Song du semaine: Missing Persons, "Mental Hopscotch"

Apologies for being rather late with this one. For those of you who don’t know high school French, a “semaine” is certainly not 17 days.

One reason for the delay: I’ve been trying to think of a 2007 analogue to Missing Persons, in which a couple of Frank Zappa sidemen got together with one of their wives, a former Playboy Bunny (though she apparently didn’t pose nude for Playboy — only for Hustler, which is actually much worse), and a couple of future New Age musicians to form a synth-rock band.

So that’s like … hmm … a couple of guys from Dream Theater and some future hip-hop moguls forming an R&B band with … I don’t know, Amanda Beard? Can she sing?

Dale Bozzio could — her voice was unique but effective, and Zappa enlisted her talents as well as her bandmates. Her husband at the time, Terry Bozzio, is an enigma among drummers. With Missing Persons, he’s an awkward mess of hair, grimaces and spindly arms, even as he shows off far more talent than you’ll see behind a typical New Wave drum set. These days, long divorced from Dale, he’s some sort of YouTube curiosity, with more than 240,000 page views for what appears to be an ancient drum solo (with primordial synth sounds) and nearly 120,000 page views for a narrated time-lapse animation of a bunch of people setting up his drums.

Dale and Terry don’t seem to have one of those friendly post-divorce relationships, so any “Missing Persons Featuring Dale Bozzio” concerts are likely to feature another flashy drummer like Mike Mangini, who has a bit of a YouTube following himself for showing his freakishly fast hands and feet along with a maniacal sense of humor.

Most Missing Persons songs I’ve heard aren’t showcases for Bozzio and fellow Zappa alum Warren Cuccurullo, later heard in Duran Duran. Their hits are amiable songs like Destination Unknown and the philosophical Words. Later in their career, they funked it up for Give, in which Terry plays an electric kit far more minimalist than the one drawing the YouTube eyeballs.

That’s a not a bad collection of songs, but as AllMusic tells us, the band burned out pretty quickly without building on its successes.

Their first notable song is their best, full of intertwining guitar and synth riffs along with some Terry Bozzio fills that still make me rewind and wonder what the heck he’s doing on the cymbals. You may have heard some of these riffs sampled elsewhere — I’d surely plunder it if I were a hip-hop producer.

Dale seems right at home with her vocal style, which probably wouldn’t impress Simon Cowell and company but effectively delivers the message here — basically, she’s sick of the bullshit and getting out.

Enjoy the video, but beware of preening Bozzios …

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