Hair Metal Happy Hour

WHY POISON WERE BETTER WITH ANY GUITAR PLAYER WHO ISN’T C.C. DEVILLE, PART 1: RICHIE KOTZEN

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As much as I love glam’s favorite apparently-playing-with-broken-fingers’d clown, C.C. DeVille, there is really no denying that Poison made their least annoying — if also least famous — music without the Brooklyn-born junkie.

To wit: 1993’s Native Tongue, the band’s first (of only two) albums written and recorded without DeVille. After expiring the man born as Bruce Johannesson for excessive drug use (a true feat amongst hair metal bands), Poison hired blues shredder Richie Kotzen — then just 23 years old, nearly a decade younger than his new bandmates. Unlike DeVille, Kotzen’s playing wasn’t obnoxious, and his guitar tone was warm, and fluid. He also happened to be a better singer than Bret Michaels, as evidenced by his vocal performance on songs like “Bring it Home” and “Seven Days Over You.” Native Tongue is no masterpiece — this is Poison we’re talking about, after all — but it does feel more like a real, honest to goodness hard rock album than the cotton candy confections for which the band is known. Hell, I even seem to recall Alex Sklonick endorsing it in an issue of Guitar World.

Unfortunately, as we all learned from VH1’s Poisoned edition of Behind the Music, Kotzen’s tenure with the band was short-lived, as he was fired for “unskinny bopping” Rikki Rockett’s then-fianceé. (I was recently offered the opportunity to interview Kotzen, but declined. For I could think of no question I wanted to ask him besides, “Was shtupping Rikki’s woman worth it?”) He was promptly replaced by Blues Saraceno, who had previously auditioned for, and lost, the gig to Kotzen. Sadly, Saraceno’s time with the band was given even less time in the spotlight than Kotzen’s. And I’ll talk a little bit about that later this week.

-AR

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