Smith, who was about to father a child and was concerned about the band's future, returned to Pennsylvania. The band began auditioning replacement guitarists when Smith left the group. After narrowing down the candidates to three - Slash, who would later join Guns N' Roses, Steve Silva from The Joe Perry Project, and C.C. DeVille - the band eventually agreed that DeVille's "fire" made him the best choice.
The band began to gain notoriety on the Sunset Strip for its theatrical live shows and striking "glam" image, which included large amounts of makeup, hairspray, and strange clothing. Without money for effects, they would fill the stage with old Harleys and car parts, blow up car fuses, and pour confetti onto themselves from boxes in the ceiling.
During this period, Poison's manager negotiated a deal under which the West Hollywood club The Troubadour would pay for shows by covering the band's monthly rent and "recreation" bill. Ultimately, the shows drew sufficient crowds to enable the band to make a profit from them. November 12, 1985 marked the biggest show Poison had ever played, selling out two nights at the world-famous Troubador, with lines around the block. The band went on to play larger venues selling more tickets than many national acts who played the same clubs.
Michaels, Dall, Rockett and DeVille signed to independent label Enigma Records in 1986 for approximately $US 30,000. Their debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged In was released on August 2nd that year. It spawned four singles, "Cry Tough", which never charted, followed by three hits, "Talk Dirty to Me", "I Want Action", and "I Won't Forget You". The album sold poorly at first, but eventually peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 in May 1987. It went on to sell 6 million copies worldwide. The record's production would later fuel a public feud between the band and producer Ric Browde, who stated that Poison was a "triumph of image over substance" and that DeVille was the only member of the band who had any musical talent.
In 1987, the band recorded a cover of the Kiss song "Rock And Roll All Nite" for Less Than Zero's Rick Rubin-produced soundtrack. In the same year, a Geffen publicist successfully sued Michaels and Dall for assault after they poured a bucket of ice water over her at a party. The stunt appeared to have been in retaliation for various negative comments made about Poison by Geffen band Guns N' Roses.
Poison's third album, Flesh & Blood, was released on June 21, 1990. It also was highly successful, peaking at #2. It too features an alternate cover, as the original featured what appeared to be running ink or possibly blood from the tattoo. (Subsequent versions of this cover removed this "extra" ink.) The record went multi-platinum, spawning three gold singles: "Unskinny Bop," "Ride the Wind," and the ballad "Something To Believe In". The last single released was the title cut, "Flesh & Blood (Sacrifice)". The video was banned from MTV due to its explicit nature, but did surface later in the video compilation, Flesh, Blood & Videotape, in early 1991. The album's success prompted the impetus for a further world tour.
One of the band's few appearances in the UK was on August 18, 1990 at Donington's Monsters of Rock festival in the summer of 1990. Whitesnake headlined with Aerosmith, Poison, Quireboys and Thunder supporting them. This event was broadcast on BBC Radio 1.
Poison recorded a number of performances during its 1990/1991 Flesh & Blood tour which were released in November 1991 as their fourth album, Swallow This Live. The double album features live tracks from Poison's first three studio albums and four new studio tracks, which were the last recorded before C.C. DeVille's departure from the band later that year.
Poison's fifth album, Native Tongue, was released on February 8, 1993. It was strongly influenced by Kotzen's fresh songwriting contributions and guitar performance. It marked a change for the band as they abandoned their anthemic party tunes to focus on more serious subjects, and was far more blues-rock oriented than glam metal. Containing the single "Stand," the album received generally positive reviews, but sales were comparatively sluggish, selling only 1 million copies worldwide. The band toured in support of the album, but tensions mounted between Kotzen and the rest of the band. Kotzen's future in the band was doomed when it was discovered that he had become romantically involved with Rockett's ex-fiancée Deanna Eve. Kotzen was promptly fired, and replaced by Blues Saraceno.
