FORMED: 1983, Harrisburg, PA
This heavy metal band was formed in Pennsylvania, USA, in the spring of 1983 by Bret Michaels (b. Bret Sychak, 15 March 1962, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA; vocals) and Rikki Rockett (b. Alan Ream, 8 August 1959, Pennsylvania, USA; drums). They were soon joined by Bobby Dall (b. Harry Kuy Kendall, 2 November 1958, Miami, Florida, USA; bass) and Matt Smith (guitar). Legendarily, Slash from Guns N'Roses also auditioned at one point. The quartet played local clubs as Paris, before moving to Los Angeles and changing their name.
It was at this point that Smith left the band and was replaced by C.C. DeVille (b. Bruce Anthony Johannesson, 14 May 1963, Brooklyn, New York, USA; guitar). They were signed by Enigma Records in 1985. The following year's debut album went double platinum in America and produced three hits, with 'Talk Dirty To Me' reaching the US Top 10. Open Up And Say ... Ahh! gave them their first US number 1, 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn'. Four other singles were also released, including a cover version of 'Your Mama Don't Dance' which was a major US hit for Loggins And Messina in 1972. Poison were originally considered a 'glam band' because of the make-up they wore, but by the release of 1990's Flesh & Blood this image had been toned down dramatically.
That year they also played their first UK shows. Fans declared their love of songs such as the US Top 5 singles, 'Unskinny Bop' and 'Something To Believe In', when the band made their official UK debut in front of 72,500 people at the Donington Monsters of Rock Festival on 18 August 1990. The following year saw the release of a live album, but shortly afterwards DeVille was replaced on guitar by the much-travelled Richie Kotzen. Native Tongue added brass with the Tower Of Power Horns and established the band alongside Bon Jovi as purveyors of image-conscious, hard melodic rock. As well as many supporters, this inevitably also saw them pilloried by more purist elements in heavy metal fandom.
In 1994, Michaels' face appeared on the news-stands once more when he dated Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, before being unceremoniously 'dumped'. Blues Saraceno replaced Kotzen and helped the band record Crack A Smile. Due to problems with their record company, however, the album was shelved and a greatest hits set was released instead. The same year Michaels began an acting career, taking a major role in A Letter From Death Row, which he also wrote and co-produced. A companion solo album was also released, and at the same time DeVille rejoined the band. Their 1999 reunion tour was successful enough to warrant Capitol Records releasing Crack A Smile with extra tracks added from a 1990 MTV Unplugged session. Shortly afterwards the band released the live Power To The People on their own CMI label.
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