Early years (1986–1988)
Skid Row was formed in 1986 in Toms River, New Jersey, by bassist Rachel Bolan and guitarist Dave Sabo. The pair recruited guitarist Scotti Hill and drummer Rob Affuso through newspaper ads. Lead vocalist Sebastian Bach replaced original singer Matt Fallon after the band spotted Bach singing at rock photographer Mark Weiss's wedding at the age of 18, and the members asked him to join in early 1987. The band began playing shows in clubs throughout the eastern United States.
Sabo and John Bongiovi were teenage friends and Sabo was briefly a member of Bon Jovi before being replaced by guitarist Richie Sambora. Sabo and Bongiovi agreed that if one of them made it in the music business, he would help the other out. Bon Jovi's manager Doc McGhee sought out Skid Row, and secured the band a record deal with Atlantic Records in 1988. Skid Row recorded its debut at the Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin with producer Michael Wagener. Before releasing the album, the management paid a reported $35,000 to guitarist Gary Moore for the rights to the name of his namesake band.
Skid Row (1989–1990)
The band's debut album Skid Row, released in January 1989, was an instant success. The record went 5× platinum on the strength of the Top 10 singles "18 and Life" and "I Remember You". Skid Row supported the album by opening for Bon Jovi on their New Jersey tour. As part of the six-month tour, Skid Row played its first ever UK gig supporting Bon Jovi's outdoor show at Milton Keynes Bowl on August 19, 1989. The next day, Skid Row played a successful club show at London's Marquee Club in Charing Cross Road. Skid Row also took part in the Moscow Music Peace Festival, which was set up to keep McGhee out of jail. McGhee was facing drug trafficking charges, and therefore set up an anti-drug/peace concert in Russia, featuring a few of the artists that he and his brother managed.
Skid Row returned to the UK three months later, opening for Mötley Crüe on their European Dr. Feelgood tour in early November 1989 with Mr Big. That was followed by a UK headlining tour culminating in a show at London's Hammersmith Odeon, with Vain supporting. Skid Row continued touring into 1990, including supporting Aerosmith on the North American leg of their Pump tour.
In what is referred to as "The Bottle Incident" by fans of the band, Bach was hit onstage with a bottle thrown from the crowd at a concert in Springfield, Massachusetts, where Skid Row was opening for Aerosmith on December 27, 1989. Bach threw the bottle back, hitting a girl (not the thrower), so he jumped on the crowd to beat the person who can be seen on a tour video released by Skid Row called Oh Say Can You Scream in 1990.
Shortly thereafter, at another show, Bach put on a T-shirt proclaiming the anti-gay slogan "AIDS Kills Fags Dead". A poorly tasted spoof of the slogan for the bug spray, RAID KILLS BUGS DEAD™. The shirt was given to him by a fan, on MTV News Bach dismissed the controversy saying "I don't see what the big deal is really but I guess if someone wore a T-shirt saying "Cancer Kills Grandma's Dead" I'd probably be a little bit pissed too." But, Bach eventually expressed regret over the incident, claiming that he did not read the slogan before putting the shirt on. Even though he wore it for a photo shoot in Metal Edge magazine. The band also recorded a cover of the Sex Pistols' "Holidays in the Sun" for the Make A Difference Foundation release Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell.
Slave to the Grind (1991–1992)
Skid Row returned to the studio with Wagener in 1990 to record its second studio album Slave to the Grind. The album was released in June 1991 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, reaching 2× platinum status without any radio hits. Skid Row once again went out on a worldwide tour which lasted over a year, including a leg supporting Guns N' Roses in 1991 and an appearance at Monsters of Rock in Castle Donington in 1992.
Slave to the Grind was a departure for the band; while Skid Row was an album that followed the typical 1980s band formula, Slave to the Grind had a heavier sound, even verging on Pub Rock with the title track. Skid Row took out Eurythmics as an opening act on much of the tour supporting Slave to the Grind. Skid Row originally asked upcoming grunge band Nirvana to open for them but they declined, saying that Skid Row was "too homophobic", relating to the Sebastian Bach T-shirt incident. Coincidentally, Nirvana's original band name was also Skid Row.
Subhuman Race and split with Bach (1992–1998)
(right) was the lead singer for Skid Row from 1987 until 1996.
