HIGH TIMES, HIGH HOPES, HIGH STAKES
Hi Jeff, thanks for joining us today. Now with your first book about to hit the stores what better time to get the low down on all things Jeff Drake. First things first take us to when rock 'n' roll first grabbed you. When, where and who in particularly tripped your trigger?
Jeff Drake ; Hey Darren, I can't remember rock ‘n’ roll really grabbing me for the first time. It was always there. In our house that was thanks to my Dad. He was a teenager in the fifties, and he loved Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddely, the Coasters.....and he had all those records and that's what we listened to when we were kids. My mom was into popular music, too, but her tastes were more eclectic and she kinda kept up with the times. She liked Kingston Trio, Beatles, Credence, and the Queen and Led Zeppelin in the seventies. But my Dad loved his fifties rock ‘n’ roll.
Clowning around or learning the history? Jeff Drake, the early years.
He would lecture me when I was a kid about how the Little Richard’s version of "Tutti Frutti" was way cooler than Pat Boone's and how the Chords version of "Sahboom" was cooler than the Crewcuts' version. He loved the Black R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. Jungle music. Whenever he heard Chuck Berry he would do his version of the duck walk. So I grew up listening to fifties rock 'n' roll. I knew I wanted to be a guitar player and be in a band when I saw the Led Zeppelin movie, "The Song Remains The Same". I wanted to be Jimmy Page. I thought he looked so cool, and my hair was kinda like that.
"Horsin' around?" Jeff the early years part two.
So that fifties rock ‘n’ roll put you in good stead for the future as the perfect base and then the more contemporary seventies rock ‘n’ roll mixed with that just kinda set you well on your way. So, Jimmy page, the look and the sound got you but, let's move on to who was your first band that you loved. It is always pivotal that moment when that one band grabs you. Can you pinpoint that band and where were you when it happened?
J . D ; Well, I really was into Elton John from about the time of "Crocodile Rock". I played the album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" until I wore it out. But as far as bands go, it would have to be the Rolling Stones. I first remember hearing "Brown Sugar" on the school bus, but it was "Do doo doo (Heartbreaker)" that I remember hearing and being aware it was the Stones. I remember "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" was the first Stones L.P. I had that was current. I had that and "Made In The Shade " on these pink cassettes. I played those until they wore out, too. For Xmas ‘74 my aunt bought me "Exile On Main Street" for Xmas and I loved it. Especially side one. I loved the way it looked and sounded. It was a little too much for a thirteen year old to digest, but I dug it and appreciated more as the years went on. I remember reading back then how all the critics were so disappointed about it, I guess 'cuz it followed "Sticky Fingers" and expectations were high, but I thought it sounded like rock ‘n’ roll.
So, ‘Crocodile Rock’ figures into your story later however, when you start with the Stones and then go onto grow with them you knew you were on the right route. OK so the Stones with that street, sleaze vibe of ‘Exile…’ are with you, did this prompt a need in you to be part of rock ‘n’ roll or did that come later?
J . D ; Really it was seeing that Led Zeppelin movie "The Song Remains The Same". Seeing Jimmy Page playing guitar had a big effect on me. Just the way he looked when he played. He wore his guitar really low, he had to bend his knees to reach. I don't know, there was something about that that made me wanna play guitar and be in a band. Jimmy Page and that film.
You have the star, and well all that trippy imagery must have stuck a chord literally. So you want to be like Jimmy but, did you go straight to guitar or did you learn something else first?
Low slung polka dot cool.
J . D ; A girlfriend in high school gave me an acoustic guitar and showed me some chords, but it was slow. Then a got a beat up Les Paul copy that didn't have a brand name. The input jack kept falling out, so I had to keep taping it up ‘cuz the wood was so rotten. I had a little Fender Vibro Champ amp, and I was off to the races. I was working at a gas station and saved my money and bought a ‘63 Fender Stratocaster that someone had stripped the finish off of down to the bare wood. It looked really cool, but I didn't like the sound. I used to come home from school and play guitar for hours. When I got in trouble my parents would take my guitar away.
Well, that right there set your seeds for rebellion. Do something wrong lose your guitar, what were our parents creating hahah. So you had the Strat but didn't like the sound so how did you set about changing that guitar into more what you wanted to hear?
J . D ; Well, there was a hot shot guitarist in Merced named Steve "Mouse" Johnson, he's like a big blues player in France now. Anyway, he really wanted that Strat. It was really valuable. I was a kid, I didn't know. He had this ‘73 Telecaster Custom Black with maple neck, just like the kind that Keith Richards played, and I really wanted it. So, we traded. That Tele Custom got a much fatter sound than that old Strat. I was into all the glitter rock stuff in the seventies, so that's what I wanted. I had that guitar for years. Then after I was in the Joneses I got a ‘76 Gibson Reverse Firebird and then traded that in a pawn shop in Tulsa OK for a ‘60 Gibson Les Paul Junior, probably my favourite guitar I ever had. By the time I was in Amanda Jones I had a ‘65 Gibson Reverse Firebird. In the Vice Principals I played a brand-new Gibson Les Paul Special and an ancient Silvertone black hollow body, which I still have.
