Brett Michaels attended Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He became interested in music because of his love of bands such as KISS, Sweet, AC/DC, and Aerosmith. Michaels formed the band Paris in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1984. The band, which later became Poison, moved to Los Angeles in 1985 to begin touring the clubs. The rest is history as Poison became on of the most successful glam band to come out of the Hollywood scene in the 1980's.

Look What the Cat Dragged In Poison - Look What the Cat Dragged In (Capitol) 1986

1. "Cry Tough" (3:39)
2. "I Want Action" (3:05)
3. "I Won't Forget You" (3:34)
4. "Play Dirty" (4:04)
5. "Look What The Cat Dragged In" (3:08)
6. "Talk Dirty To Me" (3:43)
7. "Want Some, Need Some" (3:39)
8. "Blame It On You" (2:32)
9. "Number One Bad Boy" (3:14)
10. "Let Me Go To The Show" (2:45)

Poison! They're America's favorite drag queens from Hollywood. (Even though they were originally from the East Coast. I believe Bret Micheals was from Pennsylvania. GO FLYERS!) On "Look What the Cat Dragged In", Poison took Kix's schtick added a couple more cans of Aqua Net, some pink fish net pantyhose and a sort of campy, glammy, wam-bam-thank-yo-ma'am, party vibe and somehow managed to win the hearts of the American hard rock crowd in 1986. It wasn't about musicianship or even anything serious for that matter, it was all about "having a good time." Fun was the theme of the day, and it worked well for this album. Of course they looked ridiculous, but it was the right look for the right time, backed up by a healping heaping of memorable party anthems like "Talk Dirty To Me" and the instantly likeable "I Want Action". Can't say Poison were ever one of my favorite bands, but every so often this album is a fun nostalgic revisit and certainly one of the more entertainting albums on the lighter side of heavy metal.

Open Up... Poison - Open Up and Say... Ahh! (Enigma Records) 1988

1.   Love on the Rocks (3:33)
2.   Nothin' but a Good Time (3:48)
3.   Back to the Rocking Horse ( 3:35)
4.   Tearin' Down the Walls (3:51)
5.   Look But You Can't Touch ( 3:26)
6.   Fallen Ange (3:57)
7.   Every Rose Has Its Thorn (4:20)
8.   Your Mama Don't Dance (3:00)
9.   Bad to Be Good (4:05)

America's favorite poodle poofsters return with their second studio platter, once again co-sponsored by Aqua Net and Mayballene. It was a larger-than-life spectacle; outrageous clothing, freakishly big hair, and outlandish music. Like lightweight Kiss, Poison dances and prances their way though nine fun hard rockers. Their sound is light and easy to digest and has that 1980's air of care-free, good-time fun. You won't hear Bret Michael's complaining about politics or the state of the world. Nope, this is raise-your-glasses, sing-along, hook-laden rock and roll with barely a hint of a heavy metal sheen. Nearly every song on comes packaged with an instantly catchy hook and a screaming guitar solo. "Open Up and Say...Ah!" helped make the band international superstars and despite the lightweight sound solidified their place in hair metal history.

The album sold millions and millions of copies worldwide and spawned four hit singles; big arena rocker "Nothin' but a Good Time", melodic rocker "Fallen Angel", the Loggins & Messina cover "Your Mama Don't Dance"  and their number one hit single "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", a super sappy ballad about lost love that had girls across the globe swooning and packed stadiums glowing with cigarette lighters held high.

The front cover of the album caused some controversy at the time. 1988 was the time of the PMRC witch hunts in which heavy metal, especially mainstream bands, were under heavy scrutiny. The cover featured a model dressed as some sort of animal/devil creature with a protruding extra-long tongue (see photo above). The cover was censored for subsequent pressings with most of the model's face obscured behind black boxes.

Poison also recorded a cover of Kiss' "Rock and Roll All Nite" for the Less than Zero movie in 1987.

