Poison’s toxic past seems behind the metal band

  • By Alan Sculley / Special to The Herald
  • Thursday, June 17, 2004 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Two years ago, Poison released “Hollyweird,” the first studio CD to be recorded by the band’s original lineup in nine years. Judging from the CD, some things never change.

Like Poison’s early CDs, there was still a familiar pop-metal sound. The band – singer Bret Michaels, guitarist C.C. DeVille, bassist Bobby Dall and drummer Rikki Rockett – still wrote anthems tinged with lust and sex. And the group still had plenty of the visual flash that made Poison synonymous with hair band metal.

But, according to Michaels, one major thing has changed: The four band members and in particular the group’s two chief songwriters, Michaels and DeVille, are actually getting along.

“There is nobody in my life who has made me laugh harder than C.C., and made me want to kick their ass more than C.C,” Michaels said, as he assessed the state of Poison. “He’s my rose and my thorn and visa versa, believe me, it’s the same way.

“But the beauty of that is nobody in Poison is a yes man to each other. But we are getting along better now than we’ve ever gotten along. And that’s a great feeling.”

Poison has been through more than a few ups and downs.

Originally formed in Harrisburg, Pa., in 1983, the band moved to Los Angeles shortly thereafter, where the current lineup came together with the addition of DeVille.

For the next six years, Poison managed to co-exist and became one of the most popular metal bands of the era.

The group’s CDs went multiplatinum and the effects-filled shows were filling arenas.

But by 1991, personality conficts between Michaels and DeVille, coupled with DeVille’s worsening drug and alcohol habit, conspired to splinter the lineup.

After a sloppy performance on the 1991 MTV Music Awards, Michaels and DeVille exchanged words backstage and the argument escalated into a brawl between the two rockers.

DeVille was jettisoned, with guitarist Richie Kotzen taking over. That lineup recorded a 1993 CD, “Native Tongue,” which failed to reach platinum.

Things slid further. Kotzen was fired, and “Crack a Smile,” a CD recorded in 1996 with new guitarist Blues Saraceno, was shelved by Poison’s label, Capitol Records, in favor of a greatest hits CD. “Crack a Smile” finally was released in 2000.

But as early as 1994, DeVille began making attempts to patch up his differences with Michaels.

In 1998 the time was right to attempt a reunion. With the greatest hits CD having gone platinum and a highly popular “Behind the Music” episode chronicling Poison’s stormy and splashy history airing on VH-1, Deville was accepted back into Poison and a reunion tour was booked.

The tour was a big success and the group began work on new material. After completing five songs, DeVille abruptly quit, saying he wanted to devote time to his side band, Samantha 7.

The remaining members of Poison were undeterred. They decided to combine the five studio tracks with live material recorded on the 1999 tour and released the package as “Power to the People.” They also recruited guitarist Tracii Guns from L.A. Guns to do the 2000 summer tour with the band.

Then DeVille did an about-face, asking back into Poison, and the band once again accepted their guitarist.

Since then, it’s been smooth sailing in Poison.

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