Reliving the story of Jailhouse who never made it big.
Jailhouse was Amir, Michael, Dave, Matt & Danny (seated)
Reliving the story of Jailhouse, a band that many thought would be the Next Big Thing
The G-Spot Column
By Gerry Gittelson
In a continuing theme, I’m again taking a look back at my favorite bands from the Sunset Strip, and one of them was definitely Jailhouse.
I was a huge fan and never missed a show, and a lot of folks really loved this band led by androgynous singer Danny Simon and a couple of ultra talented guitarists named Michael Raphael and Amir Derakh.
In fact, among the more surprising turn of events back in the day was Jailhouse not making it big.
Jailhouse seemed to have everything necessary for success – Simon could actually sing, and the band had great songs, a more-than-solid drummer in Dave Alford, and a loyal, devoted following.
Jailhouse did all the right things, too. The fivesome built their success steadily and were soon at the point of headlining the Roxy, the Country Club and other top venues. They produced a series of red-hot demos, none better than their first that included such gems as “Sweet Angel, “Love Me” and “Please Come Back to Me.” And Jailhouse also were generally nice people who hosted great parties.
It all sounds like a formula for success, so what went wrong?
Well, the band signed with Enigma, an independent label, instead of waiting to ink a deal with a major. So the group’s debut EP, “Alive in a Mad World,” didn’t fly even though it wasn’t a bad effort. Then, the scene kind of died down, and unfortunately, Jailhouse went down with it despite producing no less than three music videos.
Danny Simon has continued to try to make it via various projects, but he’s still waiting to strike it big. Raphael later found more substantial success with the modern rock band Neve, which had a big hit single in 2000 with “It’s Over Now.”
The band was signed to Columbia by none other than Randy Jackson, but it turned out to be a curse when Jackson left for “American Idol.”
“Neve was 50 times bigger than Jailhouse – we were touring with Kiss, and I felt like a rock star in Japan opening the Fuji Rockfest with Rage Against the Machine and the Black Crowes – but then when Jackson left the label, we were left hanging. No one else supported us at the label, and we got dropped pretty quick.”
Jailhouse looked great in pictures, but they didn’t always see eye to eye.
“When you ask me today, I don’t really remember much except it being five guys who really did not get along,” said Raphael, who, like myself, lives in Santa Clarita and has kept in touch through the years. “Everything kind of changed when we went from a four-piece to a five-piece. I think if we would have done songs about sex, drugs and rock and roll, we probably would have had a record deal. I do think we were better than most bands.”
Raphael thought the first batch of songs that really caught on, like “Sweet Angel,” were the best, as the band soon experimented with more serious lyrics and never got back to being a pretty boy pop-metal band, which was what Jailhouse was really good at.
“I wouldn’t say it was bad luck. We just should have come out two years earlier,” Raphael said. “I was 20 when I started, and I’m 43 now, so it’s hard to look back 23 years and tell you how I was feeling.”
Derakh is the Jailhouse alum who has found the most success since the breakup, first joining Orgy and now a member of Dead By Sunrise, a well-received side project of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington.
Jailhouse’s original managers, Richard Rashman and Waddell Solomon, remain partners and have gone on to great success overseas with British boy bands Busted and McFly.
And as for Jailhouse, it’s not over yet. The band reunited a year ago with Simon, Raphael, Derakh and bassist Matt Thor for a new CD, “Straight At The Light,” on Demon Doll. It’s 16 songs, including all the cool old stuff, plus the brand new song “Straight At The Light,” and you can see that video on youtube.
“I guess we’re kind of coming back on VHI Classic, so in some ways the band is more popular than ever,” Raphael said. “That’s what gave me the idea to call Danny and do at least one new song. You never know, right?”
Jailhouse "Straight At The Light" official video found HERE
Michael Raphael did a 20 Questions with Metal Sludge way back in May 2005.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at [email protected]