Skid Row

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.
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Ratt's brash, melodic heavy metal made the Los Angeles quintet one of the most popular rock acts of the mid-'80s. The group had its origins in the '70s group Mickey Ratt, which had evolved into Ratt by 1983; at that time the band featured vocalist Stephen Pearcy, guitarist Robbin Crosby, guitarist Warren DeMartini, bassist Juan Croucier, and drummer Bobby Blotzer. The band released its self-titled first album independently in 1983, which led to a major label contract with Atlantic Records. Their first album under this deal, 1984's Out of the Cellar, was a major success, reaching the American Top Ten and selling over three million copies. "Round and Round," the first single drawn from the album, hit number 12, proving the band had pop crossover potential. While their second album, 1985's Invasion of Your Privacy, didn't match the multi-platinum figures of Out of the Cellar, it also reached the Top Ten and sold over a million copies. By that time, the band could sell out concerts across the country and was a staple on MTV and AOR radio. Both Dancin' Undercover (1986) and Reach for the Sky (1988) continued Ratt's platinum streak and their audience, had only slipped slightly by the time of their final album, 1990's Detonator.
In 1992, Pearcy left Ratt to form his own band, Arcade, issuing a pair of releases -- 1993's self-titled debut and 1994's A/2 -- before forming another new band, Vertex (issuing a lone self-titled release in 1996). With their brand of glam metal out of step with the then-burgeoning alt-rock movement, Ratt decided to sit out much of the '90s, during which time DeMartini issued a solo album, Crazy Enough to Sing to You. But by the late '90s, the public's interest in '80s rock began to perk up, leading to Ratt reuniting in time for 1997's Collage. Two years later, Ratt's second self-titled release of their recording career was issued, following the same formula as its predecessor.
Shortly thereafter, Pearcy left the group once again, as he soon began fronting two bands, the more modern-sounding outfit Vicious Delite (a self-titled debut appeared in 2000) and Nitronic. Pearcy also formed his own record label (Top Fuel Records), and released several collections of archival material: Arcade's A/3: Live & Unreleased; Mickey Ratt's The Garage Tape Dayz 78-81; and, under his own name, the demo collection Before and Laughter. Pearcy's first true solo album, Social Intercourse, was released in 2001. Despite Pearcy's exit from the band, Ratt continued to carry on with new members Jizzy Pearl (former Love/Hate) on vocals, John Corabi (former Mötley Crüe) on guitar, and bassist Robbie Crane joining original members DeMartini and Blotzer. In the summer of 2001, long MIA Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby disclosed to the public that he was battling AIDS, and Croucier soon began organizing a benefit album for his former bandmate. After struggling for years with the resulting health problems, Crosby died in Los Angeles in June 2002. Pearcy returned to the fold in 2010 for the group's seventh full-length album, Infestation.
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ZZ Top

This sturdy American blues-rock trio from Texas consists of Billy Gibbons (guitar), Dusty Hill (bass), and Frank Beard (drums). They were formed in 1970 in and around Houston from rival bands the Moving Sidewalks (Gibbons) and American Blues (Hill and Beard). Their first two albums reflected the strong blues roots and Texas humor of the band. Their third album (Tres Hombres) gained them national attention with the hit "La Grange," a signature riff tune to this day, based on John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen." Their success continued unabated throughout the '70s, culminating with the year-and-a-half-long Worldwide Texas Tour.
Exhausted from the overwhelming workload, they took a three-year break, then switched labels and returned to form with Deguello and El Loco, both harbingers of what was to come. By their next album, Eliminator, and its worldwide smash follow-up, Afterburner, they had successfully harnessed the potential of synthesizers to their patented grungy blues groove, giving their material a more contemporary edge while retaining their patented Texas style. Now sporting long beards, golf hats, and boiler suits, they met the emerging video age head-on, reducing their "message" to simple iconography. Becoming even more popular in the long run, they moved with the times while simultaneously bucking every trend that crossed their path. As genuine roots musicians, they have few peers; Gibbons is one of America's finest blues guitarists working in the arena rock idiom -- both influenced by the originators of the form and British blues-rock guitarists like Peter Green -- while Hill and Beard provide the ultimate rhythm section support.
One of the few rock & roll groups with its original members still aboard after four decades, ZZ Top play music that is always instantly recognizable, eminently powerful, profoundly soulful, and 100 percent American in derivation. They have continued to support the blues through various means, perhaps most visibly when they were given a piece of wood from Muddy Waters' shack in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The group members had it made into a guitar, dubbed the "Muddywood," then sent it out on tour to raise money for the Delta Blues Museum. ZZ Top's support of and link to the blues remain as rock-solid as the music they play. The concert CD/DVD Live from Texas, recorded in Dallas in 2007 and featuring a still vital band, was released in 2008. The Rick Rubin and Gibbons-produced La Futura, the band's 15th studio album, and the group's first new studio outing since 2003's Mescalero, appeared in 2012. With the trio still a firm fixture on the worldwide touring circuit, ZZ Top released the Live: Greatest Hits from Around the World collection in 2016.
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Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd was the definitive Southern rock band, fusing the overdriven power of blues-rock with a rebellious Southern image and a hard rock swagger. Skynyrd never relied on the jazzy improvisations of the Allman Brothers. Instead, they were a hard-living, hard-driving rock & roll band -- they may have jammed endlessly on-stage, but their music remained firmly entrenched in blues, rock, and country. For many, Lynyrd Skynyrd's redneck image tended to obscure the songwriting skills of their leader, Ronnie Van Zant. Throughout the band's early records, Van Zant demonstrated a knack for lyrical detail and a down-to-earth honesty that had more in common with country than rock & roll. During the height of Skynyrd's popularity in the mid-'70s, however, Van Zant's talents were overshadowed by the group's gritty, greasy blues-rock. Sadly, it wasn't until he was killed in a tragic plane crash in 1977 along with two other bandmembers that many listeners began to realize his talents. Skynyrd split up after the plane crash, but they reunited a decade later, becoming a popular concert act during the early '90s.
