Social Distortion

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Social Distortion
Social Distortion (left to right, Brent Liles, Derek O'Brien, Mike Ness and Dennis Danell) on the back cover of their debut album Mommy's Little Monster (1983).
Social Distortion (left to right, Brent Liles, Derek O'Brien, Mike Ness and Dennis Danell) on the back cover of their debut album Mommy's Little Monster (1983).
Background information
California, USA
Genre(s) Cowpunk
Punk rock
Years active 1978-1985
Label(s) 13th Floor Records
Posh Boy Records
Restless Records (1988-1989)
Epic Records (1989-1997)
Time Bomb Recordings (1997-present)
The Adolescents
Agent Orange
Operation Ivy
The Lewd
Website Official Website
Mike Ness
Jonny "2 Bags" Wickersham
Brent Harding
Charlie Quintana
Former members
Dennis Danell (deceased)
Rikk Agnew
Frank Agnew
Tim Maag
Brent Liles (deceased)
John Maurer
Matt Freeman
Casey Royer
Derek O'Brein
Bob Stubbs
Chris Reece
Randy Carr (deceased)
Deen Castronovo
Chuck Biscuits

Social Distortion (sometimes referred to as simply Social D) are an influential punk rock band formed in 1978 by frontman Mike Ness. They, along with Minor Threat, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion and many others, are often credited as one of the leading bands of the 1980s punk revival.

The group briefly disbanded in 1985, due to frontman Ness' drug addiction, but reformed around 1986 and have continued being active today, even after the death of longtime guitarist Dennis Danell, who succumbed to a brain aneurysm in 2000. Since their inception the band lineup has been a virtual revolving-door of talent, with many members coming and going; however, Ness has been the only constant member.

Among mainstream audiences, Social Distortion are best known for their hit singles "Ball and Chain", "Story of My Life" (both from the 1990 self-titled album) and "I Was Wrong" (from the 1996 album White Light, White Heat, White Trash) as well as "Reach for the Sky" (from their 2004 album Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll).

So far, Social Distortion released six full-length studio albums, one compilation, one live album and two DVDs. Their last album, Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll, came out on September 28, 2004 and is their first release with current guitarist Jonny "2 Bags" Wickersham, who is Danell's replacement. The band recently made plans to return to the studio to record their seventh album, which is reportedly due for release sometime in 2007. There has also been some talk of an upcoming greatest hits compilation album.


[edit] History

[edit] Early years (1978-1982)

Flyer for an early Social D show
Flyer for an early Social D show

Social Distortion were formed in late 1978 by frontman Mike Ness out of Orange County, California. The original lineup consisted of Ness on lead guitar, Rikk and Frank Agnew on guitars, and Casey Royer on drums[1]. Ness met Dennis Danell, who was a year older, in highschool and insisted he join the band on bass guitar even though Danell had never played an instrument before. When Danell was brought in, Frank, Rikk and Casey left to form their own band.[1] Mike and Dennis remained the only constant members for the next two decades with bass and drums changing hands every few years.

The music was initially inspired equally by British punk like the Sex Pistols and classic acts such as The Rolling Stones. They began playing with fellow Orange County, California bands such as the Adolescents, China White, and Shattered Faith as part of the nascent hardcore movement. Their music was fast, angry and energetic.

Their first single, Mainliner/Playpen, was released in 1981 on the Posh Boy, the label responsible for releasing the first singles and albums of many of the local O.C. punk bands[1]. A disc jockey by the name of Rodney Bingenheimer of KROQ-FM was responsible for much of the radio play in O.C. that punk received in the early 80's and took a liking to Social Distortion, releasing the single, "1945", on his 1981 compilation album, Rodney on the ROQ, Blood On The ROQ in 1983, and The Best Of Rodney On The ROQ in 1989.

In 1982 the band - now consisting of Ness, Danell who now played rhythm guitar, Brent Liles on bass, and Derek O'Brien on drums - embarked on their first national tour with fellow punk band, Youth Brigade. The trip was chronicled in the seminal punk rockumentary, Another State of Mind. The film was written, produced and directed by Peter Stuart and Adam Small (co-creator of "Mad TV").

[edit] Mommy's Little Monster and first hiatus (1983-1985)

The album cover for Social Distortion's debut release Mommy's Little Monster (1983).
The album cover for Social Distortion's debut release Mommy's Little Monster (1983).

