Not long after their move, Poison secured a deal to start playing shows at the famed Troubadour club in West Hollywood. At about the same time Smith was about to become a father. Concerned about his family situation and having doubts about the band’s future, he decided to leave the band and head back home to Pennsylvania. Poison then decided to hold auditions for the lead guitarist spot. They eventually had to choose between three talented axemen: Steve Silva from the Joe Perry Project, future guitar legend Slash, and C.C. DeVille. DeVille won out, although it took a little while for him to gel with his new bandmates.
Poison signed with Enigma Records in 1986 and released their first album, Look What The Cat Dragged In, that August. The record soon became the record label’s fastest selling album ever. It went on to sell over four million copies and the band soon became a household name as their videos ran in heavy rotation in MTV. Poison toured with Quiet Riot, RATT, Cinderella and other glam rock bands for the next two years.
Fans were eager for the group’s second album, Open Up and Say…Aah!, which came out in May 1988. It reached #2 on the US charts and ended up selling over eight million copies. The group shed their big hair image as they moved into the 1990s, and released their third studio album, Flesh & Blood, in June 1990. It took on a more mature sound for the band, and did just as well as its predecessors. Flesh & Blood also hit #2 on the US album charts and sold seven million copies.
Poison embarked on another world tour, highlighted by an appearance at Donington’s Monsters of Rock Festival in the summer of 1990. Poison co-headlined the event with Aerosmith and Whitesnake. They also released their first live album, the 2-disc set entitled Swallow This Live in November 1991. After enough time on the road, however, internal tensions within the band began to surface. Things came to a head after a fistfight between Michaels and DeVille following Poision’s performance at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards. DeVille was later fired from the band and replaced on guitar by Richie Kotzen.
Kotzen’s contributions were definitely noticed on the band’s fourth album, Native Tongue, which came out in February 1993. Songwriting changed from party anthems and ballads to more relevant topics in the world at the time. The album also took on more of a blues rock sound. While it did well, selling over two million copies, it was the poorest performing album Poison had released. Despite that, the band still went on tour to support the new disc. It wasn’t long before problems began with Kotzen and some of his new band members. Kotzen was dismissed from Poison when it was revealed that he had been in a romantic relationship with Rockett’s fiancee. Blues Saraceno was hired to take over the lead guitar spot in the fall of 1993.
Following the Native Tongue world tour, Poison began work on their next album, Crack A Smile. Work on the album was delayed after Bret Michaels was involved in a car accident in May 1994. The album was eventually shelved, as the record label opted to release the Greatest Hits compilation in November 1996. It featured a couple of new songs with Saraceno on guitar and went on to sell over two million copies.
Also in 1996, Poison welcomed C.C.DeVille back into the band. The band went on the Greatest Hits tour in 1999. Meanwhile, loyal fans were looking to hear music from the yet-unreleased Crack A Smile album. Bootlegs were starting to circulate until Crack A Smile…And More! finally debuted in March 2000. The long-awaited album had plenty of new songs plus live recording and outtakes from the recording sessions.
Poison’s sixth full-length studio album, Hollyweird, came out in May 2002. It received mixed reviews from fans and critics. Some complained about the production quality, while others said the group changed things up on purpose to try something new. The group went on to tour behind it and also released another hits album, Best of Ballads & Blues, in August 2003.
The group was asked to open for KISS on their Rock The Nation Tour in 2004. Poison then took a year off. In 2006, the band celebrated their 20th anniversary with the 20 Years of Rock tour and a new compilation record, The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock in April. That August, Capitol Records re-released Poison’s first three albums with additional tracks and artwork.
A new covers album, Poison’d! was released in June 2007. Poison’s live DVD/CD Live, Raw & Uncut came out in July 2008. The band kicked off a US tour with Cheap Trick and Def Leppard in 2009 after making a guest appearance at the Tony Awards in June.
