Sunday, January 21, 2007

Early Social Distortion bassist ID'd in wreck

Sunday, January 21, 2007
Early Social Distortion bassist ID'd in wreck
Officials say that Brent Liles of Fullerton was bicyclist killed in Placentia crash.
By ERIC CARPENTER
The Orange County Register

PLACENTIA – Officials on Saturday identified Brent Liles of Fullerton, former bass guitarist in one of the region's most influential punk rock bands, Social Distortion, as the bicyclist killed by a big rig on Thursday.

Liles played bass on the group's groundbreaking "Mommy's Little Monster" recording in 1983 and went on to play with other well-known Orange County punk acts such as the group Agent Orange. He was 43.

"Brent was a fun-loving guy who approached his bass playing with a lot of enthusiasm and that made him a lot of fun to be around," said Frank Agnew, a fellow musician and friend.

Liles, wearing casual clothing, was riding a small dirt bicycle westbound on Orangethorpe Avenue just after 11:30 a.m. Thursday, California Highway Patrol officials said.

As he entered the crosswalk at the Orange (57) Freeway, a big rig carrying a trailer turned right onto the on-ramp and accelerated, hitting Liles. He was pronounced dead at the scene, officials said.

The driver, Javier Lopez of Rancho Cucamonga, was turning on a green light. He was not immediately cited, CHP officials said. The crash is still being investigated.

Liles joined Social Distortion in 1981 after a tumultuous beginning for the band, whose original members came from Fullerton and Huntington Beach.

He was recruited to play bass on "Mommy's Little Monster," which quickly brought the band national acclaim for its hard-driving music, raw vocals and themes of suburban alienation.

Orange County Register pop music critic Ben Wener called the album a "fundamental work" that set the groundwork for the West Coast punk rock scene.

Liles was featured in the limited-release film "Another State of Mind," which documented the band's early struggles on the road touring the United States and Canada in a pieced-together tour van.

Fed up with the band's internal turmoil, Liles abruptly left Social Distortion with drummer Derek O'Brien during a legendary New Year's Eve gig in 1983. The band soldiered on and garnered more widespread fame and even some pop-radio success under original frontman Mike Ness.

Ness did not return a phone call to his management company seeking comment.

Fans of Social Distortion said Liles was an important part of the band's history and he'll be sadly missed. The band's guitarist Dennis Dannell, who played with Liles, died of a brain aneurism in February 2000. The band continues on with a new lineup.

"I think most people think of Social D. and they think of Mike Ness. But they never could be what they are without some great supporting characters like Brent," said Sara Pendergast, 41, a longtime fan of the band.

"For people who love their music, it's like losing a member of the extended family."

Contact the writer: 714-704-3769 or ecarpenter@ocregister.com

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