Are you ready to rock?! Wait, no, that’s not right, let me try that again…are you ready for some melodic rock?!
The whole reclassification of early ‘80s arena rock as “melodic rock” – there is even a Melodic Rock web site, which is rather popular – is really rather amusing. The implication, of course, is that the category exists in order to separate the melodic rockers of that era from the non-melodic bands…of which there were none. Basically, unless you were a thrash band (Metallica, Anthrax) or an SST band (Husker Du, Minutemen), you were playing melodic rock. Perhaps the fans prefer to call it melodic rock – and make no mistake, the phrase is a fan-driven phenomenon – because they felt that the previous nicknames for the genre, like arena rock, or, God forbid, classic rock, carried a negative connotation with them. They’re not wrong, but rechristening an entire decade’s worth of music as melodic rock doesn’t really change the way any of it sounds.
The new label, however, has proven to be more forgiving than mid-‘80s AOR program directors were in terms of whom is allowed into the secret club. Only now will like-minded rock fans dare to discuss Purple Rainbow – Joe Lynn Turner and Tony Carey in the same band, yo! – and Los Angeles studio rats Mr. Mister in the same breath. Mr. Mister certainly had the chops that their more hard-rocking contemporaries possessed, but the soft rock one-two punch of “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie,” from their 1985 album Welcome to the Real World, sealed their CHR fate. When the band decided to show off those chops on their 1987 album Go On…, the public were even less forgiving than the AOR program directors. Poof, Mr. Mister is finished, and the studio rats scattered to various projects ranging from XTC to the Rembrandts to King Crimson. And that’s just the drummer.
In between “Kyrie” and Go On… is the band’s third (and last) Top Ten single, “Is It Love.” Being a relatively upbeat song, and it now being the spring of 1986, the band’s label commissioned a remix, despite the fact that at no point in history has someone gone into a danceteria and thought to themselves, “Man, I wish they’d play some Mr. Mister.” You get the sense that the remixers knew this, because they didn’t get overly clever with the arrangement, stretching some bits out here and there. The most noticeable difference – and it’s a good one – is the replacement of half of Steve George’s gaudy keyboard tracks with a horn section playing the same riffs. The best part, though, is the instrumental break, where everyone gets a chance to “let loose.” Drummer Pat Mastelotto goes crash boom bang, guitarist Steve Farris unleashes some tremolo bar zaniness, and then pause, double snare, KEY CHANGE. It’s all in perfect time, of course, but it’s so busy that anyone unlucky enough to be on a dance floor when this plays is just going to stop moving until Farris’ solo kicks in. Or leave. Probably leave.
Questionable Wikipedia entry on Mr. Mister: Richard Page and Steve George allegedly once sang backup for the Village People. God, we hope that they are referring to the new wave album. That way, it would be possible to connect the Village People and Yngwie Malmsteen in six degrees or less.