & Blood Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Album Nominated


In other media

Musical theatre

Two shows, one on Broadway and one Off-Broadway, have featured music from Poison in their productions: Rock of Ages and Power Balladz. Both shows use the song "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", while the former also features "Nothin' but a Good Time".


In "Auditions" of the hit series Glee, Chord Overstreet sang a few bars (a capella) of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn".

On The Simpsons season 11 episode "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge", Otto plays "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" on a stereo while proposing to his girlfriend, Becky. At their wedding, he hires a Poison tribute band to play "Nothin' but a Good Time".

The song "Talk Dirty to Me" is heard in the Season One episode of Scrubs entitled "My Heavy Meddle" where a coma patient requests that the song be played in his room at least once every day, to the annoyance of Dr. Kelso.


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