The trials of finding THE guitar. OK before we move on take us into your seventies glam rock loving self. Take us into a day in the life of Jeff “the glam rock” Drake fan if you will?
J . D ; . So, by age thirteen or fourteen I was into glam rock, and it was all the rage. I already mentioned Elton John and the Stones, I also listened to T. Rex, Sweet, Bowie, Iggy, Mott the Hoople, Roxy Music, Slade (we used to write SLADE on our knuckles). I didn't know what to think of Roy Wood. I got into his fifties Phil Spector stuff later. Most of my stoner friends listened to hard rock, like Led Zeppelin, Foghat, Aerosmith, Montrose's first album. An average day I would put on some music while I was getting ready for school. Whether I went to school or not was the big question. I would usually ditch at least part of the day. I would meet up with my friends to smoke weed. When I did go to school I would sell joints there. After school we would meet up again to get stoned. I started working when I was fourteen, so I might or might not go to work. When I got home I would listen to music. Until I got to be about sixteen when I would practice guitar. I had girlfriends in high school, and we would go to parties on the weekend. I had a good time as a teenager.
So, dropping out, glam rock, girls, weed and drug dealing, well what it would have been to be a teenager in the early seventies. I think you are making a lot of us reading this very jealous with that lifestyle and thanks for painting that picture for us. So you went to work was this just a run of the mill store job as a means to make cash or was it something else?
J . D ; My first job at fourteen years old was at Taco Bell. I was a bus boy at a steak house, I pumped gas at a filling station, I sold shoes at a department store called Mervyn's, I worked at the Tower Records in Anaheim. Those were all jobs I had before The Joneses. I didn't really take any of them seriously. At Mervyn's I was partying so much. I would stay out all night drinking and take a hit of acid in the morning to sober up for work selling shoes.
Means to an end well, means to get your recreational drugs. Let's get into your drug journey to now. We shall hit the hard stuff later but, take us into how you fell into that world, did it just seem to welcome you with open arms?
J . D ; It's strange. My parents didn't drink, smoke, or do drugs, so it was never around the house. But I had a second cousin who was an adult, actually my dad's first cousin. She was a junkie. When I was about nine years old she OD'ed and died. I thought that was really cool. I don't know if it was because everyone talked about her, the attention, or what. But from that time on I always was fascinated by heroin. I don't think it's a coincidence that some of my favourite rock stars were junkies. Back in those times, late sixties early seventies, they would show movies in school about the horrors of drug abuse. There was usually Sonny Bono or Sal Mineo in them. They would show kids jumping off buildings trying to fly, looking in the mirror and seeing the Wolfman. Scary stuff. And they would send uniformed cops to class with a showcase full of drugs and drug paraphernalia. So, in case you came up on any you'd know what it was. So, I was afraid of smoking pot. In seventh grade when some of my friends started smoking pot, they offered me some. I refused it, not wanting to jump off a building. They would tease me for being so square. Weren't they afraid of turning into a monster? They told me I was an idiot. After a couple sessions of them not turning into monsters, I tried it. And I loved it. It wasn't long before I was smoking every day. Before school, after school. From weed I graduated to Reds, pills, downers mostly, but some amphetamines. By the time I was sixteen I was dropping acid. For a while LSD and mushrooms were my drugs of choice. I didn't start doing heroin until I was nineteen.
Who knows what things stick with us from our formative years. It's crazy to think about that at any time but when someone close overdoses that is the catalyst that set you off on your road I think and what its road it has been. So, you were on heroin at nineteen but before we get more into that how was you guitar playing coming on and did you feel any need to get in or form a band at this point or before?
J . D ; I was writing songs and wanted to be in a band before I could play. I musta been sixteen or seventeen and I wanted to join this band of friends at my school. They knew I couldn't play, but they thought my Les Paul copy was a real Les Paul. So, I was in. I just knew some Barre chords, but I was learning fast. I was happy just being a rhythm guitar player. We played a Jr high Xmas dance and a couple dances at the local Masonic Temple. The band was called Slider and there's a picture of Slider in my book. After that I was in a band called Mrs Friday. That band just played a Halloween dance in someone's barn and that was it. I was the singer in that band, and I hated it. I couldn't sing. Everyone said I sang like Lou Reed, which wasn't a compliment to me. After I graduated I played guitar in a band called the Scandals. I even called myself Jeff Scandal for a minute. Then I moved down to L.A.
