“Poison” is one of Alice Cooper’s most famous songs, and he teamed up with two powerhouse songwriters, Desmond Child and John McCurry, to create it.
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Though a shock rocker onstage, Cooper is also an evocative songwriter behind-the-scenes, having a hand in crafting one of his biggest hits. Cooper is widely known as “The Godfather of Shock Rock” with his elaborate stage shows featuring his signature black eye makeup and onstage tricks like a fake guillotine and a giant Frankenstein monster. With 28 albums to his name between his solo career and tenure as frontman of his band Alice Cooper, the legendary rocker is also known for hits “School’s Out,” “Feed My Frankenstein,” “Only Women Bleed,” You and Me” and more.
In addition to “Poison,” Child co-wrote all but one of the songs on its parent album, Trash. He also produced the project. Child is no stranger to writing hits songs, ranging from Bon Jovi to KISS to 1980s pop crooner Michael Bolton. Among the other widely known songs he’s written include Bon Jovi’s signature smash, “Livin’ On a Prayer,” “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” by KISS and the Latin-influenced 1990s hit “Livin’ la Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin. He also saw much success with Aerosmith, penning “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” “Angel,” “Crazy” and others.
Prior to his songwriting success, he was the frontman of the R&B band, Desmond Child & Rogue. The group released two albums under Capitol Records in 1979 and was featured on the soundtrack of the thriller The Warriors before disbanding in 1980.
Child was inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame in 2008 and is co-founder of the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame. Joan Jett’s signature hit “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” Cher’s “Save Up All Your Tears,” Sisqo’s “Thong Song” and Carrie Underwood’s “Inside Your Heaven” are among the other wide-ranging songs Child is behind as a writer and producer.
“Writing with Alice and producing this rock masterpiece was one of the most exciting and creative experiences of my life,” Child shared in a 2019 Tweet in honor of the album’s 30th anniversary.
Rounding out the “Poison” trio is McCurry, who didn’t just have a hand in writing the lyrics, he’s also the mastermind behind the song’s signature guitar riff that blends Cooper’s rock edge with pop appeal. In addition to being a hit songwriter, McCurry was the lead guitarist for funk-rock band Cool It Reba that was popular in the New York City club scene. He joined the band for only a year in 1983 before they broke up in 1984.
He was also a touring musician, playing guitar in bands for Cyndi Lauper, Anita Baker and English rock star John Waite. McCurry also wrote on “I’m Your Gun” on Trash, and penned several tracks for Waite and John Lennon’s son, Julia Lennon. As musician, McCurry’s guitar skills can be heard on albums by Cher, Billy Joel, Bolton, Belinda Carlisle, Bette Midler, Baker’s Rhythm of Love, the album he toured with her as part of the live band, and many more. He also plays on “Poison” co-writer Child’s only solo album, Discipline.
In an interview on Take 5, Cooper hails Child as a “song doctor,” noting that when he listened to “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “I Hate Myself For Loving You” and others that caught his ear, Cooper realized that Child was the “common denominator.”
“I want that, but I want a darker, sexier sound for Alice,” Cooper recalls of what he told Child when they first met. After three days of writing, they finally found the song that would become one of Cooper’s biggest hits.
“‘Poison’ was that dark, sensual, come hither song,” the singer explains. “It was an immediate hit. It was one of those songs that just went through the roof all over the world…the message was ‘you’re poison, I love you, but I know you’re going to kill me’ and everybody has been through that.”
“Poison” hit the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, one of only three of Cooper’s songs to achieve the feat, and No. 15 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
Photo Credit: Jenny Risher / Courtesy of Atom Splitter PR