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- Genre: Pop, Rock, Alternative, Electronic, Alternative Rock, Hard Rock, Jangle Pop, Post Punk, Power Pop, Punk, Synthpop
Dramarama is a Los Angeles, California-based alternative rock/power pop band. The band was formed in New Jersey in 1982 and disbanded in 1994. The band formally reunited in 2003 following an appearance on VH1's Bands Reunited reality show.
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 then toured nationally and released a new, full-length studio CD titled Everybody Dies on October 25, 2005. The band has recorded new material that remains unreleased as of 2015.
The evolution and combined efforts prompted the emergence of the DPW (a local parody named in honor of their home town Department of Public Works) and re-incarnation, "The F&cks". In 1982, the band released its first single, "You Drive Me", attracting some national attention. In 1984, Dramarama released their first EP, Comedy, a self-funded five-track debut that garnered both critical and cult praise in the unexpected location of France. As such, Dramarama issued its first full-length release, 1985's Cinéma Vérité on France's New Rose Records. It was later re-released in the USA after receiving airplay on KROQ-FM radio from influential Los Angeles disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer (who at first actually thought the band was French). Bingenheimer alerted Posh Boy Records at New Rose who gave Robbie Fields the green light to contact the band directly in New Jersey.
Subsequently, the track "Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)", perhaps Dramarama's most recognizable song, became a number-one hit on KROQ-FM, becoming a staple of alternative radio airplay, and even today is one of the most requested songs in KROQ-FM's history. 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 and was covered for the East Timor Benefit Album.
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 and re-released in 1992 through Rhino Records.
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", both pseudonym and album title in reference to lyrics from The Beatles' "Glass Onion". 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" (which was also on a CD included with the Sega CD video game system in the United States) and "What Are We Gonna Do?". The album's high-end production with Don Smith (Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, Keith Richards) was a highlight adding to the success of the LP. Vinyl included contributions from Mick Taylor, Jim Keltner, Benmont Tench, and Brian Macleod of Wire Train.
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, as well as songs that were dropped from their early albums, a couple of 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, and there are backing vocal contributions from Dwight Twilley and Sylvain Sylvain. 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 it '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 Mike Davis, Tony Snow and Craig Ballam, who connected with Easdale circa 1996. 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 "pre-release" 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 was home to notable artists including Peter Frampton, Eagles, and Gregg Rolie of Journey and Santana fame. 33rd Street was a boutique label funded by the late major retailer Tower Records. They appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show as Ellen's 50th birthday present from her DJ Ted Stryker.
Recent activity / former members:
Original bass player/producer and Dramarama co-founder Chris Carter is currently a disc jockey in Los Angeles who's primarily known for hosting America's longest-running Beatle show, Breakfast with the Beatles, in which he plays nothing but Beatles material and comments upon the history of the Beatles for as long as 4 hours every week. Carter also went on to produce and write the film Mayor of the Sunset Strip, which in 2003 was nominated for Best Documentary by the Independent Spirit Film Awards, and which featured members of Dramarama. After Dramarama split in 1994, Carter formed QM Management, for which he manages LA pop group The Wondermints, currently touring as Beach Boy Brian Wilson's backing band.
Hi-Fi Sci-Fi-era drummer Clem Burke has returned to his original band Blondie. 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. Former keyboard player Theodore Ellenis (aka: Theothorous Athanasious Ellenis) now serves as the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director for a prominent New York financial services firm. Replacement keyboard player and guitarist Tommy "Secret Weapon" Mullaney has appeared onstage with the band on more than a few occasions at New Jersey shows.
The band has been very active since 2005. In 2009, they returned to their roots by playing for the Troy High School Battle of the Bands. This event took place on February 3, 2009 at Plummer Auditorium, located in Fullerton, California. Over 1,000 people attended this event. They finished the event with an encore, playing the 1985 hit single Anything, Anything. Also in 2009 were several shows at House Of Blues venues in Texas and Southern California, as well as Six Flags Magic Mountain. Dramarama returned to New Jersey for two shows in November 2009, and performed in Downtown Los Angeles and San Juan Capistrano's The Coach House in December 2009. They returned to Troy High School's Battle of the Bands in 2010 and 2011. Dramarama continues to perform many shows each year at such notable venues as House Of Blues, Red Devil Lounge, and The Stone Pony. On September 10, 2011, Dramarama performed at "Jack FM's Sixth Show" in Irvine, CA. In 2012, the band performed frequently, including an appearance at the Bamboozle Festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey on May 20, 2012 and on August 24, 2012, at the final summer concert at Joey Harrison's Surf Club in Ortley Beach, NJ. Almost two months to the day, on October 22, the club was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Dramarama had been a frequent and very popular performer at the club.
As of 2015, Dramarama continues to perform frequently, primarily in California and New Jersey.
In 1982, Dramarama formed in the basement of a Wayne, New Jersey, record store owned by founding member Chris Carter. While Carter operated the alternative record store Looney Tunez Records (previously known as Dirt Cheap Records), Tommy "The Secret Weapon" Mullaney continued to pursue his outside careers simultaneously. Initially the line-up consisted of; singer/songwriter John Easdale, "Mr. E Boy" (Mark Englert) and Carter, later joined by Peter Wood on guitars and Ron Machuga on drums who was soon after replaced by Ken "knock-'em down, knock-'em down, bowling bowling" Moutenout. Keyboard player Ted Ellenis later joined the band increasing the band's lineup. Moutenout was quickly replaced by Jesse Farbman who left the group after the band's third album to pursue mind / body purity and to obtain "philosophical and spiritual awareness". Farbman was eventually replaced by acclaimed drummer Clem Burke, whose prior band was Blondie. Other early bandmates included Carter's childhood friend Tommy "The Secret Weapon" Mullaney who was picked to replace Ellenis. Mullaney also departed shortly thereafter.
A number of prominent musicians have 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.
2006-2015 / Current Lineup:
The current lineup consists of original founding members John Easdale, lead and rhythm guitar player Peter Wood (the only band member who moved back to New Jersey and still maintains a residence there), and lead guitarist Mark Englert (Mr. "E" Boy). Rounding out the band are Los Angeles-based musicians Tony Snow (No Sugar, Tonio & The Change, Shiteland Ponies) on drums, and (former Lizzy Borden member) Mike Davis on bass. In addition, Tony Snow leads his own band, Tonio & The Change, and Mike Davis is the bass player for both Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford's eponymous solo band Halford, and metal "supergroup" Death Dealer.
The Dramarama song "Anything Anything" serves as the title and theme song of New York City radio station WRXP-FM's free form program "Anything Anything with Rich Russo".. The version from "Live at the China Club" begins each show. After the switch of format to all news on WRXP-FM, Russo's radio show was picked up on WXPK-FM and WDHA-FM where Anything Anything still serves as the name and the china club version opens each show.
A special live version of "Last Cigarette" was recorded for the limited edition 500 pressing vinyl album "Anything Anything with Rich Russo on 101.9 RXP presents Exclusive Live Performances" in this version the band replaces "Johnny Carson" with "Rich Russo" as an homage to the free form DJ. The album was released April 2010.