1988 Countdown #38: Poison, “Nothin’ But a Good Time”

(New to the countdown? Catch up here.)

goodtime01In 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.)

gt03We 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.

gt06“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.

gt07The 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.

gt09Guitar 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.

gt10The 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.

gt11The 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.

posted 19 September 2013 in 1988 and tagged , , . 16 comments

16 Comments on 1988 Countdown #38: Poison, “Nothin’ But a Good Time”

  1. Chris M. Says:

    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.

    Because it was the first single from what became their biggest album—after Cat exceeded everybody’s expectations, Enigma/Capitol clearly sunk the big promo bucks into Poison—it’s basically a meta-song about awesome songs—like you said, a total “Let’s not fuck up the setup.”

    You can sort of tell the label told the band to write a first single, and they dutifully complied. It’s the pop-metal equivalent of “My Single Is Dropping,” the faux single by 30 Rock‘s Angie Jordan (Tracey Jordan’s wife) on her reality-show-within-a-show Queen of Jordan (cf. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxOF7y7_-5o). This song exists because a first single needed to exist.

    For me, re: Poison singles from this album, it’s “Fallen Angel” > “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” [big gap] > “Nothin’ But a Good Time” > the cover of “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”

  2. azul120 Says:

    At the very least, as far as hair metal hedonism went, this was arguably the genre at its most unpretentious and egalitarian. That moment where Bret lip-synchs the first “and it don’t get better than this” pointing the rest of the band in the background pretty much establishes that laid-back, feel-good vibe.

    This was quite the MTV staple, actually transcending its ranking here, which was partly on account of same artist separation for lack of better term. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”, their even bigger hit, is still incoming on this list, needless to say. Later on though for a little while, this was the more popular video by MTV’s oft-revisionist standards, as it was their highest ranking video for a couple years in the all-time video lists. (The video ranked #32 on the Top 100 of the ’80s countdown in November ’89, while “Thorn” was #54.)

    The video went to #3 on the top 20, outranked by two bands that were already hotter than hot: #1 “New Sensation” from INXS, and the #2 but otherwise already dominant “Pour Some Sugar On Me” from Def Leppard.

    Funny thing: “Talk Dirty To Me” never charted on the countdown despite heavy rotation and going top 10 on Billboard. It did make the ’87 list at #42. (“Can’t Forget You”, which went #6 on MTV, was #76 on the list.)

  3. Geno Says:

    What a great article. Not exactly sure what this site is dedicated to, but my friend Heidi Metcalf posted it on my FB wall. Great memories… I was in fact the dishwasher in this video. As far as the green screen notion, NOPE, it was all live. Very cool shot because not only did we shoot the one-er but they had to time the playback sync so I could KICK the door right on the down beat.

    Another cool note, at least from my POV, is that the original script cut back to the dishwasher who was going to THROW A STACK of dishes at the restaurant owner. I thought it was a pretty violent ending and probably NOT the best solution (my filmmaking senses were already germinating) so I suggested a different ending to the director. Where cutting back to the dishwasher he’s surrounded by the confetti now falling all about him and he’s much HAPPIER and completely satisfied because of his (dream?) experience of getting “Poisoned” at work.

    Anyway – thanks for the little walk (or should I say side-step, twirl, high-kick) down memory lane. Any other questions about this vid or my other 80’s MUST SEE VIDEO (You’re All I Need) by Motley Crue – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSLMAwIdUe0

    Cheers and keep up the great writing!

    Geno Andrews

  4. Gavin Says:


    Thanks for commenting, and giving us the behind-the-scenes scoop!

    I am glad to hear it was all one take–that’s much cooler. (I think I got fooled by the different lighting setups in the kitchen and the stage sets–my eye didn’t accept the transition when I was watching over and over.)

    Do you remember who directed the video? Or who played the boss? And did you have any impression of the guys in Poison on that day?

    And this site isn’t always sure what it’s dedicated to itself.

  5. Geno Says:


    Don’t remember the director or the lead guy. But everybody seemed to be connected to Wayne Ishim who was pretty much THE VIDEO director of the 80’s for MTV. I actually think I got the job cause Wayne hired me for the Motley Crue video. I have COUNTLESS little stories about the band. Hung out a bit with Bobby Doll and really picked his brain about their whole game plan for “Making it.” Pretty simple plan, really, SCREW EVERYBODY. Not just chicks, mind you… the goal was to pay first and last on a place. Then STAY THERE and not pay rent till they got evicted. They were dedicated to making the system PAY for them till they made it. I guess in many regards it worked.

    CC was just New York through and through. Doing all kinds of dangerous stuff. Right after lunch he decided (against the wishes of everybody) to climb to the top of the lighting rig with his guitar. He got up there, scaring the crap out of everybody, and yelled, “TOUCH-UP!” meaning he wanted the make-up artist to come up and hit him with some rouge. The director said, “As long as he’s up there let’s get the shot…” And that’s that one shot you see in the clip. Not planned… just CC doing his thing.

