I love this vintage interview clip. If anyone in rock holds the title of “Captain A.D.D.”, it would have to be Poison’s Bret Michaels! This scattershot blurb on good press vs. bad press goes about a million miles per hour, but it’s all fun.
1993: Native Tongue was not doing well on the charts, but MuchMusic dutifully had Bret Michaels and new guitarist Richie Kotzen on hand for an interview with Erica Ehm. It’s a pretty solid 10 minutes, touching on the following topics:
- Getting “serious” lyrically
- Safe sex
- C.C. leaving the band, Bobby breaking his hand
- Reasons for being in a band, still
- The “Stand” video, and the Bill Clinton inauguration
- Bret writing “country music”?
- Toning down the image
Richie Kotzen utters one complete sentence the whole time. This interview is remarkable not because Bret Michaels is always entertaining, but because Richie Kotzen didn’t fit in and it’s painfully obvious.
This is a beautiful item that I’m happy to have in my collection. 3″ CD singles were uncommon, but you’ve probably seen one before. What is less common is the clamshell 3″ case that this Poison single came in. A lot of 3″ singles came in regular 5″ cases, or a cardboard sleeve. Clamshells are rare. This one, called a “Gem Pak” (patent pending) was specifically made to house a “CD3”, another outdated term. It’s made of white plastic and the artwork is in the form of a sticker which covers the front, back and spine of the case. The Gem Pak’s flaw (patent pending!) is that it does not hold the disc in securely. It wants to pop out. Take care when handling one of these that the disc doesn’t fall out when you open it.
I’m a defender of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”. I loved it as a kid. I remember some people saying it might be “too country”, which is wasn’t. It’s just an acoustic ballad but a well written one and deserving of its success, if not its notoriety. It tended to spawn a generation of soundalikes, a fuzzy swarm of late 80s acousti-balladry that ultimately only served to take bands like Poison down, while ushering in the grunge era. “Every Rose” broke down walls for Poison, but the backlash was inevitable. When Bill & Ted quoted it to get into heaven in 1991, it was already all over. I can hear all that history when I listen to this single. It’s an excellent song, and even C.C.’s solo, as inarticulate as it is, still fits like an electrically heated glove.
The B-side “Livin’ for the Minute” shows off the heavier side of Poison. Fans might forget that Poison liked to really spit one out every now and then. C.C.’s solo is bonkers on this one, but perfectly suited to the frantic tune. Bret really cuts loose too. Poison actually have some pretty cool B-sides.
These tracks are both available on the remastered Open Up and Say…Ahh!! CD, but you gotta snap this one up if you find it in the wild.
This one comes courtesy of Sausagefester “Max the Axe’s Stunt Double”.
Everybody knows that Value Village is the place to go for weird T-shirts. (Aftab Patla!) Max’s Stunt Double was visiting the good ol’ shirt section at VV when he found this amusing Bret Michaels T-shirt. Did you know he was sponsored by Petsmart? Well now you do!
I can’t help but find this shirt funny. Especially if you put a bandana on your pet!
What is a “CHR edit”? It’s a special single edit of a song specifically intended for “contemporary hit radio”. In other words, Top 40. So, when “Stand” by Poison was selected to be the first single from 1993’s brand new Native Tongue album, it had to be trimmed for length. Getting Poison on the radio was going to prove to be an impossible task, so why make it harder by giving them a 5:16 long track that they definitely wouldn’t touch? “Stand” was shortened to 4:21, with much of Richie Kotzen’s delightfully idiosyncratic guitar licks getting the axe, along with some of the choir.
The cassette you see here contains two edited versions of “Stand”: the 4:21 “CHR edit” and another at 4:30 simply called “edit”. The differences are in the guitar solo which starts to deviate at the 2:28 mark. It’s in interesting curiosity, a peak inside the minutia of thinking that goes into marketing a song. “Hey, this format needs another nine seconds of song, leave in some guitar solo.” Is that how it worked?
The tape has both edit versions on both sides…twice. 2x2x2=8 times total, that you will hear “Stand” by Poison, if you play it all the way through. Call the CIA and let ’em know I have this cassette; they can use it with their enhanced interrogation techniques. I’ll sell.
On that note I can all but guarantee this cassette has never been played through, ever. It was sent to the Record Store about a year and a half before I started working there. The owner hated Poison. Hated — with a passion. There is no way he played this tape in store, ever. I rescued it from a giant, forgotten stack of promos that were stuffed into a bin. All garbage. “Don’t take any of those,” said the owner. Eventually all that junk was slated to be thrown out when the only location that sold tapes changed formats at the end of 1996.
