Back in the very early 80's (ugh!) after selling my groovy record store Looney Tunez, a bunch of my High School mates and myself started our very own rock'n'roll group called Dramarama. We played various strip clubs around the North Jersey area (ugh!) with dreams of playing various strip clubs all across the country. By some odd twist of fate we ended up on the very cool underground French record label New Rose Records. Finally the chance to play strip clubs in Paris was now in our sights! We recorded our debut long player called Cinéma Vérité for New Rose toured France and returned home to find that LA disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer had purchased our album after being lured by the cover photo of Edie Sedgwick and had been playing all of the albums tracks on his legendary radio show on KROQ - FM. After finding out we were American boys, Rod suggested we go West...and we did. We had plans to play one show at the Roxy and return home. When we heard our songs on KROQ it was much too intoxicating to return to the strip clubs of the Garden State....needless to say we never used those return tickets! We went on to record many more albums, tour the county several times, made a handful of video's and ended up with one of (if not THE) most requested song in KROQ history.
Here are a few clips including "Anything Anything" (I'll Give You) as well as my favorite "Haven't Got A Clue" (w/ drummer Clem Burke) and the very Beatlesque "What Are We Gonna Do".
Buy Dramarama music on iTunes:
Box Office Bomb
Dramarama - Anything, Anything
The first Dramarama lineup was John Easdale (drums vocals), Chris Carter (bass) and Mark Englert (guitar). They began in the basement of Chris Carter's record store Looney Tunez records and slowly built up repertoire in 1981. The official first line-up was solidified with the addition of Peter Wood (guitar) and Ron Machuga (drums). John Easdale was the main songwriter.
The majority of the band's material leaned towards more straight-ahead power pop than later work. Songs like "I Guess You've Won," "She's Got A Right (aka The Big Star Song)," "Pretend" and "The La La Song" focused on either a 12-string Byrds/Big Star vibe or punky Cheap Trick hooks.
They slowly made in-roads onto local new wave/punk scene playing clubs like The Dirt Club and The Meadowbrook whilst making several appearances on The Uncle Floyd Show between 1982-1984.
In 1983 they released their first 7" single ("You Drive Me" b/w "A Fine Example") on their own label, ? Records (aka Questionmark Records). The single made a small dent on the local scene, but nothing on a wider scale.
Looking to broaden their scope, the band refocused and went through small line-up changes (mostly drummer-related). After 1983 they relied on Easdale for drumming on demos and studio work whilst looking to replace Machuga for future live shows. Several drummers were tried out, inlcuding Ken Moutenot (who drums on "All I Want" on the "Comedy" EP). In 1984, keyboardist Ted Ellenisjoined the band.
After several stops and starts of studio work (between 1983-1984), Dramarama released the EP, "Comedy" on ? Records. The self-funded five-track debut garnered both critical and cult praise in the unexpected location of France. Shortly after the release of the EP, Jesse (Farbman) became full-time drummer.
In 1985, Dramarama caught the ears of writer/DJ Jose Ruiz who helped bring the band to the attention of Patrick Mathe's New Rose Records which was main supporter of classic '70s punk and current '80s garage rock. New songs were demo'd for New Rose (at Hoboken's Water Music in spring of '85). Mathe further funded the band to cut 6 more songs to add to "Comedy" and make it their full-length debut.
Dramarama issued its first full-length release, 1985's Cinéma Vérité, on France's New Rose Records. Members, Jesse Farbman, Peter Wood, Chris Carter and John Easdale went to France in November, 1985 to support release with interviews and acoustic performances.
Initial buzz on release came from Village Voice critic Robert Christgau (who gave it an A-) as well as college radio and Mike Marrone's upstart alternative station WHTG (in Asbury Park). John Easdale made memorable appearance on The Joe Franklin Show in winter of 1986.
By the spring of 1986 "Cinema Verite" began to gain traction. The album caught the eyes (via cover model Edie Sedgwick) and ears of famed LA disc jockey, Rodney Bingenheimer. Rodney (who initially thought the band was French) helped create a monster underground buzz for the band when he started playing "Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)" on his weekly radio shows on KROQ-FM (then in Burbank, CA). By the summer of 1986 the song was the most requested song on Rodney's show ("Rodney On The ROQ").
It was during Bingenheimer's east coast visit in late May of '86 that he met Dramarama. Carter made his LA radio-debut on KROQ, when he and Rodney called in to "Rodney On The ROQ" which was being subbed by Steve Jones and Andy Taylor that week.
In July of 1986, Chris Carter and Peter Wood flew out to southern California to test the waters and book possible shows. Carter and Wood were Rodney's on-air guests. During the radio show, Carter made quip about wanting to play with the Psychedelic Furs (whose ad for their Irvine Meadows gig in Sept. was aired). Rodney tipped Carter to concert promoters, Avalon Attractions.
Shortly after, Carter met with Steve Rennie and Jim Guernoit and sealed a management deal as well as the opening slot at Irvine Meadows (behind The Untouchables). Dramarama officially moved out to southern California in mid-August, 1986; although it wasn't official until months later when they decided to stay.
Along with The Psychedelic Furs gig at Irvine Meadows (9.5.86), Dramarama made it's "California debut" at The Roxy Theatre (9.3.86) on the Sunset Strip. By autumn, "Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)" was on heavy rotation at KROQ (whose playlist, at the time consisted mostly of synth-based UK bands like Depeche Mode, New Order, Erasure, and post-punk like The Cure and The Smiths). The song's angst-ridden punch and aggressive guitars stood in contrast to most of the popular music getting airplay during that time. (In 1986's year-end countdown, the song reached #4.)
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 and 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 reference 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.