Orange County punks Social Distortion have released seven studio albums, one EP, two compilation albums, two DVDs and 24 singles since forming in 1978. We got storied frontman Mike Ness to pick his 10 favourite songs from his 36-year career…
GHOST TOWN BLUES (Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell, 1992) There’s certain songs that stand out more than others to me, that I like more from a lyrical standpoint. I maybe don’t always take the time to acknowledge it, but there is a lot of sentiment in the Social Distortion catalogue. This is one of my more poetic songs, as opposed to say Ball And Chain and Story Of My Life, which are pretty literal.
GIMME THE SWEET AND LOWDOWN (Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes, 2011) This is about a certain lifestyle, which so many people think is cool, but I just wanted to paint a realistic picture of what it’s really like. It’s not all so pretty, you know, and this one’s a cynical look at that.
CALIFORNIA (HUSTLE AND FLOW) (Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes, 2011) I like this one because it talks about my life but it could be about any one of my friends as well, because we all grew up the same way – doing that hustle and flow.
DEAR LOVER (White Light, White Heat, White Trash, 1996) Believe it or not this one isn’t so much about heartbreak as it is about being in a dark place in my life. The whole record is pretty dark. It’s basically about acquiring success and surrounding yourself with cars and money things, but not having anybody to share it all with.
SHE’S A KNOCKOUT (Social Distortion, 1990) Until recently we hadn’t played this song live for years because I just thought it’s so high school and silly. But I’ve really been enjoying playing it, and I think the lyrics are actually OK – it’s a rock ‘n’ roll song and it doesn’t always have to be profound.
LET IT BE ME (Social Distortion, 1990) I’m usually most excited about songs that are new, but I haven’t quite finished the new record yet and I don’t know if I have any song titles or information that I can share just yet. So let’s pick another off the self-titled that we’ve been playing on this run. Let It Be Me has been a fun one to play. It’s basically about really wanting someone to want you back – unrequited love.
PRISON BOUND (Prison Bound, 1988) Let’s go way back to Prison Bound. This was right after I got cleaned up. I’d been in trouble with the law and I was just grateful that I didn’t have to go down the same path as the one a lot of my friends did. This song still means a lot to me.
ALL THE ANSWERS (Mommy’s Little Monster, 1983) Right, back to Mommy’s Little Monster now. This one’s my teen punk anthem about being a punk rocker and running around the streets and having to fight everybody because everyone hates you. I was definitely that kid!
THIS TIME DARLIN’ (Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell, 1992) I love this song just because I grew up listening to country music as well as rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s kind of neat when you discover you can do something else as a songwriter too, and that you can do it well. Country and folk music have always been there from a very early age – my mom and dad had a variety of records around the house.
WRITING ON THE WALL (Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes, 2011) This was an easy song to write, in that it was easy to come up with the imagery, but it was a hard song to write because I had to go through the personal experience of writing about my oldest son. He’s very much like me, almost to a fault, and he was getting in trouble with drugs, alcohol and the law. It was hard to get that vulnerable to write a song, but I’m glad that I did. Some of the most vulnerable songs are my favourites.