Poison began recording their sixth album, Crack a Smile, in early 1994. Recording was brought to an abrupt halt in May 1994, when Michaels was involved in a car accident where he lost control of his Ferrari. Michaels suffered a broken nose, ribs, jaw, and fingers and lost four teeth. After his recovery in 1995, the band continued recording the album. However, in the face of 1980s-style hair metal being almost completely gone and with a shift in staff at the label, Capitol Records offered little support for a new Poison record. Recording the album was halted for a second time. Instead, the label opted for a Greatest Hits compilation, which featured a few new tracks with Saraceno on guitar. The record was released on November 26, 1996, and went platinum, despite the lack of an immediate tour to support the album.
Bret Michaels made his movie acting debut in the Charlie Sheen movie A Letter From Death Row in 1998, which he also wrote and directed. He also released his first solo album that year, which is the soundtrack to the movie. After seven years apart, Michaels and DeVille were able to patch up their differences later on that year. The Greatest Hits reunion tour finally took place in the summer of 1999. With the original lineup intact, Poison hit the road. The band's supporting tour was a success, with its show at Pine Knob Amphitheater in Detroit, drawing a sell-out crowd of 18,000. Tour dates averaged crowds of 12,000. A summertime appearance on VH1's Behind the Music appeared to solidify the reunited lineup's newfound popularity. The band resumed recording Crack a Smile yet again.
Later in 2000, C.C. DeVille released his solo album Samantha 7 and Poison also released Power to the People, their first album with DeVille in eight years. The record contained five new studio songs: "Power to the People," "Can't Bring Me Down," "The Last Song," "Strange," and "I Hate Every Bone In Your Body But Mine," the latter with DeVille on lead vocals for the first time. The remainder of the album featured live performances from tours during 1999 and 2000.
Poison's sixth full studio album, Hollyweird, was released on May 21, 2002. It was Poison's first full album of new material with C.C. DeVille back in the band. The album was heavily criticized by both critics and fans, feeling it had poor production quality and an unimpressive new sound. Other reviewers were more impressed, such as Allmusic, who declared it "one of their best records, if not their best."
Poison released their second compilation album, Best of Ballads & Blues, in 2003. It contains a new acoustic version with new lyrics of "Something to Believe In" and acoustic version of "Stand." Bret Michaels also released his 2nd solo album Songs Of Life. On January 7th that year, after almost 20 years with Poison, Rikki Rockett released his first solo album Glitter 4 Your Soul which was distributed online. The album was a tribute to 1970s glam rock.
During the summer of 2004, Poison were invited to serve as the opening band on Kiss's “Rock the Nation” tour. Apart from the release of Bret Michael's third solo album, the country-rock-influenced Freedom Of Sound, the band were largely inactive for 2005.
"Nothing But a Good Time" is featured in the 2003 film Grind. The song comes about when Joey Kern's character put in a Poison CD, which made everyone in the van start to sing the song and air guitar the solo.
After a year off, Poison returned to the music scene. They celebrated their 20th anniversary with a "20 Years Of Rock" tour in the summer of 2006, with fellow rockers Cinderella and Endeverafter opening. The tour swiftly became one of the most successful tours of 2006 in the U.S., averaging about 20,000 people per night. To complement it, the band had released an anniversary compilation album The Best Of Poison: 20 Years Of Rock, in April that year. The album also features a new track, a cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band", produced by Don Was. The compilation debuted at #17 with a first week sales total of 39,721, which marked Poison's return to the top 20 charts for the first time since 1993.
On August 1, 2006, Capitol Records released remastered versions of the first three Poison albums: Look What the Cat Dragged In, Open Up and Say...Ahh! and Flesh and Blood, in honor of Poison's 20th anniversary. All three include bonus tracks. Look What the Cat Dragged In features the extra track "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," Open Up and Say...Ahh! (which uses the previously banned album cover instead of the censored one) has the extra track "Livin' For The Minute" and an interview with the band, and Flesh and Blood features two extra tracks: an alternate version of "Something to Believe In" and an instrumental cover of the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen".
