PEOPLE TO WATCH

Social Distortion. Orange County produced scores of punk bands in the late '70s and early '80s. Social Distortion, formed in 1979, has proved to be the most tenacious, the hardest-working and simply the best. Once given up for dead because of leader Mike Ness's drug problems, the band cleaned up and asserted itself in the late '80s. Having assimilated blues and country influences to go with its initial Clash/Stones inspirations, SD broke through to wider recognition with its 1990 major label debut, "Social Distortion." Ness and company toured extensively, including a steady arena gig as opening act for Neil Young & Crazy Horse early last year. Now it's time for Social Distortion--Ness, guitarist Dennis Danell, bassist John Maurer and drummer Christopher Reece--to try to build on that impressive showing. The band's new album, "Between Heaven and Hell," is due out Feb. 18 on Epic Records.

Louie Louie. Today's stereotypical dance popsters cut a pretty image for MTV but don't necessarily brim with musical talent. Louie Louie (real name, Louie Cordero) established solid credentials as a singer and a songwriter with his 1990 debut album, "The State I'm In." The album didn't vault the handsome Santa Ana resident to stardom, as he'd hoped, but it did yield a Top 20 single, "Sittin' in the Lap of Luxury." Cordero is cooking up a follow-up album, tentatively called "Aggression," that should be out this spring on WTG Records. One of his key influences, Prince, is lending a hand, contributing songs and producing some of the tracks.

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