The Chaos In Poison’s 1991 MTV Performance

The Chaos In Poison’s 1991 MTV Performance | I Love Classic Rock Videos

via Rock N' Roll True Stories / Youtube

Glitz, glam, and power chords – that was Poison in 1991. MTV’s Video Music Awards were gearing up for a night of rock n’ roll royalty, and Poison, fresh off the success of their multi-platinum album Flesh and Blood, seemed a perfect fit. “Unskinny Bop” was a radio staple, dominating the airwaves with its infectious melody and playful lyrics.

The band, clad in their signature flamboyant attire, was ready to take the stage and solidify their place as hair metal titans. However, beneath the surface of teased hair and vibrant spandex, a different story was unfolding.

Rumors swirled that tensions were simmering within the band. Years of non-stop touring and creative differences were taking their toll.  Little did anyone know, the VMAs would become a stage not just for Poison’s music, but for the band’s unraveling.

What unfolded that night wouldn’t be your typical award show performance – Poison’s night at the VMAs would be a chaotic mix of miscommunication, musical mayhem, and a glimpse into the band’s fracturing foundation.

A Band on the Brink

Poison’s six years of relentless touring had taken their toll. Tensions simmered between frontman Bret Michaels and guitarist C.C. DeVille, fueled further by DeVille’s struggles with drug addiction.

Things reached a boiling point just a few months before the 1991 VMAs, with a physical altercation between the two musicians during a New Orleans show. The incident forced Poison to cancel the remaining dates on their Flesh and Blood tour, and whispers of the band’s demise began to circulate.

Fast forward to the MTV VMAs. Despite the mounting chaos, Poison was scheduled to perform their hit single “Unskinny Bop”. The cracks in the band’s foundation would become painfully evident during their live performance. Even before they took the stage, there were warning signs that this wouldn’t be a smooth night for Poison.

From a Chaotic Stage Performance to a Backstage Fight

As Poison was about to perform, there were conflicting accounts of the events that unfolded. According to one version, C.C. DeVille was reluctant to play “Unskinny Bop” and instead expressed a preference for “Talk Dirty to Me”. In another account, Bret Michaels’ invitation to the audience to “talk dirty to me” led to confusion for C.C. DeVille.

The concert took a chaotic turn when the band switched from “Unskinny Bop” to “Talk Dirty to Me”, during which C.C.’s guitar became unplugged. Arsenio Hall, the host, attempted to salvage the situation by reintroducing Poison for a second performance.

The turmoil didn’t end with the performance; it spilled over backstage where a physical altercation broke out among the band members. This incident marked a significant turning point, resulting in C.C. DeVille’s departure from Poison for a period that lasted nearly five years.

Shaking Things Up

Poison’s onstage antics took a dramatic turn after a particular performance. C.C. DeVille’s departure from the band was followed by the arrival of Richie Kotzen. DeVille, unfortunately, continued to battle his drug addiction while embarking on a solo career.

The band pressed on, releasing their album Native Tongue. This record marked a significant shift in their sound. While critics lauded the new direction, with the blues influence evident and the lyrics tackling more serious themes, the rise of alternative rock overshadowed the album commercially.

The carefree party anthems Poison was known for were replaced with a more introspective sound. However, just as things seemed to be gelling musically, Richie Kotzen’s brief tenure came to an end due to an off-stage entanglement with drummer Rikki Rockett’s then-fiancée.

The Rocky Road to Redemption

Poison started work on their sixth album, Crack a Smile, in 1994. However, recording sessions hit a wall in May when frontman Bret Michaels was involved in a serious car accident. He sustained a multitude of injuries, including a broken nose, ribs, jaw, and fingers, along with losing four teeth.

By 1995, the band was ready to get back on track with the album, but their record label had other plans. They saw a lucrative opportunity in a Greatest Hits compilation instead.

This move proved to be a wise one. Released in late 1996, the compilation soared to double platinum status, a testament to Poison’s enduring popularity. Interestingly, the same year saw the return of guitarist C.C. DeVille. He managed to mend fences with singer Bret Michaels, seemingly setting the stage for a potential reunion.