Even though it’s been over a decade since Poison has released a new studio album, there have been additional greatest hits and live compilations that have come out through the years. The band members have also been busy with different side projects during their time off. Bret Michaels has released several solo albums and has starred in several reality TV shows. C.C. DeVille released the solo album Samantha 7 in 2000, and Ricki Rockett released a tribute to glam metal entitled Glitter 4 Your Soul in 2003 and Devil City Angels in 2015. Devil City Angels was a super-group that Rockett had formed with Cinderella bassist Eric Brittingham, Guns N’ Roses/LA Guns co-founder Tracii Guns and guitarist/singer Brandon Gibbs.
Poison’s music has been loved by fans for generations. Here are 10 of their most memorable tracks:
# 10 – Your Momma Don’t Dance
Poison’s take on the Loggins and Messina classic was the fourth single from Open Up and Say…Aah! It introduced the catchy tune to a new generation, and the group put their unique spin on the track. It was a modest hit in the US, England and Australia.
# 9 – Stand
This song was probably the only one from Native Tongue that most fans remember. Richie Kotzen had already written the tune before joining Poison. Backing vocals were provided by members of the Los Angeles First A.M.E. Church choir. It was one of the band’s first forays into blues rock.
# 8 – I Won’t Forget You
The fourth single from Poison’s debut album was also the group’s first power ballad. It was released as a single in 1987 and peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The song along with a few others were the subject of a 2011 lawsuit. The suite was filed by the band Kid Rocker, claiming that they were too similar to tracks that were played to DeVille before he joined Poison.
# 7 – Unskinny Bop
This was the first single from the Flesh & Blood album became a top 20 hit in over half a dozen countries. Michaels claims that he had no idea what an “unskinny bop” was, but admitted that it fit the music well. A kind of nonsensical tune that most fans still fondly remember.
# 6 – I Want Action
While this song from Look What The Cat Dragged In wasn’t a huge success, but still achieved a fair amount of radio airplay in 1987. A simple song that was straight to the point. The glam rock track has also been featured in a couple of movies: 2003’s Pauly Shore is Dead and 2009’s Adventureland.
# 5 – Something To Believe In
This track from Flesh & Blood reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the US. A memorable power ballad that was dedicated to James Kimo Maano. a close friend of Michaels’ who had passed away. Bret’s acoustic strumming and tender lyrics are a fitting tribute to his friend and others in the industry who have since passed on.
# 4 – Look What The Cat Dragged In
The title track from Poison’s debut record is one of many unforgettable tracks on the album. The lyrics paint a picture of a day in the life of a typical rock & roll musician in the 80s’s. It shows that kind of lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as it may seem. Another fan favorite that is often played at their shows.
# 3 – Talk Dirty To Me
The second single Poison ever released is widely regarded as one of the best glam metal tracks of all time. VH1 ranked it as the 40th best hard rock song. The catchy lyrics and infectious guitar rhythms helped to make it one of the most requested rock radio tunes shortly after its release.
# 2 – Every Rose Has Its Thorn
This power ballad from Open Up And Say…Aah! is Poison’s only #1 hit single. It reached #1 in the US in December 1988 and held that spot for three weeks. The power ballad was inspired by a call Michaels made to his girlfriend. He was stunned to hear a male voice in the background, and the song arose out of his anguish. It’s also been regarded as one of the best love songs of the 80’s.
# 1 – Nothin’ But A Good Time
This party anthem was the voice of a young and hungry generation. Released on the Open Up And Say…Aah! album in 1988, it’s since been covered by different bands over the years. They pale in comparison to the original, which captures the spirit of all the teens and young adults at the time who were “breakin’ our backs every day” just to make a living. In reality, all they really wanted to do party and rock out!
Poison is still very much a factor in the rock and roll scene. They’re active on social media and are usually out touring every summer with other bands from their heyday. Catch their show if they’re in your town. You’re sure to hear the classics remember performed with the theatrical flair that only Poison can provide. It’s no wonder they’ve been entertaining audiences for over thirty years.