Christian doctrine teaches that God exists in three beings (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), creating a trinity otherwise known as “Godhead.” Basically, all are one and none exist without the other. This is somewhat the basis for Yell! Magazine’s Holy Trinity series. What we present here are three elements from a particular medium and/or genre (be it three albums from a band, a musical genre, a film director, a genre or sub-genre of film, video game franchise or developer/publisher etc.) that must be owned, heard, viewed or played in order for a “fan” to achieve completion. For example, if someone is a Heavy Metal fan, their album collection is incomplete without the eponymous Paranoid from Black Sabbath. However, owning the latest Justin Bieber album trumps everything, making you a true fan of everything and the Messiah.
Holy Trinity: Social Distortion
While not everyone may like them, there are few who will say they don’t at least respect them. Unlike many bands who came out of the second wave of Californian Punk, Social Distortion not only epitomized Punk in their early days, they were also able to grow with the scene. As the punks of their generation grew from angry teens to still-angry-but-a-little-more-civilized adults, Social Distortion matured with them, both as people themselves and as musicians.
Fronted by Mike Ness, and formed in late 1978, Social Distortion received moderate airplay by infamous glam/punk DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, with their single “Mainliner”/”Playpen.” In 1981, now with new members, Dennis Danell, Brent Liles, and Derek O’Brien, the band punched their way into the hearts and record players of Punk kids across the country when they set out on their first national tour with another Punk band, Youth Brigade. Their following grew even more when a documentary filmed during this tour was released in 1984, under the title Another State of Mind.
In 1982, upon returning from the tour with Youth Brigade, the boys put out their first full album, Mommy’s Little Monster (released only in 1983), which brings us to our first entry in my Social Distortion Holy Trinity.
Mommy’s Little Monster (1983)
Though it wasn’t a huge commercial success when it was first released, Mommy’s Little Monster is what Punk was all about in the early ’80s. Self-released on the label 13th Floor Records, it has that playing-at-the-bottom-of-a-toilet-bowl echo thing going on. It’s dirty, and gritty, and ugly in the most beautiful of ways. It’s about love (“Another State of Mind”), hate (“Moral Threat”), and anti-society thinking (“Mommy’s Little Monster,” “Telling Them”). It’s about a bunch of kids, pissed off with the world around them, and society at large, and taking a stance and making a change in the only way they knew how: through fast, angry, rebellious music.
Mommy’s Little Monster is the fastest, and most power-chord filled of all Social Distortion’s albums, and though Mike Ness’ voice definitely sounds like the youthful 20 year old that he was when he made the record, his telltale raw, growling voice still shines through (though it had not yet been put through the wringer from years of cigarette smoke, alcohol and drug abuse).
Embarking on a two-decade-long career with Social D, Dennis Danell, who had been approached by Ness while in high school to join the band on bass, switched to lead guitar before the recording of Mommy’s Little Monster, and it’s his choppy, screeching guitar riffs that really brings the DIY punk feel to the front of this record. Any punk worth his/her weight in safety-pins has to have this first Social Distortion album in their collection. +3,000 Punk Points if you have it on vinyl.
Find out what the other two Social Distortion albums are that made it into the Holy Trinity…