White Light, White Heat, White Trash

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White Light, White Heat, White Trash
Social Distortion - White Light, White Heat, White Trash cover.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 17, 1996 (U.S.)
RecordedAugust 1995 – June 1996, Bearsville Studio
Label550 Music/Epic
ProducerMichael Beinhorn
Social Distortion chronology
Mainliner: Wreckage From the Past
White Light, White Heat, White Trash
Live at the Roxy
Singles from White Light, White Heat, White Trash
  1. "I Was Wrong"
    Released: 1996

White Light, White Heat, White Trash is the fifth album by American punk rock band, Social Distortion, released on September 17, 1996, by 550 Music/Epic Records. The album was produced by Michael Beinhorn. White Light, White Heat, White Trash is the last Social Distortion studio album to feature guitarist Dennis Danell before his death on February 29, 2000.[1] He did however appear on live album Live at the Roxy in 1998. It is also the band's last release on Epic Records. The album received Social Distortion's highest chart position at the time, entering the Billboard 200 album chart at #27. In the first week of its release, White Light, White Heat, White Trash sold 30,000 copies.[2] Stylistically, the album is harder and considered a return to their punk roots.

The title of the album is a play on the 1968 Velvet Underground album, White Light/White Heat. The Velvet Underground record is known for being one of the most influential and well-known, and also one of the heaviest, records of its era, just as White Light, White Heat, White Trash for Social Distortion has a harder sound than those albums preceding it.

Music and lyrics[edit]

Stylistically, the album signifies a shift back to Social Distortion's hardcore and punk roots.[3] When this album was released, Social Distortion had been playing for 18 years. In that time, the music went from a hardcore Ramones-sounding punk to a more melodic Elvis/Johnny Cash rockabilly punk sound. With this album, Social Distortion came full circle to a harder sound which some consider their strongest album thus far.[3] It was named #41 on Kerrang!'s 50 Greatest Punk Albums Ever.[4] Some old-school fans were upset when the first single, "I Was Wrong", was widely played on the radio as record sales equals selling out to some of the elitists; however, Social Distortion is something of a legend in the punk genre and continues to receive respect and support.[5]

The lyrics on this album are as socially conscious as most of their previous albums with "Don't Drag Me Down" and "Down Here (w/the Rest Of Us)". There are also reflective songs such as "I Was Wrong", "Crown of Thorns" and "Pleasure Seeker". There are a couple of more personal songs for Ness on the album like "Dear Lover" and "When The Angels Sing" which is said to be a tribute to Ness's grandmother.[5]

"Don't Drag Me Down" featured on the soundtrack for the 2000 Acclaim computer game Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX.

"I Was Wrong" is a playable song in the 2008 game Rock Band 2.

Cover and liner art[edit]

The cover of White Light, White Heat, White Trash features a photograph of a ventriloquist dummy/puppet taken by Leonard Myszynski. On the back cover is another photograph by Myszynski of religious statues. The inner liner is covered with small icons of religious and Americana nature, illustrating the album's fusion of faith and punk rock with a 1950s influence. The iconography includes dice, a 1950s-style automobile in front of a motel, a pin-up girl with angel wings and a halo, a burning cross and a Sacred Heart.


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic2.5/5 stars[6]
Chicago Tribune3/4 stars[7]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[8]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[10]

Reviews for White Light, White Heat, White Trash have generally been favorable. AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine, however, called the album a "conscious attempt to cash in on the alternative 'revolution" of the early '90s" and expressed mixed feelings towards the band's musical direction, stating, "Underneath the layers of glossy hard rock production, the band still hold fast to some of their punk roots, but too often they sound like a heavy hard rock band. Of course, that commercial sheen is intentional – it's the only way they could appeal to the legions of post-grunge alternative fans who appeared since Social Distortion released Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell in 1992."[6]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Mike Ness unless otherwise noted.

