27 Years Ago: Poison’s ‘Open Up and Say … Ahh!’ Album Released
The four painted faces of Poison‘s Bret Michaels, Bobby Dall, C.C. DeVille and Rikki Rockett made their debut in 1986 on Look What the Cat Dragged In, but it was the band’s follow-up LP that sealed their fate. Open Up and Say … Ahh! was released on May 3, 1988, crowning Poison the kings of rock’s glam revival.
But it didn’t come without a fight. Open Up and Say … Ahh! was clouded in controversy from the start. Mega-retail outlets like Walmart banned the album for what they considered inappropriate cover art, loudly steered by groups like the pesky PMRC. Tame by modern standards, the cover features a devilish-looking and crazy-haired crimson vixen with a tongue that would give Gene Simmons a run for his money. Hardly scandalous today, but game-changing in the pre-iTunes era, Poison’s record company offered a censored version of the album cover that hid the offensive tongue, exposing only the she-demon’s eyes.
The ban only added to the band’s rebellious spirit. With songs mostly focused on sex, good times and general debauchery, Open Up and Say … Ahh! spawned four monster hit singles that benefited from MTV’s around-the-clock exposure.
The album was supposed to be produced by Paul Stanley. But because of schedule conflicts, the Kiss singer was replaced by Tom Werman, whose work with Mötley Crüe and Cheap Trick suited him for the job.
Open Up and Say …Ahh!’s first single, “Nothin’ but a Good Time,” remains a party staple decades after its release, and it showcases the band’s general disposition: Play hard, party harder. The second single, “Fallen Angel,” reveals a softer side of Poison, drawing on the members’ personal experiences of relocating from rural Pennsylvania to Los Angeles, putting everything on the line for their dreams. In a more literal sense, the song relates the fall of a wide-eyed girl embarking on the Sunset Strip.
But the album’s third single has proven to be its timeless classic. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” remains a cornerstone of the ‘80s power ballad. It’s the band’s only No. 1 single, and it still has the ability to get hundreds of folks to fire up their lighters (or smart phones these days) in unison. The record’s fourth and final single, a pumped-up cover of Loggins and Messina’s “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” made it to No. 10.
But as hard as it tried, Open Up and Say … Ahh! couldn’t knock Bon Jovi‘s New Jersey out of the top spot, so it had to live with a No. 2 showing. The glam revival would come to a halt once grunge kicked in and took over, but Poison would release five more albums over the next 15 years. After going through some lineup shakeups, mostly due to DeVille’s substance-abuse problems and his departure from the band in 1991, a reunited Poison have hit the summer touring circuit the past few years, sparking a bit of a rebirth. The loudest cheers still greet this album.
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