Poison made their mark by dressing like porn actresses do (before they undress) and polishing glam rock down to radio-friendly Hollywood pop-metal. As band guitarist Cecil C. DeVille will tell you, it’s pretty hard to live down a past like that—he’s certainly endured a lot of criticism since the ’90s, and been the brunt of one too many jokes in magazines like this one. So to make it up to him, we’ve decided to give him a special—and 100-percent genuine—tribute. Besides, he’s fresh off an appearance on the new Motörhead disc. And if you can see past the show-biz antics and Fraggle-like looks, it turns out C.C. actually knows a lick or two.
10“Fallen Angel” This is the signature C.C. DeVille rhythmic motif if there ever was one, and in it he plays the sus4 chord up to arena-rock anthem proportions. Interestingly, his attention to composition carries over to his solo, where he begins by riding a few sustained notes, saving the burst of speed for the last possible moment.
9 “Talk Dirty to Me” Sure, the intro riff sounds suspiciously close to the riff from “Personality Crisis,” by glam godfathers the New York Dolls. But with one bold, highly nuanced pick scrape—one of the longest in recorded history—DeVille ushers in a whole new era of glam. What’s more, the lyrical assortment of double-stops in his solo saved Christmas that year.
8 The “Cherry Pie” solo Guitar nerds speculate how many takes C.C. would do before getting a guitar solo right. Many figure well over 100. But check this out: legend has it that Warrant had to call DeVille in to play this one in the studio. In fact, neither Joey Allen nor Erik Turner of Warrant even attempted to mime C.C.’s lead in the video. Ironic indeed.
7 “Swampjuice (Soul-O)” Give the blond balm-shell an acoustic guitar and he spits out Nashville guitar licks with heavy-metal ’tude in a Jimmy Page-like reworking of a country blues. It takes some serious technique to pull this stuff off without the help of electric effects.
6 C.C. smokes the competition on VH1’s Rock & Roll Jeopardy! Depending on how you look it, DeVille either established himself as an erudite, pop-culture scholar, upstaging the Police’s Andy Summers on this game-show from 1998, or embarrassed himself royally while in the giddy throes of drug addiction. Either way, it was entertaining as hell.
5 “Unskinny Bop” Outside of Angus Young and Eddie Van Halen, how many rock players have successfully built a hit song around a busy riff full of hammer-ons and pull-offs? Think about it. In addition, the solo suggests that at the time C.C. was becoming a fan of Vernon Reid’s avant-metal freak-outs.
4 “Something to Believe In” In a power ballad fraught with spiritual crisis, DeVille’s emotional solo is a veritable reaffirmation of faith. And there’s more than a little David Gilmour in those long, languorous bends.
3 “Nothin’ But a Good Time” Recalling the classic-rock glory of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting),” DeVille’s suspended riff and big-ass tone hold this three-chord wonder together. Really, his sound is the musical embodiment of the song’s title—which was itself the band’s modus operandi. It’s a profound talent to be able to voice the unspeakable with your instrument, and C.C. had it.
2 “Life Goes On” This could be DeVille’s crowning moment as a lead player. In fact, his phrasing here—drawn-out bends interspersed with exceedingly melodic bursts of speed—recalls Brian May’s style. Yes, that’s high praise, C.C. Also of note is his keen sense of rhythm; intentional or not, his lines are delightfully unpredictable when they go against the beat.
1 C.C. punches out Bret Michaels and quits Poison in 1991 Who didn’t see this one coming? For a band with that many ridiculous personalities and giant egos on board, there was only one way for things to end: in a total train wreck. Yet we can assume this is the moment C.C. first saw the light at the end of the tunnel.