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In a busy restaurant kitchen, a hulking blonde dude leans over a sink full of dirty dishes, listening to Poison’s cover of “Rock and Roll All Nite.” He has pulled his hair back in an unsuccessful attempt at a ponytail. A busboy with a neat dark ponytail–a fellow rocker who is doing better fitting into the workplace–drops off some more dishes and says, “Hey, man. Better get jamming. Nick’s on his way back here.”
Nick, a pugnacious boss in a sports jacket, promptly comes through the swinging kitchen door and flicks off the radio. “Hey, you!” he barks at the dishwasher, pointing at him. “I told you before: I’m paying you to wash dishes, not to listen to that, that rock ’n’ roll.” He gestures at the radio. “I got a whole restaurant full of people out there. You’re moving in two speeds: slow and stop. Now either get your butt in gear or you’re out of here! Get it? Move!”
While the dishwasher doesn’t seem to be doing a particularly efficient job, he also doesn’t have a good workstation–his sink could really use one of those high-power sprayers. He’s got a clean stack of dishes lined up on the right side of the sink–why isn’t anyone coming to take them away? I think we have to conclude that this backlog is actually a high-level management failure on Nick’s part.
As Nick leaves, the dishwasher angrily turns the radio back on. The song has ended and we hear the DJ: “–rockin’ Saturday night. Now for all of you out there slaving on the job, here’s some Poison to get you thinking about those good times!” The dishwasher takes off his apron, throws it down, and kicks open a door (not the door that leads to the restaurant). This works as effectively as if he were entering a wardrobe in search of a hair-metal Narnia: a guitar riff begins, and through the doorway we see Poison onstage. (I long believed that the director built the kitchen set and the Poison set right next to each other on the same soundstage, but on closer examination, I think this is a post-production green-screen effect.)
We get instant rock excess, in the form of spotlights, neon-green logos, and the four members of Poison themselves. Their first album, Look What the Cat Dragged In, was pretty much a full-length tribute to girl-group records, complete with “Be My Baby” drums and wedding bells, so it only seemed fair that the members looked like girls themselves. In 1988, for their second record, Open Up and Say… Ahh!, they dialed down the cross-dressing, but the band members lived in the corner of a Venn diagram where “lipstick” and “spandex” and “insane peacock guy fashion” intersected.
So we cut between the members, with their hair teased as high as gravity will allow. C.C. DeVille poses with his guitar. Rikki Rockett stands up and twirls his sticks. Showers of fireworks pour down from the lighting rig–in many other videos, this would be the climactic moment, but for Poison, it is only the starting point.
“Oooooeaaahyuh!” Bret Michaels screams as three members of Poison jump off their stage. He does a split on the way down, or at least gestures in the direction of a split. They run forward in slow motion, fireworks cascading behind them. Narrative bookends aside, this is a straight-up performance video, but Poison are determined to fill every split second of it with glitter and insanity. Before there’s a single lyric, they’re hopping around, spinning, and sliding on their knees across the stage.
“Now listen,” Michaels sings. “Not a dime, I can’t pay my rent / I can barely make it through the week / Saturday night I’d like to make my girl / But right now I can’t make ends meet.” While he delivers this extended rock ’n’ roll zeugma, the band jumps and spins around, looking young and skinny. Michaels is in a t-shirt and ripped jeans, and has a bright-green microphone stand that matches the Poison logo on the drum riser, and DeVille’s guitar. DeVille himself is in black leather, while bassist Bobby Dall has patterned leggings and an acid-washed denim jacket, and appears to be on a work-exchange loan from the Bangles. Before we even reach the chorus, Michaels is in his second outfit of the video: this one has a red leather vest, black fingerless gloves, and a red military-style cap. It looks like the winning outfit on a Project Runway episode where the assignment was “slutty stewardess.”
“If you could hear me think, this is what I’d say,” Michaels sings. Isn’t the whole point of oral communication to let people know what one is thinking? Is he lamenting that he doesn’t have telepathic powers, or just restating the first principles of spoken language?
Before the chorus finishes, we get the third outfit for Michaels: sleeveless black shirt, lots of bracelets, gray fedora. Only seconds later, he introduces his fourth look, which features round sunglasses and a floppy asymmetrical hat that balances on top of his head like a mattress on a bottle of wine.
The song is a tasty pop-metal lollipop. The band senses that stardom is within reach, and they’re not going to miss out for lack of effort. The three non-drummers do a Temptations-style routine, stepping left in unison, doing a synchronized high kick, and finishing with a pirouette. “Gotta get a break from–” Michaels sings, and then thrusts the microphone forward so DeVille and Dall can lean in and sing “the same-old, same-old.” The fifth outfit for Michaels features a paisley headband.
Bridge: Michaels grabs his grey fedora off the neck of DeVille’s guitar. “You see, I raise a toast to all of us who are breaking our backs every day,” he sings, managing to sound completely sincere. “If wanting the good life is such a crime, Lord, then put me away!” He punctuates this sentiment by pointing into the camera, showing off all the jewelry on his right hand, and then throwing his hat at the camera.
Guitar solo. Lots of quick cuts, many different guitars–but as far as I can see in this video, DeVille can only cross the stage from the audience’s left to their right. Presumably whenever he reaches the right side of the stage and is in danger of falling into the crowd, a roadie picks him up and carries him back to the left so he can start all over again.
“Guitar,” Michaels announces, proving that he has hung around rock bands long enough to differentiate one instrument from another.
The big finale: DeVille plays the song’s central riff. The camera pulls back to show that behind him Michaels is pumping his microphone stand in the air and Dall is following suit with his bass. The drums make a whooshing sound–I suspect that producer Tom Werman flipped the tape and we’re hearing them played backwards. More fireworks go off–they’re synchronized to the drums, although the calisthenics of Michaels and Dall are not. Cut to DeVille, playing a pink guitar on top of the lighting rig. Spotlights wheel around, the camera spins, and metallic confetti rains down upon the band.
The song ends with a flurry of fast cuts and the band taking a bow. We cut back to the kitchen, where the dishwasher is leaning against the sink. The power of Poison hasn’t cleaned the dishes for him, but he looks up at the ceiling, blissed out, as some of the metallic confetti rains down upon him. “Now don’t you feel better?” the DJ says. “Nothing like a little rock ’n’ roll to get the juices flowing, and speaking of juice, we have a juicy weekend coming up, highs in the eighties, lows in the sixties–personally, I prefer the highs.”
Nick returns into the kitchen. “Hey, you!” he complains. Then he notices the confetti floating in the air. He looks perplexed, and wanders off. Our dishwasher hero never says a word the entire video: his boss and the DJ speak to him, but Poison speak for him.
“Nothin’ But a Good Time” made it to #6 on the Billboard singles chart. (Poison’s followup single was “Fallen Angel,” seen previously on our countdown.) You can watch it here.