The Scandals great band name and surname. OK so your formative years are there and now you go to LA. Now a big decision for many I am sure so please take us into your thoughts about going and the actual day you did pack up and move to LA and your first impressions
J . D ; Actually, I was going BACK to L.A. (Southern California). I was born in Orange County and lived there until I was twelve years old when my parents up and moved to Merced, three hundred miles north, but it might as well have been another universe. It was definite culture shock. The day we moved there we saw tractors driving down the street and lots of cows. It was like Green Acres. So, most of my teenage years were spent there and I couldn't wait to get back down south. While I was in Merced I religiously bought CREEM magazine and listened to KSAN out of San Francisco, in my mind the greatest radio station, any time, anywhere. That way I was able to keep up on music a little bit. I knew I wanted to move back down ASAP and I did as soon as I graduated high school. I was just barely learning to play guitar, so I don't know what I was thinking. Thinking I could move to L.A. and make it as a musician. I was pretty delusional, but that's kinda what happened. Delusion or blind faith take your pick….
So back to LA, take us to how you survived to make it into a band. I.e. living situation, friends helping (or lack of) take us into the formative days back in LA
J . D ; I left Merced for L.A. in September ‘79, but nothing was happening I moved back to Merced (for a girl) in March ‘80. I moved back to L.A. again on New Years Day ‘81. This time things started happening right away. I transferred my Mervyn's job, stayed in a trailer behind my grandparents’ house, and after a couple weeks me and my friend Matt Galeazzi, who I moved down with got an apartment in Anaheim. But the first week I was down there I met Steve Olson and joined the band he was in the Aristocats, a Rockabilly band. I quit my job at Mervyns to work at Tower Records. After a couple months I got kicked out of the Aristocats and Steve got me into a band with him and Kenny J. AKA Crash Justice. That only lasted a couple of months and by Xmas '81 we were doing our first show as the Joneses.
So here we are at The Joneses. Tell us how you got the first line up together and where did the name The Joneses come from?
J . D ; Steve Olson came up with the name the Joneses. It came from a drug term we used. Like when you're Jonesing for something. Craving something. He also said it was because we were the boys next door, All-American kids. I thought it was a genius name. That's why I kept using it.
Steve Fleming Olson
Steve Olson and I were in those Rockabilly bands together but I kept getting kicked out. I wasn't traditional enough. Not Howdy Doody enough. So, we wanted to start our own band. We used to tell people it was like if Eddy Cochran met the New York Dolls at Chuck Berry's house. We were listening to that and The Professionals and The Clash. Ron Emory from TSOL was in the Rockaholics with Steve and I wanted to be in it. Steve knew Mitch and Mitch had a date at this venue called Alpine Village for two shows: one with Missing Persons and one with The Dickies. So, we rehearsed for three weeks, Monday thru Friday 9:00am- 4:00pm while our girlfriends were at work. We had to start from scratch and write a whole set, but we did, and it went over well, so we kept it going.
Indeed, you sounded just like what you wanted to even if a bit more chaotic but what a glorious chaos it was / is. OK so you landed right in the scene. I assume it was more the punk LA and not the metal it turned into, more of which later. Great name, great ideas, great music. So, after the first gig did you plan a map of what you wanted to do or was it just more organic? Also drugs were around but not to the point they were a hindrance or were they? Take us into 1) the scene you were in and indeed help to create 2) initial plans for the band and 3) the drug scene you were in......
J . D ; We never had a plan at the beginning, things were just happening too fast. Three weeks after our first show we were in the studio recording our first 7". Shortly after that we were recording for that BYO compilation. Less than a year after that first show we were on tour, supporting The Blasters at the Peppermint Lounge in NYC and the Lords of the New Church at City Gardens in Trenton NJ. We were way more popular out of town than we were in L.A at that point. Cuz of the songs on the BYO record. I started smoking weed when I was twelve and started doing heroin right about the time we started The Joneses. At that time drugs weren't really a hindrance cuz I never had enough money to put together a real drug habit. That came later. We started out doing punk rock shows even though we weren't hardcore, which is what was happening. We definitely weren't doing any metal shows. That kinda of stuff came later.
So punk rock shows and some notoriety from having some of your songs out there and all at a breakneck pace! So how did you look at this point more punk than metal I am thinking? And where did that influence come from? I think more The Clash than The Dolls? You had already chosen your sound but take us into how the look happened.
J . D ; The Joneses were never metal, not even close. The "look" was very organic and evolved over time. In the beginning, Steve Olson and I had come from the Rockabilly scene, so we had big pompadours. We were wearing creepers and western shirts, I guess there was some Clash influence there.
Early '83 Joneses. John James, Rhys Williams, Nicky Beat and Jeff with the grown out 'do.
I started growing my hair out almost immediately. I always thought Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Jeff Beck, Johnny Thunders had cool hair. Mine wouldn't do that; it was too wavy. Then when Steve Olson quit the band and John James joined, he introduced me to the joys of chemical relaxer like the black people use to straighten their hair. At about the same time I started tying this Moroccan prayer rug that John James gave around my head. So, my hair was definitely longer, but I thought always a little different from the metal guys who seemed like they were from another planet. Musically the band started going in a more Rolling Stones direction. We never talked about our "look" or planned it out, it just sort of evolved.
