“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison

Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”‘ is, of course, a heartbreak song. The narrative reads like the singer and the addressee, his lady, are in a troubled romance, where she eventually decides to move on to “somebody new”. And this story is actually based on what the singer, Bret Michaels, was going through with his real-life girlfriend at the time.

The Story

It all begins with the vocalist acknowledging something like a spirit of discontent extant between him and the addressee. Or put more poetically, even though they are “close together”, they “feel miles apart inside”.  And the singer seems pretty convinced that this situation is his fault. He “tried not to hurt” her, but apparently his bad side took over at points, and he said things which had that effect anyway.

Meaning of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”

He then proceeds to point out in the chorus that “every rose has its thorn”. Within the context of the passage, that metaphor can be interpreted like ‘every good thing has its caveat’. Or more specifically to the matter at hand, ‘every romance has its downside’. 

But once again referring to Michaels’s real life, it wasn’t necessarily as simple as that. Rather he attributed the disintegration of the relationship this song is based on to the fact he had to tour. 

That was around the time that Poison – and as such his music career – were just taking off. So such is actually what the “rose” is meant to symbolize – his budding career, if you will.

"Every Rose Has Its Thorn" Lyrics

Thus the “thorn” would actually be the fact that as a result he couldn’t hold on to the woman he loved. And the way the narrative of the song reads, Bret comes off as if he had known then what he knows now, then he could have saved the romance. But in the real-life case, it was more like he discovered his lady did in fact ‘find somebody new’ in his absence. 

So it wasn’t a case of him being abusive or aloof but rather he not being around. But you know, this is pop music we’re dealing about here. And at the end of the day, it’s as if songwriters are always compelled to try to present matters more romantically then they may actually be.

In Conclusion

And even with the above information in tow, ultimately the meaning of the titular metaphor doesn’t really change anyway. It still points to the idea of nothing, not even love so to speak, being perfect. 

And along those same lines, even though the narrating character tries to identify his faults, he doesn’t really come off as being toxic or anything like that. He has more or less made the same relationship mistakes that we all do. In fact according to the fourth verse, perhaps the biggest mistake he made in this case was hooking with the addressee in the first. For considering how easily she has been able to leave him, now he has concluded that unlike himself she was never really vested in their relationship in the first place.

Achievements of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”

This track is considered to be one of the greatest power ballads of all time. It is also the signature song of Poison, a band which traces its origins back to early-1980s Pennsylvania. 

This may not be a group that most of us heard of, but they were really poppin’ during the late 1980s. For example, all of their first 3 albums made it onto the top 3 of the Billboard 200. And this particular track is from their second full-length, 1988’s “Open Up and Say… Ahh!”, which was a quintuple-platinum hit in the United States.

And as implied, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was a pretty big hit itself. It actually marks the only time Poison has been able to top the Billboard Hot 100. It also caught on in quite a few other countries, such as peaking at number two on Canada Top Singles. And it has celebrated on rankings by institutions such as VH1 and MTV.

Adding to the notoriety of this track is the fact that Miley Cyrus covered it, as featured on her third album, “Can’t Be Tamed” (2010).  And the tune has made an appearance on a number of movies and television shows, including the following:

  • Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (2005)
  • South Park (2007)
  • Glee (2010)
Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Writing and Production Credits for “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”

For the most part, Poison has enjoyed steady membership throughout the decades. In fact the four members of the crew when this song was dropped still make up the band as of the writing of this post in 2021. They are as follows:

  • Bret Michaels (vocalist)
  • C. C. Deville (guitarist)
  • Bobby Dall (bassist)
  • Rikki Rockett (drummer)

And three of them, DeVille, Rockett and Michaels, are the credited writer of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”, though Bret Michaels is recognized as the tune’s primary author. And the producer of the track is Tom Werman.

As for the real-life story which inspired Bret Michaels to pen Every Rose Has Its Thorn, as the story goes one day while out on tour he called his girlfriend from a pay phone (as cellies were non-existent back then). And depending on which version you subscribe to, either he heard a dude in the background, or a dude actually answered the phone of his girlfriend’s apartment. Either way he was devastated, as illustrated in the lyrics.

What Poison's Bret Michaels said about "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"

Release Date of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”

This song came out, via Capitol Records, on 12 October 1988.

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