Upon their return from the Another State of Mind tour in 1982, they recorded their debut album, Mommy's Little Monster. The album was released in early 1983 on their own label, 13th Floor Records. Mommy's Little Monster includes the title track as well as the song for which the previous tour was named, "Another State of Mind". This was the album that "gained the band a national name in punk circles." [1].

Ness mentions in his DVD commentary that he really had nowhere to stay when he got back to California after the tour ended so he would crash on the couch of whoever would have him. He details how he plunged headfirst into serious drug addiction and ended up being strung out on heroin for weeks at a time. In 1983, Liles and O'Brien left the band in the middle of a show on New Year's Eve and were replaced soon thereafter by John Maurer, who knew Ness from school in Fullterton, and Christopher Reece on drums[1]. Ness's drug habit continued throughout 1984 and 1985 as the band continued to gain success with the Another State of Mind appearing as one of the punk rarities on MTV and touring in California and Arizona. As a result of Ness's escalating drug habit and troubles with the law, Social Distortion briefly went on hiatus in 1985. During this time, Ness was in and out of rehabilitation centers as well as serving short stints in various jails.

[edit] First comeback and Prison Bound (1986-1988)

The album cover for Prison Bound (1988), the band's first studio release since Mommy's Little Monster.
The album cover for Prison Bound (1988), the band's first studio release since Mommy's Little Monster.

The band reformed in or around 1986 once Ness finished his drug rehabilitation program. They released their second album, Prison Bound, two years later in 1988 - over five years after their debut. The album includes newcomers John Maurer on bass and Christopher Reece on drums. Prison Bound was not commercially successful, but the title track found airplay by the Los Angeles, California radio station, KROQ.

A notable style change takes place in Prison Bound. While Mommy's Little Monster falls under the general category of punk rock or hardcore punk, Prison Bound takes on a definite country/western flavor and marks the start of the band's entrance into a style called "cowpunk." Country legend Johnny Cash and the Rolling Stones' honky tonk style became more prominent influences on Social Distortion's music at this time. There are references to Cash and the Stones in the songs "Prison Bound" and "On My Nerves" and they also cover a Stones song titled "Backstreet Girl," which has a major key sound that foreshadows the more focused cowpunk sound of the later albums.

Although five years had passed since releasing their debut, it did not hurt the band at all. Their success was just beginning and in fact, taking time between albums became a pattern for Social Distortion. Ness acknowledges in a 2003 interview that it is a little backward, marketing-wise, to play songs for the fans for a few years before recording them but it has always worked well for them. "We know which songs are going to be fan favorites on the record before we even record them." [2]

[edit] Mainstream success (1989-1996)

The album cover for Social Distortion (1990), one of the band's most successful and well known albums to date.
The album cover for Social Distortion (1990), one of the band's most successful and well known albums to date.

After the release of Prison Bound, Social Distortion left Restless Records and signed with Epic. Then the band returned to the studio around the summer/fall of 1989, with producer Dave Jerden, to began recording their third album, simply titled Social Distortion, which was released in 1990. It was Social Distortion's first album that was not financed by the band[1]. The album includes the singles "Ball and Chain" and "Story of My Life" as well as a cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire". The self-titled album faired better than both Mommy's Little Monster, and Prison Bound and is often credited as Social Distortion's best known works and it continues to sell well after seventeen years of its release. To date, it also remains the best rock album of 1990 by many publications. The album is said to "split the difference between rockabilly and Ramones-style punk"[3].

Their fourth album, Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, was released in 1992. The album included two hit singles "Bad Luck" and "When She Begins". Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell surpassed all of their previous albums in popularity and achieved some radio play with the single, "Bad Luck"[4]. The album has a similar sound as the previous self-titled album, said to be a blend of "punk, blues, country and rockabilly"[4]. After the release of this album, drummer Christopher Reece left Social Distortion in 1994 and was replaced by Randy Carr. Randy toured with the band and played drums on live performances until he left in 1995.

The band took another hiatus after the release of Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, but they had not returned to the studio until 1995[1]. During the break, Social Distortion released a compilation album, Mainliner: Wreckage From the Past (1995), featuring pre-Mommy's Little Monster cuts. It contains two versions of "1945" and "Playpen" from their two indie labels 13th Floor and Posh Boy and also a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb".

