Poison is an American rock band which achieved great commercial success in the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s. Poison has sold over 45 million records worldwide and has sold 15 million records 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 the Hot 100 number-one, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". The band's breakthrough debut album, the multi-platinum Look What the Cat Dragged In, was released in 1986 and they hit their peak with their second album, Open Up and Say... Ahh!, which became the band's most successful album, being certified 5x platinum in the US. The popularity continued into the new decade with their third consecutive multi-platinum selling album, Flesh & Blood.
In the 1990s following the release of the band's first live album, Swallow This Live, the band experienced some line up changes and the fall of pop metal with the grunge movement. But despite a drop in popularity the band's fourth studio album, Native Tongue, still achieved Gold status and the band's first compilation album, Poison's Greatest Hits: 1986–1996, went double platinum.
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 began the new decade with the release of the long-awaited Crack a Smile... and More!, followed by the Power to the People album. The band toured almost every year to sold out stadiums and arenas. They released a brand new album, Hollyweird, in 2002 and in 2006 the band celebrated their 20-year anniversary with The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock tour and album, which was certified Gold and marked Poison's return to the Billboard top 20 charts for the first time since 1993. Band members have released several solo albums and starred in successful reality TV shows. After 30 years, the band is still recording music and performing.
Since their debut in 1986, they have released seven studio albums, four live albums, five compilation albums, and have issued 28 singles to radio.
In 2012 VH1 ranked them at #1 on their list of the "Top 5 Hair Bands of the '80s".
Michaels began his performing career with a basement band called Laser and, then, in 1979, joined forces with longtime childhood friend Rockett to form a band called the Spectres. In 1980, Michaels and Rockett teamed up with Smith and Dall to form the band Paris and the group started playing the club circuit, performing mostly rock cover songs in local bars. The group formed a strong local following but in order to further their career the band made the decision to move to Los Angeles on March 6, 1983 and also changed the name of the group from Paris to Poison. Arriving in Los Angeles, the group struggled to survive away from home with no family and no money, but the band was determined to make it.
Rise to fame (1986–1992)
Poison promoted themselves up and made the rounds performing in the famous local clubs. During this period, Poison's manager negotiated a deal under which the West Hollywood club, The Troubadour, would pay for shows. 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 City-born guitarist C.C. DeVille. Although Michaels and Dall did not initially get along with him, the band eventually agreed that DeVille's "fire" made him the best choice.
Michaels, Rockett, Dall, 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 August 2, 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", 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 sold 4 million copies worldwide. The band began giving intimate and controversial interviews to rock journalist Judy Wieder at the Hollywood home they all shared in June 1986, before the official release of Look What the Cat Dragged In. Wieder, the first to follow the band closely, circulated their many dicey conversations to the popular rock magazines of the day, including Circus, Creem,
Rip Magazine, Rock Express and Hit Parader, ensuring enormous visibility for the album's release. In 1987 the band recorded a cover of the Kiss song "Rock and Roll All Nite" for soundtrack to Less Than Zero.
Poison's second album, Open Up and Say...Ahh!, was released May 21, 1988. It peaked at No. 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 No. 1 single "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", along with other hits "Nothin' but a Good Time", "Fallen Angel", and the Loggins and Messina cover "Your Mama Don't Dance". The album's initial cover art was controversial, as it depicted a demonic female figure with an obscenely long tongue. A censored version of the cover followed, focusing on the figure's eyes. 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' frequent brawling garnered him further lawsuits in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Tallahassee.
Poison continued their adherence to the "work hard, play hard" motto, following up with their third album, Flesh & Blood, which was released June 21, 1990. It also was highly successful, peaking at No. 2 and selling more than 7 million copies worldwide. 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 & 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.
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 had 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.
After two consecutive years on the road, band members were at each other's throats with personal differences and drug addictions. Poison recorded several performances during its 1990/1991 Flesh & Blood world 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 (1993–1998)
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 MTVVideo Music Awards, provoked by DeVille's inept live performance. DeVille was fired and replaced by Pennsylvanian guitarist Richie Kotzen.
Poison's fourth album, Native Tongue, was released 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 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 following the arrival of grunge sales were sluggish compared with the first three albums, selling only two 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 in November 1993, who completed the world tour with the band including the famous "Hollywood Rock" concerts in Rio de Janeiro and São 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 Hits album was released on November 26, 1996 and sold extremely well, going on to reach double platinum status.
After several years apart, Michaels and DeVille were able to patch up their differences; and Michaels welcomed DeVille back into Poison in 1996 to replace Saraceno.
Michaels was involved with Pamela Anderson. After Poison's and Michaels' longtime attorney, Ed McPherson, obtained a Federal injunction prohibiting the distribution of an explicit sex tape that the couple made, an abridged version of the tape appeared on the internet in 1998.
Michaels and actor friend Charlie Sheen co-founded a production company called Sheen Michaels Entertainment. In 1998, Michaels made his acting debut alongside 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 March 14, 2000, Crack a Smile...and More! was finally released becoming 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. Capitol included bonus tracks on the album to compete with the bootleg industry including 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", were originally planned for use as B-sides to the singles. In addition to the outtakes, live recordings from the 1990 installment of the MTV Unplugged series were included.
After the Poison reunion DeVille soon released his solo album, Samantha 7, and Michaels released the solo/Poison album Show Me Your Hits which featured re-recorded Poison classics. The album featured Michaels performing Poison hits in a new way and also featured other artists with Michaels on selected tracks. 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. With two Poison albums released in 2000 the band once again hit the road and made it back to back successful tours.
