I first heard of Poison back in the fall of 1987, at the beginning of seventh grade. I was listening to my local CHR/Top 40 station and heard the song “I Won’t Forget You,” from the Look What the Cat Dragged In album; I fell in love with this power ballad instantly.
My next memory of Poison comes from the summer of 1988, when “Nothin’ But a Good Time,” the lead-off single for Open Up and Say… Ahh!, was released and getting airplay on the radio and on MTV. I have to admit that at first, I wasn’t too sure about the song, since my only real knowledge of the band was through “I Won’t Forget You,” but after giving it a few listens, I grew to like it. However, it was the next single, “Fallen Angel,” that ultimately sold me on the band. This is actually a “story song,” which tells a story of a young woman who moves to Hollywood in the hopes of becoming famous, but things don’t turn out the way she expects. At the time, I was impressed to hear a band like Poison tackle such a song, and “Fallen Angel” still ranks as one of my favorite Poison songs of all-time.
Next was “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” which sounds so different from what listeners at the time would have expected from the band. However, the pop audience loved it, and the song spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The acoustic guitar, combined with Bret Michaels’ vocal performance, help to make “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” one of the stand-out songs in Poison’s catalog. The final single from Open Up and Say… Ahh! was a cover of Loggins & Messina’s “Your Mama Don’t Dance.” While it’s an enjoyable song to listen to, it’s not one of the stronger songs in Poison’s catalog.
Shortly before my sophomore year of high school, Poison released “Unskinny Bop,” the lead-off single for the Flesh & Blood album. “Unskinny Bop” is an enjoyable song, and it performed pretty well on the charts. However, as time has gone by, I don’t find myself listening to this one as much as I did when I was younger. The next single, “Something to Believe In,” is, in my opinion, one of the strongest songs in Poison’s catalog. It was definitely one of the most serious songs that Poison had recorded to date, and the topics covered in the song are rather poignant: homelessness, suicidial Vietnam veterans, and the unexpected death of loved ones. This song was released just a few short months before Operation Desert Storm was launched in January 1991, and I think the mood of the song fit in with the mood of the country at that time.
The next single was “Ride the Wind.” Personally, I really like this song. While it’s not one of the strongest of the band’s songs, it’s not one of the weakest, either. Unfortunately, the pop audience didn’t care for this one as much, and it had to struggle to reach the chart position that it did. The next single, “Life Goes On,” fared even worse. Lyrically, I like what this song has to say. Musically, however, “Life Goes On” is rather boring; I can see why it didn’t fare all that well. I remember also seeing a video for “(Flesh & Blood) Sacrifice,” but I don’t recall ever hearing this song receive any radio airplay. It probably didn’t help that by the time “Ride the Wind” and “Life Goes On” were released, pop radio was starting to move away from the hair metal sounds and bands.
The last time I remember hearing anything new from Poison was in early 1993, during my senior year of high school. They released a song called “Stand,” and it was an acoustic song that even featured a choir in it. Personally, I liked this song. While it wasn’t as strong as their earlier material, it wasn’t bad. Unfortunately, at this point, Nirvana had broken through, and the hair metal had all but vanished from the pop radio airwaves. “Stand” had some moderate success on the charts, but I never heard any further singles from that album. After “Stand,” I lost track of Poison.
Even thought hair metal’s day has come and gone, I still do enjoy quite a bit of the music that Poison released during the band’s heyday.