Dramarama is a Los Angeles, California-based alternative rock/power pop band that was formed in their native New Jersey in 1982, disbanded in 1994, and formally reunited in 2003, following an appearance on VH1's Bands Reunited reality show, a "where-are-they-now" documentary marking the first time since disbanding that the entire original lineup performed together.
Since 1996, an evolving lineup of the band, always fronted by singer/songwriter John Easdale, has been performing in one incarnation or another (initially billed as Easdale solo but usually joined by former Dramarama band mates), and from then until 2003 played occasional shows in the L.A. area, as well as in New Jersey. However, amid renewed interest since the Bands Reunited episode in January 2004 and a large-scale appearance at KROQ-FM's annual Inland Invasion festival concert (attended by more than 78,000 fans) in September 2003, Dramarama has been touring nationally, and released their first new, full-length studio CD, titled "everybody dies," on October 25, 2005.
Fields flew the band out for a showcase at The Roxy Theatre, where they opened for the Cast Outs, on the Sunset Strip and was offered the US rights to Cinema Verite for a modest sum. Fields' distributor at the time Chameleon Music Group, on the advice of Bonnie Levitin, initially refused to finance the record's re-release.
Subsequently, the track "Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)," perhaps Dramarama's most recognizable song, became a number-one hit on KROQ, becoming a staple of alternative radio airplay, and even today is one of the most requested songs in KROQ's history (younger listeners often call the station asking "What's that song called that goes 'Anything Anything'?") Following the local L.A. success of "Anything, Anything," the band obtained a far larger advance from Chameleon and permanently packed up and relocated from New Jersey to Los Angeles. The song has been featured in the box office success A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
As an expression of gratitude to both Bingenheimer and Fields, the band gave Robbie Fields their recording of the NY Dolls' song "Private World" for inclusion on "The Best of Rodney On The Roq" CD, released in 1987 on Posh Boy and re-released in 1992 through Rhino Records.
Dramarama's second album, 1987's Box Office Bomb, underperformed in the marketplace but went on to become a fan favorite. Their third LP, Stuck in Wonderamaland, was released in 1989 through independent Chameleon Records of California. Shortly thereafter, Chameleon, distributed by Elektra Records, went out of business.
The recording sessions for Stuck in Wonderamaland produced enough material for three albums. Instead of letting so many songs go to waste, Easdale & Carter decided to again try a foreign release. Thus, Looking Through..., a 14-song album, was released in Europe by "The Bent-Backed Tulips," a pseudonym the band chose in deference to The Beatles (see the lyrics to "Glass Onion" if you don't get the connection; even the album's title is directly lifted from that song's lyrics). Looking Through... was eventually re-released in the U.S. through Fullerton, CA-based eggBERT Records with extra tracks, increasing the number of songs to 20.
The band then signed with Chameleon distributor Elektra and released 1991's Vinyl. Backed by a major label for the first time, Dramarama started getting nationwide airplay, most notably the singles "Haven't Got A Clue" and "What Are We Gonna Do?" The album's high-end production w/ Don Smith (Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, Keith Richards) was a highlight adding to the success of the LP.
After Vinyl, a limited-edition 17-song CD called The Days of Wayne and Roses (The Trash Tapes) was made available to members of the Dramarama fan club. It included the band's earliest recordings together, songs that were dropped from their early albums, a couple of self-admitted poorly-recorded live performances, and one song exclusive (at the time) to the disc.
The band's final release on Elektra, 1993's hi-fi sci-fi, was a favorite among both critics and fans, and remains a cult staple. Clem Burke, who had joined the band for the Vinyl tour, appears on this album. The subsequent tours wound down and the group broke up shortly thereafter.
Following two relatively quiet years after the 1994 breakup, John Easdale began performing live music again in 1996, doing shows in both New Jersey and the L.A. area. He assembled a band that he has on occasion called "The John Easdale Group," and has also casually named "The Newcomers," but which in reality featured Dramarama's Mark Englert, as well as Peter Wood for east coast appearances. Other Newcomers have included fellow eggBERT alum Nick Celeste (of former Bongo Richard Barone's band and once the frontman for In Color; has also worked with Aimee Mann and Jules Shear) on guitar, Muddy Shews on bass, Danny Roselle on keys and guitar, and Chris O'Hara on drums. However, eventually Easdale was able to find steady players in the personae of Mike Davis, Tony Snow, and Craig Ballam, who connected with Easdale circa 1996 and, along with Easdale, Englert and Wood, form the core of Dramarama as it exists today.
