Sunday, January 30, 2011


I've been listening a lot to Social Distortion's latest album, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes lately. But to have a look at their earliest days, I just watched the documentary, Another State Of Mind," shot on the band's 1982 U.S. tour with Youth Brigade (whose Shawn Stern organized the tour).

You want to talk "hard core?"  Try putting 11 punks into an old school bus with 90,000+ miles on it and driving around the circumference of the United States. But it was an interesting documentary for sure.

I wasn't part of that scene - or even aware of it. At that time, I was in junior high school, just discovering music through older friends and, of course, MTV. I don't know that I would have been part of that scene even if I was aware of it: I really liked aggressive music, but I definitely wasn't as angry as lots of the kids in this doc.

In some ways, the film was a downer: you watch the guys on the bus realize that their ideals of "unity" sort of disappear when there's no money and no food. On the other hand, you can see the commitment of some of the guys, mainly Mike Ness. Some of the film is pretty prophetic.  At one point, the other guys in Social D complain about Mike's drinking and his response is, "I've been playing these songs for three years! I know them like I know my mother, I can get as drunk as I want!"  That attitude would later get him into trouble.  Later on, the other three guys leave the tour to return to L.A.: that's where the money is, they don't see the purpose in playing places where people don't know them.  Mike Ness stays, but ends up leaving also: he realizes that at that point, he can't play without a band. But he does say that they can leave, "I'm keeping the name, and I'm still playing these songs!" Which is exactly what he's done.

Also of great interest is the footage of the Washington, D.C. part of the tour, when they bands stayed at The Dischord House, HQ of Ian MacKaye and Minor Threat. Even back then, Ian was a straight edge, and promoted that lifestyle. You could see the bands respected each other, but no way would a Social D and Minor Threat tour on a bus have worked out!

Major props to the filmmakers Peter Stuart and Adam Small for having the presence of mind to document this tour - back then, in the pre-digital age, making a doc like this must have been incredibly difficult, but their commitment to it was on par with Ness and MacKaye's commitment to their art.

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