18 And Life

Album: Skid Row (1989)
Charted: 12 4
Play Video


  • This song tells the story of Ricky, a poor, tough-as-nails 18-year-old who gets drunk and accidentally kills someone with his gun, earning him a life sentence in jail.

    Skid Row guitarist Dave "Snake" Sabo wrote it after reading in a local newspaper about an 18-year-old boy who shot his friend by accident. He thought the gun wasn't loaded, and eventually ended up in prison for life. The group's bass player, Rachel Bolan, co-wrote the song.
  • This was Skid Row's second single, following "Youth Gone Wild." It was a huge hit and helped the band's debut album sell over 5 million copies in America. A big reason why is Bon Jovi.

    Dave Sabo was part of Bon Jovi's original lineup and was childhood friends with Jon Bon Jovi. In 1984, Richie Sambora ended up taking his place in the band, which soon took off. Sabo formed Skid Row with Rachel Bolan in 1986; a year later they added the brash young Canadian singer Sebastian Bach, who was 20 years old when the Skid Row album was released in 1988. Jon Bon Jovi helped the band get a record deal; they shared the same manager, and Skid Row inked a publishing deal with the company owned by Jon and Richie, who now had a profit motive for seeing them succeed.

    Bon Jovi championed the band and took them on tour as their opening act just days after the album was released in January 1989. That tour, the New Jersey Syndicate tour, was huge, and earned Skid Row an instant fanbase. It got bumpy for the band though; their second album, Slave To The Grind, wasn't released until 1991, and it was hitless, with a harder edge and less pop appeal (it did go to #1 and sell over 2 million). They never again came close to the success of their first album.
  • The video was directed by Wayne Isham, one of the top players in the game. It's a very literal video, showing Ricky getting kicked out of his home, playing around with a gun, and accidentally shooting his friend. It proved very popular on MTV, elevating Skid Row to hair metal royalty.

Comments: 30

  • Madhatter from HellSlave to the Grind isn't a hitless album. One big hit, iirc, is Monkey Business.
  • Tracy from Waukesha WiI have a daughter that loves this song actually all their songs. When she saw the video she said to me mom you are not supposed to mess around with guns, especially when drinking! Another mom that I met in the park heard what she told me and said you let her watch that I told that mom yes at least as you heard she understands what happens if you play with guns. She got the gist of the song.
  • Brittany from NyThat’s a lie. My sister Shanne won a teen magazine song writing contest about my father who killed someone in a knife fight playing pool. Such bs she had the song rights and everything where she had to sign it over. All she got was autographs and to meet these douchebags. The guitarist is a scumbag liar just trying to claim fame. Such a shame. Can’t even give credit where credit is due. Pathetic. That’s why they’re a washed up band.
  • Anthony from DesertYou can find Sebastian in the GWAR movie SkulHedFace. As he is getting the Jiizmoglobin extracted from his head by Glomco for agreeing to sell his artistry into mediocracy, the countdown announces the levels as 22, 20, 18 and Life To Go.
  • Heather from Atlanta@Madalyn from Greensburg, Pa ~ but in the video they showed "Ricky" hold up a gun and shoot his friend. Personally I think they goofed in the video because it doesn't match up with the lyrics regarding the shooting being an accident ("accidents will happen, they all heard Ricky say") because in the video Ricky aimed his gun point blank at his friend and pulled the trigger after his friend apparently challenged him to shoot him by opening his jacket and appeared to be saying something like "come on" . It sure didn't look like an accident! It looked like a very deliberate act. I know it's just a video from 100 years ago (haha, that's how it FEELS anyway).

