#1089: Poison, Open Up and Say . . . Ahh!
By Matt Worley with Jon Worley

There are some bands girls love that most guys just don't understand. Poison is one of those bands. Back in the late 80s, guys in relationships in Clovis had their own music and then they had a tape of songs the girl liked. A lot of the time, it was country music. They'd pop the country tape in while driving the girl around. So, you'd think they'd do the same with Poison. But there weren't too many guys who would be caught dead with a Poison tape . . . even a dubbed one. I didn't care, but I also didn't get laid in high school. Too lightweight for most guys to handle, Poison was kryptonite to rocker girls. I didn't find this out until the winter of my senior year. It was the senior ski trip to Sipapu that showed me the light on this one.

I was one of two senior drummers in the drum line. And the other guy wasn't that good. So I was defacto leader of the drummers. But only seniors could go on the ski trip, so I was suddenly out of my element. All my band friends were juniors or sophomores. I loved to ski, so I wasn't going to miss the trip. We had to arrange ourselves transportation (our band director went with us, but he wasn't going to drive a bus or anything), and I ended up with three girls I knew pretty well. One was the girlfriend of Dave, a junior drummer. Another would hook up with Brady later that summer (a one nighter that happened at my place while my parents were out of town), and she was the driver. The other I knew tangentially.

I'd had a crush on the girl who ended up with Brady (it was a set-up one night stand, as both were kind of seeing other people) for a couple of years. But it was a weird crush because it was all twisted up with two other girls (non-band members) who were in my Junior and Senior AP English classes. I kind of saw the three as a triumvirate of unattainability. One of them liked older guys (and, I'm pretty sure, had an affair with one of the basketball coaches). The girl in band had a pretty steady boyfriend (but, as evidenced by the Brady thing, wasn't always faithful). And the other one was like Shannon Doherty at the start of Heathers: she was the wallflower of the bunch.

Rarely was I able to interact with them when they weren't all three together, and my mind kind of kept them as one big three-headed girl monster. Which, to a guy who was pretty intimidated by one girl at a time, was pretty damn scary. And, of course, intoxicating.

On the way up to Sipapu (which is a small ski area with attached hotel in Northern New Mexico, near the town of Mora, but really on a mountain in the middle of nowhere) one of the girls popped in Open Up and Say. . .Ahh! We all sang along, loudly. They were kind of astonished that I knew the songs. My voice (which, at the time, was probably a slight high harmony of Bret Michaels, because that's how I tended to sing along with songs) was described as "interesting." It was a fun time, and I was totally comfortable with these girls. As an added bonus, I was the only guy allowed to ride in a girl's car.

At a rest stop (the drive was over three hours) all the guys were kinda jealous (like they hadn't thought of the idea of driving up with girls) and then started making the kinds of jokes guys in high school make. Like we were having an orgy. Or I was some make out king or something. Of course, if there were any chance of that, I'm pretty sure the band director would have figured out a way to put a stop to it. But he probably thought I was gay. I was just a late bloomer (physically, I'd grow around four inches in height after high school). And I was a nice guy.

Which kind of sums up Poison, in a way. I mean, they came off as sex crazed maniacs (pretty much all hair bands had a component of this), but nice sex crazed maniacs. Who wore a lot of makeup. Which is why guys didn't like them, but girls found them irresistible. C.C. Deville was probably the outlier in this (and was the first to leave the band). He was kind of a rat with bleached blonde hair, and a hard East Coast accent. But he could play the guitar (and looked the part, as Slash realized when he auditioned for Poison before joining GN'R), and all 80s bands needed a hot guitar player.

Poison don't need nothing but a good time, which is their "Rock And Roll All Night". All good time bands need this kind of song in their arsenal. What are you rocking arenas for anyway, if not for a good time?

They tried to get grittier and rootsier (as many of the late 80s bands did…leaning on blues like they were all going to become the next Led Zeppelin), but it was when they were sexy goofy (or sexy sad, as with "Every Rose Has Its Thorn") when they were at their best. Open Up and Say Ahh! was the epitome of this side of Poison. It had a much more polished sheen than their first album (which is better in the way that Too Fast For Love is the best Motley Crue album), which made it more accessible. The album cover was somewhat grotesque with the tongue and all (later censored and then, after it all blew over, uncensored), but that seemed to work, too.

And without their cover of "Yo Mamma Don't Dance", I wouldn't have found out Kenny Loggins rocked in the mid-70s (before he started writing soundtrack hits).

On the way home (it was a good ski trip, snow was great, Sipapu is a really nice little hill), the girl who was going out with Dave mentioned that if I did one thing--just one thing--the girl who was part of the English class triumvirate wouldn't be able to resist me. Keep in mind this girl was driving and listening to the conversation.

"Really?" I asked, intrigued, of course.

The girl in question looked back at me (I was in the backseat), smiled and nodded.

"What is it?"

"I'm not telling," she said. "Because then I couldn't help myself." She was going out with a guy (and aren't they always going out with a guy?), so obviously this was a dangerous situation. There was some kind of verbal TNT I had in me, but had no idea how to light the fuse.

"That's not fair. You gotta tell me."

Of course, she wouldn't. And maybe she was just teasing me, because girls love to do that. And they certainly loved to tease me because I wouldn't get too pouty about it. But they tease because they mean it. It made me think, at the time, that there really was one thing I had to do to get over with girls. Just one magic word or deed or gesture. And once I learned that secret, I'd understand all, and the kingdom of girl world would be mine. And there is one thing, of course. You just have to go ahead and do it. Jump in there. Quit being so damn shy.

Took me a long time to figure that out. Much longer than the Senior Ski Weekend at Sipapu.

Poison as the original metrosexual rock gods? After Rob Halford and Stephen Pearcy. But other than that, sure.
Stephen Pearcy's right there. But Halford? Judas Priest is definitely a guy band.
Like Malcolm Forbes guy? Halford had the leather, the studs, the motorcycle. He was Freddie Mercury before Freddie Mercury.
Freddie. Forgot about him.
Judas Priest has been around since the early 70s. They did a Joan Baez song. What else do you need?
This is stupid. Judas Priest is not metrosexual. And neither was Poison, really. They just got made up for that first album cover. We're arguing about nothing. But just for nothing, how about David Bowie as the original metrosexual rocker?
Oh, yeah. I think we can agree there.

I'll accept the reference, since RARAN is actually used in the video for "Nothin' But a Good Time," whose intro also imitates--poorly--Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock". Still, this song actually does a better job of ripping off "Firehouse," a second-tier Kiss song. The riffage is almost identical, but Poison does speed it up a bit. Which is smart. Also, Poison doesn't bother with a b-riff for the verse. There's basically no rhythm guitar at all during the verse, which might have foretold Bret Michaels' recent conversion to redneck country rock. I dunno.
I'm talking more about personal style. Why on earth would you bring in musical theory when talking about Poison? That's like using Proustian analysis on a Tintin book.
Shout at the Devil is the best Crue album by far. Its songwriting far outstrips Too Fast for Love. LWTCDI has much better songs--the title track is by far the best thing the band ever recorded. And yes, I know what I'm saying when I say that. But I'm sure we'll wade through that album and the first two Crue albums (only) later.
The first Poison album is better (So that's what you meant by LWTCDI!). But we'll get to that later. As for Too Fast for Love, you're just wrong. Really wrong.

True that.