Tales from a Metalhead: Chapter 31: Big Guns

Tales from a Metalhead logo

This chapter is part of a book called Tales from a Metalhead written by Metal Express Radio’s President Stig G. Nordahl. The chapters will be posted one at the time and you can find them all here.

Here comes the Blabbermouth choir again; “No Baz, no Skid Row!” Just like when there is a news article about Queensrÿche; “No Tate, No Queensrÿche!” I think comments like that are rather stupid. Should Maiden just quit after firing Paul Di’Anno? The vocalist is obviously one of the most important elements in a band’s sound, but as long as the main songwriters remain in the band they deserve that you give the new lineup a chance. Queensrÿche have released some brilliant albums with their “new” vocalist Todd La Torre.

SKID ROW - Skid Row album cover
Skid Row’s self-titled album cover.

Some time ago I presented a top ten list with my favorite debut albums in a podcast. The majority was actually 80s releases including W.A.S.P., Tesla, Iron Maiden, and of course… Skid Row. Their self titled debut album totally blew me away in 1988. I was working in FM radio at the time and received promos for most Hard Rock and Metal releases. I listened to a couple of other Metal shows on FM as well, and they sometimes got new promos before me. That’s exactly what happened with Skid Row’s debut album. I remember the host was really excited about this new band from New Jersey. He even played two tracks off the album on the same show, which was rare. Finally the LP showed up in my mailbox. It didn’t leave my turntable for weeks, only when I played it on my radio show.

It wasn’t like they had reinvented the wheel. Hair Metal had been around for a long time and most new bands sounded exactly like the others. Were Skid Row “Hair Metal”? Well, they had the looks and the power ballads, but on the other hand they had more edge and balls compared to many bands in the genre. Even the ballads were good! Of course, I got tired of the ballads over the years, like I do with most ballads, but tracks like “Youth Gone Wild” and “Big Guns”… well the whole album is timeless. It’s filled with awesome riffs, catchiness, and of course Sebastian Bach’s cool vocals. Baz has Norwegian ancestors that he always mentions when he does shows over here. His last name is Bierk, which I believe is derived from the Norwegian name Bjørk.

Ticket to Mötley Crüe with special guest Skid Row
Ticket to Mötley Crüe with special guest Skid Row.

I was a huge fan and when it was announced that they would be the support act for Mötley Crüe on the Dr. Feelgood tour I was one happy dude. After Mötley’s disastrous concert on the Theatre of Pain tour I was ready to give them another chance. They didn’t play in Norway on the Girls Girls Girls tour because “there was too much snow on the roof tops.” Maybe they were snowblind, because I believe drugs played a role in that decision. More about that in the upcoming Mötley Crüe chapter.

The show took place on October 26, 1989. Skid Row was on fire! It’s probably on my top 5 list of support bands I’ve ever seen. Number one will always be Pantera upstaging Megadeth in 1992. Skid Row performed the whole album, except for one track, “Midnight/Tornado.” Personally I think they should have played only one of the two ballads, but ballads were of course very important to the bands at that time. Ballads appealing to females = more albums sold. I remember especially in one part of the show when the stage went dark in the middle of a song. When the lights turned back on the entire band was laying on the floor playing the rest of the song. Like, where is the band? Ah, on their backs on the stage floor. That was one great evening topped with Mötley putting on a stellar show.

SKID ROW - Slave To The Grind
Slave To The Grind album cover.

It was exciting to see if the band could follow up this very strong debut album. I couldn’t wait to put on the promo CD for Slave To The Grind when I received it in 1991. Well, it opens with “Monkey Business.” A total blast! Next is the title track which is no less energetic. The album showed a band going more Metal, and that little change was more than welcome. Skid Row definitely stood the-hard-second-album- test. I have often discussed with others which album is the better. That’s a tough one! I believe I have listened more to the debut as a whole, but played selected songs from Slave to the Grind the most.

The band returned to Norway in December 1991 on the Slave To The Grind tour. This time as a headliner at Oslo’s biggest arena. They brought with them L.A. Guns as the support act. L.A. Guns were promoting their new album, Hollywood Vampires. Even back then this was a strong bill! But there was a downside. Two weeks before the show I had gone to serve the compulsory military service. For the first part of the service I was stationed only four hours outside Oslo so I could easily have gone to the show by train, but there was no way the army would give me permission to leave for a Rock concert. Bummer! My friends told me the show was over the top, of course. Even if the show sucked they would say that, just to rub it in. This would have been my only chance to see the band headline an arena during their peak.

SKID ROW - Subhuman Race
sUBHUMAN rACE album cover.

When the third album sUBHUMAN rACE was released in 1995 I was, as many others, really disappointed. I just didn’t like the change of musical direction and never listened to it again. Even the cover artwork was lame. I have heard some say lately that the album is actually pretty good. Some day I’ll give it another shot. Got to have an open mind, you know. Anyway, the album didn’t do well and Sebastian Bach was fired from the band a bit later. For other reasons than the number of albums sold. All was quiet in the Bach camp for some years until he released the live album Bring’ em Bach Alive in 1999. Out of the blue I got a call asking if I wanted to do a phone interview with Baz, who played the main part in a touring edition of Jesus Christ Superstar, the same role that Ian Gillan sang on the original album. I learned that he had just played in Jekyll and Hyde on Broadway as well. Usually I’d talk to bands about a new Metal album release, so this was a bit different. Of course I had to do it.