This tape is valuable for one thing: it reveals the true North American release date for Native Tongue. Currently (August 2019), Wikipedia claims Native Tongue was released on February 8, 1993. That’s impossible because the 8th was a Monday. New releases came out on Tuesdays. This promo cassette clearly states on the back that the forthcoming album Native Tongue was retailing on February 16 — a Tuesday. You’re welcome, internet.
Otherwise, this cassette is fairly useless.
GETTING MORE TALE #744: A Poison-ous List
Over 30 years of being a band, and yet Poison only have a handful of albums! We won’t get into the whys and wherefores, for they are many. In terms of studio music, Poison have:
- 6 full studio albums
- 2 live albums with about an EP’s worth of new songs
- 1 covers album
That’s it. There are more live records and greatest hits, but Poison don’t have much music to show for such a long time in the business.
Naturally, anybody with an opinion has their own list of worst-to-first Poison albums. The only thing special about mine is my conviction that I’m right and everybody else is wrong!
#9: Hollyweird 2002
Poison’s last album of original songs was not a letdown at all. To be disappointed, you have to have expectations. I don’t think anybody expected much out of Poison in 2002. This dull, bland album had no hits for a good reason. Was Bret saving his best material for his solo career?
#8: Power to the People 2000
Part live, part studio, this album should be included as it was the first new Poison material with C.C. Deville in a decade. Shame that the studio songs are largely forgettable. All but “I Hate Every Bone in Your Body but Mine”, sung by an autotuned C.C., which you’ll wish you could forget. Nobody asked for this, nor the live guitar and drum solos. In concert, Poison need to play long solos so Bret Michaels can take his insulin. On album, there is no excuse for including such boring solos.
#7: Swallow This Live 1991
This album is plagued by the same problem as Power to the People: horribly long live solos that should have been omitted. At least the studio side was decent. There were two pretty good songs, and one excellent single called “So Tell Me Why”. Possibly their best single, actually. Unfortunately you had to wade through 2 CDs of crap to get to it.
#6: Poison’d! 2007
Kinda sad that Poison’s last album was a covers album over 10 years ago. Still, it was a surprisingly good covers album. Just delete the Walmart bonus track “SexyBack” and you’re all set for nothing’ but a good time. Incidentally this is the easiest place to find Poison’s first recorded cover, “Rock and Roll all Nite”!
#5: Crack A Smile…And More! 2000
In 1994, Poison began working on their first album with new guitarist Blues Saraceno. It sat unreleased for another six years. When it finally came out, it was beefed up with two new B-sides, the cool and unfinished “Crack A Smile” demo, an old B-side with C.C., and four songs from MTV Unplugged (also with C.C.). Hence the “And More!” tag in the title. Saraceno is a wiz on the guitar, and with Poison he wrote some cool songs. Just not enough for such a long album. There’s a bit of filler on Crack A Smile, but for guitar playing it’s one of their best.
#4: Look What the Cat Dragged In 1986
I know, I know, it’s their “classic” debut, right? But it ain’t produced so good, and there’s some filler in those grooves. The singles, however, are all great, with “Cry Tough” joining “So Tell Me Why” as one of their all-time best. Poison had an adorable rawness and party attitude, but like many bands they got better as they went.
#3: Open Up and Say…Ahh! 1988
This is when Poison really started getting good. By my measure, this album only has one filler song, “Bad to Be Good”. There’s actually some stunning material here, including non-singles like “Love On the Rocks”. It has the big ballad (and only one ballad!) as well as the unforgettable “Nothing But a Good Time“. Open Up and Say…Ahh! is definitely the best of Poison’s “party rock” albums.
#2: Flesh & Blood 1990
A lot of people consider this to be Poison’s best, and while that argument can be made, I just can’t get past “Poor Boy Blues”. That song is so awful it leaves a limburger-like aftertaste. (It’s even worse when it’s extended on Swallow This Live.) “Unskinny Bop” is painfully dumb, a fact we recognized back in 1990. It didn’t fit the more mature sound Poison were going for with new producer Bruce Fairbairn. “Why is this song the single?” we asked each other, as we discovered way better material buried inside. “Valley of Lost Souls”, “Sacrifice”, and “Life Loves a Tragedy” were never singles but certainly catalogue highlights. Flesh & Blood also boasts two of their best ballads, “Something to Believe In” and “Life Goes On”. It’s a tough album to beat.
