Social Distortion’s Mike Ness recalls the time he snuck into a Ramones show (as a Ramone)

"The security guard just thought I was one of them because I had my leather jacket on"

Mike Ness and Joey Ramone
Social Distortion’s Mike Ness, photo by Antonio Marino Jr. / Joey Ramone, via Sire Records

Punk rock veterans Social Distortion recently completed a fall tour, and we caught up with frontman Mike Ness for an in-depth interview about the band’s upcoming album, and much more. But he also told us an entertaining side story about his memorable experiences with one of his biggest influences, fellow punk legends the Ramones.

One of his fondest memories came at a time when Social D were just starting out, and he was a struggling young musician with very little money to his name. “The first [Ramones memory] that comes to mind is, like 1980, they played Orange County, where I live,” begins Ness. “They played at this f–kin’ rinky-dink ballroom, And we spent all our money on beer, and you’d get a stamp [at these shows], and security was just so stupid back then that we would just bring marking pens, and see what the stamp was, and I would either like mark it in or try to get an imprint off it.”

He continues, “But that night, the Ramones were in the back [of the venue]. They had a mobile home, and they were up there with their leather jackets, doing some stretches and shit. And I walk up with my leather jacket — I got Budweiser cans stuffed in each pocket — and they’re walking into the venue, and I just walked right in with them, and the security guard just thought I was one of them because I had my leather jacket on. Yeah, we just had a knack for that, getting into shows free, getting backstage, drinking the band’s beer.”

Later on, after Social Distortion found success, Ness got to know the Ramones, and was an eyewitness to not just their stage show but to the internal dysfunction that plagued the Ramones throughout their career.

“In ’92, when we toured with them, that was a kick, because I watched them every night, and they’re doing these songs they’ve been playing for 20 years,” recalls Ness. “And Joey would sing just a little bit behind, and it was such a nice pocket. He would swim around the pocket. And I learned that from Neil Young, as well.”

He adds, “But I would just watch the Ramones at dinnertime. I would make sure I got a good seat, because they would be eating and just like bickering amongst each other, like little children, and it was just like, ‘This is f–king awesome, man!’ They were like a comic-book strip that came to life. I was at the right place at the right time. Their tour manager is pulling his hair out of his head, saying, ‘What do I do with these f–kin’ monkeys?’ But Joey was such a sweet guy. Them and the Rolling Stones — Social D is somewhere in between those two bands.”

As mentioned, Ness talked to us about a number of other topics, including the band’s upcoming album, his thoughts on President Trump, his friendship with Bruce Springsteen, and more. Read our full interview with the legendary Social Distortion frontman, and check out our review and photos of the band’s October show in Port Chester, New York.

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