Skid Row: ‘Skid Row’

Released on January 24, 1989 (Atlantic Records)

The debut of Skid Row has many memories for me. I was a sophomore in high school when it was released, and I remember sitting in the school library during study hall arguing (quietly, of course) with my friends about the best songs that were out, along with discussing which video would top the Dial MTV show. I remember many times, some of the girls at our table would argue (loudly) over who was the better singer at the time, Jon Bon Jovi or Skid Row‘s Sebastian Bach. A few years ago, I listed this release on my blog as one of the best albums that listeners must play through without skipping a song — not just in the hard rock genre, but in any music genre. The debut of Skid Row has been a treasure to me for many years.

The opening track “Big Guns” starts with a creeping guitar riff that prepares the listener for singer Bach‘s grovel voice until he starts hitting his high notes. The song introduces the audience to the power of the band’s angry street like attitude that continues throughout the release. Everyone I knew at the time tried to scream and hit the notes like Bach and play pretend singer. This was one of the tracks they tried to imitate. Track two, “Sweet Little Sister,” keeps the flow from the opening track with a punk feel. Drummer Rob Affuso‘s work on the toms is powerful, with the duel guitar work of Dave Sabo and Scotti Hill, along with the sleazy solos being played throughout the album.

“Can’t Stand The Heartache” is one of my favorites off the whole album. The song is a different take at the time of dealing with romance. Lyrically, the band’s work on this album is underrated. How many bands were using the words “bystander innocence” in talking about relationships? Keep in mind, this album was one of the heavier (maybe the heaviest) records in my collection. I was into the Top 40 pop and country music at the time. KISS was the heaviest music I was exposed to, so the powerful vocals with the guitar work was a surprise to me.

Keeping with the up tempo feel, “Piece Of Me” is another one of my favorites off the release. One of my favorite local cover bands at the time (outside Youngstown, Ohio) was playing the song in their set list — one of the rare bands in my area playing Skid Row.  I love the guitar work, along with the lyrics on this song. This was the end of the 1980s, where all that us musicians wanted to do was make it through our daily jobs to get to band practice or go out to the local clubs and see other bands. I fell in love again with the song years later when I saw Sebastian live in 1997, when he played most of the first album. In his book, Bach says that the song’s riff was sort of a “Peter Gunn meets Batman kind of feeling.” This is just one of my favorite songs to get me pumped up, either to go out and see a show, or just to listen to get some anger released.

The first ballad of the release comes next with “18 And Life.” The placing of this is timely, because after four major songs to get you pumped up, a small break is needed to relax after the musical onslaught of the first part of the album. I am one of the music fans who likes ballads, but this big hit for the band lumped them into the “hair metal” (a term I hate) or “glam metal” genre. This song put them all over the 1980s TV compilation albums, where non-metal fans confused the band as “one hit wonders.” This is the song that most fans got turned onto the band, with the constant rotation on MTV. I liked the other ballad better on the album, but this is still a great song that’s still on radio airplay in my area. I still love the guitar solo, as opposed to some of the other ’80s ballads. Once again, everyone tried to sing like Bach at the end of the song, to much failure. Everyone knows this song.

“Rattlesnake Shake” is a song that if there was a song that was not as good as the others, this may be it. However, the placing of the song on the release is perfect, after coming off a ballad to get people back into the album’s rockers. The guitar solo is rocking on the song. This song may not be as lyrically good as the others on the album, but it is still short enough that the listener doesn’t need to run up and skip the track. As a deeper cut, the song is not bad and placed well. I just think compared to all the others on the release, this one was not the best, but still good enough to be on the album.

Back in the day, the listener had to get up and flip over the album or cassette to start the next side. “Youth Gone Wild” led off the second side of the cassette, and was one of the rock anthems of the era. Another video staple on MTV, this song is one that I  don’t get tired of hearing from the album. Sometimes, the bigger songs get overplayed, but this is not the case for me. I love everything about this song and it takes me back to the time (again) working a job trying to get away from the boss, only to rock out. This was the song against those that stereotyped metal fans. A classic song full of anger and power.

“Here I Am” is another deeper cut that doesn’t get enough credit from the album. The rhythm, from bass player Rachel Bolan and guitarists Hill and Sabo, is a machine gun attack, with a touch of punk to it. “Makin’ A Mess” has a more punk feel compared to the other tracks. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the deeper songs on this is are as good as the popular releases. This is another favorite of mine.

Track 10 is my favorite ballad, maybe of all the ’80s hard rock bands. “I Remember You” was a song, according to Bach‘s book, that was not to be on the album, but thanks to manager Doc McGhee, became one of the band’s biggest hits. Bach states in the book that he thought the song was “beautiful” and he knew he could sing it “from the heart.” Some may not view power ballads being “beautiful,” but this definitely describes this song. The song has everything I loved in a ballad at the time — love, summer romances, and powerful emotion from the singer. This song is a power ballad classic, and Bach spills his heart all over the track. The final song, “Midnight /Tornado” ends the release on the same way as the opening track does — rocking out. Very few albums pull off ending with ballads, so this song is one that ends on a high note. Sometimes, this song gets overlooked, but it fits well with the overall feel of the  album.

Skid Row is a rock and roll classic, from start to end. While many name albums by Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe and Whitesnake as albums from the late 1980s as the best, I feel this one gets overlooked. The band went into a more heavier feel with the next release, thanks to touring with Pantera. As a debut record, I put this up against any debut record as one that people must have. I was asked by a student a few weeks ago (I am currently working as a substitute teacher) what are a few albums that I would recommend as a “must listen” from the era. The first one out of my mouth was this Skid Row release. I have liked many of the band’s other work throughout the years (yes, even the latest EPs they have done), and it says something when most of the band’s current setlist (along with Bach‘s) feature most of the songs from this album. That just proves how well this debut holds up.

Track List:
01. Big Guns
02. Sweet Little Sister
93. Can’t Stand The Heartache
04. Piece Of Me
05. 18 And Life
06. Rattlesnake Shake
07. Youth Gone Wild
08. Here I Am
09. Makin’ A Mess
10. I Remember You
11. Midnight/Tornado

Band Members:
Sebastian Bach – lead vocals
Rachel Bolan –bass, backing vocals
Scotti Hill– lead guitar, backing vocals
Dave “The Snake” Sabo– guitars, backing vocals
Rob Affuso –drums, percussion

Produced, recorded and mixed by Michael Wagener

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Lance Lumley for Sleaze Roxx, January 2019

Skid Row‘s “18 And Life” video:

Skid Row – 18 And Life (Official Music Video)

You’re watching the official music video for Skid Row – ’18 And Life’ from the 1989 album ‘Skid Row’. ’18 And Life’ peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 1…

Skid Row‘s “Youth Gone Wild” video:

Skid Row – Youth Gone Wild (Official Music Video)

You’re watching the official music video for Skid Row – ‘Youth Gone Wild” from the 1989 album ‘Skid Row’. SKID ROW: 30TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION is avail…

Skid Row‘s “I Remember You” video:

Skid Row – Youth Gone Wild (Official Music Video)

You’re watching the official music video for Skid Row – ‘Youth Gone Wild” from the 1989 album ‘Skid Row’. SKID ROW: 30TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION is avail…

Skid Row‘s “Piece Of Me” video:

Skid Row – Piece of Me (Official Music Video)

You’re watching the official music video for Skid Row – ‘Piece Of Me’ from the 1989 album ‘Skid Row’. SKID ROW: 30TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION is available …