Agony Shorthand

Thursday, June 10, 2004

When I think hard on what might be the greatest rock and roll songs of all time, I get stuck on a small handful that I’d easily listen to anytime, anywhere, tracks I doubt I’d grow tired of in any situation. Even if my car plunged off a steep ravine and I became stuck in a ditch with my hands bloodily pinned behind my back for five days & nights, steering wheel painfully thrust into my chest, with one song playing over and over on a Cassingle auto-loop. I’d probably want to hear PERE UBU’s "Heart of Darkness" if I were stuck in such a pickle. Then maybe “Gimme Shelter” or PINK FLOYD’s “See Emily Play”. But I swear I’d be just as pleased if this swaggering 1983 Heartbreakers-inspired punker from THE JONESES were keeping me company in my hour of darkness. Haven’t heard this one before? What, you don’t own the fuckin’ “Someone Got Their Head Kicked In” comp LP on Better Youth Organization records?? What the Joneses were doing on this thing is beyond comprehension – only their Los Angeles address and their nods to speedy punk rock form keep them in company with lunkheads like YOUTH BRIGADE, 7 SECONDS and AGGRESSION, and the raw glory of “Pillbox” stands out like David Duke at the NAACP convention.

I don’t know all that much about THE JONESES, really, just that after this era in their career they piled their hair up in big poofy poodle cuts and released a mediocre album around 1985 called “Keeping Up With The Joneses”. Their checkered career is captured on the Sympathy CD “Criminal History” (pictured above), which “Pillbox” righteously and deservedly kicks off. I also know that Jeff Drake, more or less the band leader, went on to the SUICIDE KINGS with his brother Scott “Deluxe” Drake (later of THE HUMPERS), and then later went on to jail. When I was pals with Deluxe, that’s where Jeff Drake was spending his time – not sure if he’s still hanging out in the pen or out there on the rock and roll hustings trying to recapture the magic. Anyway, if pills are truly a gateway drug to a life of vice and crime, then “Pillbox” is more than prophetic. The song somehow correlates drug use and the love of a good woman into one fantastic, rollicking blitzkrieg of a glam/punk song. Every big of rockstar swagger you associate with kingpin swaggerers like the NY DOLLS, ROLLING STONES and aforementioned Heartbreakers is rolled up into this song, then played quickly and aggressively like the bastard sons of James Williamson might. The vocals are easily of a league with Mick and David Johanson, at least this one time, and you get the feeling that, A.) the band poured every ounce of talent they possessed into this one 2-minute masterpiece, and B.) that you’d have given a left arm to watch them play it in person. I’d heartily recommend a quick free download of “Pillbox” somewhere on the web – like how about right here?