In 1998, John Easdale released a "solo" CD on the eggBERT label called Bright Side, on which many of the tracks featured musicians with ties to both Dramarama and the Newcomers, including Mark Englert and Clem Burke, as well as Mike Davis, Tony Snow, and Craig Ballam, who also contributed production and engineering skills. Prior to Bright Side, Easdale issued a homegrown, fan-only, no-label version of the Bright Side CD in 1996 that contained versions of songs that made the final cut, as well as some that did not. Easdale refers to it as his "blueprint" for the final collection, and fans call it the "prerelease" Bright Side.
Following the considerable Bands Reunited and Inland Invasion publicity, including an article in Rolling Stone magazine lauding their retooling of the Dead Kennedys' politically-charged "California Über Alles" in response to Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2003 run for governor of California, Easdale decided in late 2003 the band name "Dramarama" should go on. To cement this point, the next CD (an EP) would be billed to Dramarama, and was yet another unlabeled home-brewed affair entitled Absolutely, 100% Made in N.J., which was recorded on a whim while John and the band were on a brief tour of New Jersey in 2003. The EP's liner notes indicated that most of the seven tracks were "from the forthcoming Dramarama album, everybody dies."
After yet another distribution setback, the album was released on October 25, 2005, on 33rd Street Records, a California-based label that is now or has been home to notable artists including Peter Frampton, Eagles, and Gregg Rolie of Journey and Santana fame. 33rd Street is now a boutique label funded by major label Tower Records. They appeared on The Ellen DeGenres Show as Ellen's 50th birthday present from her DJ Stryker
Former keyboard player and guitarist Tommy "Secret Weapon" Mullaney has appeared onstage with the band on more than a few occasions, most recently earlier this year at a New Jersey show. Hi-Fi Sci-Fi-era drummer Clem Burke has returned to his original band Blondie. Original drummer Jesse Farbman, now known as Anant Jesse, lives in Montreal, Quebec, where he teaches spiritual therapeutics, maintains a private practice and continues to record and perform internationally.
The current lineup consists of frontman John Easdale and several players from Dramarama's former incarnation, including lead guitarist Mark Englert and rhythm guitar player Peter Wood (the only band member who moved back to New Jersey and still maintains a residence there). Rounding out the band are Los Angeles-based musicians Tony Snow on drums, and Craig Ballam (guitar) and Mike Davis (bass), the two of whom also maintain a side project called Shobud In addition, Mike Davis is the official bass player for Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford's eponymous solo band, and appears on Halford's upcoming CD, Halford IV.
A number of prominent musicians has joined the band for studio sessions on specific tracks over the years, perhaps most notably pianist Benmont Tench of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers and guitarist Mick Taylor, late of the Rolling Stones, on Vinyl. Legendary British session pianist Nicky Hopkins can be heard on the album Hi-Fi Sci-Fi. In addition, fellow power pop artist Dwight Twilley lent vocals to several songs on Hi-Fi Sci-Fi, on which The New York Dolls' Sylvain Sylvain also made a vocal appearance.
In addition, other artists often join Dramarama onstage or in the studio, including bassist Steve "Muddy Shews" Shewchuk from seminal Jersey shore band Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes; keyboardist Morley Bartnoff from Cosmo Topper (formerly of the 1980s band Burning Sensations), and harmonica player "Trashcan" Ray Barwick, former No Soap Radio members Danny Roselle on keys and guitar, and drummer Chris O'Hara, and former Whirling Dervishes keyboard player Billy Siegel, now with NJ-based lounge pop band Everlounge
|Album Name||Released||Record Label|
|Cinéma Vérité||1985||New Rose|
|Box Office Bomb||1989||Chameleon|
|Stuck in Wonderamaland||1989||Chameleon|
|"everybody dies"||2005||33rd Street|
|Live at the China Club||Live||1990||Chameleon|
|10 from 5||Compilation||1993||Chameleon|
|The Best of Dramarama: 18 Big Ones||Compilation||1996||Rhino|
|US Hot 100||US Modern Rock||US Mainstream Rock||UK|
|1985||"Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)"||-||-||-||-||Cinéma Vérité|
|1989||"Last Cigarette"||-||#13||-||-||Stuck in Wonderamaland|
|1991||"What Are We Gonna Do?"||-||#10||-||-||Vinyl|
|1993||"Work For Food"||-||#10||-||-||Hi-Fi Sci-Fi|
|2003||"California Über Alles"||-||-||-||-||single|
|2005||"Physical Poetry (A-B-C-D-1-2-3)"||-||-||-||-||"everybody dies"|