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Between Mommy’s Little Monster and Social Distortion’s self-titled album, the band was in turmoil. There were breakups and makeups, legal troubles and rehab visits, band member changes, a hiatus, and an album that didn’t fare so well, save for the title song. But now, it’s the beginning of the 1990s, Jon Bon Jovi is going down in a “Blaze of Glory” (like that terrible, flashy-neon fashion sense), Bart Simpson is telling people to eat his shorts, and Social Distortion has really started to find their sound, which is fused somewhere between Punk and Country. Though their 1988 album, Prison Bound, marked the beginning of the band’s foray into Punk-fueled Country and Western, it was their self-titled release that really brought their Rockabilly sound home.
Mike Ness channels Johnny Cash throughout Social Distortion, but it can be heard most prominently in their cover of Cash’s hit “Ring of Fire.” The album was the band’s first to hit the Billboard 200, and “Ring of Fire” charted at Number 25 on Billboard’s Modern Rock songs. It was also Social Distortion’s first commercially successful album, as well as their first album recorded on the Epic Records label.
This self-titled album brings us deeper into the world of Social Distortion, and into the mind of Mike Ness, than any of their previous recordings. “It Coulda Been Me” teaches us both about love and loss, as well as falling into, and getting out of the downward spiral of drug abuse. We remember what it was like to see the world through the eyes of a teenager, and how the world looks once we’re grown up, in the autobiographical “Story Of My Life.” And “Sick Boy” tells the world about bad boys, and how girls will always fall for them hard, and fast. Sorry, nice boys.
An album full of firsts, and with songs that speak to everyone who hears them, Social Distortion by Social Distortion is the epitome of what it means to grow up in the punk culture, and grow with it as well.
The most sentimental album ever put out by the Californian Punks, Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll takes us on an emotional journey, no doubt like the one Mike himself went through when dealing with the death of long-time friend and band mate, Dennis Danell, in 2000. A musical tribute to Danell, we are constantly reminded throughout the album to live for the day, have no regrets, and take nothing for granted. That’s not to say, though, that this album is overly emo or sappy. Set between a depressing love song “Footprints on my Ceiling” (which captured the Number 10 slot on my list of Depressing Songs That Will Make You Want To Kill Yourself) and “Winners and Losers,” a song that makes us all realizes that we are the ones who make our own choices, and have to live with them, is the rocking shout-it-from-the-rooftops Punk anthem, “I Wasn’t Born to Follow.”
Though it took eight years to set up, put together, and release, with Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll Social Distortion rose from the phoenix-y ashes of hiatus-induced near-obscurity to produce an incredibly touching, beautifully written, right-from-the-heart album that put them back on top of the charts and reminded the Punk world of their awesomeness. It is easily their best album to date, and my personal favorite.
“When I grow up, I’m gonna be a star
Gonna sing my songs and play my guitar, I’m ready
Gonna change the world, gonna turn the page,
Gonna say what I feel, let out this rage, get ready
We’re going down, down to the streets below,
‘Cause don’t you know, I wasn’t born to follow.”
Stay Scared, kids, and don’t be born to follow, either.
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