and West Coast.

Mike Ness is an American legend, or at least he should be.
You can gripe all you want about how rock ‘n’ roll descended from blues, and how blues descended from the music of native Africa, and how the White Devil homogenized and toned down the strong Nubian sound to make it appealing for us milquetoast boring, Buick-driving, too-tight bowtie wearing Saltine brothas. I don’t care what you say, because when it comes down to it, I can only listen to about fifteen minutes of blues, or soul, or rhythm, or whatever they call it these days (Lord knows that “Country” music isn’t even allowed to be called “Country” anymore, thanks to those Nashville pea-brains). When it comes to rock ‘n’ roll, however…real, good, old-school three chord simple song rock the fuck out and roll… I can listen to that for hours, and I often do.
I cut my teeth on guys like Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, John Lennon and, to a lesser extent, the luminaries like Chuck Berry and Bill Haley blaring out of 94.7 WOFM out of Wausau, Wisconsin. Like a lot of kids, I grew up listening to what Mom n Pop listened to, and, unlike most ungrateful little brats, I developed a deep affinity for “Oldies” so much so that I want to eat the children of those douchebags who keep turning my beloved Oldies stations into “Classic Rock” drivel playing Whitesnake more times than should be legal. As it was, the original rock ‘n’ roll of the 1950s and early sixties was RAW: it was simple music, usually only a few chords, and simple songs about girls, cars, rockin’ a new lifestyle, or sometimes all three. “To hell with the bland conformity of the 1950s!” these songs said, “We’re not keeping up with the Joneses, we’re taking Suzy Jones out for a wild night of loud music and louder ideas, and you can stick it!”
True, the songs like “Jailhouse Rock” and “Great Balls of Fire” seem tame when put next to, say, Slipknot or Sabbath, butfor (what’s a butfor?) the parents of that era, this was devil-scribed prophecies of the downfall of the American life that they had fought so hard to preserve. Now, don’t get me wrong, Hitler needed a good tushy-kicking, but the buttoned down, McCarthy-era terror that followed VJ Day was not the reward America, nay, the free world deserved. You do not remove one tyrant three thousand miles away to be ruled by three thousand tyrants one mile away (sing it Mather Byles, Sr.), and rock ‘n’ roll was here to buck the establishment to the delight of the new American youth.
Sadly, as all wildly popular things, big business types got their hands into rock ‘n’ roll, and by the 1970s the once noble art form had fallen into a morass of flimsy, innefectual music or, even worse, disco. In a supreme example of History flowing like a river, this button-down version of rock ‘n’ roll had its own detractors who fought back with, you guessed it, musically simple, raw, high-energy songs, and thus was born punk rock, the spiritual ancestor to the original rock ‘n’ roll and the domain of one Mike Ness who, along with his band Social Distortion, are one of the elder statesmen of the punk rock scene. In keeping my musical influences within the family, it was my older brother who introduced me to punk, and bands like Social D, who rule so hard that I someday hope to see Mike Ness’ eyeliner pencil in the Hall of Fame next to the comb used to coif Elvis’ signature pompadour.
There’s no one better to discuss the history of Social D than the band themselves, so I’ll slap this link up here for brevity’s sake:
Mike Ness has nearly THIRTY YEARS of experience in punk rock music, dating back to 1979 at the age of 17. He, along with a few others, are considered virtual Gods of the genre, with careers spanning everything from loud and nasty raw punk in the Carter Administration to “Western” (because I’m told I can’t call real Country “Country” anymore, rargh) influences produced at the end of the tenure of Bill Clinton. Finally, the punk met the cow, along with some Berry and awesome sauce in the form of “Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll” an album put out in 2001 and easily the best offering from Social D to date. Social D, unlike nearly any other punk band, exemplifies what punk rock has and always will be: a strong, rebellious, truly American art form with its roots in blues, jazz, co…grr…”Western,” and rock ‘n’ roll music, any old way you choose it. Mike Ness, as leader of the band and the only surviving member from its earliest days, serves as the figurehead of Punk rock’s true Americana, writing and singing songs that don’t just connect to today, but yesterday, the day before that, and decades back to the first proto-punk that first slicked his hair, slipped on his brothel creepers and cranked “Johnny B. Goode” out of the speaker of his father’s Packard on the way to crash the local ice cream social.
Social D, and by extension punk music as a whole, is the music of the American spirit, and Mike Ness channels that spirit and crafts it like a master artisan. A Social Distortion song is not only listened to, it is experienced. There is no better way to hear Social Distortion than with the windows down on a vintage Cadillac, cruising down a sun-soaked stretch of highway in Southern California, the place where Ness calls home. American built cars, American-built music, and warm California sun. It doesn’t get any more American than that.

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