  1. "Dear Lover" – 4:43
  2. "Don't Drag Me Down" – 3:51
  3. "Untitled" – 4:45
  4. "I Was Wrong" – 3:58
  5. "Through These Eyes" – 3:15
  6. "Down on the World Again" – 3:22
  7. "When the Angels Sing" – 4:15
  8. "Gotta Know the Rules" – 3:28
  9. "Crown of Thorns" – 4:15
  10. "Pleasure Seeker" – 3:33
  11. "Down Here (With the Rest of Us)" – 4:19
  12. "Under My Thumb" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:49 (hidden track)


  • Mike Ness – vocals, guitars, art direction, mixing
  • Dennis Danell – guitars
  • John Maurer – bass guitar
  • Deen Castronovo – drums (uncredited session drummer)
  • Chuck Biscuits – drums (credited as band member at the time of release, did not play on the album)
  • Michael Beinhorn – producer
  • Kalynn Campbell – illustrations
  • Jolie Clemens – art direction
  • Giulio Costanzo – art direction
  • George Marino – mastering
  • John Travis – engineer, mixing


All chart positions from Billboard magazine (North America).[12]

Chart (1996) Peak
Billboard 200 27


All chart positions from Billboard magazine (North America).[13][14]

Year Title Chart Peak positions
1996 "I Was Wrong" Modern Rock Tracks 4
Mainstream Rock Tracks 12
1997 "When the Angels Sing" Modern Rock Tracks 33
Mainstream Rock Tracks 32


The information regarding accolades attributed to White Light, White Heat, White Trash is adapted from Acclaimed Music.[15]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Blender USA 500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die 2003 *
Rock Hard Germany Top 300 Albums 2001 123
Rolling Stone Germany The 500 Best Albums of All Time[16] 2004 170
Visions Germany The Most Important Albums of the 90s[17] 1999 31

(*) designates unordered lists.


  1. ^ "'A PHENOMENON'" Archived 2006-10-18 at the Wayback Machine SDCityBeat.com. January 18, 2006. Retrieved on February 27, 2007.
  2. ^ "Will the Flash of 'White Light' Burn Steadily?". articles.latimes.com. 1996-10-02. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
  3. ^ a b "New distortion from Social Distortion" Archived 2007-08-11 at the Wayback Machine. YaleHerald.com. September 27, 1996. Retrieved on February 25, 2007.
  4. ^ "The Kerrang! 50 Greatest Punk Albums Ever". RockList.net. Retrieved on February 25, 2007.
  5. ^ a b "Review: White Light, White Heat, White Trash". December 17, 2002. Retrieved on February 25, 2007.
  6. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "White Light White Heat White Trash – Social Distortion". AllMusic. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  7. ^ Kot, Greg (September 20, 1996). "Straight-up Rock". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  8. ^ Sinclair, Tom (October 18, 1996). "White Light White Heat White Trash". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on January 15, 2018. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  9. ^ Robbins, Ira (October 3, 1996). "Social Distortion: White Light White Heat White Trash". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 21, 2007. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  10. ^ Considine, J. D. (2004). "Social Distortion". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 756–57. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  11. ^ Eddy, Chuck (October 1996). "Social Distortion: White Light White Heat White Trash". Spin. 12 (7): 132. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  12. ^ "Discography: White Light, White Heat, White Trash". Billboard.com. Retrieved on February 25, 2007.
  13. ^ "Social Distortion: Singles". Billboard.com. Retrieved on February 25, 2007.
  14. ^ "Social Distortion: Discography" Archived 2007-03-14 at the Wayback Machine SocialDistortion.com. Retrieved on February 25, 2007.
  15. ^ "List of White Light, White Heat, White Trash Accolades". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 2007-08-08.
  16. ^ Rolling Stone. "Die 500 besten Alben aller Zeiten". Retrieved 2007-08-08.
  17. ^ Visions. "Visions – Popular Music Best-Of-Lists List". Retrieved 2007-08-08.