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Mr. Mister

History - Mr. Mister

After Pages broke up in 1981, Richard and Steve continued working as session musicians. During a concert tour for Andy Gibb (Bee Gees member), the idea rose to form another band, this time with regular members. In early 1982 they began auditions. They searched for a guitarist, a bass player and a drummer.

Eventually they met Steve Farris, a guitarist from Fremont, Nebraska. Richard and Steve heard his real tough, raw, immediate edge to his guitar playing, and they liked it very much.

This sophisticated guitar player already had a lot of experience. After playing in clubs in the Midwest for about three or four years, he moved to L.A., at the age of 18. He rented an apartment and tried to find some work as a session musician and to meet interesting people. The first three years in Los Angeles were very hard. Bit by bit it started getting better, having better calls, doing more work and learning the skills of recording. In 1979 he got a gig with Eddie Money. Steve played with his band for about three years, until he finally met Richard Page and Steve George.

The three of them set up some rehearsal time at Studio City to find a drummer. When they auditioned Pat Mastelotto, they already had auditioned about eight or nine other drummers, and they liked a lot of them. But then Pat came in, simply introducing himself with the words: "I play drums. Hard!" He had been supposed to bring a bass player, because at that time the idea was that Richard was just going to sing. But the bass player had to get some dental work done and couldn't make it. There happened to be a bass guitar and an amplifier in the rehearsal studio. So Richard, who could play some bass lines, plugged in and they started to play. At the end of the rehearsal they were thrilled and they looked at each other and said: "Let's make it a four-piece. It sounds pretty good, and we don't have to pay a fifth guy or worry about a fifth attitude." There was indeed a real chemistry. Farris's distinctive guitar talents and George's mystic-filled keyboard textures melted into an enticing layer that fit perfectly over Page and Mastelotto's solid rhythms. Richard would be singing lead vocals; Steve had too much stuff to do playing keyboards. However, the vocal harmonies of Richard and Steve would become one of the band's trademarks. Mr. Mister was born in the spring of 1982.

The songwriting took off, each member bringing in his ideas. They started to develop material with lyricist John Lang. Soon afterward, they started playing showcase concerts in L.A. for some of the major record companies. Once Supertramp even loaned them their sound and light systems for their showcase! There were three or four record companies seriously interested in signing the band. One of these showcase concerts in spring 1982 at S.I.R. in Los Angeles led to the fact that RCA signed them that June.

The first album was finished by the end of 1983. They started to prepare for a release, but the only thing they didn't have was a name. The record company came up with a name list about a mile long but nothing stuck. But all of a sudden they had it: Mr. Mister! It started off as a bit of a joke. They used to call each other ‘Mr. This’ and ‘Mr. That’ when they were working together. So they decided to call themselves ‘Mr. something’, but they didn't know what that ‘something’ would be. Pat came up with ‘Mr. Mister’ and everybody just liked the way it sounded.

Their first album, I Wear The Face, was released in the U.S. early in 1984. Their first single was ‘Hunters of the Night’, a made-for-the-audience pleaser that rose to the #55 spot on the Billboard Hot-100 charts. Their second single was ‘Talk the Talk’, followed by ‘I’ll Let You Drive’. I Wear The Face made a mid-chart appearance, peaking only at #170. They also received some airplay, but allover the album was a flop. "It went double carpet", as Steve Farris once said in an interview. The album was produced by Peter Mc Ian, who had previously worked with Trevor Rabin and Men at Work.

The group members conceded that if they made any mistake with the debut, it was in being too hit-conscious. As Richard said in an interview: "We've played it safe, we've done it everybody else's way. Now we're gonna do it our way." Pulling in an outside producer and listening to what others were saying hadn’t been the right way, after all. There was no tour and minimal promotion behind the band either. Somehow they managed to get some touring gigs as support act for other bands (Madness, Adam Ant, Berlin, The Eurythmics). The audience response was mixed; most people knew nothing of the band. Pat Mastelotto recalls: "Our first gig with The Eurythmics was in Cleveland and our gear was late, so they probably incurred union overtime. In any event, their crew must have hated us. We got one spotlight, and that was always on Farris. Once we figured that out, Steve would stand behind Rich as he sang, so he could be lit. When Slug's rental amp blew out, they refused to help us, so Slug played through the bass amp with Rich. It would not have mattered much except we only had 16 inputs (my drums and machines took more than that) at the desk, so ... let's say keys were soft that night".

Richard’s stress level was rising just then. It was the fourth album in a row that had flopped; Richard was even getting into cocaine and other recreational drugs, but he kicked drugs before his wife give birth to their first child in August 1984. Shortly after the release of I Wear The Face, he got a tempting offer to replace Toto's lead singer Bobby Kimball, who had just left the band, but decided to stick with Mr. Mister.

