Fans of the subgenre typified by bands like Warrant, Winger and Great White tended to refer to it as “glam metal,” while detractors preferred the more derisive “hair metal.” But whatever you wanted to call it, the scene that bands like Mötley Crüe gave birth to in the early 1980s, and bands like Nirvana killed off in the early 1990s, probably reached its peak of popularity right around this day in 1988, when the band Poison topped the Billboard Hot 100 with “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” the group’s first and only #1 pop hit.
“Talk Dirty To Me” (1986) had been Poison’s biggest hit to date before the release of their second album, Open Up And Say…Ahh! (1988), which would eventually go on to sell more than 8 million copies worldwide. Although Open Up… did feature relatively hard-rocking arena anthems like “Nothing but a Good Time” and “Back to the Rocking Horse,” those songs came nowhere close to gaining the popularity of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” An acoustic guitar-driven ballad very much in the mode of Bon Jovi’s recent smash hit “Wanted Dead Or Alive” (1987), “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” tore up the pop charts in the fall of 1988 due to heavy rotation not just on pop radio, but also on MTV.
Like others of their ilk, Poison rose to prominence due in no small part to the enthusiastic, late 1980s embrace of glam metal by the Music Television Network. The popularity of early-MTV darlings like Duran Duran had faded; the grunge movement was still percolating up in the Pacific Northwest; and hip hop had yet to claim a big share of the commercial mainstream. During this period, an odd parade of teen idols (Tiffany, Debbie Gibson), resurgent 60s acts (Steve Winwood, The Beach Boys) and artists more difficult to classify (Rick Astley, Bobby McFerrin) made appearances at the top of the pop charts. But MTV, for its part, gave steadier play to glam metal videos than to any other style.
While Poison fared poorly commercially in the 1990s as popular tastes evolved, the group’s frontman, Bret Michaels, returned to the pop-culture spotlight in 2007 with the premiere of the VH1 reality series, “Rock Of Love.”