Rockabilly to rock 'n' roll via the Stones. No, you were never metal you had a much cooler, as you say, rock ‘n’ roll vibe and you were another scene to the metal guys altogether. Talking of the scene you came from rockabilly via punk, was there a clear line of delineation between the punk scene and the early LA metal scene? Can you take us to that time pre the Sunset Strip explosion....wasn't the punk scene a lot more edgy at the time?
J . D ; The punk scene in L.A. and the early metal scene were two different worlds. At that time the punk scene was hardcore. In Anaheim, in Orange County where The Joneses started there were two clubs right next door to each other. Radio City was the punk one. It was owned by Jerry Roach, the guy who ran the infamous Cuckoo's Nest. Next door was the Woodstock, a metal club. There would be fights in the parking lot they shared. The metal guys had moustaches and wore fur boots and looked really stupid. The only music I can remember coming out of the Woodstock was Billy Squire's "The Stroke" they played it over and over.
Johnnie Sage & Jeff
We did one cool show with Chequered Past and Gleaming Spires at Radio City. Chequered Past had Steve Jones, Clem Burke, Michael Des Barres and one of the Sales brothers. Gleaming Spires were a one hit wonder who did "Are You Ready For The Sex Girls". It was a great show and at one point our roadies beat the crap out of the bouncers there at Radio City. I don't remember what it was about. The punk scene was still really violent in the early eighties.
Wow Chequered past. What do you remember about that show and the band members, good and bad please?
J . D ; I remember two things about Chequered Past. No, three things. First was I already mentioned our roadies beating up the club's bouncers. The second thing was sitting at the bar with Steve Jones. I had met him in NYC at a gig we did at a club called the A7. He said he came down because he thought we named the band after him. So, I was sitting at the bar talking to Steve Jones. I asked him about the rumour that Chris Spedding actually played all the guitar on “Never Mind The Bollocks”. He said, "Bollocks! I played every note on that record". He went on to tell me he played all the guitars on Johnny Thunders'" So Alone" LP. I asked him why the Professionals' singles sounded so good and why the album, “Never Saw It Coming” sounded like shit. He said it was because he produced the singles. We were about to record our “Criminals” EP and I asked him if he would produce. I tell the rest of that story in my book "Guilty!- My life as a member of the Joneses, a heroin addict, a bank robber, and Federal inmate". The third thing was Michael Des Barres was a twat.
Ha-ha. A little attitude there from the headliners and a tasty titbit for people to grab your book. OK you wanted him to produce "Criminals", one of your best and a personal fave of mine. OK you released “Jonestown” and now about to record “Criminals”. Take us into how these deals came about and how you chose the tracks for those two releases....
J . D ; The chronology is a little different. We recorded “Jonestown” three weeks after our first show, in January ‘82. But it didn't come out until the Spring of ‘83 cuz we couldn't afford the bill at the pressing plant so the records were held hostage. In the Spring of ‘82 we recorded the BYO stuff and “Criminals” was recorded in the Fall of ‘82 right after we got back from our first tour. “Criminals” was actually released in the Spring of ‘83 right before “Jonestown”. The way we chose the songs was whatever we thought our strongest material was at the time. Usually, it was whatever I had recently written, but not always. I remember having the idea for “Miss 714” in NYC and getting it ready to record for the “Criminals” record when we got back home.
You make it sound easy y’know. Just doing a single just like that. Did you have backers or management at the time?
J . D ; No, that was the problem. We didn't have anything. That's why when we recorded the single it was held hostage in the pressing plant for over a year. Between the four of us we were able to scrape together enough for a few hours of studio time. And that's all it took. We recorded and mixed five songs in about eight hours over two days. On the way home from the studio we stopped by KROQ where Rodney Bingenheimer was DJing. We gave him the tape and he played it on the air right then. It was pretty fucking exciting to hear yourself on the radio for the first time. But the single itself wasn't liberated from the pressing plant for over a year.
Wow from the gutter straight to Rodney's door. What did you know about Rodney at the time was he the icon to you then as he is to us all now?
J . D ; Yes. Rodney was THE DJ at that time. I had known about Rodney since the mid-seventies from his weekend show on KROQ. I was living in Merced but in the Summer would go down South to visit my grandparents. There was Rodney playing all the newest stuff from the U.K. There was also this DJ on KROQ who had a show right before Rodney called The Young Marquis. Groovy stuff. So, yes it was a huge deal for a twenty year old me to have Rodney play our single before we even got home with it.
So great to hear that Rodney was the bomb then for you too. OK so you get your record played and that must have given you a real shot in the arm (no pun intended). So, what happened next Also I am assuming that drugs weren't the be all and end all at this point was that just because of lack of funds?