For their follow-up, they determined that they were going to only worry about pleasing themselves. They began looking around for an engineer who could share their ideas. In the summer of 1984, they met him at a Yes concert: Paul DeVilliers, who was the house mixer for Yes. He impressed them with his live sound engineering.

In October 1984, they started work on their second album. The chemistry flourished and the music stretched and grew. Once again John Lang assisted writing the lyrics. "The lyrics were quite improved on our second album," Steve George said.

Somewhere in the beginning of 1985, they wanted to test their songs to the audience and they asked Tina Turner if they could be support act on her concert tour. Tina agreed, but her management said no.

In May 1985 their second album, Welcome to the Real World, was released. The album title is about responsibility, about becoming a functioning adult and about waking up. It was a new welcome to themselves as well. It was the first album they had been totally responsible for.

The band's urge to experiment was clear. The noisy, banging sounds in the middle eight section of ‘Is It Love’ (called 'Sparticus') includes a screwdriver tweaking pots. The fills at the end part of the title track has Pat hitting a ladder, ashtray, pie plates and a wall. The 'psssh' sound intro to ‘Broken Wings’ is a backward crash cymbal. ‘Tangent Tears’ was originally thought of as a shuffle beat, but they ended up going for the straight version instead. The half-beat on the title track was accidental during taped rehearsals, but they heard it later, liked it and stuck to it…

Just after the release of their second album, Richard got another tempting offer. Peter Cetera had left top band Chicago, and they were looking for a lead vocalist to replace him. Richard let them down; he didn't want to sing their old tunes all the time and of course Mr. Mister was just taking off and he believed in this project.

Somewhere in the summer of 1985, Pat pulled up to an L.A. stoplight and heard his group's song ‘Broken Wings’ playing from the radio of the car next to him. He thought the driver had their production cassette and he was somehow related to the band. But when he fiddled with his own dial, there the tune was, actually getting airplay. Pat remembered that at the end of the song the announcer said, "That was Mr. Mister, playing Broken arrow". After a three-hour-long meeting with the RCA record company, the first choice for a single fell on ‘Broken Wings’ as a result. They had key radio people listen to it and also used the response from an ordinary audience before they released it. .

‘Broken Wings’ was released in August 1985. It took the song twelve weeks to take flight and appear in the pop charts on September 21, 1985. Right after the release, the Misters started touring with Don Henley on the summer leg of his Building the Perfect Beast tour and Heart, which was good promotion for their single and album. Finally they toured with Tina Turner, as supporting act on her nationwide, 33-date American tour. That tour helped propel the song to the top. "We thought if it gets into the Top-20, it would be fine. It would mean that our career had started," said Richard in an interview. It was not the first time a support act on a Tina Turner tour had become very popular, very fast. Before Mr. Mister, there was Bryan Adams, and also Glenn Frey and John Parr. During the tour, Tina would occasionally asked them: "Can't you guys write me a song like that ‘Kyrie’ song?". They wrote her a tune, ‘Stand and Deliver’, that would end up on the Misters' third album.

By the end of the tour, in December 1985, ‘Broken Wings’ had reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. Their video was kind of special. Although it was the time of colorful, eyeblinding, dizzy video clips, ‘Broken Wings’ was filmed in sober black and white, so it was striking on MTV.

In December 1985, a second single was released: ‘Kyrie’. The video for this single was most spectacular because there was no script. The director, Nick Morris (director of the video for ‘Every Time You Go Away’ by Paul Young), hung out in the bus with the band for a couple of days, and did a lot of random shots on the road. It also contained some live shots done at the Sportitorium in Miami, Florida, using Tina Turner's lights. This song would become the band's best-selling single, hitting the #1 spot on March 1, 1986 and holding down the slot for two weeks. That same day their album also reached #1. They had their first certified platinum album, which eventually sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. It had been over a decade since an RCA record had topped the album charts! Meanwhile, Mr. Mister was conquering Europe, Japan and Australia, having Top 10 hits all over the world. This success also led to the re-release of I Wear The Face in Europe and Japan in 1986.

In March 1986 a third single was taken from the album. ‘Is It Love?’ climbed to #8 in June 1986. The single also appeared on the soundtrack of the movie Stakeout. The video was shot in L.A. and was directed by Oley Sassone, who had directed ‘Broken Wings’ as well.