The album cover for White Light, White Heat, White Trash (1996).
The album cover for White Light, White Heat, White Trash (1996).

In June 1994, the band began demoing songs for their fifth album [5], then returned to the studio in the following year to record White Light, White Heat, White Trash, which was released in 1996[1]. The title of the album is a play on the second Velvet Underground album, White Light/White Heat (1968). The album is said to have taken on a harder sound than those preceding it[6] and to not focus as much on their previous blues and rockabilly sound[7]. The single "I Was Wrong" received wide radio play and is said to resemble "the classic sound more than any other track on the album"[6]. The album also features the singles "When the Angels Sing" which is said to be a tribute to Ness's grandmother who was an avid supporter of the band[6] and "Don't Drag Me Down". The album also included a re-recorded version of "Under My Thumb", a cover of The Rolling Stones, as a hidden track. Former Danzig drummer Chuck Biscuits joined the band between the recording and release of the album and is credited in the liner notes although this album actually features session drummer Deen Castronovo[7].

[edit] Second hiatus and aftermath of Danell's death (1997-2004)

In 1997, Social Distortion left Epic Records and returned to Time Bomb Recordings for the first time in eight years. They released their first (and only) live album Live at the Roxy in 1998. Social Distortion went on hiatus again as Ness went solo releasing two albums, Cheating at Solitaire and one featuring song covers, Under the Influences in the following year.

The album cover for Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll (2004), the band's first studio album in eight years.
The album cover for Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll (2004), the band's first studio album in eight years.

Dennis Danell died on February 29, 2000 in his Newport Beach home after apparently suffering a brain aneurysm, now leaving Ness as the only remaining original member of the band. There have been some rumors claiming that the band broke up again, following his death. He was replaced by former U.S. Bombs and Youth Brigade guitarist Jonny Wickersham who had previously been Danell's guitar tech. Biscuits also left during that time and was replaced by Charlie Quintana. After Danell's death, the band would continue touring semi-frequently, playing sold-out shows in the Los Angeles, California area around the New Year for three straight years.

Social Distortion started work on their follow-up to White Light, White Heat, White Trash in 2000, which was originally to be released in the fall of that year[8], but then it was not completed. Since 2001, the band had been promising to release it. Due to the band's ongoing tour schedule, the album's release was put on hold several times. In the fall of 2003, after completeing demos, Social D (officially) returned to the studio with producer Cameron Webb to complete it.[8] Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll, released on September 28, 2004, would be the band's first release with current guitarist Jonny Wickersham and drummer Charlie Quintana. Just a month before the release of the album, longtime bassist John Maurer left the band to stay with his family and was replaced by Rancid's Matt Freeman. He stayed until late 2004 and was replaced by current bassist Brent Harding.

[edit] Present day (2005-present)

Social Distortion toured much of 2004, 2005 and 2006, and have announced plans to tour North America in April and May of 2007. They played with various bands, including Versus the World, TSAR, Shooter Jennings, I Hate Kate, Flogging Molly, Nine Black Alps, The Supersuckers, Blackpool Lights, The Lost City Angels, The Street Dogs, The Backyard Babies, The Hangmen, The Eyeliners, Cooper, Mest, Bullets and Octane, and The Dead 60's.

In February 2006, Ness was injured and broke his wrist in a skateboarding accident. He had his good friend, TSOL guitarist Ron Emory to fill his place on guitar for the tour while he continuing to sing for the band with his arm in a cast and sling. As of July 2006, Emory is no longer filling for Ness. The Hangmen's Bryan Small was also filling for Ness.

The band is rumored to soon be recording a new studio album, which is due for release sometime in 2007.[9] Right now, there are no official announcements whether it is true that they are back in the studio or not. The four confirmed songs that the band has played during various live shows, "I Won't Run No More", "Diamonds in the Rough", "Bakersfield" and "Far Behind", are likely to appear on this album.[10] "I Won't Run No More" has once been performed live in 2000-2001, which can be heard on the now-hard to find bootleg release Anaheim 2001.[11] The rest of the songs have been played at recent live shows. The new album will also mark the first Social Distortion release recorded without longtime bassist John Maurer since their first album, 1983's Mommy's Little Monster.

