Hair Metal Happy Hour



Read part one, regarding Mr. Richie Kotzen, here.

The story of Blues Saraceno’s tenure with Poison is a sad, sad story indeed.

Saraceno was a solo instrumentalist, kind of in the vain of guys like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, but really more like Kenny G. Saraceno released three albums on Guitar Recordings between 1989 and 1994: Never Look Back, Plaid, and Hairpick. Although his guitar tone was certainly unique and his magazine ads brandished a hyperbolic endorsement from Dweezil Zappa (I don’t remember it exactly, but it was something along the lines of, “This guy is so good I wanna punch him.”), I’m not entirely convinced that anyone really cared about who he was for any reason other than he kinda looked like Slash. (To your left is the largest photo of Saraceno in his Slash phase that I was able to find. Seriously.)

ANYWAY, I didn’t know this back when I bought Plaid in 1992 based on a glowing recommendation of Guitar Dork magazine, but Saraceno also made money as a session musician, playing on such incredibly irritating songs as Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time” and Taylor Dane’s “You Can’t Fight Fate.”

And then C.C. DeVille got kicked out of Poison, and somehow the poor bastard lost the job to Richie Kotzen. Luckily for Poison, though, Saraceno wanted to be rich and famous badly enough that when things didn’t work out with Kotzen, they were able to get Blues in the band tout de suite.

And then, tragically for Blues, he recorded an album with Poison, Crack a Smile, that never got released.

Because hair metal wasn’t selling anymore, Capitol dropped Poison after Crack a Smile was completed, and the album didn’t see the light of day for years. He did some shows with the band, but I dunno who the fuck went. He was also on an episode of Mad TV with the group — but I can’t even find it on YouTube. A couple of songs found their way onto the greatest hits package Capitol released to complete their contract with Poison, but no one really noticed. Meanwhile, semi-complete bootlegs of Crack a Smile were traded over the internet for years — I know, because I had one. I had to send a copy of one of my finest GN’R live bootlegs to obtain it. (See? Tape trading wasn’t just a thrash and death metal thing.)

While Poison were waiting for Crack a Smile to apparently never come out, they split with Saraceno and reunited with DeVille. Capitol finally released Crack a Smile as Crack a Smile… and More! in 2000, after VH1’s Behind the Music brought Poison back into the spotlight. But I’m sure it was something of an anti-climax for Saraceno.

I know that Saraceno still makes his living as a musician (along with Josh Freese, he played on Melissa Ethridge’s 2004 album, Lucky), but I’m sure Blues is bummed that he never quite managed to fill C.C. DeVille’s, or Richie Kotzen’s shoes. Crack a Smile is somewhere in-between the Kotzen sham-soulful era and the DeVille ridiculous pop metal era, and I think around 1991ish or so, people would have reacted really strongly to it — but it never got its moment in the spotlight. As it stands, it’s the album hardcore fans bought to get Poison’s MTV Unplugged performance. Oh well. Still better than Hollyweird.


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