After the Slave to the Grind promotional tour, an EP of covers B-Side Ourselves was released in September 1992. Before beginning work on their third album, Skid Row took an extended hiatus in 1993 on McGhee's recommendation to wait for the grunge movement to fade away. Also during this period, Skid Row parted ways with Wagener, possibly due to the music taking a different direction for the follow-up to Slave to the Grind. In 1994, the band returned to the studio with producer Bob Rock to record its third album. Subhuman Race was released in March 1995, and charted in the top 40 on the American charts. Although it did not achieve the success of its predecessors, it received positive reviews and only one single, "Into Another", charted in the US. As of 2018, Skid Row rarely plays any songs from Subhuman Race live; most of them were last performed on the album's tour in 1995, while "Beat Yourself Blind" is the only song they have played live with its subsequent singers Johnny Solinger and ZP Theart.
At that point, the band shifted to performing at smaller venues and its videos were rarely played on MTV, partly because of the rise in popularity of grunge and subsequent decline of many 1980s heavy metal styles. Skid Row was the opening act for Van Halen on the North American leg of their Balance tour. Eventually, Bach left the band in late 1996 after an argument with Bolan who turned down an opening slot on the Kiss reunion tour even though Bach already booked it. Other band members told Bach that Skid Row was too big for an opening act and that they were not going to do the show. Bach then left a message on a bandmate's answering machine telling them the band was never too big to open for Kiss.
Bolan had a side project, a punk band Prunella Scales who was playing at the same time as the planned Kiss show. The rift between Bach and the other band members subsequently led to him leaving Skid Row. Four years later, Skid Row was one of the opening acts for the 2000 Kiss Farewell Tour. In 1998 Skid Row released the compilation 40 Seasons: The Best of Skid Row without Bach's imput. After Bach's departure, the remaining members continued as Ozone Monday with singer Shawn McCabe of Mars Needs Women. In 1998 and 1999, the group opened up for Kiss and Mötley Crüe under the new moniker.
New lineup and Thickskin (1999–2005)
Skid Row re-formed in 1999 with new lead vocalist Johnny Solinger and drummer Phil Varone. After re-forming, the band opened for Kiss on its farewell tour, and also played with other 1980s metal bands such as Poison and INXS's singer Garry Gary Beers. In 2002 they were part of the Rock Never Stops Tour. Skid Row released its fourth full-length studio album Thickskin in the summer of 2003, which was the first album to feature Solinger and its first studio album in 8 years. In 2004, Dave Gara was announced as the new drummer.
Revolutions per Minute (2006–2012)
The fifth Skid Row album Revolutions per Minute was released in October 2006 by SPV Records. Wagener reunited with Skid Row and became this album's producer. In 2007, the band recorded "Jingle Bells" for a Monster Ballads Christmas album. In early 2010 Rob Hammersmith became the band's new drummer.
Speaking in 2009 about the next Skid Row album, Hill said "we haven't sat down and recorded anything yet, but we have sat down and worked out some ideas and just played them on a handheld recorder. Everybody's writing and we're getting into that mind set. Once the wheels get in motion we'll all probably fly out to Atlanta spend a week or two up there come home, go back up there do it again, we're all living in different cities, which can make it difficult at times."
United World Rebellion trilogy (2013–present)
In February 2013 Skid Row signed with Megaforce Records, and stated the new material would be released as three separate EPs. The first chapter United World Rebellion: Chapter One, was released in April 2013, with two more EPs set to follow in the following 12 to 18 months.
In February 2014, the band began working on the second EP. In August 2014, Skid Row released the second chapter of the trilogy titled Rise of the Damnation Army. In April 2015, Solinger was fired from the band. Later that day it was announced that Tony Harnell, formerly of the Norwegian melodic metal band TNT, will replace Solinger. That same month the band released a re-recorded version of its early single "18 and Life" as a free download. In February, two months before Solinger's departure, Skid Row announced they were writing the third chapter of the United World Rebellion series.
Harnell left the band in December, and former DragonForce vocalist ZP Theart was filling in as the lead singer for concerts in 2016. In January 2017, ZP Theart was named as an official member of the band. In March 2018, it was revealed the band's next release for the United World Rebellion trilogy would now be a full-length album and would be released sometime in 2019.
In January 2019, a deluxe edition of Skid Row's self-titled debut album was released digitally, which included the original album remastered for the first time (with "Forever" added as the bonus track), as well as a recording of the band's April 28, 1989 performance at The Marquee in Westminster, California. The band members have stated that they had no input into the reissue.
In the summer of 2019, former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach announced plans to perform the band's self-titled debut album in its entirety on tour as a celebration of its 30th anniversary, and issued an open invitation for the band to play on stage with him for the first time since their split, hoping it would result in a proper Skid Row reunion with Bach. Guitarist Dave "Snake" Sabo declined the offer, while former drummer Rob Affuso subsequently confirmed that he would be joining Bach on stage during the tour.