What are you writing about this week, someone asked? Destination unknown, I thought. Sometimes, it’s just that easy. Twenty minutes later, I had followed the rabbit hole deeper into Missing Persons. Apart from the obvious Duran Duran connection with Warren Cuccurullo, I always held their two MTV videos close to my heart. Is it time for a re-evaluation of the band’s albums? In short, no.
It is hard to forget seeing “Words” and “Destination Unknown” all over MTV pretty regularly in 1982-83. Dale Bozzio played her role as an electric Barbarella to perfection and the costumes were wow! Incredibly, neither single hit the Top 40. As much as I remember seeing them, I assumed they must have been huge hits on the radio. That speaks to my generation discovering music via television. Honestly, if MTV was playing it, I assumed it was pretty huge outside my living room. My field of vision was fairly limited as a nine-year old.
While I do remember “Walking In L.A.” from the album, I don’t recall a video on MTV and I think Sirius/XM First Wave just plays it so often that I’ve tricked myself into believing it was a hit when I was a kid. Regardless, Spring Session M holds up pretty well as a slice of art-pop designed to capitalize on the emerging New Wave and video rage. The band leveraged the growing success into a slot at the 1983 US Festival which, looking back, is one of the most impressive festival line-ups ever.
The fatal flaw in Missing Persons wasn’t Dale Bozzio and her limited vocal range. The rest of the band just seemed hell-bent on proving that they were “real” musicians because they had played with Frank Zappa. Watch any clip of the band and Bozzio’s husband Terry is over-playing everything. The follow-up, Rhyme & Reason, in 1984 was overly produced in every way and took the focus away from what was working.
After that flopped, the band bent to record label pressure and brought in Bernard Edwards – fresh off producing The Powerstation’s debut album. They shifted to an even more dance-orientated sound that is almost unlistenable today. The band and the Bozzio’s broke-up after this and Warren went off to join Duran Duran. Maybe Edwards tipped him off that Andy Taylor wasn’t coming back?
Bozzio released an album on Prince’s Paisley Park label and Riot In English is better than the last two Persons albums but not by much. Since then, there have been countless greatest hits collections and more remixes than I can list. Last year, Bozzio released Dreaming under the Missing Persons moniker. Some of the unusual covers include this droning stab at “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and Papas.
Maybe one album is all Missing Persons were meant to give us and Spring Session M remains a wonderful touchstone of what early MTV looked and sounded like. I wish Bozzio had found the right band for her talents but it never happened. Cuccurullo’s own path through Duran Duran is littered with some incredible arrangements and a lot of unnecessary drama – musically and personally. Sometimes, being the most talented musician can be a curse.