The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
POISON – LOOK WHAT THE CAT DRAGGED IN (1986)
My personal renaissance with Poison continues this week! I’ve looked at both the Open Up and Say…Ahh! and Flesh & Blood albums in the series in recent weeks. I had planned to write about this album sooner than this but the two previous cassette copies I’d purchased were damaged beyond use so I had to dig to find another copy before I could finally write about the album.
The first thing I realized when looking at the liner notes was that it was released the same year as Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time album. This struck me a little funny because it at least explains why I definitely gave Look What The Cat Dragged In such short shrift when it was released. Well, at least in part anyway. I’d venture to say the excessive makeup the band wore probably played a part in why I didn’t really become an overly vocal fan early on.
But I will say that as I listened to the album here, I can recall how I would listen to the various songs from the album (when they’d play either on radio or MTV) in the comforts of my house and sing along to the lyrics. This would be a good thing for all involved since I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
Since I never owned this album before now, it was a bit of a surprise to me to see how front loaded the album is. The album saw four songs released as singles and three of those tracks are the first three songs in the album’s running order. Also surprising is the fact that the album is barely more than 30 minutes long.
While “Cry Tough” didn’t chart as a single, it’s lead slot on the album is noteworthy because it is a damn good song. I actually found that I enjoy it better than some of the band’s more successful songs. “I Want Action” was moderately more successful but still wasn’t on the Top 40 singles chart. Still, that song could pretty much sum up the early part of Poison’s career and songwriting focus if you wanted to do so. As with all bands in the decade of “hair metal”, Poison had a big ballad track on the album and that was “I Won’t Forget You”. It was the fourth of the four singles and ended up going to #13 on the singles chart.
Taking just those three songs alone, you’d have a solid album side for sure. Of course, you had two more tracks to go on Side One. I thought the rocker “Play Dirty” was energetic enough but there was something about the song that just didn’t really jibe well with me. But the album’s title track is a different matter. I wonder why the song wasn’t chosen as a single because the fast rocking pace and incredibly catchy chorus seems tailor made for chart success in the 1980’s. To this day, I still here it on specialty radio shows and it brings back many memories of growing up in the decade where metal ruled the world.
The second side of the album kicks off with one of Poison’s biggest hits “Talk Dirty To Me”. If there’s one song to single out as grabbing the public’s attention, I’m sure this song is the one that would be chosen to represent Look What The Cat Dragged In. I may not have been too effusive in my love of the song when it was released but I’m sure my 15 year old brain couldn’t get enough of this one.
Since I never owned the album before, it was particularly noteworthy to me when I realized that after “Talk Dirty To Me”, the rest of Side Two featured songs I can’t recall ever hearing before. These “new-to-me” discoveries included “Want Some, Need Some”, “Blame It On You”, “#1 Bad Boy” and “Let Me Go To The Show”. The first three of those songs are pretty good rockers but I can understand why they are pretty much album tracks. But I thought the really speedy delivery of “Let Me Go To The Show” had a little something extra working for it. It’s got that necessary driving rhythm but tons of melody with an almost tongue-in-cheek set of lyrics. I think if I’d heard it before now, I would’ve really enjoyed it a lot.
According to the Wikipedia page for the Look What The Cat Dragged In album, singer Bret Michaels called or calls the album a “glorified demo”. I can kind of see what he means because there is definitely a slightly rawer cast to the band’s sound as opposed to their later releases. But I think it works to the band’s favor, even nearly 35 years later.
The story of Poison is extremely well known by this point but it is definitely worth the look back at their beginnings to see just where it all started for them. And if you are like me and only really knew the stuff that saw airtime on radio and MTV, you get a fuller picture of all the material on the album. For me, that paid off quite handsomely as I got to see just what they had to offer from the get-go.
This renaissance I’ve been on with the band has proven to be a rather exhilarating experience and I’m glad that I’ve taken the time to do it. What did that cat drag in? One of the better representatives of the entire 80’s metal genre it would seem!
NOTE OF INTEREST: The album has sold over four million copies since its release. A 20th anniversary edition was released in 2006 with three bonus tracks including a cover of the Jim Croce song “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”.