Social Distortion also plans to release a greatest hits album. Ness had this to say, "We hope to have a new Social Distortion record out, apart from the Greatest Hits."[12]

Original member Brent Liles, who played bass on Mommy's Little Monster, died on January 18, 2007 after being hit by a semi truck while riding a dirt bike in Placentia, California.[13]

[edit] Musical style

Social Distortion's musical style began as decidedly punk rock or hardcore punk when the band formed in the late 1970's. They are thought to be one of the pioneering bands of the original punk rock movement out of Orange County, California and their style closely associated with the Ramones. In the mid-80's there was a notable change in their style of music - taking more from their country music and classic rock and roll roots. Mike Ness admits in the DVD commentary from Another State of Mind that he may have even tried too hard on the Prison Bound album. They did eventually find their niche and the majority of their albums from the mid-80's on are considered to be cowpunk or rockabilly - a melodic punk sound that is distinctly their own.

[edit] Influences

Social Distortion's main influence is mostly from a roots rock oriented direction, as well as from hardcore punk, psychedelic rock, blues, hard rock, modern rock, grunge and cowpunk. They have never considered themselves a hardcore punk band in any way. Bands/artists that have influenced Social Distortion are: Johnny Cash, The Clash, Dead Boys, Elvis Presley, KISS, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, New York Dolls, Queen, Ramones, The Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols and Neil Young.

[edit] Songwriting and vocals

Most of Social Distortion's songs are written and sung by Mike Ness. There is a common theme in most of his lyrics about "impulsiveness, it’s consequences and the hard struggle for maturity"[1]. Other band members who have co-written Social Distortion songs are Dennis Danell ("The Creeps"[14], "Indulgence", "Like an Outlaw (For You)", "On My Nerves" and "I Want What I Want"), Jonny Wickersham ("Nickels and Dimes", "Faithless" and "Angel's Wings") and John Maurer ("Let It Be Me").

[edit] Covers

The band has covered many songs including, "Ring of Fire" (June Carter Cash, Merle Kilgore), "Backstreet Girl" (The Rolling Stones), "Under My Thumb" (The Rolling Stones), and "Death or Glory" (The Clash). Mike Ness individually covered 12 songs in his solo album, Under the Influences in 1999.

[edit] Legacy

Social Distortion have influenced various modern artists such as Alkaline Trio[15], Domestic Violence, Dropkick Murphys[16], Goldfinger[17], Good Charlotte, MxPx[18], Pearl Jam, Rise Against, The Suicide Machines and Sum 41, as well as many notable California punk bands such as ALL, Big Drill Car, blink-182[19], Bullets and Octane[20], Chemical People[21], face to face[22], Jawbreaker[23], No Use for a Name[24], The Offspring[25], Pennywise, Rancid[26] and Thrice.

The band face to face honored Social D by covering the song "Telling Them" and a line in the song Riot Girl by Good Charlotte reads: "She likes Minor Threat, She likes Social Distortion."

MxPx also covered a Social Distortion song, "Sick Boy", on their 1998 B-sides compilation Let It Happen.

Goldfinger singer/guitarist John Feldmann has mentioned that he started playing music when he was 13 after listening to Social Distortion's first album Mommy's Little Monster.[17] He also pays tribute to the band in the song "Chris Clayton" (from Goldfinger's 1997 album Hang-Ups) with the lyrics "When we were kids playing Social D".

The Offspring started in 1984 by founders Bryan "Dexter" Holland and Greg K. The decision came outside of a Social Distortion concert, when both were refused entry.

[edit] In popular culture

Social Distortion's music and merchandise seem to appear more and more in popular culture. Social D t-shirts are made child size these days to accommodate old school fans who now have children to sport the "Mommy's Little Monster" and "Sick Boy" badge. Kevin Bacon's character in the film Stir of Echoes wears a Social Distortion t-shirt during one of his scenes.

The song "Story of My Life" has been featured in movies such as Reality Bites, starring Winona Ryder; the movie Orange County, starring Colin Hanks, Jack Black, and Schuyler Fisk; the movie The Break-Up, starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston when Vaughn's character is playing billiards with his friends at his condo; and the movie Life or Something Like It, starring Angeline Jolie. The song was featured when Jolie's character finds herself having a midlife crisis, and decides to return to her high school punk roots. She wore a Social Distortion t-shirt during this scene, as well. The Break-Up also featured the song "Ball and Chain" in the movie trailer.

