Christmas 1988: Rain Man, Working Girl and Beaches were doing big business at the box office, The Cosby Show and Roseanne vied for the most popular TV show of the year, and Poison had the #1 song in America with "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."
The song was actually the third single from the band's second album, Open Up and Say...Ahh! It followed the hit "Nothin' But a Good Time" and the decided miss, "Fallen Angel." The delay was due in part to the group's label feeling skittish about softening Poison's party-hearty image.
"One thing that Poison has been blessed with is having a pop sensibility, and I don’t mean that in a bad sense. We all know a good song when we hear it," drummer Rikki Rockett told AXS in 2018. "That song leaned in the saddle, and even the record company said, 'Are you sure you want to do this? This isn’t the band that we’ve been building up.' But we had played it live a few times and it had already connected with people. So, we told them it’s a ballad. We wrote it. It’s us and it’s a great song. We wound up getting our way."
Getting their way would pay off for everyone involved. Released on October 12, 1988, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" would cruise up the charts until it hit #1 on Christmas Eve of that same year. It would hang on to the top spot for three weeks, finally dethroned by Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" on January 14, 1989.
The chart-topping hit came directly from the life of Poison singer, Bret Michaels. On tour with the band during their pre-stardom years, he'd called a girlfriend back home after a club show in Dallas, Texas. During the conversation, he heard a man's voice in the background.
"I remember using a pay phone to call this girl I was dating. We were on the road, touring in our Winnebago, and my relationship was falling apart," he told Rolling Stone in 2010. "I still have the yellow legal pad I wrote it on. There are, like, a bazillion verses that I later edited down."
"Every Rose Has Its Thorn" stands as Poison's only #1 song, and it has stood the test of time well. The song was introduced to a new generation by MIley Cyrus, who covered the tune on her 2010 album, Can't Be Tamed. Bret Michaels was clearly impressed, with the pair connecting for a live performance on Good Morning America.