LAST year their debut album, Look What The Cat Dragged In, became the 13th biggest-selling LP in the States. This year they followed that enormous success with another mega-seller, Open Up and Say Ahh! And they ain’t stopping there …
When most parents walk into their Metal-crazy kid’s room, plastered with posters of Poison, their first statement will be something like: “Those guys look something the cat dragged in!” and that’s exactly what these four young American rock ‘n’ rollers want. Shock impact is their style and outraging parents is one of their favourite pastimes. Covered in more make-up than Joan Collins has seen in her entire life – “It takes a real wear make-up,” says drummer Ricky – Poison delight in giving the said American music scene an injection of suggestive lyrics and some wild guitar breaks.
Their debut album titled surprise, surprise – Look What The Cat Dragged In, was designed as a springboard for the band, which plans on being around for quite a while. Little were they (or their harsh critics) to know that this first record would cut straight into the U.S. market and become the 13th biggest seller in America in 1987! Suddenly singer Bret Michaels, guitarist C.C. De Ville, drummer Rikki Rocket and bassist Bobby Dall were no longer the boys from the bush – they had a special quality and they were hot.
Their formula of keeping things simple, writing as a team and not giving a damn what people think of them took “What The Cat Dragged In”, recorded in only 12 days, to almost triple platinum.
“Our music is basically about everyday life,” says Rikki, “because everyday life is damn important.”
The beginnings of Poison are less than spectacular. Rikki and Bret first met in their hometown of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. They formed a so-s0 band called Spectras and the best gig they could get were bars and roller rinks. More than a little disenchanted with that scene they grabbed Bobby and packed their bags for the bright lights of Los Angeles. That was the five years ago. Once there, the only thing they lacked was an axeman, so they placed an ad in a local rag and after weeding through the list of hopefuls they came up with two names – Cecil Cornelius De Ville and Slash. They chose C.C. and Slash went on to join Guns N’ Roses.
“We were the L.A. joke band,” recalls C.C. “We couldn’t get signed or management – even other bands didn’t like us. But we did not give up.
Soon Poison was attracting a following that is still growing. Even early on in their career the band knew the value of an over-the-top stage performance and to this day every show they play is guaranteed to be an event – after all, their shows are Poison.
“From day one we’ve had the most loyal fans in the world,” says Brett. They put us on the map, they voted us into office. They know that whenever they see us they’ll get honest entertainment.”
Having toured through the US with David Lee Roth, Poison were not keen on doing their own gigs until they knew they could sell out every show they put on. They were not in any hurry, although they knew a lot of people who saw them at the Lee Roth concerts were specifically there see Poison.
Poison are now headlining and are packing them into 40,000-seat stadiums without a seat to spare.
“Look What The Cat Dragged In was like losing your virginity. It was your first sexual experience and you’ll never forget it – but hopefully it wasn’t your last,” says Bret of his aspirations for Open Up and Say Ahh!
To the uninitiated Poison are shocking, and many critics have commented that the band’s name is somewhat inappropriate. With their stage act and their makeup, Poison have been accused of hiding their bad music behind a facade of eye-liner and lipstick, so one day the band thought they’d tackle their knockers head-on. They walked on stage minus clothes except for a pair of modesty-saving underpants – from all accounts it was one of their best concerts to date.
If there ever was a band in history that everyone wanted to puck on, it was us,” says Bret. “But the fucking thing that kills me is that rock ‘n’ roll is meant to be fucking fun! Our optimism is pissing off a lot of people. It’s making a lot of people jealous that we’re happy doing this. They’re going to suffocate in their own hate, while they’re suffocating, I’m partying!”
Recently named one of America’s 10 sexiest men, Bret has achieved his reputation by exuding a “who cares?” – image something that women find very attractive.
We are a band that has an image for hell-raising and partying, and I reckon when you go backstage to meet your favourite band after a show it should be party and fun,” says Bret. “You know some people think if you go backstage after a concert you instantly fuck. That isn’t true, although with some of the girls we get backstage I wish it was! We’ve got this room called ‘The Poison Pen’ and it’s a great place for us to host a party with our family and friends.” (continued below)
Poison’s Australian fans may not have had the opportunity to sample the delights of “The Poison Pen” yet, but they can consider themselves lucky in one respect – at least they haven’t experienced any censorship of their favourite band. In America some straight-laced noise makers have had the cover of Open Up And Say Ahh! banned because it features Bret sticking out an extra-long tongue. They may be able to censor the cover but they can’t stop the music.