Dale Bozzio | Destination Found

Dale-Bozzio 75“I trained my voice like a tiny little poodle and it does the tricks that I still use.”




Dale-Bozzio 500

It used to be that when pop groups from the ’80s picked up their final MTV Moon Man award, they generally faded into obscurity, joining artifacts like Betamax, parachute pants, and the USA network’s Up All Night in the pop culture history books. Lately, though, an interesting and rather surprising phenomenon has taken place. Many artists from this period have been releasing career-best projects throughout the last decade: e.g., Duran Duran’s All You Need Is Now, Tears for Fears’ Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, and Billy Idol’s Devil’s Playground.  

Dale Bozzio, the beautiful front-woman for Missing Persons (whom Warren Cuccurullo once famously described as looking “like a piece of candy”), has just released a new album that handily joins the above list as a late-career stunner. The appropriately titled Missing in Action (Cleopatra Records) is 12 tracks of 21st-century fembot-synthy hooks, with just enough modern production to make you forget what decade you’re in. “I could have been squashed trying this,” she says, “but I thought I might as well jump into it and work with this total stranger.”

The total stranger she references here is famed producer Billy Sherwood. Sherwood, who’s worked with everyone from Motörhead to Yes, not only produced Bozzio’s new album, but also wrote most of the songs and played many of the instruments. “The record company hooked us up and I said, ‘OK, I’ll try it,’” she relates. “Musically, I’m a stickler, but I’m usually easygoing about trying something new.”

Of course, even Sherwood’s impressive pedigree could only go so far, and Bozzio was game for matching—and perhaps even attempting to exceed—her chart-topping work from back in the day. It’s been a long time, though, since “Destination Unknown,” “Words,” and “Walking in L.A.” graced the airwaves. After not releasing an album for 25 years, producing Missing in Action was not without its own challenges and self-imposed expectations. “I’ve been tattooed with Missing Persons for so long; I owed it to everyone who has followed me after all these years to stay true to what they love about us.”

Bozzio credits the effortless feel and sheer fun of the sessions to producer Sherwood. “Billy did an incredible job,” she enthuses. “I approached the mic, it came out, and bang. After the first take, Billy said, ‘OK, we can do this.’ I can’t say enough good stuff about him. He’s a gentleman.” The project even became somewhat of a family affair outside of the confines of the studio. “His wife took the pictures. She’s a beautiful person and it was really a pleasure to work with them both,” she says about the positive experience. “I’ve been single a long time and it was great to see families flourishing and seeing people work together like that.”

Being thankful is a recurring theme during our conversation, and it pops up quite frequently in Missing in Action’s lyrics. A proud mother of two young men, both musicians, Bozzio mentions that she will be 59 years old this year, and if life and experience have taught her anything, it’s that she’s no better than anyone else; all she wants to do is give back as much love as she’s been given. “Don’t worry about the little stuff: whether or not you have the right clothes, or your eyebrows aren’t perfect—who cares? I’m not trying to wear Chanel and Prada and make you feel bad about yourself. I am on the same tip, baby. I am not above you. I am not anywhere but right there with you.”

She continues, “We all look at these rock stars like they’re above us, like they’re gods. I’m telling you, we can’t do anything more than you or the next person.”

The response to Missing in Action seems to have strengthened Bozzio’s perspective on the relationship she has with her fans, as well. “I can only give them back music. I don’t have a ton of money; all I have is my voice, and I use it every day.” She’s silent for a few seconds and then continues, “You have to be in the moment. It’s fucking hard, but it’s got to get done. If you stay still, you’re tortured.”

Bozzio hasn’t stayed still since her days as Boston’s Playboy Bunny of the Year in 1975. The following year, she went out to meet Hugh Hefner, at his request, to interview for a party-hosting gig. What she really wanted to do was become an actress, but Frank Zappa, whom she had met in Boston a couple years prior, convinced her otherwise.

 “I have a picture of him here in my home,” she says warmly. “He’s actually the reason I’m in the music business. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have become a singer; I came to Hollywood to be movie star. Frank said, ‘Well, I don’t want to stop you from doing that, but why don’t you try singing for a while?’ and that was it.” Bozzio went on to sing on Zappa’s classic rock opera Joe’s Garage as well as his musical Thing-Fish. After she sings me a couple of lines from “A Little Green Rosetta,” I ask if Zappa gave her any advice. She replies, “He told me to never record anything you can’t duplicate on stage,” she remembers. “And he told me that I should always operate under the theory that everyone can be replaced except you.”

Zappa also had an effect on her unique vocal style, which is front, center, and familiar on the new tracks. “I have a laugh when I sing, you know, I have that in my voice, and I bring that to my singing. Frank would tell me to ‘Stop, laugh, then stop,’ and it shaped me,” she says. “When I want to sing a sad song, I sing using my sad place. I trained my voice like a tiny little poodle and it does the tricks that I still use.”

When I mention other singers who use her tricks even to this day, she is humble and grateful. “I look at all these girls and think they’re pretty brilliant,” she says when I mention the Lady Gagas of the world. “There’s a lot of work that goes into being that brilliant. Whatever their reputation, I say more power to them. It’s flattering to me.”

When asked what she’s listening to today, she not only reveals liking a German recording artist named Gizmo, but also talks excitedly of recently meeting Fergie. “I went to this shoe convention in Las Vegas. Girls love shoes, what can I say? So my photographer said, ‘Hey, Fergie is here.’ I waited for her to come over, and I gave her a big hug and kiss.”

Is artist and fan interaction any different now than it was in the ’80s? “Some artists live in a bubble these days. On the other hand, how much can we nourish our destiny if we don’t live as the day unfolds? You can’t shield yourself from opportunities and experiences.”

As our scheduled 15-minute chat extends to the hour-and-a-half mark, we talk about what Bozzio has coming up. She’ll tour for the new album, of course, but what else? “Shows are coming in every day, and many events are on the horizon,” she says with an air of tempered anticipation. “I’m hoping to make more music, because I have things to say. I have these books I’ve written about my life, I have poems, and I’m painting.”

She continues, “I have the honor of playing Linda Perry’s wedding in March. A great band called the 80s Flashback band is playing, and I’m going to sit in with them. Maybe I’ll even write a song with her—who knows?”

Now that we’re wrapping things up, I ask her if there is anything she wants to impart to her very patient fans. She responds with the grace and wisdom of a new age, new wave seer: “Everyone wants to do this, do that, and what I’m saying is: Don’t wait for that magical wand; just do it. I have tried clicking my heels and that didn’t work.” Her voice gets quiet as she says, “I want people to be OK, and I couldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all of these listeners. I only want to be light. I don’t want to be passed by; none of us do. We want to be loved. It’s so silly and trite, and it’s tiny, but it makes everything all right.” | Jim Ousley


Disclaimer: PLAYBACK:stl learned of Dale Bozzio’s 2009 conviction for animal cruelty after this article was written. We are, of course, greatly disappointed in Bozzio’s actions and oppose all forms of animal abuse and neglect.


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