Dramarama have all the right elements to be one of pop music’s greatest and most widely known rock and roll bands: muscular riffs, mounds of swagger, diamond-sharp guitar solos, catchy songs, a vocalist who bridges the divide between classic rock and punk rock, and all the right influences (The Velvet Underground, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones). But on the cusp of breaking through to a larger audience on two occasions, Dramarama has done the wrong thing, leaving them underheard though critically adored.
Their first shot at the big leagues came after their album in 1985. A brilliant, fully realized debut, spawned “Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You),” a dark rocker with a recurring guitar line and pleading lyrics offering a lover everything from “pills” to “one hundred dollar bills” to stick around.
When influential Los Angeles DJ Rodney Bingenheimer heard it, he got the New Jersey band a slot at a showcase for record executives at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood. Unfortunately, the polished studio band had less than 10 live shows under their belt.
“We probably sent [the record execs] away scratching their heads,” Dramarama singer and songwriter John Easdale says, “because we weren’t that good,”
Six years and two self-released albums later, Dramarama found themselves funded by the big league label Capitol while working on 1991’s . They even scored spots by the Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor and Benmont Trench of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers. “We spent more on the food for that album than the total spent for our past three albums,” Easdale says.
But bad luck reared its ugly head once more. Easdale says a bandmember badmouthed their label in an interview, causing the company to cancel their tour. “It pulled the plug,” Easdale says.
In 1994, Dramarama called it quits without ever reaching the wider audience they deserved. Then, three years ago, spurred by the VH-1 reality show “Bands Reunited,” they reformed. Easdale is flattered to have another chance, though he remains wary of the record business.
“It’s easier to win the lottery,” he says, “than be a successful recording artist.”
DRAMARAMA play 8:30pm Wednesday, June 18, at Monterey Live, 414 Alvarado St., Monterey. $10/advance; $13/day of the show. 375-LIVE.