Missing Persons were an acutely ‘80s band, made up of former Zappa sidemen who heard the siren call of the New Wave and crafted compellingly icy and anxious music. Drummer Terry and singer Dale Bozzio (a married couple), guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, and bassist Patrick O’Hearn met during the recording sessions for Zappa’s masterpiece, the epic rock opera Joe’s Garage, and were encouraged to form Missing Persons by Zappa himself. The representative early single “Mental Hopscotch” gained a ton of well-deserved attention for their debut EP. (Crate digger advisory: used vinyl copies of that can still be found fairly cheaply. I’d recommend giving it a listen. I still have mine from when I was 14, it holds up.)
Despite its collective musical chops, the band’s focal point was the kitschy but high-octane outer space sexuality of singer Dale Bozzio. As a former bunny at the Boston Playboy Club, Bozzio was comfortable flaunting her figure, and had a penchant for performing in things like plexiglass bikinis and bubble-wrap jackets, foreshadowing Lady Gaga’s costumery by decades. Her outlandish appearance far outpaced contemporaries like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, which made Missing Persons a darling of MTV, which in turn propelled their debut LP, Spring Session M to chart HUGENESS. The band continued past its initial burst of inspiration, though—their follow-up, Rhyme & Reason, was less musically exciting (perhaps the element of surprise had worn off), and it failed to crack the Top 40. 1986’s Color in Your Life fared even worse. Commercial failures and tension in the Bozzios’ marriage finally doomed the band. Cuccurullo went on to further success as Andy Taylor’s replacement in Duran Duran, and Terry Bozzio returned to high-profile session work.
Dale, however, has lately gone the “featuring” route, having yesterday released Missing In Action by “Missing Persons featuring Dale Bozzio.” Missing Persons is missing a lot of people—Bozzio is the only member from the original lineup to appear on the album, but casual fans are probably unlikely to care, as to most people she was the band. Her performance on the single “Hello Hello” is actually quite good. Her voice has lost a lot of flexibility (that’s not a criticism, age does that, so it goes), so all the idiosyncratic hiccuping accents she used to pull off aren’t to be heard here, but her singing has retained expressiveness and gained depth. The music, composed by latter-day Yes member Billy Sherwood, feels like it’s trying a bit too lazily to sound conspicuously early ‘80s. It would have been so much cooler if she’d hired someone like Trans Am to write the music, honestly.
Bozzio spoke illuminatingly about her life and career at last year’s Scion Music(less) Music Conference, and as it turns out, she’s a terrific storyteller, and seems like a hell of a cool lady. The whole interview is good, but for the impatient, there’s a kinda cute Hugh Hefner story in part 1, GREAT Zappa stuff in parts 2 & 3, and Missing Persons’ origin story is in part 4.
Fugazis who object to the corporate branding all over these videos, be advised that you remain free not to buy a car. I bought four, though. I am such an easy mark!