Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm not a Protest Singer...

Dramarama was by far my favourite band in the late 80's / early 90's. They broke up for a spell but there's still a version of them floating around, however one of their key members (in my opinion) is no longer with them and that takes away some of the appeal for me.

They released an album in 1991 called "Vinyl" which included the song "What Are We Gonna Do?".

It's April 21st and everybody knows today is Earth Day
Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday to whoever's being born
And now I'm trying hard to think of something
meaningful and worthy, kind of earthy
to make everybody ask themselves just

What are we doing here?
and what are we doing to her?

There aren't a hell of a lot of songs about Earth Day, and Dramarama did not typically write songs like these (the title of this post is another line from the song). They were a rock band heavily-influenced by, appreciative and respectful of, the bands they grew up listening to.

Not being particularly environmentally-minded at the time, I found that the song stood out as being a little unusual for them, but I also liked it just fine. In fact, it's on my MP3 player now. It wasn't until years later that I understood it a little better.

Dramarama had broken up by then but I knew of a compilation album which included three new songs. Being that many of my Dramarama recordings were on cassette rather than CD, I had to get my hands on this thing! I ordered it from CD Warehouse (Clyde Ave.) and waited patiently for it to arrive.

There was a bus strike in Ottawa that year wouldn't you know it, I get the phone call that my CD has arrived on a day that we're getting about a foot of snow. To quote comic Steven Wright, everything's within walking distance if you have the time ;-) so I told the girl who called from the store I'd be there within the hour and off I went.

This was probably in 1997 now. Information wasn't quite as easy to come by as it is now and for a band that was largely unknonw here, it was even harder. The album had lengthy liner notes which I couldn't wait to read so I started on them on the way home (at one point, I dropped the booklet in the snow because my fingers were so damn cold. If you recall hearing a tremendously loud profanity in December 1997 and wondered where it came from, it was probably me).

In it, one of the band members explained the inspiration for the song a bit more fully.

The strong follow-up single "What are we gonna do?" parodied late period Beatles pop to cynically skewer the bumper-sticker mentality of all to many armchair environmentalists.


(Singer/songwriter John) Easdale recalls the song's genesis: "We played at the festival celebrating the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. Forget about the last 19 that nobody celebrated; 'It's the 20th anniversary, let's have a party!' And they did, at the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.


When everyone left we looked at all the garbage left behind and wondered just what we were celebrating."

I know that there's an "official" video for this song but I haven't been able to locate it, or at least now in a format I can download. But the song still gets used, by those who are aware of it, to help "send a message". Best to click on the screen below to open the video in a separate window.

All right. Now it's April 21st and everybody knows tomorrow is Earth Day. Happy Birthday to whoever's being born. Those of you planning on participating, party responsibly. :-)

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