DeVille appeared on VH1's reality television show The Surreal Life in March that year, the same day he got out of rehab. "Your Mama Don't Dance" was played in the movie "RV" in 2006.
During the show in Atlanta on August 25th that year, Bret Michaels and Bobby Dall had to be separated by members of the road crew and the rest of the band after the two came to blows right before the encore, with Michaels throwing his mic at Dall, and Dall retaliating by slamming his bass into Michaels, injuring his knee. Michaels apologized later and stated, "You may have just seen the last concert by Poison in its current formation". The altercation happened before the band's set ended with "Talk Dirty To Me". After some tense moments and Michaels' apology to the crowd including his explanation that "like brothers, sometimes you have to air things out", the band did finish the set. Dall left the stage immediately. There have been many physical conflicts within the band over the years, but this is the first onstage since the fistfight between Michaels and Deville at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1991, but that took place after the performance, not during. The band took time out while Michaels continued with his solo tour.
On January 3, 2007, Poison announced on their official MySpace page that they would like their fans to help pick favourite classic rock songs for the new studio album that they are to record. The fans replied with suggestions like Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird", The Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz", and AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long", along with what might be an obvious choice - Alice Cooper's "Poison". On January 28th, Rikki Rockett explained,
On February 14, 2007, it was announced by VH1 that Bret Michaels is going to have his own reality show called Rock of Love with Bret Michaels, where women will have to compete for his love and prove they can keep up with his rock star life. Rock of Love premiered on July 15, 2007.
During 2007, Poison went on a summer tour with Ratt. They released their covers album, now named Poison'd!, on June 5th through Capitol Records. White Lion was removed from the tour due to legal issues, and Vains of Jenna took their place. The August 2nd sold-out show in at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre St. Louis, Missouri was taped for a live concert DVD and for a HDNet Concert special called: POISON: LIVE, RAW & UNCUT that will debut on October 26th as part of Heavy Metal Halloween. The band also appeared that night on the channel's Sound Off with Matt Pinfield.
The band played at the Rock2Wgtn rock festival in Wellington, New Zealand, on the weekend of March 22-23, 2008. The festival also included fellow legendary rockers KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Whitesnake, and Finnish hard rock act Lordi.
Poison have been confirmed that they are playing at the Sweden rock festival 2008. Sebastian Bach is slated to be the opening act on this Summer's 2008 Poison tour, also featuring Dokken. This is somewhat controversial as Bach has been vocal about his dislike of Poison in the past, but apparently he was able to bury the hatchet with the rock band for a Summer tour in North America. Bach will also open for Poison and co-headliner Tesla at the 2008 Lions Club benefit concert in Greenville, Wisconsin.
On March 28th that year Rikki Rockett was arrested on suspicion of rape in Los Angeles after getting off a flight from New Zealand. According to police reports, a woman in Neshoba County, MS, filed a report stating that on September 23, 2007, Rockett sexually assaulted her in his room at the Silver Star Hotel & Casino located on a Choctaw Indian reservation. Rocket was exonerated of all charges on May 22, as it was discovered that he was not in Mississippi during the time of the alleged rape, and that a man by the name of John Minskoff used Rockett's name when he met the woman before raping her.
Bret Michaels also starred in Rock of Love 2, both seasons ended up being very successful and lead to a solo compilation album which featured a few new tracks heard on the series. The album was titled Rock My World and released in June 2008.
Poison live DVD, "Live Raw Uncut", released on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008, was filmed in St. Louis, Missouri during the Poison'd tour in 2007. This DVD/CD set will be initially exclusive to Best Buy stores and will include behind-the-scenes footage as a bonus feature as well as a live audio CD with selections from the concert. It sold around 2,400 copies in its first week of release to debut at position No. 8 on Billboard's Top Music Videos chart.