18 and Life On Skid Row is not a deep book – there are no Keith Richards musings on life or rich observations on the artist as a rock star. Rather, what we have is a serious of vignette remembrances told from the simple perspective of a man-child. He got drunk or stoned, he did bad things, pretty much everyone began to hate him (or, in his thoughts, were jealous of him). but really he was just a nice guy on an interesting trip. There aren’t any super highs or super lows; no moments of clarity since he never hit rock bottom/nearly dyed from an overdose as so many did in that era; nor dizzying heights of super stardom and the limelight. Rather, we have a story told in a very straightforward and simple way: a reflection of Bach and his fairly basic story to tell.
The biography unfolds chronologically and moves quickly and cleanly. This is a world centered fully on Bach and every other person, including bandmates or rock star friends, are ciphers and very undeveloped. It felt like that was the superficial way in which Bach operates/operated in the world; never taking anything too seriously and going along with the flow of what everyone else was doing. Crazy sex acts with groupies and cheating on his girlfriend/wife? Expected – it’s what every rock star does, right? Doing lots of coke (“blow”) until hitting utter stupidity? Again, it’s what all the rock guys are doing. And so we never get analysis, observations, or interesting thoughts on the people with whom Bach interacted. He’s a little whirlwind of pure egocentricity (though not narcissistic, fortunately). We really are swimming in fairly shallow waters.
So where does this get interesting? Bach interacts with 1970s acts like Kiss and Aerosmith – and they had survived 1970s partying to come out on the other side with strict sobriety edicts. Bach blissfully walks in with drugs or alcohol and is summarily told to take off. Especially poignant was a scene in which Gene Simmons of Kiss (Bach’s idol) expresses his disgust at Bach’s drug fueled antics. Similarly, behind the scenes of Bon Jovi, with whom his band was intimately bound, are also worth the read. Vignettes of other bands including Guns N Roses, Pantera, and others are interspersed throughout.
Because Bach is, admittedly, fairly oblivious, one can read between the lines that he managed to tick off nearly everyone with whom he worked/interacted. What he believed were jealousies begin to look more and more like people wanting to get away from the wrecking ball that was a drunk/stoned Bach. Either punching out relatives of band mates or doing crazy things – I don’t think he remembers most of it but I bet all the people he ticked off remember well. He is abandoned constantly yet doesn’t seem able to understand why when he’s such a nice guy (when sober).
I was, admittedly, not a fan of Skid Row and didn’t choose this book to read specifically about Bach or the band. Rather, I was curious about the late 1980s because I lived in LA and would often go to the Rainbow/Roxy on weekends to hang out with/watch the metal bands as they tried to make it big in the years just before Skid Row made it big. There is some of that in here but we don’t get the sense of hunger or the ups and downs. It’s a pretty linear path of partying, hanging out with other rock stars, and then more partying. Like I mentioned earlier, he’s a pretty simple guy lacking depth or guile. And the book is very much in that vein as well. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.