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Nitin Vadukul

Poison Free

When Poison infected music in 1986, heavy-metal bands ruled the earth, leaving us in a hairspray hangover. At the top of the metal heap stood Bret Michaels, lead singer of glam poster boys Poison, a band able to get every schoolgirl who pledged her allegiance to metal sent straight to the principal's office. With the help of Bobby Dall, C.C. Deville, and Rikki Rockett, Michaels managed to take over MTV, causing legions of girls to beg for one thing: Talk dirty to me. Poison continued to rack up the hits with songs like "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and the Greyhound bus runaway anthem "Fallen Angel." They forged on until the early '90s, when grunge finally wiped off all the glitter. For Michaels, though, it was not about the music. "I thought grunge music was great," he says. "What hurt a lot of the bands from our era was grunge marketing. When Gap had the baby grunge-wear line..."

For many of Poison's contemporaries in the early '90s, this meant trading in the leather chaps and scarves for the laid-off factory worker/woodsman look. But for Poison, that was really not an option. "With rock 'n' roll, we've always embraced what came along," Michaels says. "If you're passionate about what you do, then you stick to your guns and don't run around chasing everything, because then you just look like a dog chasing its tail."

Years later, the fickle public would embrace all things '80s, and a revival of sorts would happen for the hair bands of their day. Poison has continued playing sold-out arenas and plans to tour from 2005 until 2010 to celebrate its 20-year anniversary. But for now, Michaels is hitting the open road solo on the "Songs of Life" tour. "Playing in a club is absolutely a thrill for me," Michaels says. "I want it to be intimate. I want it to be the fans sweaty and up close."


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