From 1980 to 1986, Dale Bozzio, Terry Bozzio, and Warren Cuccurullo came out from under the tutelage of Frank Zappa to release three studio albums as Missing Persons. They crafted some of the most memorable material of the New Wave genre and Dale’s fearless presence up front was like catnip for the MTV generation. Every performance was an event, as she wore things that would make Lady Gaga blush and sang in an elastic voice that made every arrangement sound tighter.
I caught up with Dale recently to discuss her autobiography (out now) and how she owes so much of her success to what Zappa taught her during the early days. Revisiting music that you may have put away for a while is one of the greatest joys as a fan, so I’d highly recommend diving back into the first two Missing Persons albums to appreciate just how good they were then and continue to be today.
MNOD: Was writing a book something that you had always planned or did it come about later on?
Bozzio: I guess I always thought about it. The fact that I survived falling out a window when I was younger and went on to have the career that I have was a story I wanted to get out there. How I got here is a crazy story. I really dug into my past here as well as included some new stories and poems that I wrote. I even have a chapter called ‘Dale Is’ in which I tell the reader some things about me that they wouldn’t normally get from my music. The ’80s were an amazing time for me, because Frank Zappa discovered me and became a dear friend. I was also involved with Prince, which is something that led me to leave Missing Persons. My whole life has felt like a tug-of-war, but Zappa taught me how to take care of myself and be independent. I had a strange upbringing and never really felt like a normal girl. I never had any long-lasting relationships, because I could never go along with that sort of thing. When I was 21, I fell out of a 40-foot window and had to pull myself back together. Zappa helped me do that. He helped me find my creative voice. It’s not every day that someone could fall out a window, land on their head, and still go on to live the kind of life I’ve lived. I’ve appreciated every day and everyone who has ever lent their hand to me.
MNOD: As you were writing, were there certain things that you remembered differently from the way they really happened?
Bozzio: Absolutely. There were so many things that I started thinking about in a different way. I didn’t include all of the stories that I could have, but there are a ton in the book that are great. I remember Zappa and I went to the Kentucky Derby one time and everyone was looking at us like we were out of place, but Frank and I thought everyone else looked weird with their hats and fancy dresses. I also write about Terry Bozzio in the book, obviously, because he’s another one that owes a lot to Frank. Some people don’t understand my kindness, but Zappa liked me and I made him laugh. It was at the Orpheum Theatre in 1972 and Frank was playing a show that I couldn’t get into, so I climbed through the window of the men’s room and Frank saw and laughed. I made him laugh that day and our friendship began. Now, he’s buried in an unmarked grave in Westwood and I wonder how many people still go to see him. I know I do. I talk to him and tell him how much I appreciate the opportunity he gave me.
MNOD: The original run of Missing Persons ended in 1986. Who’s to blame for how things fell apart?
Bozzio: I quit, essentially. It was my fault and I take responsibility for it. Prince asked me to marry him and I was ready to do things beyond the band, so it wasn’t very nice of me. Warren Cuccurullo went on to have success with Duran Duran and Terry Bozzio is one of the greatest drummers in rock history, so they both went on to different levels after we broke up. The band I play with now is really good, though, and we play shows all over Los Angeles. I like to remind audiences that I’m still here and want people to know that I love them.
MNOD: You were known just as much for your aesthetic presentation as you were for your music in the ’80s. Where did you get your fashion sense from?
Bozzio: It was definitely unique. My dad was really my inspiration, because he was a carpenter. I would go into the hardware store and find whatever I could to get attention. I would wear plexiglass and plastics on stage. We weren’t taking no for an answer back then and no one was going to tell me what to do. ‘Rhyme and Reason’ and ‘Spring Session M’ are albums that are both dear to my heart, but I think ‘Rhyme and Reason’ is my favorite. The songs are great and I love how I looked at that time.
MNOD: What are your plans for 2022?
Bozzio: I have shows lined up for March 3 and 4 and I’m also going out on the ’80s tour with other acts from that time. The reception I get in California is still fantastic and I think people appreciate the longevity I’ve had. I was a little girl from Medford, MA that survived a violent accident and pulled it together. The world is scary to me and I want people to know that they’re not alone. If all of these rich rock stars would come together, they could really fix everything. That’s what I want. I want to turn the light on and bring someone out of the darkness. Everyone could do more and give a little more. I don’t slack off and I don’t take anything for granted. If everyone follows that same mindset, there’s no end to the possibilities.
MNOD: How do you think a band like Missing Persons would be received in 2022?
Bozzio: I don’t know. The business has changed so much that it’s difficult to really make an impact anymore. That’s why I decided it was time to tell my story. We proved everyone wrong and did things that no one thought we could do.
Dale Bozzio’s autobiography, Life is So Strange – Missing Persons, Frank Zappa, Prince & Beyond, is available now.