When vocalist Bret Michaels, drummer Rikki Rockett, bassist Bobby Dall and guitarist C.C. DeVille, better known as Poison, exploded onto the music scene in the early ’80s, no one knew the magnitude of their presence. Originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the band set out for the Los Angeles music scene and the rest, as they say, is history. The band has achieved great success over the years and has sold over 30 million records worldwide. Their debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged In (1986) took the world by storm and put Poison on the map as one of the most iconic bands of the ‘80s with hits such as Talk Dirty to Me, I Want Action, I Won’t Forget You, and Cry Tough. In support of Look What the Cat Dragged In, their first major tour came in 1986 and 1987 with Ratt, Cinderella and Loudness.
Their second album, Open Up and Say…Ahh! (1988) proved to be their most successful album ever with the hits Nothin’ but a Good Time, Your Mama Don’t Dance, Fallen Angel and the ever-popular ballad Every Rose Has Its Thorn, which has been their biggest hit to date. In support of Open Up and Say…Ahh!, Poison toured in 1988 and 1989 with David Lee Roth, as well as with Lita Ford and Britny Fox.
The band’s third consecutive multi-platinum selling album, Flesh & Blood (1990), included the hits Unskinny Bop, Ride the Wind and Something to Believe In. On that tour, which ran from 1990 to 1991, they went out on the road with Warrant, Don Dokken, Alice in Chains and Slaughter. This band has an extensive history; as they are known for their great songs and enthusiastic live shows. It’s easy to see how the band has managed to tour almost constantly from the time they arrived in Los Angeles back in 1984.
Reminiscing with Poison bassist Bobby Dall, about the band’s beginning, their long and successful career and their current summer tour, one can only imagine what it truly must have been like and the fun they all had. The Rock of Ages Tour with Poison, Def Leppard and Lita Ford kicked off in Salt Lake City, Utah earlier this summer. Of the first show, Dall said, “It was fantastic…it was exciting. The first one you’ve always got the butterflies…the nerves of getting everything right. It was great and went off without a glitch.”
When Poison came together in Pennsylvania, they had no idea that they would quickly become one of the most successful bands of this generation. Dall has always been passionate about music from a very young age; most of his childhood was spent in his bedroom playing guitar for hours on end and influenced by many different musicians in his formative years. “I’ve been playing guitar since I was 11 or 12 years old,” says Dall, ”I made the decision to switch to the bass and gave it a run and never looked back…and here we are. I was just a young kid who sat in his room for eight hours every day and I was very reclusive and just sat in my bedroom and went out and bought records and played my guitar and bass to albums all day…and that’s how I got started in music.” As far as bass players go, Dall loves the ones who play straight ahead rock ‘n roll. His favorites include Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Duff McKagen (Guns ‘N Roses, Velvet Revolver) as well as the bands of the ‘70s such as Aerosmith, Van Halen, Cheap Trick and KISS, all of whom greatly influenced Poison’s music.
From the very beginning, the band’s collective dream was to be able to play their original music, which was and is hard for musicians first getting their start in the business. The band always had high aspirations and they didn’t want to be just another “bar” band. Each one of them had stars in their eyes at an early age. “In the beginning we played all original music,” laughs Dall, ”In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, we couldn’t get that many shows so we learned like ten cover songs and when you’re a cover band you got to play three nights, so we would just play the same ten songs three times and throw in all of our original music.” Smart move; integrating cover songs into their set list quickly guaranteed them more gigs and more gigs meant more exposure.
In a move that would change the history of the Los Angeles Sunset Strip music scene forever, Poison made the decision to move to Los Angeles in 1984. “We wanted to get into the original music circuit and it was either Los Angeles or New York City,” States Dall. ”At the time, Los Angeles was where the bands were breaking out of…and going to New York would have been too easy to just go back home.” Though many people may not know this, prior to their move, the band was originally called Paris but changed their name to Poison. “Even though it was an easy decision, there was a lot of hard work that went into carrying it out,” says Dall. At the time, the Los Angeles music scene was producing some of the greatest and most successful rock bands of all time including iconic bands such as Motley Crue, Ratt and Quiet Riot. The guys sold everything they owned and pulled their money together to get to the City of Angels. “We left Harrisburg in an ambulance that Rikki Rockett owned and it was converted out to an equipment van!” said Dall with a hearty laugh. “ I think I had a 1978 Chevy that I bought from my grandmother.”
