Social Distortion were among the first generation of OC punk bands, and arguably is one of the most influential, turbulent, and commercially successful. Formed in Fullerton in 1979, a primitive version of the band featured front man Mike Ness, along with Rikk and Frank Agnew on guitar and Casey Royer on drums. Royer soon formed DI while the Agnew brothers formed the Adolescents, and Social Distortion carried on with Mike Ness as lead singer/song writer and guitarist Dennis Darnell, until his death in 2000. The band's career has seen numerous revolving lines ups, but today includes Ness, guitarist Jonny "2 Bags" Wickersham, bass player Brent Harding and drummer David Hidalgo Jr.
Over the span of a seminal career that is still going strong after more than three decades, Social Distortion has seen a balance of highs and lows, mainstream success also came with problems with substance abuse (Ness was strung out on heroin off and on, for several years throughout the life of the band); but the music has always spoken for itself, and the band's early days of classic OC hardcore evolved and went down a divergent path, to include roots rock influences, country music and rockabilly, creating a sound and niche of their own, and a legacy that still grows stronger as the years go on.
This month marks the 24th anniversary of the band's land mark self-titled album (released March 27, 1990), which produced some of its most well known songs, which were played in heavy rotation on KROQ and even MTV. The lasting impact of this classic album cannot be denied, as the songs reflect angst, rebellion and passion, but also showcase a true talent of songwriting. As a celebration of the band's longevity, we now present our list of the Top 10 Social Distortion songs.
10. "Don't Drag me Down"
This song, from the band's fifth studio release in 1996, White Light, White Heat, White Trash, starts out fast with loud, in your face powerful and upbeat drums. It is a celebration against oppression, ignorance and hatred; a musical inspiration of a punk rock tune that is catchy, but still manages to convey a positive message sense of and urgency in melody, music and lyrics.
9. "Telling Them"
A song from the 1983 album Mommy's Little Monster, this was a tale of the OC punk scene, with glimpses of alcohol, rebellion, violence, shattered glass and abandon. "My girl stands very close to me, That's where I want her to be. They say it costs $6 to get in this shack, I'll go around sneak in back. I hope the police don't show up here, Then we'll have to hide out of fear," sings a younger Mike Ness to end this song.
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8. "Born to Lose"
This song was from the band's 1992 album Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell. Like many others, it was autobiographical, and Ness sang it with such a heartfelt passion that listeners felt his story through musical empathy. This tune's slow pace, and very clear rockabilly sound still provide the trademark Social Distortion guitar notes that pleased fans of punk and country. This is a song that could have been on the band's self titled-album.
7. "Drug Train"
From the band's self-titled album, this song begins with a more rock-n-roll country vibe, of galloping guitar, drums and bass, but also keeps some of the old-school style, with slower vocals and a mid-tempo beat that creeps on you. This vivid song, details the harsh and brutal realities of mortality and incarceration due to drug abuse and is short and to the point.
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6. "Prison Bound"
This classic song is from the band's second album, Prison Bound (1988). It is a song that starts out slow but is still in-your-face with its approach. It establishes the band's sound of meshing together punk rock and country music from the start, and details the tragedy of incarceration. It is a slower song with a sound that progresses to a climatic ending.
5."Ring of Fire"
Everyone loves cover songs, and for Social Distortion this song was a no-brainer. A cover of the classic song by the 'Man In Black,' country icon Johnny Cash, appears on the band's self-titled album (1990). This is a cover song that united punks and country fans together, spawning a generation of younger fans who might not otherwise been into country music, while creating a hit that highlighted why the original was so good. Social Distortion bridged the gap between punk rockabilly and country music with this song, with the band's unique OC punk rock interpretation of the hit Johnny Cash tune.
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4. "Mommy's Little Monster"
Of course we couldn't make this list without the title track of "Mommy's Little Monster." Anyone who has ever been labeled the black sheep of the family can identify with the lyrics of this song. And as a punk growing up in Reagan Era OC, that's exactly what you were. Today, it's still an anthem for those who chose to let their punk flag fly.
3. "Bad Luck"
This classic song about luck and reputation came from Social Distortion's fourth album, 1992's Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, and also became one of the band's most well known songs. The music and chorus really stick in your head and highlight the band's signature sound of wailing crooning punk meets country meets country rock sound.
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2. "Ball and Chain"
Another hit single from the band's self-titled album, listeners know this is Social Distortion song from the split second it starts. The slower pace of this song sucks listeners in, with flailing punk rock country infused guitars, and gruff, tragic vocals and a distinct rock-n-roll vibe. The song is a story of alcoholism, and the struggles that Ness faced that really touched people's hearts by the way the singer wore his heart on his sleeve with the personal, and blatant nature of these iconic lyrics.
1."Story of My Life"
This iconic song, perhaps the band's best to date, begins with the classic sound of wallowing guitars and a simple yet steady punk beat. It is very personal, reflective, and heart felt with memorable lyrics about the love and rock-n-roll, that came angst of growing up in OC. Even if you weren't a fan, there was no escaping this song during its heyday; it was a major hit on KROQ in the '90s and was a musical emblem of OC punk back in the day. Today, it is still viewed as an iconic song that helped put Social Distortion on the map.