The Joneses were an early-’80s Los Angeles band that lurked in the gray area between rock and punk. They wore their Rolling Stones/New York Dolls inspiration on their sleeves but had a modern, street-tough style that separated them from the imitators. Singer/guitarist Jeff Drake was the driving force of the unit and within a couple of years its sole original member. In his book GUILTY! My Life in The Joneses, A Heroin Addict, A Bank Robber, and A Federal Inmate Drake takes the reader on a wild-ass ride through the ups and downs of The Joneses career and ultimately, as suggested by the title, into a much darker place.
Drake’s story begins in a Los Angeles that no longer exists—a place dotted with farms and small towns that were miles away from each other. Drake was a good kid and a very good student, although he suffered from endless illnesses and injuries. Rock’n’roll came along and, as it is known to do, ruined everything.
Eventually, after putzing around in a handful of garage bands, The Joneses arise, with the most stable early lineup consisting of pro skater Steve Olsen, Steve Houston from Vicious Circle, and drummer Mitch Dean. The band gets off to a great start. With their connections, they get good gigs like opening for The Dickies. They record a couple of songs and get them played on the Rodney on the ROQ show. For quite a while, despite countless lineup changes and other obstacles, the future looked bright for The Joneses, until they got the news from their shady celebrity manager, Danny Sugerman, that their major label record deal had fallen through.
Unsurprisingly, the real monster eventually slithers into the picture: heroin addiction. Not fun at all, but Drake tells this facet of the story in a very interesting fashion. Heavy drug use is rampant throughout the book, and pretty much everyone is partying. One day, and with no fanfare, the party is over, and the addiction is exponentially meaner than the worst hangover. That’s how it goes in real life, and that’s how Drake ultra-realistically writes it into the book. After many failed attempts to clean up, Drake’s addiction leads to the botched bank robbery that lands him a few years (and a few extra months due to paperwork issues) in federal prison.
Drake’s writing in GUILTY! is smooth and easy reading, and the tone of the book is conversational and fun—it’s like getting a long letter from an old friend. Drake’s humor is perfectly subtle and dry. Redemption is offered in the form of Drake’s returning to formal education after prison to start a new life and new career. Throughout the book, it’s clear that Drake is no dummy, and that fact is further evidenced in the quality of the author’s storytelling. –Buddha (HoZac Books, hozacrecords.com/books)