    Oh and @ Mike from Brooklyn..... P.S. ~ in the lyrics where he said "he fired his six shot to the wind", I thought it was "he fired his six shot through the wimp" lmao.
  • Heather from Atlanta@Mike from Brooklyn I don't know how old these comments are.... I just ran across this tonight... so I don't know if you'll see this comment. But I gotta say, your comment had me laughing so hard I literally had to wait a few moments before I was able to type again.... "18 and life retarded".....ooooh my Lord *tears in my eyes*! Thank you! You have no idea how much I needed that laugh!
  • Louis from Ky@Tayla Jade, this is far from that. Dave Sabo wrote the lyrics to this about his brother who was basically his father figure from 2-7 (father was not really part of his life since the age of 2), his brother went off to vietnam when he was 7 and returned at 9. He was never the same. The lyrics didnt exactly pan out so he came up with a similar story that folks could relate to, 18 and life. Thats a fact. He told his story about this in his interview. you can find it on youtube as a matter of fact.
  • Frankie from Sunset Strip, Los AngelesThis song rocks, the live version from wembley 1991 is amazing. if you watch the music video, it makes sense what it's about.
  • Jarvis from London, UkMaggie from San Fran - no, "skid row" is a much older expression, which means you are out of money and out of luck. It comes from the days when workers dragged logs; you were sent 'down skid road' when you were fired, but has since had a much broader meaning. It can also mean an impoverished area of town (this may be the use in America; in British English it usually just means a person has fallen on very hard times as in 'I'm on skid row'.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 2nd 1989, "18 and Life" by Skid Row entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #91; and on September 17th, 1989 it peaked at #4 (for 1 weeks) and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #6 in Canada.
  • Resty Mervin Ponio from Marikina City, PhilippinesFor me, 18 and life means that kids beyond 18 y.o wastes their life, sometimes killing their friends.
  • Tayla Jade from Perth, AustraliaActually this song is about a girl that is my mums best friend its about how s--t her life was coz she was a roadie for skidrow and dont tell me otherwise
  • Willie from Scottsdale, AzJust to echo what's already been suggested, "18 and life to go" is somewhat metaphorical. The kid was 18 years old when he shot his friend. So on one level, he will spend a considerable amount of time in prison, dependent on good behavior, etc. . He also has the rest of his natural life to contemplate the thing he did to his friend.
  • Ciara from Ses, Beninhe kills his best friend in the video for some reason cant remember sebastian is so cute
  • Matt from Seminole, Okhaha. in other words, i agree with aaron
  • Matt from Seminole, OkMy guess is that the lyrics "18 and life to go" mean he is 18 with life in prison "to go". meaning "only 18 and already charged with life". Unless the lyrics were just wrote wrong.
  • Amanda from Sheffield, United KingdomMadalyn, the lyrics say "had a courtship with a gun". I would think that means he shot hom with a gun, not a syringe.
  • Natasha from Athens, Ohi love this song to death my dad used to play it for me.
  • Tyler from Toms River, NjThe local was in Toms River, New Jersey, his friend is now paralized for life from the neck down
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandAAron, you are correct - I should f**king know that (there's a punk band called 25 ta life)
  • Ronnie from Cincinnati, OhDont know how long these post have been up but it is now 11-17-07 and I remember when I first heard this song, I was sitting in the local state little shop of horros if you know what I mean. This cat who was up on A range for a manslaughter bit use to play this song on his guitar and was actually very good, he taught me how to play this song and thats how I got into guitar...who says you cant learn anything in prison..
  • Kris from Wichita, Kswell aaron it isn't technically manslaughter. If it's ruled as "accidental" then it becomes a new ball game. but who cares this is a place to talk about songs on criminal law. if i wanna talk about court i'll go to Harvard
  • Maxx from Stonigton, Ctit got it's name because the kid who shot his friend was 18 and got a life sentence
  • Teodoros from Stockholm, United StatesI just wanna say that i think this song rocks but it's kinda sad
  • Maggie from San Francisco, Cadid skid row get their name from Little Shop of Horrors?
  • Aaron from Orefield, PaYes just to let you know luke, the penalty for first degree manslaughter is 25 to life not 18...the kid was 18 when he shot his friend, thats why he's 18 and has life to go
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandHe got put in jail because 18 to life is the minimum sentence you get for shooting and killing a fellow human being.
  • Luke from Manchester, Englandsorry, 18 is minimum and life is the maximum, it's normally called "18 to life"
  • Madalyn from Greensburg, Payea mike really... personally i thought they were talking about a kid taking heroin...and he gave his friend heroin and he died...if he 'accidently' shot him with a gun would they really put him in jail for life? Thats why i think they were referring to heroin.
  • Mike from Brooklyn, NyFor the longest time, I thought the lyrics were "18 and life retarded, 18 and life to go." Since then, I've found the real lyrics, but I still like my version better.
    ~Mike, Brooklyn, NY
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Bass Player Scott Edwards

Bass Player Scott EdwardsSong Writing

Scott was Stevie Wonder's bass player before becoming a top session player. Hits he played on include "I Will Survive," "Being With You" and "Sara Smile."

Dennis DeYoung

Dennis DeYoungSongwriter Interviews

Dennis DeYoung explains why "Mr. Roboto" is the defining Styx song, and what the "gathering of angels" represents in "Come Sail Away."

Jim McCarty of The Yardbirds

Jim McCarty of The YardbirdsSongwriter Interviews

The Yardbirds drummer explains how they created their sound and talks about working with their famous guitarists.

Reverend Horton Heat

Reverend Horton HeatSongwriter Interviews

The Reverend rants on psychobilly and the egghead academics he bashes in one of his more popular songs.

TV Theme Songs

TV Theme SongsFact or Fiction

Was a Beatles song a TV theme? And who came up with those Fresh Prince and Sopranos songs?

Matthew Wilder - "Break My Stride"

Matthew Wilder - "Break My Stride"They're Playing My Song

Wilder's hit "Break My Stride" had an unlikely inspiration: a famous record mogul who rejected it.