Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 5:57 pm | Fair 72º


Jeff Moehlis: Missing Persons in Oxnard

Dale Bozzio will sing New Wave classics at the California Strawberry Festival

The band Missing Persons grew out of Frank Zappa's stable of musicians, fusing top-notch musicianship with New Wave sensibilities to give us songs like "Words," "Destination Unknown" and "Walking in L.A." A quintessential 1980s band, their music came paired with a revolutionary image courtesy of singer Dale Bozzio, whose crazy hairstyles, over-the-top makeup and outrageous outfits have led many to call her the original Lady Gaga. The band released three albums before breaking up in 1986.

Bozzio is back in action, with a new Missing Persons album being released a couple of years ago and a new lineup that revisits the band's glorious catalog in concert. They will be performing at 4:15 p.m. May 20 at the California Strawberry Festival in Oxnard. Click here for more information about the festival.

Bozzio talked to Noozhawk about her musical adventures, plus her interactions with Zappa and Prince.

                                                                        •        •

Jeff Moehlis: I grew up during the heyday of MTV, and of course you were a part of that. So I'm very happy to get a chance to talk to you.

Dale Bozzio: Well, I'm thrilled. I really appreciate it, and I'm very happy to talk to you. It's been a long time [laughs], right? It's definitely been a long time since MTV was the real MTV, as they say. Now everything is an advertisement for something else.

JM: Definitely. I saw you perform at the the '80s Weekend concert in Los Angeles a little less than a year ago. I think you played three songs, or so.

DB: Yeah, yeah. That was such a smidgenly little show. It's hard to get excited about three songs.

JM: But it was a nice taster, and I really enjoyed it. Is it still fun for you to be out there playing shows?

DB: I'll tell you — it has changed. The environment has changed. The effect is not the same. The '80s were an inventive stage of life — creative and very curious. I feel that this era we're in is squeezing the people. It's squeezing music, it's squeezing the arts. People are afraid to express themselves, for being judged. That is very dangerous when you can't express yourself in the ultimate, and be who you choose to be. Not who someone else wants you to be. That's a very big issue to me.

I've always been a rule-breaker, not a rule-maker — there's a big difference — in life. And the music business has changed immensely. Now it's pre-fabricated, especially to ring your ears. It is not a state of art, or an expression from within. That is where I am losing my grip with the people. I love to perform. It's the only way that you can really see my true endeavors and understand me personally as a human. People forget when you're a rock star or an artist or a movie star that we are deeper than that. So I respect that question.

The album cover for Missing Persons’ 1982 debut album, “Spring Session M.”
The album cover for Missing Persons’ 1982 debut album, “Spring Session M.” (Glen Wexler photo)

JM: It's awesome that the Missing Persons story began with Frank Zappa.

DB: Meeting Frank was the pivot of my life and my career. Frank has made me an icon. Frank has made me into a singer, and a video star that I never thought I would be. His picture is right here — I look at him every day — and I visit his grave; it's 3.1 miles from my house. I am indebted to Frank Zappa forever, forever and ever and ever and ever.

JM: I want to ask you about the first Missing Persons album, which believe it or not is turning 35 years old this year.

DB: I believe it!

JM: Looking back, what are your reflections on that album?

DB: That is the album that signifies what we stand for. [Drummer] Terry [Bozzio] and [guitarist] Warren [Cuccurullo] wanted my face on that cover for some reason, and that's an iconic picture as well. Glen Wexler took that picture. We said, let's put a blue swash across my face because [laughs] I'm never normal. I'm always a little bit off. And that's OK by me. I'd rather be a little bit off than someone taking me out. I'd rather break my own lightbulb than have someone break it for me.

That album was very creative. We made the demo at Frank's studio, in his house.Frank looked at the three of us and said, "You three should put a band together.  Call yourself the Cute Persons." We said, "Sure Frank. We'll do that. We work for you, Frank. We can't do that." He said, "Oh, yeah you can." We went in the studio, we made the demo in his house, we used his Kurtzweil. We christened his studio at 7885 Woodrow Wilson Drive, his infamous house. He came back — for Halloween he played New York — and he listened to "Mental Hopscotch" and he said, "That's my favorite song." So he said, "Now go to work. Now you've got to go get a deal."

And we rehearsed every day, six days a week, Terry, Warren and I. We put our whole lives into that music. And we made it happen. We did it. We evolved, and we stayed together as long as we possibly could.

JM: Are there any Prince stories that you're willing to share?

DB: Prince was a big chapter in my life. He was sort of the second person. He took over after Frank. He directed me with my music. He wrote a beautiful song for me, called "So Strong," which is exactly what I am. I'm so strong, it's overwhelming even to myself. I will never stop the music. I will never, ever stop my music. I will continue to sing and play until I die.

I met Prince because I went to this club called Tramps in Beverly Hills. It was chichi, and was the place to go in the '80s. I saw him in the crowd — he was with his two bodyguards — and I walked over to him and I poked him on the nose [laughs]. He was in shock. His bodyguards approached me [laughs] and he said, "You just poked me on the nose!" "Yep, I did, because I want you to dance with me, and I want your attention." He said, "You got it." I said, "Let's dance." He said, "OK." They were playing "Red Corvette." And he said, "Let's sit down," so we sat down. He said, "Are you drinking?" I said, "Sure, champagne." He ordered the Dom Perignon. He said, "Do you have a car?" I said, "I do." He said, "What kind of car do you have?" I said, "I have a Corvette." He said, "What color?" I said, "Red!" [laughs] It's hysterical. It's hysterical now, and I laugh in joy.

Click here for the full interview with Dale Bozzio, including the crazy story of how she met (and met again later) Frank Zappa, more on Prince, and her inspirational outlook on life.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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