The Misters had really hectic next few months, with a very busy schedule. In the autumn of 1985 they were already recording new songs: ‘Something Real (Inside Me/Inside You)’, for the soundtrack of the ice hockey movie Youngblood, starring Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze. This soundtrack was released in 1985. ‘Watching the World’ was written for Chaka Khan and would appear on her 1986 album Destiny, starring Phil Collins on drums for this song. Both songs would also end up on Mr. Mister’s third album. In December 1985, a showcase at The Ritz, New York was recorded live and broadcasted by D.I.R. for the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show.

In January 1986, they appeared at the American Music Awards. They were the first band to play. To his big surprise, Richard noticed that the famous soul & funk singer Stevie Wonder was right in the front row, dancing and singing all the words of ‘Kyrie’ with them (Richard is a real Stevie Wonder fanatic; on his 1996 solo album Shelter Me, Richard did a cover of a Stevie Wonder song entitled ‘Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away’). They also flew to England to appear in Top of the Pops presenting ‘Broken Wings’ which climbed to number 8 in the charts.

In February 1986, Mr. Mister started a European promotion tour. They would be visiting a lot of countries, giving lots of interviews, performing in T.V. shows and playing small gigs. On February 19th they arrived in England. They immediately rushed to the B.B.C. studios, where they had an invitation to appear on Terry Wogan's show, where they confirmed their new success status. The next day, the 20th of February, they played at The Marquee in London and gave a splendid concert. On the 22nd of February they appeared on Saturday Night Live.

In March 1986, they were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Group Vocal for ‘Broken Wings’. Later that same month, they also did a concert in Daytona Beach, Florida with Starship, which was broadcasted by MTV for spring break '86 featuring VJ Martha Quinn. MTV also engaged the guys to appear on MTV's Guest VJ hour, which was recorded on March 24th and aired on April 22nd.

In the beginning of 1986, a new song had been written, originally for Tina Turner: ‘Stand and Deliver’. Mr. Mister first played it during the Japanese tour in April 1986. Another soundtrack from a movie was released, containing a Mr. Mister song: ‘Run to Her’ was on the track list for American Anthem.

On April 26th of 1986 Mr. Mister contributed to an 11-hour-long anti-drugs benefit gig called Concert That Counts, together with Toto, The Bangles, Marillion, Bon Jovi, Madonna, George Michael, Sheena Easton, The Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin and The Pointer Sisters. The concert was organized by Hal Uplinger and Tony Verna and was broadcasted worldwide by satellite. Shortly afterward they went to Japan for a small but successful tour, from April 26th until May 1st.

In May 1986, they returned to their home base in L.A. and began working on a new album, which was originally due for late 1986 release. They also did promotional work for the Hands Across America project on May 27th and several Disneyland gigs the next month.

In June they prepared their first headliner tour; 55 dates, hitting every major city in America and Canada, starting off in Minneapolis on July 19th and ending in Phoenix on October 24th.

On September 5th of 1986 they interrupted their tour to appear on the 3rd Annual MTV Video Awards. They also did the announcement of the nominees at the Hard Rock Café together with The Bangles.

In spite of the success, Mr. Mister had to deal with a lack of respect from the critics. They were disregarded by the critics because of their sudden rise to popularity, erroneously taken as a sign of commercialism and lack of substance. They always felt that people labeled them inaccurately as a candy-coated, goody-two-shoes kinda band. On their live shows, the Misters used lots of hi-technological gear to create a powerful sound. Suspicious critics accused them of using tapes during these shows. Steve Farris once commented: "We never used tapes. We play all the instruments, except for when we do ‘Broken Wings’, where Steve handles Richard's bass parts on his synthesizer."

Needless to say, the Misters could count on the support of innumerable fans and  fan letters. Eventually the idea grew to start a fan club magazine. It was impossible to answer every letter and question individually, so in November 1986 they came up with their first Mr. Mister Communiqué issue, a quarterly newsletter containing the most necessary information.

In November 1986, the band went on writing songs for a new album. The idea was to record in December, so the album should have been out in March 1987. In April 1987, a worldwide tour would be the perfect promotion for the album.

However, it didn't turn that way. During the process of making the new album, Pat Mastelotto developed a terrible back problem and a sciatica down his right leg, so he couldn't sit. The doctors advised surgery, and suggested a clinic out in Pasadena. Pat stopped going to the sessions and spent some time recovering in Pasadena.

By the end of March 1987, lyricist John Lang had moved to New York and was working on his masters degree at Columbia University, and all the songs for Mr. Mister’s next album were written and a selection had been made. The idea was to experiment and explore new styles rather than copy themselves with the commercial success of Welcome to the Real World. They found a new producer in Kevin Killen (engineer of Peter Gabriel's million selling album So, and some early Howard Jones and U2 records). Steve George said: "Lyrically and musically, this might be the best stuff we've ever done." Steve Farris mentioned: "Compared to our old albums the new one is more soulful and less calculated in production. It came more from the heart—although we always strive for that—and it's more inspirational. It's new, it's artistically different and it's a change for us, but there's more depth to it. We weren't following any formula this time." And Pat added: "It's less machiny and the lyrics are great on this record. We've really come a long way."