J . D ; The next thing that happened was personnel changes. Ron Emory was the original guitar player, but he had to go back to TSOL. He was replaced by a guy named Rick Humbert. He didn't last long. He was replaced by Steve Houston who was known for being in The Klan. After Steve Houston joined the band we were contacted by BYO to be on their comp. They knew Steve Houston from his Klan days. We were getting high every chance we got, but we couldn't really afford to make a career out of drugs, yet.
So, onto the compilations, man those really were where a lot of people found out about new bands, particularly from the USA. OK so what songs did you do for those and did you rerecord any? Plus, also at this time were you the toast of the town? You said things happened really quick so was there a lot of love or was there a lot of love but also equal amounts of hate and jealousy?
Nicky Beat, Rhys Williams, Scott Franklin & Jeff.
J . D ; We recorded "Pillbox" and "Graveyard Rock" for the BYO compilation. And even though they said they got more hate mail for us than fan mail for all the other bands combined, that record really helped us on our first tour. We were way more popular out if town than in L.A. at that point. Even on the second tour in the Spring of ‘83, we really weren't that popular in L.A. until we got back. But then it blew up in L.A. in the Summer of ‘83 which is when we recorded the two songs for Hell Comes To Your House part two for Bemis Brain Records. We recorded "I'm Bad" and "She's So Filthy" on that one. At that point in the Summer of ‘83, we really were the "toast of the town". We were drawing big crowds and getting written up in the L.A. Times. The readers of the L.A. Weekly voted us the Most Loved Band of ‘83. But not everyone loved us. I was at a party around that time when I overheard two guys talking about The Joneses. One was David Baerwald of the lame mainstream duo David +David. The other guy asked what he thought of us. He said the only thing The Joneses do well is look good falling down.
So, there were some sour grapes. The cream should always rise and in doing so rub all the others up the wrong way as the saying goes, “if you don't like it you're not supposed to!". OK so ‘83 basking in the sunshine and compilations a go go. Is the next stage in your timeline the recording of "Keeping Up With"? And Dr Dream records? Take us to this point and why Dr dream records, they didn't seem a good fit at all for you?
J . D ; By the end of ‘83 we were the most popular band in L.A. We were packing them in, the L.A. Times was doing articles....But there was a problem. Personnel changes. Right before the second tour, Steve Olson abruptly quit. He was replaced by John James. When we got back from the second tour Mitch and John both threatened to quit if I didn't fire Steve Houston. So, the hardest thing I ever did was fire Steve Houston cuz he was my friend. And it was a mistake cuz right after Steve was replaced Mitch and John both quit. I got Nicky Beat and Scott Franklin to replace them. Then Nicky and Rhys Williams, Steve Houston's replacement quit. I know it's hard to keep track of but all that happened in about six months. Like I said, we were the most popular band in town, Times articles, but revolving door. Then Danny Sugarman saw one of the "Times" articles and came calling.
I had to find people fast cuz Danny said he could get us a deal with Elektra. So, Scott and I got Paul Mars and Johnny Sage. Big mistake. We should have taken our time. So, it's ‘84 now and all the major labels are interested and Danny wants to orchestrate a bidding war. That didn't happen so we pretty much wasted ‘84. Dr. Dream didn't happen for a couple more years so we're kinda jumping a head a little bit. After the bidding war collapsed we still kept playing but after the majors pass it's like you're a leper. So finally in ‘86 when all the bands that came after us were getting signed, we figured we had to make a record. Dr. Dream was brand new and had a lot of money and owned a great studio. But once the album was done and we were getting lots of good press and radio airplay there was a legal problem with the record and it didn't come out until the Summer of ‘87, one full year after our record release party, so all the press and airplay were done.
"Keeping Up With The Joneses" era Johnny Nation, Scott Franklin, Jeff and Glen Holland
Wow all that press and all the majors courting you. Before we move on take us into a few of the offers they made. Was it all expenses paid lunches and schmoozing, or was it “here's some cash let's get high”? Take us into your mindset (music and drug) at the time and a few of the deals. Also did you think that there was any other LA band to touch you at this point?
J . D ; There were $170 lunches at Olde World with me, Danny Sugarman, and Tom Zutaut from Elektra. But they weren't just schmoozing. Because Danny managed The Doors for Elektra and Zutaut loved the band, Elektra had the inside track. Those lunches were more Zutaut laying out how things were gonna be once we got signed. They were gonna pay each band member a salary of two thousand dollars a month so we wouldn't have to play gigs, just write and rehearse. It was a slam dunk with Elektra, they were talking about a million dollars in ‘84. Lot of money. But Danny was greedy. He wanted to have a bidding war. This was an exciting time for me. I was twenty two, twenty three, in the most popular band in town, about to get signed, it was like my wildest dreams were coming true. We were partying a lot. Doing heroin, these pills called Loads, that were six pills actually, two Doriden and four Codeine fours. They kept you loaded for days. We didn't work, so the only thing that kept us from being loaded all the time was lack of funds. As for any other bands that were as big as us, RHCP and Tex & the Horseheads were just as big in ’83 but by ’84 The Joneses were on top.
