Social Distortion – ‘Machine Gun Blues’ – Analysis


Social Distortion are a punk rock band consisting of: ‘Mike Ness’ lead guitar and vocals, ‘Jonny Wikersham’ rhythm guitar and backing vocals, ‘Brent Harding’ bass and backing vocals, ‘David Hidalgo Jr.’ on drums and ‘David Kalish’ keyboard. However they have had a non stop rotation of members with Ness being the only consistent.

This video is shot out like a miniature film, set in “1934” with the band members being gangsters, named the ‘Blood & Sorrow Gang’, with their own nicknames: ‘Michael “Sick Boy” Ness’, ‘Jonny “Two Bags” Wikersham’, ‘Brent “Rock” Harding’, Dave “The Hammer” Hidalgo’ and ‘Dan “Knuckles” McGough’. We are introduced to the characters in the standard gangster manner, two getting their shoes shined, one waiting outside, one distracting others and one cleaning a car (most likely the getaway vehicle). The song doesn’t start until 1:51 but the build up is presented as a coordinated attack on a bank. The camera in this video is mostly handheld, making it shake reflecting the chaos towards the end of the video.

The video is primarily narrative based with intertwined performance parts, for example at 2:19 Ness is stood on top of the booths singing whilst holding a gun, intertwining the narrative and performance. The narrative is a stereotypical gangster film premise. Gangsters rob a bank (one has second thoughts but it’s too late for that) and run from the police, pay someone to stay quite and inevitably get caught and up dead.

Intertextuality is the basis for this video, due to the basis being that of gangster films, following Goodwin’s ‘Dancing in the Distraction Factory’ the gangster themes, mise-en-scene etc. focus on the repeat-ability despite this video being a short film, and allow the audience to notice similarities between this and ‘Goodfellas’ (as an example). On the other hand, symbolism isn’t used within this video, it’s very straightforward, it’s a miniature movie about gangster.

The camera at 1:34-1:39 shows a woman at the bank laying cash on the booth, then Ness pays ‘Johnny Rio-Ness’ for shining his shoes. Before the main sequence of events occur within this video, the viewer is shown this; giving them an idea that Ness will make that money back shortly, giving them an idea of what this video is about.1

At 1:57 there is a close up of Ness’ guitar case, this a gain links to the intertextuality/stereotypes of gangsters and parodies them, i.e. how they used violin cases to hold their guns, the parody is the guitar case.2

The editing throughout this video is fairly standard.

In terms of correlation between the music and the video, the diagetic sounds from the video transfer into the music video, for example the gunshots and screams are evident within the video.


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