In May 2001 Poison released the web single "Rockstar" as a preview of the upcoming new album and once again went on tour, touring with Warrant on the Glam Slam Metal Jam tour.
Poison's sixth full studio album, Hollyweird, was released on May 21, 2002. It was Poison's first full album of new material with 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". Other reviewers were more impressed, such as AllMusic, who declared it "one of Poison's 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.
"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.
Following the Hollyweird world tour 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". Michaels also released his second solo album, Songs of Life, which featured singles "Bittersweet" and "Raine" which featured a music video and was dedicated to his daughter. On January 7 that year, after almost 20 years with Poison, 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 Michaels 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. It also included the singles "Right Now, Right Here" and "Open Road" which Michaels performed live on Nashville Star, a country reality television program which featured Michaels as one of the judges.
In March 2006 DeVille appeared on VH1's reality television show The Surreal Life, the same day he got out of rehab. Around this time, former Bang Tango drummer Bobby "Tango" Gibb became Rockett's personal assistant and security guard. The two would later form Rockett Drum Works, along with former Guns N' Roses drummer Steven Adler.
After a year off, Poison returned to the music scene. They celebrated their 20th anniversary with a "20 Years Of Rock" world 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 No. 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.
On August 1, 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".
During the show in Atlanta on August 25 that year, 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' 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. 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.
"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 February 14, 2007, it was announced by VH1 that Michaels would 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 July 15, 2007.
During 2007, Poison went on a summer tour with Ratt. They released their covers album, now named Poison'd!, on June 5, 2007 through Capitol Records. The album entered the Billboard 200 chart at No. 32 and charted at No. 12 on the Top Rock Albums, selling 21,000 copies in its first week. 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 2 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 October 26, 2007 as part of Heavy Metal Halloween. The band also appeared that night on the channel's Sound Off with Matt Pinfield.
Poison played at the Sweden rock festival 2008.Sebastian Bach was slated to be the opening act on the Summer 2008 Poison tour, also featuring Dokken.
On March 28 that year 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, Mississippi, filed a report stating that on September 23, 2007, Rockett sexually assaulted her in his room at the Silver Star Hotel & Casino located on a Choctaw Indian reservation. 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.
Poison live in concert DVD titled Live, Raw & Uncut was released on July 15, 2008, which was filmed in St. Louis, Missouri during the Poison'd tour in 2007. This DVD/CD set was initially exclusive to Best Buy stores and includes 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. Also in 2008 a live CD version of the Poison DVD Seven Days Live was released.
In 2009, 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 three CDs of music from 1986–2000. On January 14, 2009, 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.
On June 7, 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 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.
On June 23, 2009, Poison kicked off their 42-city Summer 2009 tour in Camden, New Jersey with Def Leppard and Cheap Trick.
25th anniversary, Michaels's health, Glam-A-Geddon Tour (2010–present)
In 2010, an unauthorized biography was released titled A Shot of Poison featuring a collection of tales from over twenty years with the outrageous, multi-platinum-selling rock band Poison, based on the personal encounters of author, rock journalist and music industry insider Christopher Long. Michaels also started his solo tour "Roses & Thorns" to promote the upcoming release of his autobiography.
On April 12, 2010, Michaels was rushed to the hospital after suffering intense stomach pains, and an emergency appendectomy was performed. On April 22, 2010, Michaels was again rushed to the hospital, this time with an "excruciating" headache. Doctors discovered that he had suffered a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage. He was in critical condition, and while some reports suggested that his condition had stabilized, others later stated that this was premature. On April 28, Michaels' representatives reported that he was conscious and speaking, albeit slowly, for the first time since he was hospitalized. In a news conference on May 5, 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".
After being released from the hospital Michaels stated that he was contemplating marriage with the mother of his two children with whom he has recently reconciled. In an interview with People magazine, 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 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). Also in 2010 a singles compilation Poison: 10 Great Songs The Millennium Collection was released featuring all the singles from the band's first two studio albums. The album charted at #14 on the Top Hard Rock Albums, #40 on the Top Rock Albums and #145 on the Billboard 200.
On March 1, Poison announced a 2011 Summer tour with Mötley Crüe and New York Dolls to celebrate Poison's 25th anniversary and Mötley Crüe's 30th anniversary named the Glam-A-Geddon. Also for Poison's 25th anniversary, 35 of the multi-platinum band's top hits and fan favorites have been gathered for Double Dose: Ultimate Hits, a new career-spanning 2-CD and digital collection, which was released May 3, 2011 by Capitol/EMI. The compilation charted at #23 on the Billboard Top Hard Rock Albums chart and #17 in Canada.
In 2012, Poison and Lita Ford toured with Def Leppard for the Rock of Ages tour. Michaels also resumed his "Get Your Rock On" solo tour (named after his latest single) to promote his then upcoming solo album. Jammin' with Friends featuring re-recorded alternate versions of Poison and Michaels solo tracks was released June 25, 2013 and charted at #13 on the Top Hard Rock Albums, #23 on the Top Independent Albums, #29 on the Top Rock Albums and #80 on the Billboard 200.
On April 9, 2015, Michaels announced his new solo album titled True Grit. The compilation was released digitally May 5, 2015 and features the 2014 single "A Beautiful Soul" and his new single "Girls On Bars", both songs featuring music videos.
In 2017, Poison went on a co-headlining a tour with Def Leppard and special guest Tesla throughout the spring and summer. This is the first major tour in five years for the band which will also coincide with limited headline acts throughout the US and Canada celebrating the bands recent 30-year anniversary.[needs update]
In 2018, Poison headlined the "Nothing But A Good Time Tour" with special guests Cheap Trick and Pop Evil. The tour started May 18 and ended June 24.