18 and Life was based on a true story, about an 18 year-old boy who accidentally shot his best friend with a gun that he thought he was unloaded and who was given a life sentence as a result. Did the video do justice to the real-life tragedy? Let’s break it down.
0:01 — The video starts in prison, with the usual tracking shot of men smoking behind bars. Ricky is already serving his sentence, thinking about how his life got so messed up.
0:27 — At the time this song was recorded, Sebastian Bach was Skid Row’s lead singer. In 1996, Bach was fired from Skid Row when he suggested they accept the opening spot on KISS’s latest tour.
0:34 — Ricky argues with his father, who probably wants him to do something lame like get a haircut. If Ricky was a Nelson fan, he could have just gone into his room and waited for his poster of Matthew and Gunnar to come to life and give him a magic feather. Instead, because he’s a Skid Row fan, he gets shoved through a glass door!
0:45 — Ricky ends up on the patio, where his best friend is waiting for him. Fortunately, Ricky has not been injured by all of that broken glass so, after saluting his father, he and his friend go off to have some fun, 80s style.
1:16 — Secret handshakes, 80s style!.
1:27 — Hanging out, 80s style!
1:31 — Setting shit on fire, 80s style!
1:39 — Breaking and entering, 80s style!
1:46 — Shooting liquor bottles in an alley, 80s style!
1:51 — Not following common sense gun safety rules, 80s style!
2:00 — Wasting your life away in prison, 80s style!
2:09 — Vandalism, 80s style!
2:18 — Ricky is Tipper Gore’s worst nightmare.
2:23 — They’re back to playing with the gun. Will these youngsters never learn?
2:34 — Is his friend begging or daring Ricky to shoot him? This part of the video is open to interpretation. In real life, the shooting happened because the gun was believed to be empty but, in this video, they’ve both been firing gun so they both know it’s loaded.
2:35 — Ricky has obviously read Watchmen, but he probably still doesn’t understand why Richard Nixon was still the president.
2:53 — Ricky shoots his only friend. But why? Ricky does not look shocked and we saw him firing the gun earlier so there is no reason to believe that Ricky, unlike the real person who inspired this song, didn’t know it was loaded. Was Ricky crazy? Was Ricky angry? Or was Ricky just stupid?
3:13 — Ricky throws his gun into the fire, which has been raging for at least two days now.
3:26 — In 2017, Sebastian Bach announced that he was having a “singing-related” hernia operation because, in his own words, he literally “sang my guts out.”
3:37 — In prison, Ricky ponders how different his life would have been if he wasn’t an idiot.
3:49 — Did anyone ever put out that fire? It looked serious.
This video was directed by Wayne Isham, who has been everyone’s go-to video director for decades. The song was Skid Row’s biggest hit and it was also the most played video on MTV in 1989.