Flesh & Blood Poison - Flesh & Blood (Capitol) 1990

1.   Strange Days of Uncle Jack (1:40)
2.   Valley of Lost Souls (3:58)
3.   (Flesh & Blood) Sacrifice (4:41)
4.   Swampjuice (Soul-O) (1:26)
5.   Unskinny Bop (3:48)
6.   Let It Play (4:21)
7.   Life Goes On (4:46)
8.   Come Hell or High Water (5:01)
9.   Ride the Wind (3:51)
10. Don't Give up an Inch (3:43)
11. Something to Believe In (5:29)
12. Ball and Chain (4:22)
13. Life Loves a Tragedy (5:13)
14. Poor Boy Blues (5:18)

Poison's debut and their sophomore follow-up put them on the A-list of pop metal in the late 80's. However, as the 90's rolled around, the over-the-top glam look was losing momentum, thanks in part to the success of Gun's n Roses "Appetite for Destruction". As such, despite the success of those first two albums, Poison attempts to mix it up a little and show a more serious side of the band. While they have the fun-loving party songs such as "(Flesh & Blood) Sacrifice" and the mega-successful "Unskinny Bop", there are also darker themes presented within. Songs like "Valley of Lost Souls", "Life Loves A Tragedy", "Come Hell Or High Water" echo themes of hard times and being victorious over them, while "Life Goes On" deals with love lost and "Don't Give Up an Inch" deals with relationships. They also toned down their glam look, going for more of a Los Angels tough-boy image. (Not unlike Guns 'n' Roses, but looking more like Kix.) The look and tougher sound worked well for the band. "Flesh & Blood" became the band's most successful album yet, selling over seven times platinum and spawning two top ten singles in "Unskinny Bop" and the feel-good, power-pop ballad "Something to Believe In". As well, three other singles were successfully released; "Ride The Wind", "Life Goes On", and "(Flesh & Blood) Sacrifice". "Ride the Wind" is one of the band's best songs, despite the fact that it wasn't as big of a hit as the adolescent anthem "Unskinny Bop".

Native Tongue Poison - Native Tongue (Capitol) 1993

1. "Native Tongue" [instrumental] (1:01)
2. "The Scream" (3:49)
3. "Stand" (5:15)
4. "Stay Alive" (4:23)
5. "Until You Suffer Some (Fire & Ice)" (4:14)
6. "Body Talk" (4:01)
7. "Bring It On Home" (3:55)
8. "Seven Days Over You" (4:13)
9. "Richie's Acoustic Thang" [instrumental] (:56)
10. "Ain't That The Truth" (3:25)
11. "Theatre Of Soul" (4:41)
12. "Strike Up The Band" (4:15)
13. "Ride Child Ride" (3:53)
14. "Blind Faith" (3:32)
15. "Bastard Son Of A Thousand Blues" (4:57)

Enter the musically depressed 1990's which totally destroyed good time rock and roll. Poison entered into a new era of rock and roll with a new guitarist and a darker, more serious outlook on life. However, when one thinks of serious rock and roll or heavy metal, Poison are certainly not one of the bands that come to mind. It's not that the Poison members aren't talented musicians, but the band overall is known more for the party anthems, the good time rock and roll and the outrageous stage show. It was all about having a good time. "Native Tongue" seems to be the band's attempt to be taken seriously as musicians. New guitarist and songwriter Richie Kotzen has a bluesier style than former guitarist C.C. Deville. What results is something that most long-time Poison fans were disappointed in. It's not that the music is bad. On the contrary, there are some very good songs on here. However, that "rock and roll all night, party every day" vibe is just not as present. Ted Nugent said it best, "It's all about the f'ing attitude". Well that attitude just isn't here. Despite this, Bret's voice is actually at it's best here, the production is superb and there is no doubt that the musicianship is much improved. If this album had been released by any other band I think most people would have loved it. Because it was Poison many fans didn't give it the time of day.

Crack a Smile... Poison - Crack a Smile...And More! (Capitol) 2000 

1.      Best Thing You Ever Had (4:19)
2.      Shut Up, Make Love (3:52)
3.      Baby Gets Around a Bit (3:37)      
4.      Cover of a Rolling Stone (3:09)     
5.      Be the One (5:39)      
6.      Mr. Smiley  (2:43)     
7.      Sexual Thing (3:28)      
8.      Lay Your Body Down (5:28)      
9.      No Ring, No Gets (3:27)      
10.    That's the Way I Like It (3:40)      
11.    Tragically Unhip (2:54)      
12.    Doin' as I Seen on My T.V. (2:53) 
13.    One More For The Bone (3:18)      
14.    Set You Free (3:56)      
15.    CRACK A SMILE [demo] (3:46)      
16.    Face The Hangman [outtake] (3:21)    
17.    Your Mama Don't Dance [MTV unplugged]  (3:13)  
18.    Every Rose Has Its Thorn [MTV unplugged]  (4:38)     
19.    Unskinny Bop [MTV unplugged]  (4:03)       
20.    Talk Dirty To Me [MTV unplugged]  (4:06)

