[Mourning Jams] Day 19: “Poison”

October 2019 is a celebration of horror and musicThis October, Daily Grindhouse is celebrating the collision between music and horror with a series of posts under the banner of Rocktoberfest 2019. There will be daily features, recurring bits, and some special posts around the subject.

Mourning Jams is your daily kick off every morning with a different music video that has some horror elements to it. Crossing genres, decades, and more, it’s a good way to get in the spooky mood this Halloween month.

“Poison” is an interesting track from Alice Cooper. While it has a lot of his signature sound he developed since the early ’70s and horror imagery in the lyrics, it is also something of a re-branding for the hair metal/Guns N’ Roses L.A. rock scene at the time, trying to meld both sensibilities (while also ditching make-up not unlike his KISS compatriots). “Poison” was the first single off of Cooper’s eighteenth (!!!) album, Trash, in 1989 and ended up being one of the shock rocker’s biggest hits in the United States and the United Kingdom. It’s a pretty straightforward song about a toxic relationship, but with very dramatic lyrics about how having feelings for this person is torturing Cooper, poisoning him, chaining him up, whipping him, and more. The song was written by Cooper, John McCurry, and Desmond Child (who wrote “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Living On A Prayer” for Bon Jovi, and produced Bat Out Of Hell III for Meat Loaf).

“Poison” would end up have three different music videos that are just variations on each other. They all feature Cooper wandering around a bunch of hanging chains (evoking HELLRAISER, released just two years prior), standing in front of his band with flowing cloth (?), and also shots of a scantily clad woman (Rana Kennedy) who is seducing and attempting to murder Cooper. The differences in the videos is that in first version, the woman was topless often (those shots were not Ms. Kennedy, but a body double). Obviously, that wasn’t going to get a lot of airplay…so it was recut a couple of times to make it more palatable to be aired in the afternoon on MTV and on VH1 20 years later.

“Poison” was directed by Nigel Dick, who has made literally hundreds of music videos—including “Wonderwall” by Oasis, “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” by Celine Dion, “Believe” by Cher, “Broken” by Seether featuring Amy Lee, and a Britney Spears tetralogy of “…Baby One More Time,” “Sometimes,” “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” and “Oops! I Did It Again.” That’s a lot of range. From what can be discerned, Dick also directed two features—2005’s CALLBACK and 1996’s THE ELEVATOR. Not to be confused with Dick Maas elevator films DOWN and/or THE LIFT, THE ELEVATOR is a comedy with a very peculiar synopsis:


Things are going swimmingly for the film producer Roy Tilden, his last film is a success and he will soon receive an award for it. But his perfect day changed quickly when he takes an elevator with a keen writer. Directly after the door is closed, the emergency stop button is pressed and he is caught with a bunch of mildly different people


“Mildly different?” The tension leaps from the page! Cooper was always a pioneer in stage performances, and even turning his “Welcome To My Nightmare” song/tour into a long-form video that would act as a precursor to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Kanye West’s “Runaway.” It’s not Alice Cooper’s most horror-centric song, but “Poison” is certainly a fun return to the Sunset Strip of the late ’80s with a venomous bite to it.

Tune in tomorrow and every morning in October for a new music video to help start the day on the frightening foot as Halloween swiftly approaches.

Rob Dean
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