Happy and on the up........
Wow Elektra! That's history right there and you were poised to be the next thing. So you were getting loaded just waiting for the deal to come together, clearly it didn't so take us through the stages. Top of the world getting signed to where it fizzled out. Is it hard to re-live this period?
J . D ; It was a heart-breaking time, but so long ago and I've told the story before so I'm okay with it. Danny became our manager and we had an inside track with Elektra. Coulda signed right then. But Danny wanted a bidding war. When one of the majors is after you, they all get interested. Nobody wants to be left out. So, we were doing these big, wild shows and the majors are all there. Danny decides we need to do a showcase where only the labels and their staff are invited. Danny said he wanted us to play straight and sober, no wild stuff. Just concentrate on the music. Big mistake. It took us out of our element and took away our wild, enthusiastic crowd. I warned Danny it would be a mistake and it was. Everyone just sat and watched. It was painful. Danny apologized and said next time he would supply the drugs and liquor.
So then it was Xmas ‘84. Danny and all the A&R guys went on vacation. Danny was in Mexico finishing his “Wonderland” book. I would go to his accountants to pick up checks and Danny would send telegrams saying, "Be more like Motley Crue. More leather and chains". While everyone was on vacation all the A&R guys played musical chairs. Our guy at Elektra, Tom Zutaut, went to Geffen who wasn't interested. They thought we were too dangerous. All they had at the time was like Neil Diamond and Elton John. Which is ironic since they signed G ’n’ R a couple years later. Peter Philbin, who hated us, went from CBS to Elektra, so Danny's "in" at Elektra was worthless. It all fell apart and when Danny saw it wasn't gonna be a slam dunk, he quit. Once ‘85 started no one was interested. It sucked.
Wowie talk about ahead of the curb only to fall and be overtaken, sad story but a oh so familiar one too though. OK you this is ‘85. So, no majors no manager and no interest what came next? Drugs?
Press kit info pages for "Keeping Up" record
J . D ; The drugs had always been there. They didn't get really bad until a little later. ‘85 was spent packing them in and still trying for a major deal. That didn't happen. In early 1’86 we were contacted by Dr Dream. They were a brand-new label; we would be their first release. Quite a coup for them. They had a lot of money cuz one of the owner's dads was a real estate millionaire. We felt like we needed to record cuz it had been three years. The recording went relatively smoothly, except for Paul Mars throwing temper tantrums and quitting the band in the middle of the recording. We got great press and were getting heavy airplay on college radio, which was a big deal at the time. Unfortunately, Dr Dream didn’t know what they were doing. They told us they were considering doing an exclusive distribution deal with a company called Greenworld. We told them that was a mistake because we knew a girl who worked there, and she told us Greenworld was going out of business. So, we told Dr Dream. They just laughed at us and told us they knew what they were doing, and we should stick to playing music. So, they went with Greenworld and a week later they folded. Greenworld owed another record Co. called Enigma so Enigma claimed they owned all Greenworld's assets, including our album. So, a judge ordered their warehouse locked up until it was settled. It wasn't settled for a year. By the time it came out in ‘87 all the press and airplay were wasted because people couldn't buy the record. That pretty much broke up the band.
Wow talk about blind leading the blind business wise and all at your expense. So, I guess you were still playing gigs, at this point yes? What do you remember about the Jerry's kids’ charity show with Poison, Ruby Slippers, Guns 'n' Roses and Mary Poppins. What did you think of those bands and how do the show go, take us into that scene and all that went down during that time?
J . D ; I've seen that flyer, but The Joneses didn't actually play that show. I don't remember what the deal was.
Oh OK. Can you take is into a similar type of show? We have heard and seen of the multiple band bills, but can you take us into the behind the scenes of the different dynamics of the bands playing in relation to yourselves?
J . D ; In about '85 we kinda "crossed over" and started doing shows at The Troubadour, The Stardust Ballroom and The Country Club. All large places, but usually that's where the metal bands played. We were not metal, but we were the biggest band in town until Poison and G ’n’ R blew up. So, we could play wherever we wanted to. The metal scene was totally different from the underground scene we came out of. The attitudes of the bands were different.
All those metal bands with the girly names, like Mary Poppins, Ruby Slippers, cracked me up. It's like they were all trying to surpass each other with how femme they were. It was crazy to see guys who a year before had moustaches wearing tons of makeup and ratting their hair. And it got worse after Poison took off. Those bands were very competitive and viewed other bands as the enemy. I just talked to Johnny Nation last night and he was telling me about a gig we did with G ’n’ R. They were really nothing at that point and down at the bottom of the bill. We had gotten them their first Hollywood gig, which was really their first big break. But at that show Izzy wouldn’t let Johnny borrow his tuner to tune up before we played. That's how those bands were.
