Is Social Distortion (hereafter, Social D, as Sunny Delight is to Sunny D) a guilty pleasure (like Sunny Delight)? I don't know very much about them aside from the basics, the radio singles and that self-titled 3rd album. They're clearly very corny. From reading this morning it looks like they were mildly praised by critics for transcending their "ordinary" LA Hardcore roots to come up with something new. "Something new" in this case is the 90s Rockabilly revival, which is not a look I like. (Side note: I saw in a meme once that Rockabilly is "white privilege cosplay" and haven't stopped thinking about it as such since).
However, Social D's self-titled and most of their singles from the early 90s are difficult for me to deny. They were a persistent presence on alternative radio throughout high school. Their best album and "Story of My Life" were released in 1990, but as with the Dead Milkmen and Violent Femmes, they were played on alternative radio during my formative years (bless). I didn't think I'd ever seen them live but they played one of the first four Big Meles, so I guess I would have had to: Big Mele. I believe they played by themselves when I was in college but for whatever reason, didn't go see them. More on that later.
So this song along with "Ball and Chain" and their cover of "Ring of Fire" were mainstays, but "Story of My Life" is the enduring favorite of mine. I think it's mainly sentimental. I remember listening to this song, which is about wistful high school nostalgia, while in high school, wondering whether I would look at things the same way (I would not). Make no mistake, there is nothing novel about this song, thematically or lyrically. "I didn't have much interest in sports or school elections" is straight from the play book from your most basic teenage misfit. I've been considering all morning what "that silly school boy crush was more than just pretend" means and I still don't have an answer for you. But I can't deny how gooey it makes me feel anyway. They're cartoons, but they're convincing cartoons.
Two stories. Senior year we started doing this thing at lunch where students played music over the loudspeaker. Each Wednesday we had a theme (e.g., hip hop, punk, Hawaiian, etc.). I was friends with the student council, so I managed to wriggle my way into the DJ role more times than I should have (I abused this advantage on a number of occasions). I used to come up with themes where my ability to play punk and/or ska would be possible but not obvious. One such theme was "cover songs." This, I think, was the last straw and ended up being my last stand. But I do recall playing "Ring of Fire" by Social D and one of my favorite teachers Mr. Eckman (European history and philosophy, who has since passed <3) approached me, pointed in my direction and said "Johnny Cash! 1967."
In college, Pete, Alison and I were walking through Sears at Ala Moana and walking the other way was a punker guy who looked vaguely out of central casting for a Social D fan--without breaking stride--produced something out of a bag he was carrying, gestured to Pete, and said "Michael Ness" in the same cadence of "Mr. Black" from overdubbed audio in the Camp Krusty video. He repeated, "You like that? Michael Ness," again, never breaking stride. I guess it was an autographed picture from the show we missed the night before. To this day, Pete and I still say "Michael Ness" like "Mr. Black" and sometimes continue to "Thank you Krusty and welcome children, I *am* Michael Ness." For reference: