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Joneses' Drake Braking Downward Drift : Pop music: After drugs, a bank robbery and prison, the raunch-rocker reconstitutes his '80s band.

November 10, 1994|MIKE BOEHM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's a fairly juicy story of rock 'n' roll decadence that Jeff Drake has to tell--the tragicomic tale of the Joneses, a raunch-rocking Orange County/Los Angeles band that seemed like a comer on the mid-'80s Hollywood scene as it freely copped musical styles and bad-boy attitudes from the Stones, the Ramones and the New York Dolls. The Joneses drew crowds and press attention with catchy, hell-bound songs about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll that Drake sang in a bratty drawl.

Oval-faced and apple-cheeked under a thick haystack of dyed-black hair, Drake, at 33, doesn't show many outward signs of having spent a decade living the life he sang about.

Drake doesn't gloat about behavior that he thought was glamorous at the time, but he isn't ashamed of it, either. He freely confesses to an eager passion for heroin that eventually came to rule his life, and he has no qualms about discussing every detail he can remember about the afternoon in April, 1991, when, in a junkie's panic, he made a spur-of-the-moment decision to rob a bank.

The police collared him easily within an hour or two of that unarmed heist in Anaheim, and Drake spent 2 1/2 years in federal custody.

As it worked out, he says now, botching a bank robbery was one of the luckiest things he ever did. Had he been cut out for crime, Drake might not have lived to add another chapter to the Joneses' story--one in which the music is as raunchy as ever--but the only shot he craves is a shot at getting a record deal for his recently re-formed band.

Looking back, Drake thinks the Joneses, which formed in 1981, wouldn't have been able to capitalize even if they had landed a major record deal at their mid-'80s peak.

"By that time the drugs had become such a problem it would have screwed things up anyway. That's why (record companies) stayed away from us.

"We had a reputation for drugs and an outlaw lifestyle. Which is funny, because not long after that they snapped up Guns N' Roses and L.A. Guns. They didn't sound like us, but as far as the image and posture they assumed, they were influenced by what we were doing."

The Joneses released an album in 1986 and an EP in 1989, both on tiny, independent labels. By the late '80s, rock had become an afterthought for Drake. "I had no business being a musician at that point. I could barely function as a drug addict, let alone anything else."

Now he works a steady day job, lives with his girlfriend in Pasadena and is moving forward with a new Joneses lineup that debuted in September (the group plays Friday at the Blue Saloon in North Hollywood). Bassist Mike Occhiato, guitarist Johnny Nation and piano player Greg Kuehn, all veterans of previous stints in Drake's oft-changing lineups, are back in the band, along with a new drummer, Byron Reynolds.

"I've got work, I've got the band, I've got Laurie--the kinds of things people normally have in their lives," Drake said.

"My short-term goals are to keep this band together, put out something (independently), and get a record deal. My long-term goal is to support myself playing music. I'd still like to give it one more shot."

* The Joneses play Friday at the Blue Saloon, 4657 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 9:30 p.m. $5. (818) 766-4644.

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