In January of 1989 I was languishing in my sophomore year at the Hellhole that IS Chaminade High School in Mineola, NY. I reached into my locker to get my already knotted tie and resigned myself to yet another miserable Monday morning in the pit of misery (Dilly Dilly? Sorry! I’ll stop now!) that I hated with every fiber of my being. You can’t take a Heavy Metal kid full of hormones and stick him in an all boys school, man. At age 15 all I wanted to do was keep growing my hair out, pierce my ears, and try to dry hump every girl in sight. So you can feel my pain, right? But unbeknownst to me, this Monday morning was about to get sooooo good….
LeWhy? I’ll tell you LeWhy. Lecause my good friend (to this day!) Tony Celebrini came to our little locker alcove before homeroom and pulled out the brand new tape of the self-titled debut album from none other than SKID ROW!! It took a little convincing, but I got him to lend it to me so I could high speed dub a copy that night onto a trusty Maxell XL-II 90. And as soon as it was finished I flipped that bitch over and pressed PLAY. I was not prepared for the majestic sounds that would wash over me that night, and for the next month straight. This band wrote songs that were just a bit grittier than their peers in WARRANT or POISON, but they also knew how to keep it catchy as hell. Oh, did I not mention? Welcome to this installment of Classic Albums…
I can still remember hearing opener “Big Guns” for the first time and just being blown away. Here was this singer in Sebastian Bach that was unlike anything I’d heard before, with a larger than life personality to boot. Add to that the awesome guitars of Scotti Hill and Dave “The Snake” Sabo; mix in equal parts Rachel Bolan (bass) and Rob Affuso (drums) and you had a very potent, yet very volatile recipe for success. “Sweet Little Sister” is next, and again, how do you NOT get all riled up hearing this, right? I was also in love with “Can’t Stand the Heartache”, even though it was never a single. It should have been, and I guarantee I’m not alone thinking so. That song spoke to 15-year old me, and it still does.
“Piece of Me” was a good choice for an eventual video, and it’s absolutely groovalicious, largely in part due to Bolan. And then comes an absolute game-changer in “18 and Life”, a song that just blew the minds of all us rock and metalheads everywhere. The album’s second single, I remember this one coming through the speakers of my Fisher rack system and then my jaw hitting the fucking ground when Bach hits those final notes. Man, did these guys have something special. No wonder BON JOVI pushed to get them signed and then took them on tour as an opener. I was there in February of 1989 as SKID ROW conquered Nassau Coliseum, by the way. “Long Island! Welcome to Skid Row!!” were Bach’s parting words. Awesome!
“Rattlesnake Shake” is a dirty, sleazy tune that was very much en vogue that year, but lyrically and musically it was befitting the times. Now…here comes the song that put SKID ROW on the fucking map…”Youth Gone Wild.” This one is simply on another level. I hadn’t seen this MTV video or heard the song when Tony first handed me that tape. But when it came on I was fucking transported to another world. A world where we the people gave the middle finger to all those suits in power, and ya know what? They cowered in fear at what we could do to them. “Here I Am” has a sexy swagger to it and a serpentine riff that I’ve always loved.
“Makin’ a Mess” is not only one of my absolute favorites on this record, but it was the band’s tour opener when I saw them. The whole group kicks it into high gear, and it’s actually a very accurate portrayal of what went on/goes on in this corrupt music industry. Plus, the guitarists inject a little extra OOOMPH! Into this one. Now we come to one of the greatest metal ballads of all time in “I Remember You”…you seriously don’t wanna debate me on this; I’ll fucking shred you. My greatest memory of this one is walking from my house to Massapequa High School because I had a day off and I wanted to go see my girlfriend, then suddenly getting inspired and belting out the final, “I REMEMBERRRRR YOOOOOU!” and not missing a note. Fact.
Closing this landmark record is “Midnight/Tornado” a song that jams hard, kicks you in the teeth, and manages to be catchy at the same time. The whole band digs in at the goal line, then takes off with a pick-six for the win. I have so many fond memories that were made to this album. From hearing it for the very first time, then repeating it over and over, and seeing the band live. My girlfriend Chrissy and I had a blast while they opened for both BON JOVI and AEROSMITH almost a year apart. At the end of the day SKID ROW’S debut is the stuff of legend. It’s a statement record the likes of which we’d never gotten before and probably never will again. They were the Youth Gone Wild, for real. For these reasons and more, this will forever be a Classic Album. ~dc