The classic Poison lineup — and, consequently, the late-‘80s hard-rock scene — would have looked a lot different if Bret Michaels had gotten his way.

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Michaels and Poison drummer Rikki Rockett discuss the band’s formative years in the aptly titled Nothin’ but a Good Time, Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock’s new oral history of the ‘80s hard-rock zeitgeist. After original Poison guitarist Matt Smith left the band to spend more time with his pregnant girlfriend, the glam rockers auditioned several up-and-coming guitarists on the Sunset Strip.

The shortlist of candidates included Slash, who ultimately turned down the gig because he “didn’t like that whole [glam] thing.” The job instead went to C.C. DeVille, whose mile-high hair and flame-painted Charvel guitar perfectly matched Poison’s campy aesthetic.

Michaels, however, wasn’t sold on DeVille at the beginning.

“I got where Slash was coming from. But Bobby and Rikki saw it with C.C. It was one of our first arguments in the band,” the frontman said. “Because Slash fucking killed it. C.C. came in and barely learned our songs. He started playing his own stuff. He was like, ‘I’ve got these other songs! You gotta hear ‘em!’ We immediately butted heads.”

It could have been worse: Rockett said the song DeVille brought to his first rehearsal turned into "Talk Dirty to Me," which became the band's initial Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Michaels’ admiration for Slash is no secret. He told the Austin American-Statesman in 2012, “Slash is one of my all-time favorite guitar players, and I believe he would have steered our sound a little more in the Aerosmith direction. He was basically the same guy he is today. What you see is what you get. It never really had a chance to work out or not. The band decided C.C. was the best choice for us."

Slash seemed to know DeVille was the right guy for the job as well. "He clearly fit the part better than I did," the guitarist noted in Nothin' but a Good Time. "I mean, he came in with his hair all done up, he had all the right clothes and was wearing stiletto heels."

Losing the Poison gig to DeVille allowed Slash to focus on music that was more his style. He gigged in a few other bands before joining Guns N' Roses and becoming one of the most famous guitarists in the world.

 

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