Poison's Bobby Dall on the Band's Glam-Rock Early Days

Poison Photo by Mark Weiss
The rockers of Poison have been dressing like macho bikers for so long that most fans have forgotten the bandmates were once synonymous with androgynous, glammed-out hair rock. "It was a statement," bassist Bobby Dall explains while recalling fashion choices such as hair spray, lipstick, and spandex. "Back then, [the '80s] album covers were a huge ad. The cover of Look What the Cat Dragged In made people stop and ask, 'Are they boys or girls?'"

Though Dall says he prefers their more casual dress now, there was a single-minded purpose to their attention-getting attire of the past, right from their beginnings in the heartland town of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. "We were glam from the start. People used to throw rocks at us, but we didn't give a shit. We had a vision. We didn't care what people thought of us."

In 1983, Dall, singer Bret Michaels, and drummer Rikki Rockett made the move west to California in hopes of fulfilling their rock-star ambitions. After they met guitarist C.C. DeVille, they began their slow ride toward world rock domination. Dall looks back fondly on their days of struggle. "We all lived together until that first album broke, first in a warehouse where we built bedrooms and a rehearsal space. Then eight or nine of us all moved into a space in the Hollywood Hills. You learned real quick not to need privacy. But when you're hungry, life is at its peak. We were struggling to eat and achieve our dreams."

In 1986, with the release of Look What the Cat Dragged In, those dreams came true. Songs such as "I Want Action" were on the radio and MTV, and their musical hero Ozzy Osbourne became a fan. Things blew up in 1988 with Poison's second album, Open Up and Say... Ahh!, which was buoyed by the chart-topping ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."

Thirty years later, the same four members are still playing those hits together, a true rarity in the music business. "The only way I can describe keeping a band together is it's like having three wives," Dall says. "You have to work through things... We need to keep the original guys together because success begets success."

Dall is looking forward to their Hard Rock Live show, not only because it's the final date of their most recent tour, but also because it's close to his Florida home. "I lived in Melbourne as a kid. I moved back there in 1989 to save on taxes and because I like the heat and the humidity." That's probably especially true now that he and the rest of Poison don't have to worry about their makeup melting.

Poison. With Cheap Trick. 7 p.m. Sunday, July 1, at Hard Rock Live at the Event Center, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood; 954-327-7625; Tickets cost $70 to $130 via
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novels, The End of the Century and Yo-Yo, are available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland