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Music / Poison

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Sticks, Tricks and Lipstick Fix. Clockwise from top left: Bret, Bobby, Rikki, C.C.
They say I spend my money on women and wine,
But I couldn't tell you where I spent last night.
I'm really sorry about the shape I'm in,
I just like my fun every now and then.
"Nothin' But A Good Time"

An American Hard Rock group, Poison was formed in Pennsylvania in The '80s by Bret Michaels (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Bobby Dall (bass guitar) and Rikki Rockett (drums) before relocating to Los Angeles, where they were joined by C.C. DeVille (lead guitar) and quickly established themselves as one of the most popular bands in the Hair Metal scene.

Their greatest success was the album Open Up and Say... Ahh!, which included the number one hit "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and peaked at number two on the Billboard charts, held off the top spot by either Appetite for Destruction, New Jersey and Hysteria. While their next album (Flesh and Blood) did pretty well, they were eventually undermined by the rise of Alternative Rock, intra-band tensions and unsuccessful attempts to adjust their style to changing trends within rock music.


For many listeners, Poison is the group that embodies the late eighties glam scene (and less charitably, it's often cited by folks who aren't so keen on hair bands as one of the reasons why the style sucks balls). They were famed for their hard-partying lifestyle, their seemingly endless bickering with one another and their ability to fill arenas and stadiums and sell millions of records even though music critics (and most metal fans) aren't terribly keen on them.

Still a popular live draw, they enjoyed something of a renaissance later in their career.

Bret Michaels has since become a VH1 reality star, and has his own series of dating shows, Rock of Love. He also won the third edition of The Celebrity Apprentice.


  • Look What The Cat Dragged In (1986)
  • Open Up And Say...Ahh! (1988)
  • Flesh & Blood (1990)
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  • Native Tongue (1993)
  • Crack A Smile...And More! (2000)
  • Hollyweird (2002)
  • Poison'd (2007)

Trope Dirty to Me!:

  • Aerith and Bob: Bret Michael Sychak became Bret Michaels. Robert Kuykendall became Bobby Dall. Richard Ream became Rikki Rockett. Matthew Smith (their first lead guitarist) became...Matt Smith.
    • With the exception of Bruce "C.C. DeVille" Johanneson, all of Poison's lead guitarists have gone by their real names, in contrast to the rest of the band. There's also Richie Kotzen, and (believe it or not) Blues Saraceno.
  • Artistic License – Biology: "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". Botanically speaking, the painful part of a rose is known as a prickle. Thorns, such as on the Hawthorne, grow off of branches.
  • Break-Up Song: "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", which starts out sad and melancholy and regretful before turning bitter as hell for the final verse.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: The theme of "Fallen Angel", which tells the story of a small-town girl who moves to Hollywood to become an actress, only to find that the high life isn't all it's cracked up to be.
    Just like a lost soul
    caught up in the Hollywood scene
    All the parties and limousines
    Such a good actress hiding all her pain
    Trading her memories for fortune and fame
    Just a step away from the edge of a fall
    Caught between heaven and hell
    Where's the girl I knew a year ago
  • Contemptible Cover: Their first album, Look What the Cat Dragged In, featured the band in make up so heavy they ended up looking like somewhat masculine women. Open Up and Say... Ahh! was better, but its picture of a creepy-looking demon girl was eventually censored (in this version, only her eyes are shown) to avoid provoking too much hostility.
  • Cover Album: They had one called Poison'd, which mostly consisted of their versions of older glam rock songs.
  • Cover Version: "Your Mama Don't Dance" by Loggins and Messina, which appeared on the Open Up and Say... Ahh! album.
  • Darker and Edgier: Native Tongue, which Richie Kotzen wrote the majority of.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The all-female hair metal band, Vixen, was marketed as a female version of Poison.
  • Drive-In Theater: "Talk Dirty To Me".
    "Cause baby we'll be at the drive-in"
    In the old man's Ford"
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: On the cover of their first album (pictured above).
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Overlapping wit Pop-Cultural Osmosis, a malicious example perpetuated by publicity and the press. Bret Michaels has decried numerous pictures of him injecting himself as being misconstrued as him "shooting up drugs". Dude was just injecting his insulin, as he has had type 1 diabetes since he was six years old.
  • Graceful Loser: C.C. DeVille, regarding both the falling out between him and the rest of Poison due to his drug addictions, at least in retrospect, and the success of Nirvana. Contrary to other hair metal musicians who couldn't stand what they did for the direction of rock, he was a big fan and saw them as a crucial response to an aging scene.
  • Hair Metal: Archetypical example.
  • Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: "Fallen Angel" has a line:
    It's like heads they win
    Tails you're gonna lose
  • Hookers and Blow: Mentioned in "Nothin' But A Good Time":
    They say I spend my money on women and wine,
    But I couldn't tell you where I spent last night.
  • Intercourse with You: Almost all of their songs.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: First lineup, but second time around. Bret Michaels, Bobby Dall, Rikki Rockett, and C.C. DeVille lasted only 8 years the first time around (before C.C. was kicked out after a major fight), but they buried the hatchet and C.C. returned 5 years later, and the lineup has remained stable ever since.
  • Love Is a Drug: "Love On The Rocks", in which love is compared to a shot of alcohol.
  • Mouthscreen: A pair of lips sings the opening phrase in the video for "I Want Action".
  • No-Tell Motel: The second verse to "Look What the Cat Dragged In" starts this way.
  • Pop Punk: Applies to the C.C. DeVille sung tracks from Power to the People and Hollyweird.
  • Power Ballad:
    • "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" is a particularly famous one.
    • There's also "Something to Believe In".
  • Reality TV: They enjoyed a revival when they were featured on VH1's Behind The Music, and Bret Michaels' has been involved in reality TV shows like Rock of Love and Celebrity Apprentice (which he won).
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Their excessive tendencies were the stuff of legend in their heyday. C.C. Deville apparently did so much coke that when he finally quit he gained a ton of weight because his appetite was suppressed so much.
    • Also somewhat exaggerated in certain areas. Bret was seen by some fans in a backstage area with a needle and people assumed he was injecting morphine or heroin. Turns out Bret has Type 1 Diabetes and frequently injects insulin during C.C. Deville's guitar solo every concert.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: paraphrased in "Nothing But A Good Time":
    I spend my money on women and wine
    But I couldn't tell you where I spent last night.


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