Since I was born they couldn’t hold me down
Another misfit kid, another burned-out town
Never played by the rules I never really cared
My nasty reputation takes me everywhere
I look and see it’s not only me
So many others have stood where I stand
We are the young so raise your hands…
You get 19 highly-collectible hard rockin’ 1537 bonus points if you can sing the next minute and a half of the song without cheating. In 1989 there was a seemingly unstoppable tide of flash new American bands, a fair proportion of whom seemed to have links to Bon Jovi, so forgive my yawns when Skid Row released their debut LP. I was never wrong about bands and this lot clearly sucked – I mean they had a dude who seemingly had to chain his nose to his ear and a singer who was a dead ringer for Natassia Kinski.
Now by 1989 a good third of the records I bought were made by dudes who looked like ladies, I was well used to all the pouting, preening pretty boy singers centre right and the solid-looking drummer at the back who was clearly worrying about what his pa would say to him when he caught sight of him wearing lacy fingerless gloves. What I wasn’t used to was rockers who actually looked like good looking women, now I’m not saying Sebastian Bach was ever a cause of sexual confusion to the adolescent 1537, but well, you know he was, umm, hot, sort of – look, I don’t want to talk about it !!
Now I was wrong about Skid Row; they were a good band, most glam/hard rock bands of the period were pop bands who upped the guitars to hit the minimum-rock threshold, Skid Row came on like a proper metal band who were toning it down to make the charts. They were brash and mean and so were their good songs – about a third of the first LP was a bit run-of-the-mill but the others hit hard. I saw them in Bristol in 1989* and they were far heavier live, Sebastian Bach seemed enormously tall and spent most of the show spouting off brash Americanisms of the , ‘Fuck you business man’ variety and twirling his long microphone lead around and around, letting it loop around his neck. They were a lot of fun live, a young band really getting a glimpse of their own brilliance.
Anyway, I own three Skid Row records, a 12″ promo of 18 and Life, a guitar-shaped picture disc of Youth Gone Wild and a clear vinyl 10″ of I Remember You – yup, I never quite got around to getting Skid Row (or the even better Slave to the Grind). I span them all last night and the results were mixed.
First up, Youth Gone Wild – This is just brilliant. I mean what’s not to love about a guitar-shaped record? nothing, that’s what! To be honest even if all this record contained was Scotti Hill and Rachel Bolan farting and wolf-whistling along to ‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’ then this would still be one of my favourite teenage rock artefacts. I find this song just captures dumb testosterone-fuelled rebellion perfectly, the guitar sound is just brilliant, the shouty bits hit home and overall it just makes me a) happy b) jog faster. Yup – yesterdays’ youth done gone wild on the bread and cheese and is now running wild trying to shed a bit. The B-side, a live version of ‘Rattlesnake Shake’, is an eminently forgettable version of one of the poorer LP tracks.
18 and Life, my first ever promo (God I was excited about that!) came in a black sleeve with a date (22.01.90, since you ask) in the centre – how exciting. the track is another one of their best actually sort-of a ballad, sort-of not because it was about accidentally shooting your friend rather than losing your girl to a man with a bigger pickup truck. I have to say here though that Sebastian Bach really did have a hell of a set of lungs on him, the vocal on this track is excellent. On the B-side is a live version of ‘Youth Gone Wild’ which is okay, apart from a lengthy rant about (the usual**) people who want to tell you how to live your life, which is really just a bit of an excuse to get a crowd to shout ‘Fuck You!’ over and over again – I used to think that was brilliant, now I just tend to think ‘well those interfering sons-of-bitches may have had a point Sebastian’ and turned the sound down so as not to alarm the nice couple next door.
I Remember You is just excruciating – precisely the sort of rent-a-ballad that all hard rockers were required to make by law in the late 80’s^ which I’m pretty sure was directly responsible for grunge blowing them all away for a while. Sorry if this was your make-out song back in the day, but your taste sucked even if your date… Jeez! what’s happening to me tonight! All rockers needed to bang out a tune like this to show that beneath their tough-guy exteriors they were just waiting for the right lingerie model to come and mend last week’s broken heart, I suspect the theory was also so that oodles of girls would flock and buy the single too – I’m guessing record company logic being that the poor dears wouldn’t like the proper stuff. Well I bought it! So take that WEA Records – who’s winning now ! Actually Skid Row, or whoever pulled their strings at the time deserves some plaudits for putting ‘Makin’ A Mess’ (my joint-fave Skid Row tune) on the flip side, even though it might have punctured the romantic mood a bit,
T-bone Billy just a singin’ the blues
Caught his lady with another man
Lit up a smoke and did some talkin’
With the back of his hand
Do you know what? I never even thought about what this song was about until I heard it just now. Great, now I find out that my joint fave Skid Row song is about domestic violence?! How did I never notice before? just listened to the menace and the guitars I imagine. Shit.
It actually makes more sense now to put the tunes together, surely someone needs to write an overly-simplistic screenplay called Makin’ a Mess of Life, about Lance and Tiffany’s relationship filtered through this vinyl. Lance, quarterback, and Tiffany, cheer leader, obviously get together at the prom to the sounds of ‘I Remember You’, after a dark warning from Lance’s drunken ex-girlfriend. Two years later, Lance is all washed-up after a knee injury^^ and is hitting the bottle hard and tiffany harder, one day after a chance meeting with lance’s drunken ex-girlfriend at a diner when ‘I Remember You’ plays on the radio, Tiffany has had enough and either:
Shoots him ‘accidentally’, mirroring the tale of ’18 and Life’ exactly.
Runs away with ex-girlfriend (after a completely gratuitous shower scene).
Becomes a zombie-bitch from Hades and with her hellish horde lays the entire town to waste, saving the joy of eating Lance’s brain to the very last
I’ve not quite decided which crowd-pleasing ending to tack on yet, but if any big Hollywood studios are out there reading this then I am willing to discuss optioning the rights.
So there you go, that’s Skid Row – I may have strayed off-topic a bit near the end, but I think I got away with it, without anyone noticing.
*supported by Vain, glam fans (fanz?).
** take any 3 from 4 of cops / teachers / parents / politicians.
^the Mandatory Ballad Act of 1988 (part of the Homogenised Teen Fodder Provisions of 1988) , if you must know – colloquially known as the Jovi-Michaels Amendment.