Suckers for a pretty face: No Sunset Strip hair band was more hated & reviled than Poison

By on June 7, 2018

Even though we wrote about them in August 2017, since we’ve just added Night Flight’s 22-minute Poison Video Profile from 1990 to our Night Flight Plus video profiles, we hope you won’t mind if we post about Poison again, even though we realize it’s true that no Sunset Strip hair band was more hated and reviled than Poison.

The profile features almost all of their early videos and excerpts from interviews with drummer Rikki Rockett and guitarist C.C. DeVille.

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Their debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged In — released on August 2, 1986 on the Torrance, CA-based indie label Enigma Records — was, as Rikki Rockett says in Martin Popoff’s The Big Book of Hair Metal: The Illustrated Oral History of Heavy Metal’s Debauched Decade (2014), not much more than “a glorified demo.”

Still, it sold over two-million copies within a year of its release on the strength of three hit singles: “Talk Dirty to Me,” “I Want Action,” and “I Won’t Forget You.”

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Their first single from the album, though — “Cry Tough,” released on August 5, 1986 — was a dud, failing to chart in the U.S.

“Talk Dirty To Me” — released on February 18, 1987 — fared much better, becoming a massive hit for Poison, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Poison’s fans may have thought the lyrics to “I Want Action” — released on May 20, 1987 — were stupid, or lazy — or both, you decide — because the single only managed to climb its way up to #50.

The verse that starts “Now I’m a sucker for a pretty face, I don’t care if she’s in leather or lace, cause I’m just lookin’ for a little kiss…” leads into a chorus which rhymes each line with a variant of the word “night”:

“I want action tonight, satisfaction all night/You’ve got the love I need tonight.”

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“I Won’t Forget You” — the album’s obligatory power ballad, and the fourth single from their debut, released on August 5, 1987 — topped out at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

For you Poison fans who can’t get enough of their videos, we’ve got all four of those suckers we’ve mentioned, plus a couple more from their multi-platinum sophomore album Open Up and Say…Ahh!, released on May 21, 1988,

Poison dropped a true double deuce with album number two, which made it all the way #2 on Billboard‘s album charts, selling eight million copies worldwide.

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“Fallen Angel” — released as a single on July 6, 1988 — reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #32 on the Mainstream rock charts.

The video —  a cautionary tale that’s been told a zillion times before — features a young blonde wannabe actress-slash-model (she was Bret Michael’s then-girlfriend, Susie Hatton).

She ultimately ends up being spotted by a creepy modeling agency manager, played by veteran character actor Anthony James, with a “Trust me, I won’t fuck you!” expression on his face.

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If you wanna know more about our last Poison video offering in our video profile — “Nothin’ But a Good Time,” released on April 6, 1988 — check out our last Poison post (unless you’ve already printed it out and have it taped to your bedroom wall).

Swallow more Poison below.

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Poison were forged in the small-town factory town of Mechanicsburg, eight miles west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which isn’t too far from where Three Mile Island accident occurred on March 28, 1979.

That location is the reason given for the band’s frequent use of green and black, because those are the “nuclear” colors, doncha know.

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Nothing really happened for Poison — originally called Paris — until they moved to L.A., sometime in ’84… and then it took a few more years to get noticed.

Bassist Bobby Dall — “Bass Rapin’ and Heartbreakin'” was his credit on Poison’s first album — was as licensed cosmetologist.

He looked after the band’s business affairs, making sure every penny spent on blow-driers and lipstick was within their $150,000-per-video budget.

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Drummer Rikki Rockett worked as a hairdresser, among other jobs, and likely had a big hand in how he and his bandmates girlied themselves up for their gigs and photo shoots. ““Sticks, Tricks & Lipstick Fix” was his debut album credit.

Former fry cook and frontman Bret Michaels was a diabetic who famously couldn’t control his drinking on-set during their video shoots, often get violently ill, which was how a lot of MTV viewers also felt after watching Poison’s videos.

His debut album credit was rather dull, if you ask us: “Vocalizin’ and Socializin’.”

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Lead guitarist Matt Smith ended up getting his girlfriend pregnant and had to quit the band, moving back to Pennsylvania.

His replacement was obnoxious, Brookyln-born NYU-dropout C.C. DeVille, whose parents both appear in the “Talk Dirty to Me” video.

DeVille’s debut album credit was “Guitar Screechin’ and Hair Bleachin’,” we shit you not.

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Look at it this way: after Poison got signed and went out on tour and started having hits, lots of other other unsigned or unnoticed hair metal acts also got signed — including Warrant, Faster Pussycat, Jet Boy, L.A. Guns, Guns N’ Roses and others — and when they all left L.A., the club bookers began booking newer, grungier bands, like Nirvana.

So, if you think about it, you west coasters have Poison to thank for also clogging up the L.A. club scene with flannel-shirted and backwards baseball-capped dudes with dirty hair instead of glammed-out dudes wearing their mom’s makeup and depleting the ozone with their fucking toxic hairspray.

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Watch the Poison Video Profile and other video profiles on Night Flight Plus, and we hope this blog satisfies you Poison fans for awhile, but please know we’ll surely be writing about them again very soon.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.