    His issues with H didn’t come till much later. At the time he was pretty much just crazy. He said to the make up artist (who was pretty hot…) “You got a little New York in ya?” She said no. He said, “You want some?” Big laugh cause he was crude but funny.

    Bobby was really the leader. Ricky was just a bit of an ego. Didn’t talk much to anybody. And I don’t even think Brett stayed around for anything when the cameras weren’t rolling.

    Fun shoot over all. Certainly got me in the door of some clubs when it was in rotation 17 times a day. Oh… the glory days!

    Keep up the good work. I did a weekly pod cast for 52 weeks. It’s a lot of work. Good job!


  6. Chris Molanphy Says:

    Just wanna add my thanks to Geno for the awesome stories and echo Gavin’s amazement that the kitchen backroom and concert stage really were all one set. Awesome.

  7. azul120 Says:

    Neat story. Did you ever see the Pop-Up Video they did, and if so, how much truth was in there? The only annotation I remember was that the crew aimed the lights at C. C. on that rig shot as payback for causing them shenanigans or something.

    I’ve heard straight from my brother who has worked with him as cameraman that Wayne is quite the character. And from the MTV

    According to the mvdbase though, the video was directed by Wayne’s frequent DP, the sadly departed Marc Reshovsky. (He also directed “I Remember You” from Skid Row and “Eyes Of A Stranger” from Queensryche.)

    Of course, Marty Callner (Aerosmith, Whitesnake) subsequently became their go-to guy for the rest of their heyday.

  8. Geno Says:

    Marc Reshovsky sounds about right. Didn’t know he’d passed. But my guess is many have from those days.

    No recollection of anyone aiming lights at CC up on the rig. I do remember the director freakin because they were NOT insured for that. I do remember them asking CC to come down and him NOT being very agreeable. (Surprise surprise)

    So they got the shot, as long as he was up there anyway, and the rest is history.

  9. Gavin Says:

    One more question while we have your attention, Geno: Any memories from the Motley Crue shoot?

  10. Geno Says:

    Wayne Ishim did that video. Lots of great stories.

    1) Of note, Nikki Six (at that time in their careers) was very strung out. Sure he was flying during that entire shoot. As a matter of fact, 20 years later, my son and daughter and Nikki’s daughter were going to the same grade school. Round Meadow in Calabasas, CA. He was there at a father meet father thing at the school. (Very sober and actually very much together at this point… which was about 4 years ago.) Anyway, I walked up to him, introduced myself and reminded him that we’d met on the set of “You’re All I Need” – BLANK EXPRESSION… he remembered NOTHING. I don’t even think he remembered the shoot at all. Or the song… Ha!~

    2) I was in make-up next to Mick Marz (spelling?) on one of the shoot days and he was by far the most sociable. I’d been a Crue fan since their first record. (As a matter of fact, Roy Thomas Baker REMIXED their first record and I actually liked the first version better. But I guess the label didn’t. Anyway, I met Roy cause my mom was decorating his home in Bev Hills/Bel Air and I went along to meet him and pawn off my early demos as a singer/songwriter…surprise surprise…but I digress.) So I asked Mick, “So what were you doing before Motley Crue?” (I’d also told him I was front row at Wolf & Rissmillers for one of their EARLY shows years before, so he knew I was a long time fan) He leans in quietly and says in hushed tones, like it was a dirty secret, “I was playing 6 nights a week in a disco band…” Ha~

    And thirdly, a story somewhat indirect,but certainly worth listening to can be heard here.

    (Warning: I did a 52 week podcast based on some of the stories in my life. Usually a related quote and always ending with a joke. Not all are G rated, but there’s always something cool to glean from. My Motley Crue experience was the center of this episode.)



  11. Ben Franklin Says:

    The fact that people can intellectualize 80s hair metal proves that you can intellectualize anything. Holy Crap, I’ve never felt that art was so trivial until just now. Thanks a lot!

  12. geno Says:

    Hey Ben… you can intellectualize even the most mundane of things if you’re actually trying to make a point. With the vast majority of audiences it actually helps. Just ask Barack. And anything as subjective as art is usually pretty trivial in the scheme of things.

  13. Alfred Says:

    Oh man! So glad this is back.

  14. Gavin Says:

    Fitfully! (Book and magazine deadlines take precedence.) But yeah, me too.

  15. Alfred Says:

    btw look what I found on Wikipedia: charted hit videos or winners of a major MTV Video Music Award that were not included on the year end countdown. Here are 1988’s:

    1988 The Cure Just Like Heaven
    1988 John Cougar Mellencamp Cherry Bomb
    1988 LL Cool J Going Back to Cali
    1988 Pink Floyd On the Turning Away
    1988 REM It’s the End of the World As We Know It
    1988 White Lion Wait

  16. Chris M. Says:

    I think at least a few of those videos were ’87 cusp hits—Cure, Mellencamp, L.L., R.E.M.—so if MTV were looking for stuff to toss to cut the list down to 100, they were expendable.

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