While in high school in Jacksonville, FL, Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Allen Collins (guitar), and Gary Rossington (guitar) formed My Backyard. Within a few months, the group added bassist Leon Wilkeson and keyboardist Billy Powell, and changed their name to Lynyrd Skynyrd, a mocking tribute to their gym teacher Leonard Skinner, who was notorious for punishing students with long hair. With drummer Bob Burns, Lynyrd Skynyrd began playing throughout the South. For the first few years, the group had little success, but producer Al Kooper signed the band to MCA after seeing them play at an Atlanta club called Funocchio's in 1972. Kooper produced the group's 1973 debut, Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, which was recorded after former Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King joined the band. The group became notorious for their triple-guitar attack, which was showcased on "Free Bird," a tribute to the recently deceased Duane Allman. "Free Bird" earned Lynyrd Skynyrd their first national exposure and it became one of the staples of album rock radio, still receiving airplay decades after its release.
"Free Bird" and an opening slot on the Who's 1973 Quadrophenia tour gave Lynyrd Skynyrd a devoted following, which helped their second album, 1974's Second Helping, become its breakthrough hit. Featuring the hit single "Sweet Home Alabama" -- a response to Neil Young's "Southern Man" -- Second Helping reached number 12 and went multi-platinum. At the end of the year, Artimus Pyle replaced drummer Burns and King left the band shortly afterward. The new sextet released Nuthin' Fancy in 1975, and it became the band's first Top Ten hit. The record was followed by the Tom Dowd-produced Gimme Back My Bullets in 1976, which failed to match the success of its two predecessors. However, the band retained their following through constant touring, which was documented on the double live album One More from the Road. Released in late 1976, the album featured the band's new guitarist, Steve Gaines, and a trio of female backup singers, and it became Skynyrd's second Top Ten album.
Lynyrd Skynyrd released their sixth album, Street Survivors, on October 17, 1977. Three days later, a privately chartered plane carrying the band between shows in Greenville, SC, and Baton Rouge, LA, crashed outside of Gillsburg, MS. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and his sister Cassie, one of the group's backing vocalists, died in the crash; the remaining members were injured. (The cause of the crash was either fuel shortage or a fault with the plane's mechanics.) The cover for Street Survivors had pictured the band surrounded in flames; after the crash, the cover was changed. In the wake of the tragedy, the album became one of the band's biggest hits. Lynyrd Skynyrd broke up after the crash, releasing a collection of early demos called Skynyrd's First and...Last in 1978; it had been scheduled for release before the crash. The double-album compilation Gold & Platinum was released in 1980.
Later in 1980, Rossington and Collins formed a new band -- naturally named Rossington Collins Band -- that featured four surviving members. Two years later, Pyle formed the Artimus Pyle Band. Collins suffered a car crash in 1986 that killed his girlfriend and left him paralyzed; four years later, he died of respiratory failure. In 1987, Rossington, Powell, King, and Wilkeson reunited Lynyrd Skynyrd, adding vocalist Johnny Van Zant and guitarist Randall Hall. The band embarked on a reunion tour, which was captured on the 1988 double live album Southern by the Grace of God/Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour -- 1987. The re-formed Skynyrd began recording in 1991, and for the remainder of the decade, the band toured frequently, putting out albums occasionally. The reunited Skynyrd frequently switched drummers, but it had little effect on their sound.During the '90s, Lynyrd Skynyrd were made honorary colonels in the Alabama State Militia, due to their classic rock staple "Sweet Home Alabama." During the mid-'90s, Van Zant, Rossington, Wilkeson, and Powell regrouped by adding two Southern rock veterans to Skynyrd's guitar stable: former Blackfoot frontman Rickey Medlocke and ex-Outlaws Hughie Thomasson. With ex-Damn Yankee Michael Cartellone bringing stability to the drum chair, the reconstituted band signed to CMC International for the 1997 album Twenty. This lineup went on to release Lyve from Steel Town in 1998, followed a year later by Edge of Forever. The seasonal effort Christmas Time Again was released in fall 2000. Although Wilkeson died one year later, Lynyrd Skynyrd regrouped and recorded Vicious Cycle for a 2003 release. The DVD/CD Lyve: The Vicious Cycle Tour followed a year later, 2006 saw the release of Face to Face, and 2007 brought Paper Sleeve Box. But death continued to haunt the band, and the lineup continued to change, as much from attrition as anything else. Wilkeson, Skynyrd's bassist since 1972, died in 2001 and was replaced by Ean Evans that same year (Evans in turn died in 2009). Thomasson left the band to reform his band Outlaws in 2005, dying two years later in 2007. His spot in Skynyrd was taken by Mark "Sparky" Matejka, formerly of Hot Apple Pie, in 2006. Original keyboardist Powell died at the age of 56 at his home near Jacksonville, FL in 2009. That year also saw the release of a new studio album, God + Guns, on Roadrunner Records. Live from Freedom Hall was released on the same label in 2010. A new studio album, Last of a Dyin' Breed, produced by Bob Marlette, recorded at Blackbird Studio in Nashville, and featuring a new bass player, Johnny Colt (formerly a bassist for the Black Crowes), appeared in 2012. In April 2015, original Skynyrd drummer Bob Burns died in a single-car accident in Bartow County, Georgia.
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