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Social Distortion (sometimes referred to simply as Social D or SxDx) is an Americanmarker rock band formed in 1978 in Fullerton, Californiamarker. The band currently consists of Mike Ness (vocals, guitars), Jonny Wickersham (guitars), Brent Harding (bass) and Adam "Atom" Willard (drums). They are often credited as one of the leading bands of the 1980s hardcore punk explosion.

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 – Ness has been the only constant member.

To date, Social Distortion has released six full-length studio albums, two compilations, one live album and two DVDs. The band released its debut album Mommy's Little Monster in 1983, which was quite popular in the states. Social Distortion did not release their second album until 1988, with Prison Bound. That album attracted the attention of Epic Records, who signed the band in 1989 and issued their highly successful self-titled third album a year later, which peaked at number 128 on the Billboard 200, and featured their well-known hit singles "Ball and Chain", "Story of My Life" and the cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Their most recent studio album, Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll, came out on September 28, 2004. They also released their first Greatest Hits compilation on June 26, 2007. Social Distortion is expected to begin recording a new studio album on February 1, 2010 for a late spring release.


Early years (1978-1982)

Social Distortion was formed in late 1978 by frontman Mike Ness out of Orange County, Californiamarker. The original lineup consisted of Ness on lead guitar, Rikk and Frank Agnew on guitars, and Casey Royer on drums. Ness met Dennis Danell, who was a year older, in high school 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. Mike and Dennis remained the only constant members for the next two decades, with bass and drums changing hands every few years.

Their first single, Mainliner/Playpen, was released in 1981 on Posh Boy, the label responsible for releasing the first singles and albums of many of the local O.C. punk bands. A disc jockey by the name of Rodney Bingenheimer of KROQ-FM was responsible for much of the radio play in Orange County, Californiamarker, 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, a trip chronicled in the punk rockumentary Another State of Mind, which was not released until 1984.

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

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." .

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 Fullerton, CA, and Christopher Reece on drums. Ness's drug habit continued throughout 1984 and 1985 as the band continued to gain success with 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.

First comeback and Prison Bound (1986-1988)

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 included then-newcomers John Maurer on bass and Christopher Reece on drums. Although Prison Bound never charted on Billboard, the title track found airplay on the Los Angeles, Californiamarker radio station, KROQ-FM.

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."

Major label years and mainstream success (1989-1996)

After the release of Prison Bound, Social Distortion left Restless Records and signed with Epic. The band then returned to the studio around the summer/fall of 1989, with producer Dave Jerden, to begin recording their self-titled third album, Social Distortion, which was released in 1990. It was Social Distortion's first album that was not financed by the band. 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 fared better than both Mommy's Little Monster and Prison Bound, and is often credited as Social Distortion's best known work, with sales continuing eighteen years after its release. It is also sometimes cited as among the best rock albums of 1990—the album is said to "split the difference between rockabilly and Ramones-style punk."

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 their previous albums in popularity, and received some general radio play with the single, "Bad Luck". The album has a similar sound to the previous, eponymous, album, said to be a blend of "punk, blues, country and rockabilly". After the release of this album, drummer Christopher Reece left Social Distortion in 1994 and was replaced by Randy Carr. Carr 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, and did not return to the studio until 1995. 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".

In June 1994, the band began demoing songs for their fifth album, then returned to the studio in 1995 to record White Light, White Heat, White Trash, which was released in 1996. The album is said to have taken on a harder sound than those preceding it, and to not focus as much on their previous blues and rockabilly sound. 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". 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, 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. White Light, White Heat, White Trash was the final Social Distortion album recorded with Dennis Danell before his death.

Second hiatus, aftermath of Danell's death and Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll (1997-2004)

In 1997, Social Distortion left Epic 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 Under the Influences, featuring song covers, in 1999.

Dennis Danell died on February 29, 2000 in his Newport Beach home after apparently suffering a brain aneurysm, 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 L.A.'s Youth Brigade guitarist Jonny Wickersham, who had previously been Danell's guitar technician. Biscuits also left during that time, and was replaced by Charlie Quintana. After Danell's death, the band continued touring semi-frequently, playing sold-out shows in the Los Angeles, Californiamarker 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, but it was not completed. Since 2001, due to the band's ongoing tour schedule, the album's release was put on hold several times. In the fall of 2003, after completing demos, Social Distortion returned to the studio with producer Cameron Webb to complete the album. Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll, released on September 28, 2004, would be the band's first release with Wickersham and 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.

Subsequent activities and departure of Quintana (2005-2009)

Social Distortion continued touring on and off between 2005 and 2007. They were scheduled to headline the Soundwave Festival in Australia in February -March 2008, along with Incubus and The Offspring, but this was cancelled, just as they had done for the very same festival the previous year. They played with various bands, including Versus the World, Tsar, Shooter Jennings, I Hate Kate, The Black Halos, 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 fill his place on guitar for the tour while he continued to sing for the band with his arm in a cast and sling. As of July 2006, Emory was no longer filling for Ness. The Hangmen's Bryan Small also filled for Ness.