Crack a Smile... and More! is the fifth studio album from America's favorite cross-dressers, Poison. After parting ways with guitarist Richie Kotzen in late 1993 the band hooked up with guitarist Blues Saraceno and "Crack a Smile" was recorded. The album was originally to be release in late 1994, but shelved due a motorcycle accident that landed Bret Michaels in hospital and forced the group to cut production of the new album short. The group disbanded shortly after. A couple tracks from the sessions featuring Saraceno were included on the band's best of collection, "Poison's Greatest Hits: 1986-1996" in 1996. Those two tracks appear on this album along with thirteen new studio songs and five acoustic bonus tracks.

With "Native Tongue" it seemed that Poison were attempting to be more serious and be taken serious as musicians. There are still some bluesier numbers and some country influences that harken back to "Native Tongue" but with "Crack A Smile" the light-hearted approach of the band is once again in tact. The band seems to be having fun, with Micheals in particular giving a fun natured performance in both lyrics and delivery. A song like "Baby Gets Around" recalls the glory of the band's early classic, while "Cover of The Rolling Stone" and No Ring No Gets" are just fun hard rockers. "Mr. Smiley" has a Guns n Roses vibe. "Sexual Thing" seems to be "Unskinny Bop Pt. 2". 

On top of the albums twelve tracks, there are two outtakes from the same album sessions, "One More From the Bone" and "Set You Free." The former is a funky hard rocking ode to sex, with a bit of a James Brown influence, while "Set You Free" is a more straight-forward hard rock song. "Crack A Mile" is another funky song complete with some harmonica work, released here in demo form. The song has a definite Aerosmith influence. (Think "Big Ten Inch Record".) "Face the Hangman" is taken from the "Open Up & Say...Ahh!" sessions. The last four tracks are taken from the MTV Unplugged series. 

For a band that was struggling with itself in the 1990's, "Crack A Smile" is a solid release from Poison. It's only slightly more modern than past releases, but never touching grunge or alternative. 

Hollyweird Poison - Hollyweird (Cyanide) 2002

1.   Hollyweird (3:13)
2.   Squeeze Box (2:29)
3.   Shooting Star (4:36)
4.   Wishful Thinkin' (2:46)
5.   Get 'Ya Some (4:19)
6.   Emperor's New Clothes (2:12)
7.   Devil Woman (3:44)
8.   Wasteland (3:53)
9.   Livin' In The Now (2:35)
10. Stupid, Stoned & Dumb (3:07)
11. Home (Bret's Story) (2:47)
12. Home (C.C.'s Story) (2:44)
13. Rockstar (3:33)

Somehow Poison are one of the few 80's bands that made it to the A-list of hair metal. To be honest, while I like Poison and enjoy some of their records, I don't love their music. There are a ton of bands that I thought were better and deserved the notoriety that Poison received. (Kix and Dirty Looks come to mind.) In any case, Poison did release some fun glam rock back in the 80's and early 90's. "Hollyweird" is the first full length studio release from Poison in nearly a decade, with only the archived "Crack A Smile" and the five new tracks from "Power To The People" coming out in between those albums. It is also the album that brought together Poison's original line-up for their first full studio project since "Flesh & Blood". As such, I would expect that Poison would put their best foot forward and release one stellar album. What we get, however, is a little less that stellar. "Holyweird" is an under-produced and woefully produced. With Poison, I could respect a dirty, loud, nasty production if they were going for a heavier sound, or perhaps even that dirty sleaze metal sound, but this album has a demo quality to it. It's just thin and makes the entire album less enjoyable than it otherwise could have been.

Production quality aside, there are some good songs. The opening title track is prime Poison and perhaps the best song on the album. "Shooting Star" and "Wasteland" are also standout tracks. The cover of "Squeeze Box" is well done as well. Musically, it seems the band has less heavy metal influences with C.C. Deville brining in a lot of pop and punk influences. That style is particularly notable on "Emperor's New Cloths", "Home" and "Livin' In the Now", which all featured DeVille as lead vocalist. Overall, "Hollyweird" isn't a bad album, but I still wish the recording and production was different. Some of these songs would have been much better with a heavier sound.

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