MR. MISTER’S MR. PARTY TURNS MR. CLEAN
Richard Page, leader of the red-hot pop/rock band, Mr. Mister, is legendary. But not for his singing, songwriting, bass playing or his band’s No. 1 single, “Broken Wings.” For years he was one of the heartiest partyers in the music business.
Also a heralded session and jingles singer, Page, 32, was accomplished in the fine art of having fun. “I dedicated a good five years of my life to partying,” he said. “I woke up many mornings messed up. It was fun, I can’t deny that.”
He was also well-schooled in the art of self-destruction, doing the damage with drugs. This isn’t one of those dramatic, inspirational stories about some lost soul sinking to the bottom and rising out of the muck. Page never reached the bottom, but he was sliding. One day last year he just decided it was time to halt the slide.
“Things were going wrong,” he said. “I was going broke. My health was being destroyed. My nose was being destroyed (from cocaine). But something good was happening, too. My wife was pregnant. I couldn’t imagine coming home to this little baby, drugged out, my mind in outer space. It was time to wake up.”
Naturally there’s a happy ending. His wife is pregnant again (they have a 14-month-old daughter). The man who used to party all night now claims to be in bed after the 11 o’clock news.
So this cocky, good-looking macho man is now Mr. Clean. Well, almost. At lunch, while smoking a cigarette, he acknowledged that he had given up drugs: “The hardest thing was changing all my friends. I said: ‘I can’t do this life style any more, find somebody else.’
“But that was me, going to excess, getting crazy. I know people who can do a blast (of cocaine) now and then and be fine. More power to them. I wish I could do it that way but I can’t. I’m not that kind of personality.”
And alcohol? “Sorry, but I still drink. I won’t give that up. Do I look like a saint?”
A few months ago, Page was so excited about the release of the new Mr. Mister album, “Welcome to the Real World"--which just entered Billboard magazine’s pop Top 20--that he turned down a tempting offer, an invitation to join the venerable pop/rock band Chicago, taking over for Peter Cetera, who had just quit.
“It’s like somebody handing you a million dollars,” he said. “Those guys make so much money that it’s ridiculous. When they travel they have two Lear jets, one smoking and one non-smoking. It was a flattering offer. I got it before our record started to happen. But it would have been empty for me to be in Chicago. I didn’t want to spend years singing ‘Only the Beginning.’ It’s a glorified nightclub gig. I just didn’t want to leave my band then. I had a feeling we had a hit record this time.”
That wasn’t his first offer to join an established group. “I was asked to join Toto a couple of years ago, when they kicked Bobby Kimball out. I turned it down. I wanted to make it in my own band, from scratch. Joining an established band didn’t interest me.”
Page should write a book. If he truthfully related his experiences, he’d have a scandalous best seller. Having worked in so many important sessions, he knows the inside story of many well-known albums and is familiar with the antics of many famous artists. Page told some terrific stories. Unfortunately, all--or parts of all of them--were off the record. He was there during the famed studio battles between Donna Summer and producer Quincy Jones three years ago during the “Donna Summer” album recording sessions. Back in the late ‘70s, when the Village People were the biggest group in disco, he was one of its voices in the studio. So was Bill Champlain, now Chicago’s lead singer.
“People actually thought those guys were singing on their records,” Page said smugly. “Well, they weren’t. Those sessions weren’t any fun. Working with that guy (producer Jacques Morali) was tough.”
One of his most disturbing jobs was singing on an album by the heavy-metal band Motley Crue. What unsettled him was repeatedly singing an eight-letter obscenity. “I was thinking to myself, ‘What am I doing here singing this crap?’ ”
Money, he admitted candidly, was the reason: “I was upset about singing that word but then I got a check for $1,600 and then I said, ‘Well, OK, for that kind of money I’ll sing it all night long.’ ”
Singing on another heavy-metal album, by Twisted Sister, was even more upsetting. It’s the only time, he insisted, that he has ever walked out on a job:
“They were singing those lyrics about Satan, ‘Burn in hell with the devil’ and all that. I had problems singing those lyrics about Satanism. I don’t need money that badly. I don’t need to sing junk like that. I had nightmares about it. People who write songs like that are just looking at dollar signs. They don’t think about the effect on kids. Kids who are 12 and 13 take it seriously because it’s what their heroes are singing. Meanwhile these guys are laughing about this stuff. They don’t take it seriously. Kids think they do but they don’t.”
Mr. Mister is currently the opening act on the prestigious and lucrative Tina Turner tour. On his day off, Page flew back for this interview to Los Angeles, his home since he and his partner, keyboards player/singer/composer Steve George, migrated here from Phoenix in 1975.
Before forming Mr. Mister three years ago, Page and George were in Pages, a band that made some adventurous, but unpopular pop-rock albums for CBS and Capitol Records. Page is still bitter about those failures, blaming lack of record company support.
In 1982, they added drummer Pat Mastelotto and guitarist Steve Farris, changed the name to Mr. Mister and altered the sound, opting for more commercial pop-rock.
Their first RCA album, “I Wear the Face"--released early last year--was produced by Peter McIan, producer of the Men at Work hits. “Working with someone who had come off a hit album, we felt it would rub off on us,” Page said. “It didn’t work that way. The album didn’t do that well. Some of the songs were too calculated because we were trying too hard to get hit singles. The production was a little shaky too.”
On the second RCA album, “Welcome to the Real World"--they did things differently.
“Everything we had tried for all those years hadn’t worked,” he said. “We had to take charge. Nobody can tell me how this band should sound. We were tired of other people telling us how to produce our songs. We convinced RCA to let us produce the album. Look what happened. You can’t argue with success.”