Recently I have done some pieces about quirky singers and pop groups from the 80s. I was wondering if there was anyone else who could be featured here. I don’t get too excited about the modern wave of pop stars, the last ones I had an interest in came on to the scene about a decade ago now such as Paloma Faith and Lady Gaga. I did wonder if there was anyone who could fit the description of being “the Lady Gaga of the 80s”, and I was pleased when I discovered someone who definitely could.
The group is Missing Persons, and it’s always good to discover that a group that I had previously barely heard of and realise that they had an interesting story in the 80s. Their frontwoman is Dale Bozzio (I can’t recall ever coming across a woman called Dale before). Dale Consalvi was born in March 1955 in Massachusetts. Before getting into music she appeared in some rather naughty magazines, and went on to collaborate with Frank Zappa.
In 1980, Missing Persons were formed, they could be put into the New Wave genre. They were a quintet, and along with Dale, other members included drummer and Dale’s husband Terry Bozzio (they married in 1979), and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo. Although they didn’t have any hit singles or albums in this country, I wondered if they had made any UK TV appearances, so I went on YouTube, and I was pleasantly surprised. As always, this piece won’t be 100% accurate or comprehensive, but here are some of the highlights of their story.
Dale was the definition of small but perfectly formed, with a very distinctive look, including her hair, which was sometimes red, or even – yes! – blue, and plenty of make-up. She also wore what were often described as “fishbowls” containing some foil. It seems that she was rather pleased with her looks and followed the old phrase “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”, and if she had half the chance she would probably have worn nothing at all above the waist on stage. Dale was also known for having a squeak in her singing voice. I very much doubt she’s been to any pubs near where I live, but I’ll let her off because she made some great songs.
In 1980 the “Missing Persons EP” was released, which reached no. 46 on the US album chart, and they appeared in the 1981 film Lunch Wagon. But it was during 1982/1983 that they had their biggest success. In 1982 their first single “Mental Hopscotch” was released. It wasn’t a hit, but there was a video made. There was also a video made for “Noticeable One”, but that wasn’t a single.
But next up in 1982 was “Words”, and this is arguably their most famous song. The video has had 6.6 million views on YouTube, making it their most popular. This reached no. 42 (their equal-highest placing in America), and it also reached no. 10 in Australia, which I’m sure is their first and only Top Ten placing on a singles chart anywhere in the world. This one contained the lyric “I think I’ll dye my hair blue“. Please do! Also in this year, their first album “Spring Session M” (an anagram of “Missing Persons”) was released, reaching no. 17 (their highest-charting album in America), and no. 40 in Australia, where they loved it.
Then in 1982 the next single was “Destination Unknown”, another one of their more well-known ones. This also reached no. 42 in America, and no. 89 in Australia, their final hit there. This one had a video, and I know that I shouldn’t take too much notice of YouTube comments, but the amount of people who have said “Lady Gaga stole her look from Dale” is remarkable. They performed this one on various shows including TopPop in the Netherlands.
And in October 1982, they made what I’m sure is their first UK TV appearance, when they performed “Destination Unknown” on CITV’s Razzmatazz! They weren’t exactly the first group that I would expect to appear on the show, but the youngsters loved them I’m sure. Dale also had a rather unusual hairstyle by her own standard at this point. I doubt it’s all her own work. I don’t think they played “Peggy Babcock” though. Missing Persons were now doing well, suddenly Dale was being invited to awards ceremonies, and plenty of people were taking notice of them.
In 1983, “Windows” was released, which reached no. 63 in America. I couldn’t find a video for this one, but they did perform this on shows in various countries. And in March 1983, Missing Persons made another UK TV appearance when they performed a few songs on Channel 4’s The Tube. There was the slight problem that they provoked almost no response at all from the studio audience who seemingly had no idea who they were.
Also in March 1983, Dale appeared on the cover of Sounds, which I’m fairly sure is their only UK weekly music magazine cover, where they were tipped to be the next big thing. Dale is someone who also gave good value in interviews. And although they didn’t feature in an article, an advert for “Words” (which was released in the UK in this month) appeared in Smash Hits.
Watch out for more in part two…