Now from being kings of the Sodom and Gomorrah that was Hollywood then, with your true street view rock ‘n’ roll that was dripping with attitude, Chuck Berry and the tantalising sleaze appeal of The Dolls you hit a brick wall with the labels.Iin the meantime the scene was changing and bands were trying to do what you did but with a more "hillbilly metal rednecks in rogue" vibe you must have been thinking WTF now yes? So, take us if you will to that point it must have been a bitter pill (box) to swallow give us a little insight into your head at that point firstly give us a good day when things were still hopeful and then a day when it all looked hopeless.
J . D ; On the days when we still thought we were gonna get a major label deal and take over the musical world, of course things seemed hopeful. The days of struggling would be at an end, we would be financially better off, the whole world would hear our music and we would see the world in the process. Of course, all that came crashing down. After the collapse of the bidding war that Danny Sugarman orchestrated, the mood would vacillate between determination to soldier on and prove them wrong and frustration and depression and a feeling I wanted to be done with it.
Oh man we hear ya. OK let's move forward. The Dr. Dream records deal, we touched on it a little but take us right into that discussion and how it played out and then we can get to the track listing, which after the smoke clears the music is, after all, the most important thing.
J . D ; It was the Spring of ‘86. We had spent the whole year of ‘85 looking for a new manager and a deal. We were still doing bigger shows than anybody else, but Poison was right there with us and getting bigger. All of a sudden it seemed like there was all the "Sons of the Joneses" bands. The L.A. Weekly called them "Joneses clones". The scene was kinda changing and evolving into the hair metal it became. Through an intermediary we heard Dr Dream was a new label that wanted a big band like The Joneses to be their first release. We felt like we needed to put out something, hoping maybe a major would pick it up. That was the discussion that led us to recording with Dr Dream.
Keeping up with....(left to right) Johnny Nation, Glen Holland, Scott Franklin and Jeff
OK so Dr Dream, it was only meant to be a stepping stone. OK take us into the song choice for that record. You had a few recorded songs out there already so, was the track list your choice or the labels? Did you have to write new material for the record? Take us into the track list and how it all played out and I bet there were label politics also yes?
J . D ; There's was no label input whatsoever into the song choices. They weren't familiar enough with the band to have a clue. I'll go down the list and talk about each song.
“Miss 714” - This was already on the Criminals EP, but I really thought this was one of our stronger numbers. We knew this record was our first full length LP and so was kind of our coming out. Same with "She's So Filthy" and "Crocodile Rock".
“She's So Filthy”- was on the Hell Comes to Your House II. At that time one of our stronger ones.
“Jungle Disease”- This was almost entirely Scott Franklin's song. The first one I recorded in open G tuning.
“Cut That Trash”- this song had been around a couple of years, but never recorded. I don't remember why we put it on the record.
“Chip Away The Stone”- Aerosmith cover. One of our most popular songs.
“Black Cat Bone”- my favourite song on the record and one of my favourite songs I wrote. Also, in open G. I do a little guitar hero twang on this one.
“Look So Good”- another open G song. I think I was listening to a lot of ZZ Top around the time I wrote this.
“Good From Far”- another open G song. Didn't stay in the live set very long. The words are funny.
“Crocodile Rock”- third time we recorded this. I thought this cover was gonna make us famous. Nope.
“LA Dee Da”- another open G song. John James RIP wrote most of this one. Raunchy words. You'll notice we didn't include “Pillbox” on this record. It was on the first release we had, the BYO comp. I didn’t like it and it didn’t really seem like anybody else did. We didn’t even play it live for years. It was only much later that “Pillbox” became a very popular song.
OK so that's the songs talked about I was a little surprised you didn't dig “Pillbox” it's one of my faves along with “Looks So Good”, “She's So Filthy” and “Ms714” anyhow I digress…… So, you mentioned Dr Dream was a new label with cash. Can you take us into what they offered you money and promotion wise and in fact take is right into the centre of the deal you made. You said they didn't have a clue was this in everything or just some areas?
J . D ; Some of them had a clue in some areas. Most, not. Our lead engineer, Bob Brown, and the producer Dan Van Patten both had a decent background in rock ‘n’ roll. But for example, the guy in charge of promotion, Dave Hansen, his favourite group was Manhattan Transfer, so he hated us. The deal was pretty simple. We got some equipment we needed as an advance, then we got six per cent royalties, which is criminal, but that was standard back then. They were supposed to guarantee each band member six thousand dollars a year salary. They never paid it and when I insisted, they threatened to burn the master tapes. Record companies suck.
Indeed, and as such you got the raw end of the deal both on the street and in offices of the record company and throw in Manhattan Transfer. A cluster fuck if ever there was one. Now take us into how the drugs played a part in it all. You said they were always around, and you had an interest, or morbid fascination with Heroin. Take us now if you will into how it escalated........
