Jeff Drake has led an extraordinary life… and believe me, that’s a vast understatement. I say this with confidence, because we’ve known each other for four decades. His band the Joneses, co-founded with skateboard champion Steve Olson, was the shining light of the 1980’s Southern California underground rock scene, ages before the term “alternative music” was bandied about by MTV and rock critics. The Joneses were the damn bomb. A louche, sloppy, outlaw amalgam of punk, pop and Don’t Give A Fuck attitude, they played thrashy, trashy rock’n roll that owed as much to The New York Dolls as it did to the Rolling Stones. Jeff’s songwriting was pure, catchy pop, even though the lyrics were riddled with sex and drug references. It was as though he mixed up a potion from the blood and brain cells of Little Richard and The Ramones, came up with a perfect formula, ingested it, and made his own unique creation.
The Joneses’ live shows were off the hook, as were their off-stage antics. Though neither of us can remember the exact moment we met, we became fast friends in 1983. We hung out constantly back then and he was a regular at my infamous punk rock crash pad, Disgraceland. Hollywood in the 1980’s was an ungentrified wasteland; the streets were ruled by delinquent twenty-somethings, most of whom were in bands. My own band The Screaming Sirens played numerous times with the Joneses. During the time, the Joneses were being courted by a number of major labels, though the record execs were absolutely clueless and cautious back then. If one of them would’ve taken a gamble, Jeff would’ve become a huge star. Instead, living out his own song “Criminals,” he robbed a bank to feed his heroin habit. On a personal note: in the course of my life I’ve somehow known seven bank robbers, but hands down, Jeff is my favorite.
There’s so much more to his story though, as you’ll see in the following pages. It’s a confessional told in a direct, honest, engaging way, in his own words with a touch of dark humor; it’s exactly the way he speaks in real life. You, dear reader, will be extremely happy that Jeff didn’t join the 27 Club, the coterie of rock stars who passed away at that young age. Luckily, he’s still with us to tell his own personal story of sin and redemption. After all, what could possibly be more subversively rock’n roll than living to tell all the salacious details?
GUILTY! My Life in The Joneses, A Heroin Addict, A Bank Robber, and A Federal Inmate, should be just the book you’re looking for if true rock’n roll desperation is your raison d’etre. From his early life in Merced, CA, into meeting world-champion pro skateboarder Steve Olson (with whom he formed his first bands out of high school), to the formation of his legendary LA punk band The Joneses, the Mandy Brix-fronted Amanda Jones in the mid 90s, and the Vice Principals (with his brother Scott Drake from The Humpers) around the turn of the century, Drake’s life has seen some truly insane highs and lows. Jeff’s most notorious band, The Joneses made their mark in the 2nd wave/early 80s punk landscape of southern California with their New York Dolls-style rock’n roll, and met the current crop of hardcore minions with resentment and confusion. Self-releasing their debut single in 1982 but not having the funds to get the balance paid off at the pressing plant, the band seemed doomed from the start, as the numerous band lineup changes just within the first two years can attest. With members of T.S.O.L., The Klan, The Mau Maus, LA Guns, Redd Kross, as well as the one and only Nicky Beat weaving their way through the Joneses fluid lineup, the revolving door sure produced some interesting characters and behavior.
Drake’s recollective detail is sharp, and the stories are shocking, tragic, and triumphant, yet not always in that order. Inclusion on the compilations Somebody Got Their Head Kicked In! and Hell Comes To Your House Part II just heated up The Joneses for something bigger than the hardcore scene which they felt completely alienated from. The Joneses claw their way up from there and within a few months gain the title of ‘LA’s Most Beloved Band,’ as well as the adoration of the LA music press, complete with major label courting, $180 lunches with Elektra execs, and management from the equally notorious Danny Sugerman. “Joneses Clones” bands like Poison and Guns N’ Roses begged them to help with getting shows, as Drake was constantly pressured by management to give in and go “heavy metal,” despite his unwavering dedication to the rock’n roll form.
GUILTY! drags you through every seedy LA punk gutter you can find as the Joneses rise to the top of the scene, packing venues still un-signed, and raking in handsome payouts that would make most modern bands’ jaws drop. Like The Seeds in LA were to The Doors in the 60s, The Joneses should have been the biggest band of the 80s, not their pale imitations.
…and they even got high with the cast of Spinal Tap!
As obviously indicated in the subtitle, Drake’s life spirals out of control at times due to narcotic excess, and desperation leads to implausible actions. The story really takes a tragic turn, exposing even more frustrations with the correctional systems in this country, as well as how addiction is treated by society at large. But Drake’s steadfast resiliency keeps beaming on, showing how the human spirit can triumph over all obstacles. It’s a real inspiration for anyone else on the edge of that life, and anyone else who’s curious about the dark side of the rock’n roll business.