Social Distortion is a pioneering hardcore punk rock band from Fullerton, California. The band has undergone several lineup changes through the years, but the one constant member in the band has been frontman Mike Ness. Guitarist Dennis Danell was a consistent fixture in the group until he died from a brain aneurysm in 2000.
The band released its first album, Mommy's Little Monster, in 1983. The album was lauded by critics but failed to sell. It would be five years before the band released its sophomore effort, Prison Bound (1988). This album transitioned the band from a small-time punk pioneer to a big time rock and roll outfit.
In 1990, Social Distortion released its third and self-titled studio album. The work peaked at number 128 on the Billboard 200 and featured the hit tracks "Ball and Chain," "Story of My Life," and "Let It Be Me." They followed that album with 1992's Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell. That collection featured the single "Bad Luck" which reached number two on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.
Social Distortion's fifth studio album, and the last to feature Danell, dropped in the fall of 1996. It debuted on the Billboard 200 at number 27 and featured a sound more akin to their punk roots. The album's title is a spoof of Velvet Underground's 1968 album, White Light/White Heat.
Eight years would pass before their next album—Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll—hit record store shelves. Much of the album, including the hit "Reach for the Sky," was dedicated to Danell. The band's seventh studio album came out in late 2010.
Despite forming in 1978 the band has just seven studio albums to its name. One of the reasons for the sporadic release of work was Ness' drug problems. His addictions have forced him into numerous rehabilitation programs as well as some short stints in jail.
While Social Distortion is one of the most influential American punk bands they also explored other genres including country and rock and roll—throughout their career the band has drawn inspiration from artists like The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, and Eddie Cochran. Their work from the mid-80's and early 90's was greatly influenced by country music and is now considered by critics to be a sub-genre of punk called cowpunk or rockabilly.
Besides their music, Social Distortion is also known for its distinctive logo—a skeleton holding a cigarette and a martini glass. This logo is used on album covers, as a back drop for their live shows, and for merchandising. Hardcore Social Distortion fans use the design for tattoos.