Social Distortion has a pretty messed-up face. Not literally, of course; Social D's middle-aged frontman, Mike Ness, is surprisingly well-preserved despite a receding hairline and some deep creases across the forehead. Like any punk crew that spent a good chunk of 31 years in the gutter, rocking recklessly, shooting heroin, looking for love, and breaking the law, the band is almost nothing like it was in its infancy.
The four original members — Ness, guitarists Rikk and Frank Agnew, and drummer Casey Royer — stuck together for only about a year. When the frontman suddenly brought in Dennis Danell to play bass (even though he couldn't actually play), his three cofounders — both Agnew brothers and Royer — quit to start up the Adolescents.
Since then, an almost endless series of makeovers followed through the '80s, '90s, and '00s, seeing a little less than 20 people fill space with Social D. And in all that time, the only other constant aside from Ness was Danell, who died at 38 from a brain aneurysm in the winter of 2000. Today, Ness remains the lone recognizable part of Social Distortion's craggy punk mug. But if you drop into the pit, close your eyes, and throw some elbows, the noise still sounds the same.