By that time, most critics had to change their mind about Mr. Mister's qualities. They had at first disregarded them as an empty, emotionless pop band. It became obvious that their initial judgment had been a superficial one, more based on their sudden rise to popularity than by objective analysis and appreciation. Even Rolling Stone magazine featured an article where they fully re-established Mr. Mister as a real rock band.

The next months the band spent in the studio recording and mixing their new album, entitled Go On… Recording itself didn't go smoothly, considering Pat's back problem. He had to do tracks in little sections, mainly kneeling and standing instead of sitting. But finally, September 1st of 1987, Go On… was released.

Prior to the official release, in August 1987, a first single already had been released: ‘Something Real (Inside Me/Inside You). This single was formerly written for the ill-received Youngblood movie soundtrack and had been rearranged for the album. By the end of August 1987, ‘Something Real’ had entered the Billboard Hot 100 Charts as highest newcomer at #73, but only peaked at a #29 spot. The song was also used in one Miami Vice episode, featuring Don Johnson.

Several Go On…tours were planned and cancelled. The month-long tour in Europe, Australia and Japan was originally supposed to start in Munich on June 27th, but Pat had fallen from a chair while mounting a light bulb and hurt his arm so badly that the promotion tour was postponed. In August 1987, another tour schedule had been made. They would start out in Den Haag, Holland on October 28th. The European part of the tour would end in London, England on November 29th. The actual tour dates were November 8th to November 23rd. As support act for their European tour they contracted the British group T' Pau. Plans were made to start touring in the U.S. in January 1988, supported by Heart, and after that they would be heading for Australia and Japan.

In October 1987 a second single was released, but only in Europe: ‘Healing Waters’. The video was shot on October 29th and was directed by Meiert Avis. There was some other news from the Mr. Mister front: their European tour had been cancelled. They found it too early to start a European tour, so shortly after the release of Go On… They wanted to do some promotion in the States first.

Around the same time, ‘The Border’ had been taken as the third single from the album, but this time only released in America. The video was shot on October 23rd and was also directed by Meiert Avis. By that time, it was already clear that the album would never be as successful as the predecessor. The band members were more than disappointed with the lack of radio play on this album. They didn't know the reason why this album didn't sell well. Six tracks had already been played live during their tour, and the audience's response was always quite good. Pat commented: "Yes, we were disappointed. There are a lot of reasons why a record doesn't do well, and you never know which is the biggest reason. It could be the songs, or the drum sounds, or the performance, or the fact that the label had just changed from being owned by NBC to BMG and everybody we knew was gone—so many things. Did we piss somebody off while we toured the year before? You just don't know."

In November 1987, Mr. Mister accepted the offer to play a gig at the International Festival of Song in Vina del Mar, Chile, a seaside resort 70 miles from Santiago. Prior to the concert, in a January Rolling Stone interview with Sting, they read that his album Nothing Like the Sun had been banned in Chile because of the track ‘They Dance Alone, which described the plight of the wives and children of political opponents of the Pinochet government who had ‘disappeared’. As the event grew closer, Richard and John Lang read about the members of Sidarte, the Chilean Actor's Union. Many of them were being threatened with death as a result of a performance that the government considered subversive. So Page and Lang decided to make a brief statement in Spanish, to show their support. The night of the concert, on February 18th of 1988, after they had already played three songs, Richard stepped to the microphone and said, "Hello," in Spanish. Although he noticed the nearby military officers and Pinochet's wealthy civilian backers, he nervously tossed off his setup lines: "We salute all of you!" The crowd, about 5,000 spectators, went wild. "We also salute the Chilean actors who are frightened to death. The artists of the world are with you." Then the band played ‘Healing Waters’. Meanwhile there was a lot of yelling going on backstage by displeased uniformed officials who passed Richard a note demanding that he retract his statement, which he didn't do. The concert promoter was furious and screamed to John Lang that their safety could no longer be guaranteed. Although the next evening Mr. Mister played again—and in spite of the official reaction, they were even awarded the gold torch—John Lang was not permitted to leave his hotel. That night the band left Chile under heavy security.

In March 1988, ‘Healing Waters’ was nominated by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for a Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance by a Duo or Group. Mr. Mister was suddenly going up against such Christian artists as Mylon LeFevre, Broken Heart, Petra and Stryper. The 30th annual Grammy Awards event was aired live from the Radio City Music Hall on March 2nd, 1988.

