The Last Hair-Metal Band: Inside Poison’s Never-Ending Party

Poison, music, hair band, rolling stoneRolling Stone tagged along on Poison’s recent tour to find out how Bret Michaels & Co. turned a string of Eighties hits into a never-ending party.

Inside a room inside an arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, the guys from the ancient Eighties hair band Poison are going about the rigors of the traditional meet-and-greet with fans, all of them putting on a good, enthusiastic show but only one of them really flinging his heart and soul into it. That would be Bret Michaels, 54, Poison’s lead singer and star attraction, a frazzled upbeat guy who loves nothing more than plumping the crowd on behalf of his band, which, against all odds (cocaine addiction, backstage fistfights among band members, Michaels’ Ferrari wrapped around a telephone pole, the usual), has never broken up and is now touring the country once again, in the company of Def Leppard, with the boys about to give a pretty good indication of what it’s like to be the sole survivors of an epoch better known for men wearing lipstick and leg warmers than for its music, especially now that Vince Neil and Mötley Crüe have, at long last, disappeared from the scene.

“Yeah, man,” Michaels is saying. “I mean, the other day, I said to Vince, ‘Vince, you guys, just get together again and go out again in three months.’ He’s like, ‘No, we’re fucking done, man. We’re done.’ So, you know, I really didn’t think about it until just now, but from that time period, yeah, we really are the last band standing.”

Along the way, of course, they’ve had any number of touch-and-go moments. In the early days, after they hit it big with their first album, 1986’s Look What the Cat Dragged In, which spun off three hit singles, it was all about the perils of excess. In more recent years, it’s basically revolved around Michaels’ desire to tour solo, leaving guitarist C.C. DeVille, bass player Bobby Dall and drummer Rikki Rockett scratching their heads and not knowing what’s what. Then, two years ago, Rockett developed oral cancer, which he has successfully battled. And for the past decade or so, Michaels himself has gone from one health scare to another, the biggest of which was a 2010 brain hemorrhage that nearly put him down for good.

He’s looking pretty peppy today, though, his trademark super-duper long hair (half his own these days, the rest “the finest European extensions that money can buy”) held in place by his customary bandanna and cowboy hat, as he bounces around the meet-and-greet room two hours before the tour’s first show, full of hyperactive ADD energy and big smiles, him and his boys shaking hands with fans and striking rock-god poses for group pictures.

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