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, Californiamarker.

Social Distortion released their first Greatest Hits compilation on June 26, 2007. It includes their hit singles from Mommy's Little Monster to Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll, yet lacks any song from Mainliner. Along with a new studio recording of the song, "Far Behind", new studio recordings of 6 of their classic songs are included as well. Rerecording these songs allowed the band to own rights to them again, instead of Epic (their former label) owning them. Through iTunes in the U.S., as a download only, the Greatest Hits also includes a new Social Distortion cover version of the Chuck Berry classic "Maybellene". Ness stated in an interview that this Greatest Hits "technically means what was good with radio." Ness also stated in the same interview that "we may follow this up with something that is more essential Social D. – songs that are the band's favorites."

In April 2009 the band announced that longtime drummer Charlie Quintana was leaving the band:

After ten amazing years behind the drum kit for Social Distortion, Charlie "Chalo" Quintana has announced he’s moving on to explore other musical opportunities. Charlie had this to say about his departure, "Playing with Social D for ten years was a good time in my life. I was lucky to play on two Social D records and the second solo album, and I am proud to have been part of the band. We hit some spectacular heights which I will never forget – adios amigos!"

Quintana's replacement was announced as Angels & Airwaves drummer Adam "Atom" Willard, formerly of Rocket from the Crypt and The Offspring.

A European tour together with The Gaslight Anthem followed in June 2009 as part of the band's 30th anniversary of underground Rock'n'Roll.

Next album (2009-present)

In April 2008, Ness told Spinner that Social Distortion was planning an acoustic album to be released in 2009, stating "I think it could be really, really neat. It's almost like a Bob Dylan/Bruce Springsteen/Johnny Cash kind of feel with a punk edge ... but acoustic. Sometimes [the songs] are more powerful stripped down than with full volume." Ness also revealed plans for his next solo album, but he was not sure if it will be released before or after the follow-up to Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll or the acoustic album.

In July 2009, Ness revealed to Russian's Tarakany! Bad TV that Social Distortion was planning to enter the studio in December 2009 or the beginning of 2010 to begin recording their follow-up to Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll. In September that year, he confirmed that the album will be recorded in January 2010 at Studio 606, a studio owned by the Foo Fighters. Asked when the album is expected to be released, Ness stated that it will "probably be out" in the spring or summer of 2010.

In October 2009, guitarist Jonny "2 Bags" Wickersham told Boston Examiner that Social Distortion is expected to enter the studio on February 1 for a late spring release. Asked what musical direction the band will be taking on the album, he said that it will be "very rock and roll," and include a country song in the vein of the band's 1992 album Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell. Wickersham explained, "It's not like we're going to start putting out a record like we've been listening to The Dead or something. We've got a handful of songs right now that are finished, and bunch that we're still working on."


Social Distortion playing live with the skeleton logo in the background
The band has consistently used a skeleton logo during their career. It has been used by the band as a mascot. It is frequently used during live performances as well as album covers.

The hanging logo, which has also been the trademark of Social D; a skeleton with a cigarette and martini glass is usually the background behind the drum set at live shows.

The logo is also used as a moniker for the band on merchandise, tour posters and branding. It is not uncommon to see Social Distortion fans with a tattoo of the logo.

Musical style, influences, and impact

Social Distortion's musical style began as decidedly punk rock or hardcore punk when the band formed in the late 1970s. They are thought to be one of the pioneering bands of the original Southern California punk rock movement out of Orange County, Californiamarker, and their style closely associated with the The Dickies, The Germs, and other bands from that place and time. 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 to the early 90's are considered to be cowpunk or rockabilly – a melodic punk sound that is distinctly – and distinctively – their own.

The music was mostly initially inspired equally by Johnny Cash, Eddie Cochran, and The Rolling Stones, as well as early punk bands like the Sex Pistols, The Clash and Ramones, and they have influenced various contemporary artists such as Alkaline Trio, Pearl Jam, Rise Against, Sum 41, The Offspring, Pennywise, Rancid, and Thrice. They began playing with fellow Orange County, Californiamarker bands such as The Adolescents, China White, and Shattered Faith as part of the nascent hardcore movement. Their music was fast, angry and energetic.

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, its consequences and the hard struggle for maturity". Other band members who have co-written Social Distortion songs are Dennis Danell ("The Creeps", "Indulgence", "Like an Outlaw (For You)", "On My Nerves", and "I Want What I Want"); Brent Liles ("Mass Hysteria"); Jonny Wickersham ("Nickels and Dimes", "Faithless", and "Angel's Wings"); and John Maurer ("Let It Be Me").


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

Current Line-Up



External links

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