#1: Native Tongue 1993
But Native Tongue does surpass Flesh & Blood, thanks to the supernatural talents of Mr. Richie Kotzen. On paper, it was a slam dunk. Poison were never taken seriously as musicians, but with Kotzen, suddenly that bar was raised. That tone! Earthy and hot. He was a shredder, and a soulful singer/songwriter. He dominated Native Tongue. Unfortunately the personalities didn’t mesh (or so we will word it). It was a weird fit, but it resulted in a very special album. Most of the songs are clearly Richie’s, with Bret Michaels singing. (It’s possible that Richie played other instruments as well, but we’ll leave that to speculation.) Kotzen brought to Poison a real soulful bent that they simply didn’t have without him, although they sure did try on Flesh & Blood. His raspy voice didn’t hurt. The good time rock isn’t gone either, though there’s less of it. “Ride Child Ride”, “Strike Up the Band” and “Seven Days Over You” are as fun as the old days, but with a richer more musical palette. Poison also went heavier than ever before. “Scream” and “Bring it Home” groove harder than anything before or after. Perhaps this album should be disqualified from the list as it’s more a Kotzen record with Poison as his backing band? Nope, it’s my list and this is #1.
“Richie takes a little getting used to. He’s a strange cat.” — Bret Michaels
In 1991, a new cable access show catering to metalheads hit the local airwaves: The Metal Mike show, with host Mike Coughlin. Since MuchMusic’s Power 30 was declining in quality, there was a vacuum for another good metal show.
Check out this terrific interview with Poison frontman Bret Michaels in 1993. The band had parted with C.C. Deville and were re-emerging the middle of the grunge era with Native Tongue. Today it’s considered to be their best album, but nobody cared in ’93.
Metal Mike eases Bret in comfortably but then hits him up with a tough question: what really happened with C.C. Deville? And Bret doesn’t hold back. Fist fights, drugs and alcohol all came into play, and the trainwreck MTV Awards appearance all contributed.
They move on to finding Richie Kotzen. Pay attention and notice that the fit seems awkward. The clues were there. “He sometimes can be kinda weird,” says Bret of his new bandmate. There was no question of the man’s chops, however, nor his stage presence. Check it out.
Just a clip from an interview by MuchMusic’s Steve Anthony. I didn’t catch the full show at the time, so I recorded the interview clips whenever they were re-run.
In this clip, a hyper Bret Michaels of Poison talks about inspiration for his music and the audience response.
POISON – Look What the Cat Dragged In (1986, 2006 Capitol remaster)
I remember seeing this album in the racks of our local Zellers store. I didn’t know the band. I thought CC Deville was pretty cute.
Taking the gender-bending makeup of the mid-80’s to its logical end point, Poison stormed out of Hollywood and onto the charts. They did this with a handful of great singles, including “Talk Dirty to Me”, “Cry Tough”, and “I Won’t Forget You”. Also huge, but barely tolerable as a song, was the singalong “I Want Action”.
Armed with just $23,000, Poison recorded Look What the Cat Dragged In with producer Ric Browde (Ted Nugent, W.A.S.P.) in less than two weeks. What they emerged with was a fun, raunchy and terrible sounding album with some big hits and plenty of filler.
“Cry Tough” was a tight little opener, a hot and bright rocker about going out and givin’ er. “You gotta cry tough, out on the streets, to make your dreams happen!” sings Bret Michaels in full-on cheerleader mode. Unfortunately the sonics of the album leave much to be desired. The guitar, drum and vocal sounds are demo quality at best, but that’s what you get for $23,000 and Ric Browde.
The other singles were all huge. “Talk Dirty to Me” is now minor staple, and “I Want Action” (annoying as it is) is another. The ballad “I Won’t Forget You” is an album highlight, well before Bret & co. had mastered the art of writing hit ballads. Low key, basic and electric, “I Won’t Forget You” is very different from “Every Rose” and some of the later broken-hearted Poison love songs. Paul Stanley has a cameo in the road-ready music video, which didn’t hurt.
That leaves a hell of a lot of room for filler, and Look What the Cat Dragged In has plenty. Of the album tracks, the decent ones include the saucy glam-slam rawking title track, and another song called “Want Some, Need Some”. Both tunes could have used some last-minute tightening up, but neither are as bad as the dreck on the tail end of the album: “#1 Bad Boy”, “Blame it on You” and the horrid “Mama Let Me Go to the Show” all suck absolutely. “Play Dirty” on side one is also pretty awful.
Even with the quality issues in sound and songwriting, Look What the Cat Dragged In sold over 3,000,000 copies. 20 years later, it was given a fresh remastering and three bonus tracks. The remastering could not fix the audio issues, but the bonus tracks are pretty good. Single remixes of “I Want Action” and “I Won’t Forget You” are marginally better than the original album tracks. Somebody realized that they were sonically deficient, and the remixes help a teeny tiny bit. Then Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” is added to the end, a song that got more exposure on the covers album Poison’d! The bonus tracks go a long way towards making the album a little more listenable from start to end.