Baz sounded a bit tired, which he attributed to a tough schedule. Still, we had a nice chat. I had totally forgotten about this, but when I played the interview recently I heard us talking about the rumors saying he would join ex-members from Guns N’ Roses in a new band. That version of what was to become Velvet Revolver never materialized and the band recruited Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots instead.

The Jesus Christ Superstar tour didn’t last long. At least not with Sebastian Bach in the main role. I think it had something to do with his behavior. I need to read his biography again to get his angle of being fired. I really enjoyed his book 18 and Life With Skid Row though.

After Baz came bach (sorry I couldn’t help myself) there was movement in the Skid Row camp too. They had recruited Johnny Solinger as their new vocalist and released the album Thickskin in 2003. I actually don’t remember what my judgment was when I first heard it. I cannot name one track from it now and that probably says it all. Either way, the magic was definitely gone. New times, new vocalist. No baz, no…

Skid Row visited Norway again on the tour promoting the album. They played a club called John Dee in Oslo, with a capacity of about 400 people. It’s located in the basement of a larger venue, Rockefeller Music Hall, that has a capacity of 1350 people. The very same night TNT played upstairs and I wanted to see both shows. I was prepared to run between the shows. As far as I remember Skid Row delayed their show so all the TNT fans upstairs could catch their show as well. They did a great show and Ronnie Le Tekrø from TNT came down to catch the show as well. Before the concert I did a nice interview with Dave “Snake” Sabu. Great guy!

Years later I attended a show with Sebastian Bach at the very same club. He did an energetic set filled with Skid Row and solo material. After the show, before leaving the stage he said “don’t forget that a fucking legend wrote these songs!” I believe he wasn’t thinking about Snake… I tried to get in touch with him to get an interview appointment before the show, but I didn’t succeed. On the other hand I did an interview with the vocalist in Dragonforce, Marc Hudson,  before the show. I saw Hudson later at the show, and we went to the bar drinking beer during the ballads. The former Dragonforce vocalist ZP Theart was actually in Skid Row for a while too. Small world!

I really enjoy some of Baz’ solo stuff. Especially Kicking & Screaming. Before he went solo he did miserable stuff like the band The Last Hard Men. I never understood what that really was all about. Crap!

Skid Row always gets the question about a reunion with Sebastian Bach in most interviews. I did that myself. I asked Baz too, as you could hear in the interview above. He stated “No, Skid Row has nothing to offer” That obviously hase changed.  The answer from Skid Row is always the same. It will never happen. If so, that would of course be a big thing. Baz is willing to do it again, but I totally respect Skid Row’s decision. I believe there is much we don’t know about what went wrong before he was fired.

It must have been tough on Solinger to have people ask for Baz all the time, even when he was on stage. One time at the Sweden Rock Festival some dumbass kept screaming for Baz during Skid Row’s show. Solinger finally responded in a diplomatic way: “I am the singer in Skid Row now and I have been here many years longer than Sebastian Bach.” All true, but it is of course the two first albums they will be remembered for. That doesn’t mean I’d say “No Baz, no Skid Row.”  We are in a different time now. The magic is pretty much gone. I am sure Skid Row would play for much bigger audiences if Baz came back to the band, but I doubt they could do another classic album like the debut or Slave To the Grind.

Johnny Solinger died way too early, on June 26, 2021. R.I.P.!

Skid Row have almost gone full Spinal Tap with the revolving door of vocalists after Solinger’s exit. Tony Harnell (ex-TNT vocalist, and actually ex-TNT vocalist several times) was in the band for a few months as well. He left the band with an announcement on Facebook without informing the band first. Hilarious! Tony is a brilliant vocalist but is he good enough for Skid Row? Listen to this and judge for yourself:

Now, Skid Row has recruited Swedish singer Per Grönwall from the band H.E.A.T. He is really good and I think he will fit the band perfectly. He got known to the public when performing a Skid Row song at a talent show, and now he’s in the band. Talk about going full circle! Yeah, we heard that story before with Judas Priest and Journey. It’s still fascinating though. The new single is cool. Again, they didn’t reinvent the wheel, but do they have to? I’m looking forward to hearing the new album!

No Baz, no Skid Row? Hey, come on!

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  • Stig G. Nordahl

    Stig is the founder and the president of Metal Express Radio, based out of Oslo, Norway. He has been around doing Metal radio since the mid-eighties. In fact, running Metal Express Radio takes almost all of his time. Is it worth it...? "Most times, yes," Stig says. "My philosophy is to try to give all Metal releases a fair chance to get promoted in one way or another. As you can imagine, it can be an arduous task to listen through about 20 albums every week! Still, I know we have the best METAL dedicated radio on this planet, and that is a reward in and of itself. I hope one day the whole Metal community can and will make listening to Metal Express Radio part of their daily rituals! Yeah, right..."

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