Social Distortion and the Rolling Stones had every reason to pack it in years ago: The Stones are wealthy beyond belief, and Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness is the band's last original member. Both have seen better days, but each can still put together a good album, even if neither offers much to the new listener. The groups have a number of parallels, and their paths intertwine.
Social D covered the Stones' "Under My Thumb" in 1982 and reprised it on 1996's White Light, White Heat, White Trash, the uninspired low point of the band's recording career, but its biggest commercial success. Social D also covered "Backstreet Girl" on 1988's Prison Bound. For its time, the long-awaited disc was shockingly progressive punk: The band dabbled in country, as the Stones did during the band's Sticky Fingers era.
Both have also tackled Bob Dylan. Ness gracefully punked up Dylan's "Don't Think Twice" on his rootsy solo debut, 1999's Cheating at Solitaire. The Stones' perky jaunt through "Like a Rolling Stone" made a mockery of the baby-boomer anthem.
Drowning in whiskey, Ness probably cut his career in half by dallying with the needle and the spoon. The Stones played through their excess phase, leaving Ness' meager catalog in the dust, but with far less consistent results. Keith Richards and Ness look equally ravaged, but when Ness hides in the shadow of a fedora, he still has the sheer presence that made him the punk Johnny Cash.
The Stones dabble in politics here and there -- the new "Sweet Neo Con" is enough to make you nostalgic for 1983's half-baked "Undercover of the Night." Wrapped up in his own bad decisions and bad luck, Ness isn't that kind of punk. And both show that it's possible to make your real fans happy years after casual followers wrote you off.