Also in March 1988, a fourth single had been released, ‘Stand and Deliver’. The song was also used in the movie of the same name. Starring Eddie Olmos, Lou Diamond Philips and Andy Garcia, the film was originally to be called Walking On Water, but when Warner Brothers Pictures heard ‘Stand and Deliver’, they decided to change the film's title.

From about March till June 1988 they toured on a small basis. Among their last gigs was a beneficial concert in Phoenix for a police officer widow and kids. The Go on… tour officially ended with a TV performance on The Late Show with David Letterman in June 1988.

It was during this concert tour that the irritation and jealousy grew between Richard Page and Steve Farris. They had arguments about who was supposed to be the band's leader. They started to get carried away with it; the two of them regularly fought in the dressing rooms. Then, the rumor goes, there was that one particular concert show, where they screwed up their gig when Richard cut off Steve's guitar cable when he did a solo that seemed to be too long for Richard. After the concert tour, in July 1988, Steve Farris decided to leave Mr. Mister to pursue other things. The other guys wished him the very best…

In July 1988, Richard and Pat started writing material for a new album, while Steve George was working on his new house for a couple of months. By the end of August 1988, Richard and Steve were getting together more frequently to write new songs for their upcoming effort. Meanwhile Pat got an offer to play on XTC's new album. After this project was done, they had planned to start recording for the new Mr. Mister album.

In the fall of 1988, the Misters headed back into the studio to start recording once more with Paul DeVilliers, who had co-produced Welcome to the Real World. This time, they vowed that they would not release the album until everyone was 100% satisfied with the results.

The idea was that they would try to stay away from the hybrid of half-machine, half-person music. They would also try to take a break from percussion, just to keep more air and acoustic in the tracks. Throughout the project, Paul DeVilliers stressed pushing Pat and Steve forward, experimenting with more piano, organ and real percussion. Again, Steve showed his talent on the soprano sax.

In November of 1988, Paul DeVilliers and Pat worked alone together for a week at Oceanway, where they recorded five drum tracks. They did a lot of experimenting. For instance, they spent one whole day setting up drums in every corner of the room, just listening and seeing what could be done with one microphone. Also, some of the percussion of the instrumental song ‘Way Oh’ was done in the closet.

The Misters also auditioned and talked with a lot of guitarists, but they never found the right guy. Pat tried to bring in Adrian Belew, but he was working with David Bowie at that time. So they decided that they would use session guitarists for their new album, because there was also still a possibility that Steve Farris would rejoin the band. They started out with James Harrah doing demo recordings only. Most of the guitar playing was done by Buzzy Feiten, who had worked with Stevie Wonder and The Larsen Feiten Band. They also hired the Canadian Doug McCaskill, Trevor Rabin and Peter McCrea (Stan Ridgway Band). Along the way, Richard also did lots of little parts, mostly acoustic. Even Paul DeVilliers strummed a bit. This would indicate how confused the band was by that point. Even Steve Vai had been in question.

In an interview, Pat stated that the music on the new album wouldn't be a ‘Broken Wings’ Part 2. “There's some stuff like Van Halen, and some like the old Beatles. Every track has something special.” For one track, they loaded a truck with a set of speakers playing the intro of a song while passing by. This was recorded and created a sort of Dopler-Fussau effect.

The Misters really took their time to record this album. In the fall of 1989, Pat took a break to accompany Cock Robin on their European promotion tour; by that time, Mr. Mister had written about 30 songs, from which 8 had already been recorded. As producer Paul DeVilliers described the new record: "It'll be like a Christmas present wrapped in newspaper." It seemed that they really enjoyed recording their new album—for a long time, they took notes on what everybody was doing; they even dressed in white laboratory dust coats and wore white plastic gloves to incite one another. They also spent some time on vacation—and then the unit decided to break up!

On Monday, September 25th, 1990, Mr. Mister was dropped from their record label. RCA had just been taken over by BMG Ariola. By the time the record was finished, Mr. Mister didn't recognize anyone at the label anymore. It seemed like everyone that had been there when they first signed was gone. BMG thought the record to be too adventurous and experimental, and above all, not commercial enough. They decided not to release it. The band's efforts to solicit other record labels were fruitless. Basically, labels seemed more interested in doing a Richard Page record. So one thing led to another and the Misters decided to disband. "We felt that we had enough, and that it was time to move on." Up until now, Pull hasn't been officially released yet. The only thing needed is the final mixing. It will never see the light of day unless some record company takes interest in it.