“When We Hear The Voices Sing”: Mr. Mister were one of the mainstream “Best Bets of ’86”

By on September 25, 2018

“From Phoenix, Arizona, by way of Los Angeles, Mr. Mister leaders Richard Page and Steve George first made their reputation writing songs for other musicians,” says Night Flight’s Pat Prescott in her introduction to our “Take Off” to the bands who made their mark in ’85 and are best bets for ’86.”

Watch this episode — which originally aired on February 28, 1986 — on Night Flight Plus.

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Choosing Mr. Mister as one of the “best bets” of ’86 seemed like a safe bet, as they were already a chart-topping act by the end of 1985, having established they could produce radio-ready AOR/CHR tunes that slipped easily into the tepid waters of the mid-’80s-era pop mainstream (AOR = Adult Orientated Rock/CHR = Contemporary Hit Radio).

“Steve and I have been working together, writing songs for other people for years,” says bassist/lead vocalist Richard Page in our candid Night Flight interview.

“We grew up in Phoenix together, played in club bands and did that whole circuit for awhile, moved to L.A. about ten years ago, and struggled, ate macaroni and cheese, did whatever we could to get our songs heard, just to be visible within the musical community.”

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The black-and-white video for Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings”  features Richard Page driving through the California desert in a classic Ford T-Bird, which, it turns out, is just one of several allusions to birds (another is the Harris’s Hawk that flies through a church window).

“Broken Wings” featured lyrics co-written by John Lang, Page’s cousin, who was inspired by Khalil Gibran’s 1912 novel The Broken Wings (Paul McCartney has said the Beatles‘ “Blackbird” was also inspired by the novel).

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The single — released on September 25, 1985 — peaked at #1 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 in December 1985, just a few months prior to this “Take Off to the Best Bets of ’86” episode.

Read more about Mr. Mister below.

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By the mid-’80s, Mr. Mister’s Richard Page and Steve George had already played music together in several Phoenix-area high school bands before pairing up again in in L.A. to form the critically-acclaimed jazz-pop fusion band Pages.

A&R man/producer Bobby Columby (former drummer for Blood, Sweat & Tears) signed them to Epic Records, who released three of their albums between 1979-1981 (the final one being more pop/rock-oriented) before Pages disbanded at the end of ’81.

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Page and George were also quite active in the L.A. session musician community, the same scene that also produced the group Toto, a band who would go on to have hits of their own after backing numerous top acts (Page ended up turning down offers to replace Toto’s Bobby Kimball and Chicago’s Peter Cetera, deciding to stick to his original plans).

The duo enjoyed success as solid songwriters-for-hire, writing tracks for  Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, the Pointer Sisters, Michael Jackson and Rick Springfield, among others.

They also sang backup for bands and artists like REO Speedwagon, John Parr, Donna Summer, Al Jarreau, and Kenny Loggins, among others, playing on sessions for just about everybody, from Laura Branigan to the Village People.

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It was during Pages’ stint as an opening band on tour with Andy Gibb that Page and George decided to start a new band.

Back in L.A., they chose to work with guitarist and Nebraska native Steve Farris — who had been working with Eddie Money — and San Fernando Valley-raised drummer Pat Mastelotto, who’d played on tons of sessions for producer Mike Chapman.

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On the strength of several showcase concerts, including one at the famed S.I.R. rehearsal studio space, the band landed a recording deal with RCA Records in June of 1982.

Their name came from an inside joke inspired by a Weather Report track called “Mr. Gone,” which prompted the band to call each other “Mister This” or “Mister That,” which led to them calling themselves Mr. Mister.

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Their debut album, I Wear the Face, made a mid-chart appearance in ’84, as did their first single, “Hunters of the Night,” but Page and George realized they were being too “hit-conscious.”

For their follow-up LP, Welcome to the Real World,  they decided to please only themselves, working with producer Paul Devilliers, who’d impressed them with his live sound engineering at a Yes concert.

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The album’s first single, “Broken Wings,” found its intended audience after several weeks, as did a second single, “Kyrie,” which also reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their album would also reach #1 on Billboard’s album charts, going on to become a multi-platinum selling platter.

During this same time, Mr. Mister performed on the very first MTV “Spring Break” TV show in the summer of ’86, and they appeared on “Saturday Night Live.” They also toured as an opening act with Don Henley, the Bangles, Eurythmics, Tina Turner, Heart, and Adam Ant.

They were also later nominated for two Grammy awards, including Best Pop Band (losing to USA For Africa, the “We Are The World” ensemble).

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Unfortunately, Mr. Mister’s third album, Go On, released in the fall of ’87, failed to connect with critics and fans alike, and none of its singles cracked the Top Ten.

There were a lot of internal problems, too, leading to guitarist Steve Farris leaving Mr. Mister in 1988.

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After their fourth album, Pull, was pulled from RCA’s new release schedule, they decided to call it a day.

Whether or not you agree that the Hooters, the Waterboys, Charlie Sexton, the Del Fuegos and other bands we profiled were the “very best” that 1986 had to offer,  you can see/hear what we had to say about them more than thirty years ago by watching this vintage episode on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.