J . D ; Well, I had been smoking weed and doing drugs since I was twelve years old. Coincidently, I had started doing Heroin right about the time The Joneses started. I was doing it every chance I could, but since I was broke, it started off pretty irregularly. In those early days drugs weren't a problem. It wasn't until about ‘84 that things really got outta control. Not for me, but for others. By that time, we were the biggest band in town and suddenly there was lots of dope around. Johnny Sage had a problem with Loads (four Codeine 4s & two Doriden) and Paul Mars' personality really changed when he started doing Heroin. Turning up late for shows, thinking he was Marc Bolan. We had a reputation of being a bunch of junkies and that didn't help with the major labels. My Heroin addiction didn't get really outta control until ‘86. That was the year of the Great Weed Drought, when I couldn't score weed to save my life, but had several Heroin connections. The War On Drugs indeed.
Ok so '86 the record is recorded but stuck in limbo and the weed is out and you are on the Strip but persona non grata.....and low and behold the Heroin just seems to land in your orbit and stick with a passion. So, take us into how it got heavier and did you notice it (as you did with other band members) or did you just take to the junkie life like a duck to water?
J . D ; Actually, I guess according to your question, I "took to it like a duck in water". I had been using Heroin for about five years, but never put together enough of a run to get physically dependent. In ‘84 I did get a little dope sick after this little run I had with this nurse that bought me dope every day for about three weeks. Then she freaked out and moved back to Florida. I thought I just had the flu. I was just barely strung out and Scott Franklin is the one that suggested what might have really been going on. I was a pretty resourceful junkie, so I was able to keep it going until ‘91 when I got busted for bank robbery.
So, you were enabled as they say....take us into a day in the Heroin life of JD, the need for junk, the chase, the high, the come down, the depression, repeat, take us into that world.....
J . D ; My life as a junkie in those days was an endless cycle. By this time, I knew to save myself a "wake up" from the night before. I knew I would be sick when I woke up in the morning, so I saved a little bit to do immediately once I woke up. Then if I had any money, I'd call my connection to get more. Most days I didn't have money, so I'd start my money-getting quest. That usually entailed going to the pawn shop or borrowing money from someone. Often I would score for someone else. When I did that I would make them give me whatever they were buying for themselves. So, if they wanted a twenty dollar bag, they had to buy me a twenty dollar bag, too. Most days as a junkie are just the same thing over and over. Get some money, call the connection. Sometimes you had to wait hours to score. Then finally get high and then start all over again.
An endless chase for the next hit. So, you are a fully-fledged junkie with the knowledge to function in that world you had chosen. So, day in day out junk was the priority so how did the music side play out or did it decrease the more your drug intake increased?
J . D ; Between ‘87, when the band that recorded "Keeping Up" broke up and my arrest in ‘91, there were only a handful of Joneses shows. Maybe ten. My time and attention were taken up by my Heroin addiction. If I did think about playing music, it was to get money to score dope.
So, we hit the day of your crime. Take is into what was your first thought on that fateful day?
J . D ; My first thought was I had to get to the methadone clinic. I write about this in more detail in the book. I had to walk dope sick to the clinic at five a.m. for several miles. When I got there I was turned away and that's when I had the brilliant idea to rob a bank.
The bank job can wait please take us into that sickness........
J . D ; It's horrible. It doesn't feel like anything else. People say it's like having the flu. Not like any flu I've ever had. It starts with sneezing and yawning. The anxiety actually starts before the other symptoms cuz you know what's coming. Then your nose starts running and your saliva gets very thick. You start to get panicky. Your knees start hurting and eventually everything hurts. When you take Heroin, you are putting fake endorphins in your system so the gland that makes endorphins atrophies. If we didn't have endorphins everything would hurt all the time. Time seems to stand still. You rack your brain trying to figure out a way to get some dope. You start feeling suicidal. You become nauseated, puking and with diarrhoea. You're hot, cold, hot, cold, you can’t get comfortable. There's no way you can sleep. The nights seem interminable. People say this lasts for three days and you're fine. Bullshit. That may be the worst of it, but it goes on for weeks. At one point I hadn't slept in three weeks. I had black sheets on my bed and when I did fall asleep, when I woke up I could see the perfect outline of my skeleton, ribs, and all. I had sweated so much while I finally slept. It was salt.
A tour de force of the reality of your drug of choice and a cautionary tale. OK so to your idea to rob a bank......walk us into that bank .....the second it became real when you were about to touch the handle to open the door.....
J . D ; I write about this at length in my book. It was a Friday morning and I had been turned away at the Methadone clinic. My Heroin connection had been trying to get me for some months to do bank robberies with her and her girlfriend. They told me what to do, etc. I was sick and desperate and needed money bad.
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INTERVIEW CONDUCTED LATE 2022 EARLY 2023
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