Songs have appeared in television such as "Reach for the Sky" which appeared on the television series Smallville in its fourth season. Social D songs also appear in video games such as Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX which features "Don't Drag Me Down" and Tony Hawk's Underground which features "Mommy's Little Monster". Anime comics have also used the songs such as Kubo Tite, author of the hit shounen manga Bleach (manga) used the song "Don't Drag Me Down" as a theme song for one of the characters (Isshin Kurosaki), and even said that one of the main characters (Ichigo Kurosaki) favorite celebrity is frontman Mike Ness.

[edit] Members

For past members, see List of Social Distortion band members.

[edit] Current line-up

[edit] Discography

[edit] Studio releases

Release date Title Record label
1983 Mommy's Little Monster 13th Floor (original), Triple-X (re-release), Time Bomb (re-release)
1988 Prison Bound Restless (original), Time Bomb (re-release)
March 27, 1990 Social Distortion Epic
February 11, 1992 Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell Epic
September 17, 1996 White Light, White Heat, White Trash Epic
September 28, 2004 Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll Time Bomb
To be released sometime in 2007 Untitled 7th Studio Album Time Bomb

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "A Brief History of Social Distortion". Retrieved on February 20, 2007.
  2. ^ Steininger, Alex. "Mike Ness on politics, new album, and touring, " In Music We Trust. Issue 63, November-December 2003. Accessed June 19, 2006.
  3. ^ "Social Distortion (import bonus tracks) - Album reviews". Retrieved on February 24, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Social Distortion Bio". Retrieved on February 24, 2007.
  5. ^ "Lost Tracks II: The June 1994 Demos" Retrieved on February 24, 2007.
  6. ^ a b c "Review: White Light, White Heat, White Trash" Retrieved on February 24, 2007.
  7. ^ a b "Social Distortion: White Light White Heat White Trash". Retrieved on February 24, 2007
  8. ^ a b News Retrieved on February 26, 2007.
  9. ^ Social Distortion: 30 years of evolving rock. Accessed September 20, 2006.
  10. ^ Social Distortion Work On New Album. Accessed January 1, 2007.
  11. ^ Social Distortion Discography. Accessed January 1, 2007.
  12. ^ What's in store for '06?., January 26 2006
  13. ^ "Early Social Distortion bassist ID'd in wreck". January 21, 2007. Retrieved on February 24, 2007.
  14. ^ Live at the Roxy booklet
  15. ^ Matt Skiba profile. Retrieved on February 27, 2007.
  16. ^ Dropkick Murphys profile. Retrieved on February 27, 2007.
  17. ^ a b John Feldmann - Biography. Retrieved on February 24, 2007.
  18. ^ Band Profile: MxPx. Retrieved on February 27, 2007.
  19. ^ Bullets and Octane profile. Retrieved on February 27, 2007.
  20. ^ Chemical People profile. Retrieved on February 27, 2007.
  21. ^ face to face. Retrieved on February 27, 2007.
  22. ^ Band Profile: Jawbreaker. Retrieved on February 27, 2007.
  23. ^ No Use for a Name profile. Retrieved on February 27, 2007.
  24. ^ Band Profile: The Offspring. Retrieved on February 27, 2007.
  25. ^ Band Profile: Rancid. Retrieved on February 27, 2007.

[edit] External links

Social Distortion
Mike Ness | Jonny Wickersham | Brent Harding | Charlie Quintana
Former members: Dennis Danell | Brent Liles | John Maurer | Derek O'Brien | Chris Reece | Chuck Biscuits
For non-official members, see List of Social Distortion band members.
Albums: Mommy's Little Monster (1983) | Prison Bound (1988) | Social Distortion (1990) | Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell (1992) | White Light, White Heat, White Trash (1996) | Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll (2004) | (Seventh Studio Album) (2007)
Live albums and compilations: Mainliner: Wreckage From the Past (1995) | Live at the Roxy (1998) | Live in Orange County (2004)
Videos and DVDs: Another State of Mind (1984) | Live in Orange County (2004)
Social Distortion | Members | Albums | Singles | Songs
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