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musicNEWS: Poison Pen? Authorship of Poison's First Hit In Question


02-08-04 Keavin
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Did Poison write their first hit song? Now 18 years after the song “Talk Dirty To Me” helped make Poison stars, the authorship of the song has been called into question. 

A few weeks ago we ran a press release* in our Day In Rock report (see story) about the debut novel, “The Devil of Shakespeare” for rocker Billy McCarthy (the artist formally known as Billy Dior from the band D'Molls, which released two albums on Atlantic records in the late 80s.)  We subsequently received a package in the mail containing a CD-rom that included a video of “Talk Dirty To Me” reportedly being performed by the band Screamin’ Mimi’s in 1984, which featured McCarthy and Poison’s C.C. DeVille. 

The package did not contain a return address and the accompanying note was not signed. The note said that the sender had seen the article on Billy McCarthy’s new book and thought that we might find the video and an mp3 of the radio interview on the CD-rom “interesting”. This person claims to have worked with Screamin’ Mimi’s and alleges that McCarthy played a part in the writing of “Talk Dirty To Me” with DeVille. 

Due to copyright issues we are unable to provide the video here but here is a brief description.  It begins with a splash screen that says “Screamin’ Mimi’s Rehearsal ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ 1984”. The video is rather dark but you can make out C.C. DeVille playing guitar and the vocalist is obviously not Brett Michaels. This rendition of the song is extremely close to the Poison version which kicked off their rise to stardom. 

Obviously, we are unable to authenticate the video or when it was recorded. However, DeVille gave a radio interview where he mentioned the video. More on that later.

Billy McCarthy’s official website (BillyMcCarthy.com) includes a detailed bio of his musical career. According to that bio, DeVille was originally in the band Kid Rocker with McCarthy before that group broke up in the spring of 1984 and the core of the band (DeVille, McCarthy, & bass player Tracey Stevens) formed a new group called Screamin’ Mimi’s which brought in vocalist Sten Serrensino.

According to the McCarthy bio, “DeVille brings McCarthy one of the first songs he has ever written. He calls it ‘Talk Dirty To Me’. McCarthy structures it musically and arranges it.”

However, when the song was later released on Poison’s debut album, “Look What the Cat Dragged In” the authorship of the song, as all others on the album, was credited to the entire band. There is no mention of McCarthy. 

Also included on the disc was a clip from the “National A&R Radio Report”, a syndicated radio show that McCarthy used to host. In the clip McCarthy is conducting a phone interview with DeVille, who was out of Poison at the time.  (No date was given for this show, it appears to be sometime in 95/96 when Blues Saraceno was in Poison). 

Although DeVille did not directly confirm that McCarthy specifically played a part in the writing of “Talk Dirty To Me”, he did say that McCarthy should have received money from Poison “for that first album”. Deville also confirmed that there were video tapes of Screamin’ Mimi’s performing “Talk Dirty To Me”. (So it is a good chance that he was referring to the video sent to us.)

Here is a transcript of the conversation (click here to listen in real audio)

[Billy asked C.C. how many albums Poison had sold in their entire career and C.C. answered 20 million records.] 

Billy (jokes): “I haven’t made $20 thousand dollars in my career yet”. 

C.C.: Let me tell you something Billy, for that first album you should have made some money. 

Billy: I know

C.C.: …[can’t make out, perhaps “tell”] the story

Billy: Was I an influence on you?

C.C. Billy and I used to play in the same band. 

Billy: Yes we did, we played in Screamin’ Mimi’s 

C.C.: And it was an excellent band. In fact, we have video tapes of us doing “Talk Dirty To Me”. 

Billy: Yes, we do, there is actual tapes of that. Was I little bit of a writing influence on you?

C.C.: Well, well, well Billy I’d love to say yes because I mean it would be your [can’t make out]

So the video and this interview do raise some interesting questions. It appears that at the very least DeVille brought the song from Screamin’ Mimi’s to Poison when he joined. Just how big a part in the writing of that song McCarthy played is not clear beyond McCarthy’s claims to have arranged and structured it, but DeVille did say that McCarthy should have “made some money” from the first Poison album. Perhaps he was alluding to “Talk Dirty to Me”?  Or maybe there are some other songs on that album that McCarthy should have received some credit for? 

We will attempt to contact both camps for comment or clarification on this issue (see note below). 

*It must be pointed out that Vpublicist, a subsidiary of iconoclast entertainment group, the publishers of antiMUSIC, was previously retained to distribute the original press release for Billy McCarthy’s novel that was also printed in the Day In Rock report. However, since then McCarthy has changed publicists and we are trying to track down his new representatives as well as the publicist for Poison for comment and clarification on this issue. We will post an update with what we hear back. So this story may not be over quite yet.

Update: We published the following update in our Day In Rock report on 2/18/04

A couple weeks ago we ran a story at antiMUSIC about questions that were brought up about the authorship of Poison's first hit "Talk Dirty To Me". (click full story link below to read that article) We attempted to contact both sides to get their side of the story. We did email Bret Michaels publicist but never heard back. But we do have an official response from the Billy McCarthy camp. Below is a statement issued by his publicist on Wednesday.

Statement from Billy McCarthy spokesman John Digles regarding the recent controversy over authorship of the hit song "Talk Dirty to Me."

We have received numerous inquiries regarding authorship of the hit song 'Talk Dirty to Me.' Billy McCarthy played an important role in the sound of 80's rock as founder of D'Molls and in his work as a composer, drummer and producer with some leading rock bands. Billy thanks the fans for their interest and support. In recognition of his friendship with C.C. Deville, Billy is declining to comment on the story at this time. Fans who want a first-hand look at Billy's writing artistry should check out his debut novel, The Devil of Shakespeare, due this June. You can also preorder the novel on www.amazon.com and www.billymccarthy.com. The authorship of that work is not in question.

Screamin' Mimi's Circa 1984

l-r, stevens, serensino, mccarthy, deville

Billy McCarthy 2004


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