POISON – Native Tongue (1993 Capitol)
C.C. DeVille was let go from Poison after an embarrassing performance on the 1991 MTV awards. Who can forget the pink-haired C.C.? Drugs and alcohol had taken their toll on the guitar player. There were musical differences as well. Bret Michaels liked the bluesier direction Poison were going on; C.C. preferred basic sloppy rock. A parting of ways was all but inevitable.
Poison were lucky enough to convince guitar prodigy Richie Kotzen to join the band. Kotzen was from Pennsylvania, like Poison, and had released three critically acclaimed solo albums. Richie Kotzen and Electric Joy were hard-to-penetrate instrumental albums, while Fever Dream introduced Richie’s soulful singing voice. He had also contributed the bluesy rock of “Dream of a New Day” to the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack album.
Like many fans, I waited and wondered what the new Poison would sound like. Kotzen claims that many of the songs were completely written, lyrics and all, before he joined Poison. Regardless each song received a four-way songwriting split among the band members. Fans in the know could tell right away that Kotzen’s impact on the songs was much greater than the other members.
Native Tongue was not as immediate as any prior Poison album, but what it lacked in instant hooks it made up for in musicianship and integrity. Native Tongue was also a long album, at almost an hour not including B-sides such as “Whip Comes Down”. It was a lot to absorb, and due to the changing winds of rock, not too many fans were willing to spend time with and get to know Native Tongue.
You couldn’t have asked for a better start to the album that the duo of “Native Tongue”/”The Scream”. Tribal drums by Rikki Rockett and Sheila E. set the scene for one of Poison’s heaviest songs ever. “The Scream” is killer: a relentless driving rock song with aggressive playing and lyrics. Bret Michaels merged this with his Poison singing style, creating a successful hybrid. “The Scream” is one of Poison’s finest achievements, and a hell of a way to kick off the new album with the new guitarist.
“Stand” was the soulful, gospel-like lead single. It didn’t do anything for me, but you have to give Poison credit for going all-in. With choirs and Kotzen’s soulful guitar playing, it’s still an outstanding Poison song. “Stay Alive” was another good tune, this time about bassist Bobby Dall’s struggles with substances. That led into the ballad “Until You Suffer Some (Fire and Ice)”, one of the band’s best such songs. The only weakness here is a grouping of slow songs on side one. “Body Talk” and “Bring It Home” make up for that. “Bring It Home” in particular had that heavy groove that you needed to have in the 1990s, as well as strong backing vocals from Kotzen. “Bring It Home” ended the first side with the heaviest song since “The Scream”.
The one thing that I found difficult about Native Tongue was the aforementioned lack of immediacy. Thankfully, side two had a few songs that maintained that old-tyme Poison singalong chorus. They were “Seven Days Over You” (a horn-inflected goodie), the anthemic “Blind Faith” and, “Ride Child Ride”. These tunes weren’t too much of a departure from earlier Poison of Flesh & Blood. Perhaps if they had been released as singles, there would have been more chart action. “Strike Up the Band” is similar, capturing the high octane rock that Poison were good at doing live.
“Richie’s Acoustic Thang” and “Ain’t That the Truth” are swampy bluesy goodness, crossing Poison and Kotzen perfectly. Where Poison failed to do decent blues before, they finally managed to get it done with Richie. Likewise, “Theatre of the Soul” is a soulful ballad that acts as another album highlight.
The final song was “Bastard Son of a Thousand Blues”, and it is really the only stinker, despite Kotzen having plenty of vocal time. It reminds me of “Poor Boy Blues” from the prior album, and unfortunately ends the album on a mediocre note, guitar pyrotechnics notwithstanding.
Kotzen didn’t last long with Poison. “Strike Up the Band”? More like “Break Up the Band”, when Richie started fooling around with the fiancé of Rikki Rockett. He was immediately fired upon discovery, and replaced by Blues Saraceno, another highly rated shredder. The ironic thing was that Blues Saraceno was in the running for the guitar slot in the first place, but the band chose Kotzen. Saraceno recorded the strong Crack A Smile CD, an intentional return to good-time Poison rock, but were dropped by the record label before a release. That’s a whole other story, with six years of delays and bootlegs before the album was out, eventually leading to a reunion with C.C. DeVille.
Fortunately, Native Tongue remains a reminder of a brief period in Poison where they were momentarily among the best acts in hard rock. No shit.