Once in Los Angeles, Poison proved to be excellent self-promoters, which only confirmed the great drive they each had. “We opened up for the band, Kix, three or four times and we would promote our own shows by renting out roller rinks or community centers; things like that…we were just self-promoters.” states Dall. “We would rent buildings and we just wanted to play our own music.” Poison’s drive and determination catapulted the band to success in a short amount time. They spent all of their spare time passing flyers out up and down the Sunset Strip and performing in the historic rock clubs along the boulevard.
I was 19 years old when I moved to Los Angeles. There isn’t much I have not seen or participated in…
Fans of the ‘80s rock scene will undoubtedly remember the cult classic documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. The film centered on the Los Angeles music scene from 1986 through 1988, and featured interviews with members of Motorhead, Aerosmith, KISS, Megadeth, W.A.S.P., and, of course, Poison. Of the film, Dall said that he hadn’t watched it for over ten years. “I remember it being a fun interview and I remember us all laughing and joking around.” Talking about what it was like to be such a big part of the ‘80s music scene on the Sunset Strip, Dall said, “…it was amazing. I was 19 years old when I moved to Los Angeles. There isn’t much I have not seen or participated in…The ‘80s were such a time of fun. Not to sound corny but it really was nothing but a good time.”
The band kicked off their summer by attending the Hollywood premier for the movie, Rock of Ages, and performing along side Def Leppard at the premier party. The movie features songs Poison put on the musical map; Nothin’ But a Good Time, Every Rose Has Its Thorn and Talk Dirty to Me. “If you go see Rock of Ages – which I have and like and I think it’s a fantastic film,” says Dall “it really does capture a lot of the essence of what the ‘80s was about…the overindulgence of just about everything. It was about fun. It was about anthem rock and good time rock n’ roll…it’s fabulous to be a part of it.”
Poison has remained relevant throughout the years no matter the many trends have come and gone, which brings to mind longevity; the band’s strong song repertoire has helped to keep them on everyone’s radar. “I’d like to say it’s because we’re blessed,” says Dall “I think that’s the most humble reason I can give you…we’ve been blessed with longevity in our career.”
Poison has always been a great band to see live and Dall definitely has his favorite songs he loves playing to the fans including, Look What the Cat Dragged In, Ride the Wind and We’re An American Band. Needless to say, Dall started listing all the songs off the current set list stating his favorites of the week.
Being able to live his dream of being a rock n’ roll musician, Dall’s triumphs and tragedies have been many on the road he’s traveled but coming through the other side and looking back, he’s earned the life experiences to give advice about the music world; for everyone not just musicians. “Always follow your dreams and passions, and follow them to the fullest,” states Dall “from day one, we thought we were rock stars.” When one looks at this band’s story, where they started, and where they are today, it’s impossible not to see the reality of a dream come true.
When not on the road, Dall is definitely the most private of the four band members spending all his spare time with his family. “I spend a lot of time with my children,” says Dall. ”I have a 21-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter. Most of my time outside of Poison has been spent raising my children and being a father. It’s probably the best job anyone could ever ask for…they are the true loves of my life.”
…it should be illegal to have as much fun as we do, and in fact, I think in some cases it is!
It goes without saying that music will forever continue to be a large part of his life as he is constantly inspired by new bands, including Black Veil Brides because “they’re Motley Crue twenty years later!” states Dall. “I love everything…Weezer, Green Day…I like all kinds of music and a lot of people won’t admit that…I love Avril Lavigne and Britney Spears just as much as I love AC/DC and KISS.” It’s very apparent that Dall is extremely happy where he has been and the future ahead. He is very down to earth, friendly and talked about playing music for a living. “It’s one step from being illegal and in my opinion it should be illegal…we really should be in jail…it should be illegal to have as much fun as we do, and in fact, I think in some cases it is!”
Over the years, the members of Poison have conquered addictions, illnesses, surgeries, lawsuits and personality conflicts. However, they consistently continue to break new ground and rise above the ashes. Poison will continue to stand the test of time; this iconic band definitely made a place for themselves in the annals of rock n’ roll history.