If you're gonna be a big hair & make-up band it might be a good idea to have a licensed cosmetologist in the group. That was the previous calling of Poison's bass player Bobby Dall (a.k.a. Robert Kuy Kendall). Vocalist Bret Michaels (a.k.a. Bret Michael Sychak) and Dall shot out of their native Pittsburgh to try their luck in LA. There they ran into guitar vet C.C. DeVille. With the addition of drummer Rikki Roberts, the group hit the LA club circuit, securing a Capitol recording contract in '86 and releasing their debut "Look What The Cat Dragged In."
Singles from the album, "I Won't Forget You," "I Want Action" and "Talk Dirty To Me," accompanied by the MTV ready video filled with blonde models, pushed the CD to platinum status. '88 saw the arrival of the group's sophomore effort "Open Up and Say-Aah!" with singles, "Nothin' But A Good Time," "Fallen Angel" and the chart topping power ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," the second best selling pop single of the year, behind Steve Winwood's "Roll With It." There was even a ham handed cover of Loggins & Messina's incredibly weak "Your Mama Don't Dance" popping up the charts. Seemed they couldn't miss.
"Flesh and Blood" appeared like clockwork in '90 and contained Poison's best single "Unskinny Bop." By the end of the year another ballad "Something To Believe In" hit the chart's upper reaches. However '90 saw the group's principals lose focus.
First, Michaels was intensely involved in his girlfriend, Susie Hatten's recording debut, while DeVille worked with Warrant. The following year some U.S. tour dates were cancelled amid drug rumors. Then Michaels and DeVille pummeled each other in a New Orleans hotel room. Michaels soon signed a solo recording deal while both Dall and DeVille entered drug rehab. DeVille departed in '92 and a succession of guitarist filled the slot but Poison was done.
In the '90s, Michaels formed a film company with actor Charlie Sheen. But his best known production was a sex video made with former girlfriend Pamela Anderson. Ever the gentleman, Michaels, through his attorney, said at the time he was doing everything possible to halt Internet Entertainment's distribution of the video.
After having her romps with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee released on video (against her wishes) and now this, Anderson should have made a hard and fast rule that no cameras be allowed in the bedroom.
But the story doesn't end there. With alimony payments, therapy and excessive lifestyles draining all the money earned from the first go round, it made perfect sense for Poison to resurrect itself, with the original line-up. "Hollyweird," out in '02, was the result.
Five years later, the group issued "Poison'd," a covers collection of songs from the '70s and '80s. No doubt these songs, out before Poison's fame, resonated with band members. In some way, they were an inspiration or influential. Besides, a lot of groups have done covers albums in an effort to garner some attention and revive flagging careers. So now it was Poison's turn.
Overall, there's some validity - or at least logic. It can be interesting to hear a group's take on a song that they would never have touched in their heyday. Of course, there is always the concern that it will never measure up, but hearing a song redone with a Poison (or Duran Duran or Def Leppard), spin can be sort of fun - for fans.
Also in '07, Michaels began work on the VH1 reality/dating game show Rock of Love (and later, Rock of Love Bus). The premise was simple. Women would compete to be Michaels' girlfriend.
The first season winner, Jes Rickleff, later revealed she did not have romantic feelings for Michaels, and that she thought he should have chosen the runner-up. Ouch! Despite this glitch the show was popular and earned a second season.
Ambre Lake won the sophomore run but her relationship with Michaels ended after a couple months. In the third season, Michaels chose Penthouse Pet Taya Parker.
Michaels then landed a plum gig in '10 when he was selected to participate in Donald Trump's reality series, The Celebrity Apprentice. He was up against fellow '80s singer Cyndi Lauper, Sharon Osbourne (Ozzy's wife/manager) and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, among other 'celebrities'. But just a month later he was rushed to a San Antonio hospital for an emergency appendectomy. While the trip to the hospital was tense the procedure was pretty standard stuff. But what came next wasn't.
Michaels was soon back in the hospital. This time it was at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix to treat a brain hemorrhage that had caused bleeding at the base of his brain stem. In what doctors called an incredible recovery - based on a strong will to live - Michaels was discharged after two weeks to undergo on-going physical therapy at another facility.
He appeared The Oprah Winfrey Show live via satellite to talk about his condition and the associated difficulties he'd suffered. But just a few days later, he had what doctors called a "warning stroke." They also discovered a hole in Michaels' heart - a condition known as patent foramen ovale. It was treatable and may have led to the brain hemorrhage.
Despite health issues, Michaels amazingly won Celebrity Apprentice. He appeared on the show's season finale, against doctor's orders. His $250,000 winning prize was donated to the American Diabetes Association.
1986 Look What The Cat Dragged In
1988 Open Up and Say... Ahh!
1990 Flesh & Blood
1993 Native Tongue
2000 Crack a Smile... and More!
"I Want Action," "Nothin' But A Good Time" and "Unskinny Bop" are good, solid Rockers. "Poison's Greatest Hits," has these songs and all the power ballads.
"Hollyweird" is dominated by lazy rewrites of earlier (more successful) material. They hardly seem in a mood to try anything new - too much work. The remake of The Who's "Squeeze Box" (not one of that group's best efforts) is ill advised to say the least. "Home (C.C.'s Story)" and "Emperor's New Clothes," are noteworthy simply because they deviate from the trademark Poison sound and Rock with unexpected grit.
The "Hollyweird" album is for fans with no desire to grow up or out of their taste for Poison.
"Poison'd" brings to mind two concepts. In England, during the '60s, when the economics of the music business were far different, sound-a-likes were recorded to serve the discount music market. Basically, a group of session musicians would get together and play the current hits, trying to come as close as possible to the original but obviously imprinting the tracks with their own style. Elton John was said to have cut his teeth doing sound-a-likes. These copies were put on an album and sold at a price far less than it would cost the record buyer to purchase all the original hits. "Poison'd" has some of that.
But the experience most reminiscent is one of being stuck on a business trip in a place like St. Louis, suffering a combination of jet-lag and loneliness. The traveler hits the hotel's lounge where a live band is playing. The group, usually guys in their late 20s/early 30s, are rolling through the hits from the last twenty years. They sound pretty good. Maybe one or two of them spent time working in L.A. or New York before finally wandering home. They know a lot of songs and what they don't know, they can fake their way through. The music and a couple gin and tonics can make for an enjoyable evening. With low or no expectations, it's not bad. "Poison'd" benefits from, and will only work, with that attitude.
"Poison'd" is an agreeable album. It serves notice that they're still around. And since one of the group's biggest hits, "Your Mama Don't Dance," was a cover of a Loggins & Messina ditty, it kinda all fits. Typically, Poison does best with second tier material. They do a competent version of "Suffragette City" but aren't within five miles of David Bowie's 'lick-'em-while-smiling' swagger. However, their take on "Squeeze Box," hardly top drawer Who, is actually preferable. They manage to unhinge the sedate Cars' track, "Just What I Needed," which is just what this set needs.