Skid Row were one of the very last hair metal bands to hit the mainstream before grunge took over in the early '90s. While the band's self-titled debut employed standard pop-metal riffs and generic lyrics (albeit to great commercial success), 1991's Slave to the Grind and 1995's Subhuman Race broke away from the pop-metal mold with uncharacteristically hard, thrashy guitars and unique songwriting techniques. Though personal differences and changing trends would eventually tear the core lineup apart by 1996, Skid Row showed tremendous promise during their short time in the spotlight.
Based in New Jersey, Skid Row were formed in 1986 by bassist Rachel Bolan and former Bon Jovi guitarist Dave "The Snake" Sabo. The pair added guitarist Scott Hill, drummer Rob Affuso, and a larger than life vocalist named Sebastian Bach to the lineup by early 1987, and the band spent the next year and a half playing a series of local clubs in the eastern U.S. Having remained in contact with Jon Bon Jovi, Sabo convinced the established rock star to land Skid Row a record deal with Atlantic Records. In 1989, the band released its first album, Skid Row, which went multi-platinum on the strength of the Top 40 singles "18 and Life" and "I Remember You." Success came with a backlash, however -- the bandmembers had naïvely signed away much of their royalties, and Sebastian Bach's wild, often childlike behavior landed the group in additional trouble. During the subsequent tour, Bach garnered harsh criticism for a T-shirt he publicly sported displaying the message "AIDS KILLS FAGS DEAD." Suits were also filed against Bach after a concert during the supporting tour, where the singer allegedly threw a glass bottle into the crowd and injured a young female fan.
Nonetheless, Skid Row's muscular songcraft retained a devoted audience. Released in 1991, Slave to the Grind debuted at number one on the Billboard chart, an unprecedented accomplishment for a metal band. While the album did not chart any real radio hits, Grind received stronger critical praise and eventually reached platinum status. However, like so many of their peers, Skid Row lost much of their fan base during the grunge invasion of the '90s. As Nirvana stormed the scene in 1992, Skid Row took a hiatus, waiting out the grunge period and pondering breakups (ironically, Nirvana had once gone under the name Skid Row in the '80s). Skid Row returned in 1995 with Subhuman Race, which surprisingly charted in the Top 40 but otherwise did not attract any real attention.
During the supporting tour, tensions between the group members ran high and Skid Row disbanded shortly afterward. Bach went on to form the Last Hard Men with Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, but the group broke up after recording a cover of Alice Cooper's "School's Out" for the Scream soundtrack in 1996. Plans to record new songs for the Skid Row greatest-hits album, 1998's Forty Seasons, fell through, and Bach went on to form a solo project and portray the title role in the Broadway musical Jeckyll and Hyde. In mid-2000, Skid Row re-formed with new singer Johnny Solinger and toured as the opening band for Kiss' farewell tour. They released Thickskin with Solinger in 2003, followed by Revolutions Per Minute in 2006. Meanwhile, Sebastian Bach enjoyed a surge in popularity when he appeared in a VH1 reality show opposite Ted Nugent and Scott Ian. ~ Barry Weber