Miss Mystery

People don’t understand creative work.  They think it’s just like the kind of
work they do.  They make phone calls all day and boy are they TIRED! 
Creative work…you do nothing all day, you live in your head,
then you EXPLODE and it takes HOURS to come down.

I spoke at a class at LMU last week.  I told the students that was why all
the bands were on drugs.  They played to 20,000 screaming fans.  Maybe even got
blown after the show.  Then they got back on the bus with the same assholes
they grew up with, who won’t give an inch, who know where all the bodies are
buried…this is a DREAM?  And it’s not like you can get in your bunk and crash. 
You’re wired.  You’re eating pizza from the late night joint.  You’re
watching a DVD.  It just doesn’t square.  For an hour and a half you were god, now
you’re a loser driving god knows where in the middle of the night in a bus. 
There’s only one solution.  You’ve got to do DRUGS!  To bring yourself down, so
you can sleep, before the sun comes up and you’ve got to do it ALL OVER AGAIN! 
Those bands, the ones the label hates, the ones who blow off interviews, who
don’t show up on time, they can’t see straight.  They didn’t get this far by
going to college.  They had to play in a thousand shitty bands in a million
hellholes just for this opportunity.  To drive around in a bus making money for
somebody else.  You can’t keep up a relationship, you’re never home.  And this
is your MOMENT!  At least you’re IN a bus.  You can’t take time off.  At least
that’s what your label, manager and agent say.  The ones who when you’re
washed up will just move on to the next band.

Then again, those guys never get those peaks.  When you ARE playing in front
of those 20,000.  When you’ve got them in the palm of your hand.  When those
girls who wouldn’t look at you in high school are just dying to meet you.  When
you’re on stage doing what you always desired, PLAYING MUSIC!  Then you’re

That’s creative work.  Incredible highs and incredible lows.

I ripped off a podcast at Rhino.  Which was INTIMIDATING now that they’ve
gone live.  I mean now people are LISTENING!  And there was suddenly a time
constraint.  I was inside my head, squeezing one out, since I do no preparation,
since I’ve got no script, my whole life PREPARED ME FOR THIS!  It took less than
twenty minutes, but when I was done I was like a dishrag.  Worn out, but
revved up.

And after bullshitting with the assembled multitude, I got in my car and
dialed my mother.

They don’t live forever you know.  Her voice was all scratchy.  Freaked me
right out.  As I drove across the San Fernando Valley.

And when we finally ended, I started pushing the Sirius buttons.  Trying to
learn the system.  Trying to figure it out.

There were some fascinating things.  Robyn Hitchcock doing McCartney’s "Let
Me Roll It".

Then I heard it.  That sound that was the soundtrack to all the teen movies
of the eighties.  The sound of optimism.  HAIR METAL!

Has there been a more reviled genre since disco?  Young men with blow dried
hair in spandex trying to look menacing but playing melodic music?

Melody.  That’s missing from the hit parade today.  Rap is about the hook. 
And punk, that’s about the riff.  What if you had music with hooks, riffs and
MELODIES?  THEN you’d have hair band music.

So I’m navigating the backwoods of Sherman Oaks.  If you can say such a
thing.  I’m frazzled to the point where I’m lost.  My brain’s still somewhere in
Burbank.  And I hear this CONCOCTION!

Well the first time that I saw you
You were runnin’ with the wrong crowd
With your head up in a dark cloud

Can’t you SEE IT?  On MTV circa…BEFORE REAL WORLD!  There’s a smoke
machine, some girl with big hair is off in the distance.  As the lead singer sings
these lines, as he walks over to her.  We didn’t know what we were doing. 
Videos had a bit of story, and a bit of performance.  And the twain met somewhere. 
This was before Blues Traveler basically wasn’t even in their own video,
because they weren’t good-looking enough.  This was before the productions were
slick.  This was when directors who couldn’t get arrested in movies rented
cameras and filmed essentially on a whim.  And we were HOOKED!

Oh, it peaked in ’86 with "Slippery When Wet".  With the "Wanted Dead Or
Alive" video.  They should have ended performance videos after that one.  There’s
never been a better one.

And then, when that band sold so many records everybody imitated them and
killed the genre.  Which brings us to today, when hair metal is a joke.  Almost
an unmentionable.  Nobody USES the word "disco", but it’s all over the
airwaves.  But I bet most teenagers have never heard most hair band music.

And I’ve never heard Black ‘n Blue’s "Miss Mystery".

That’s why we have satellite radio.  To ENRICH OUR LIVES!  To turn us on to
things that are right in front of our faces.  That’s the major label pradigm…RESTRICT ACCESS!  They say it’s the opposite, that they WANT people to play their music, but this is untrue.  THEY support Top Forty radio.  They’re not interested in any outlet that doesn’t have a PLETHORA of listeners.  They don’t want satellite radio to play too many tracks by the same artist in a row. They don’t want internet radio they don’t control.

I mean I’ve GOT a Black ‘n Blue CD.  Universal sent it.  I figured one day
I’d play it.

It would take me HOURS to find it now.  So I just went to P2P.  Didn’t find
"Miss Mystery" instantly, but finally I got it.  Hell, I wrote the title down
while listening in my car.  That’s how much I needed it.

And I’ve got to tell you, when it first came through my computer, it wasn’t
the same.  Really, "Miss Mystery" is CAR music.  When you’re pissed off, or
elated, or just lost, having worked so hard you don’t know which end is up.

But, as the MP3 unfolded I realized this just WASN’T trash.  There WAS magic

The band is defunct.  It has no website.  Not even a fan tribute site.

I looked it up on allmusic.  They talked about all the albums the band had
made that had not broken through.  It was no help.

And then I googled the lyrics.

I didn’t find them.  But I found this strange link.  To JIM VALLANCE’S site.

God, unless you lived through the eighties you might not know who Vallance
was/is.  He co-wrote all those legendary Bryan Adams hits.  Turns out HE
co-wrote "Miss Mystery".  And that it was produced by…Bruce Fairbairn.

Does Bruce Fairbairn belong in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame?

Yes, he does.  Alongside Mutt Lange.  This guy lifted genre music to
LEGENDARY music.  It’s Fairbairn who produced "Slippery When Wet".  And who brought Aerosmith back from the dead.  Think of Bruce’s early work with Loverboy.  Not a major act.  But listen to "Turn Me Loose"!  There’s an urgency.  The track is as big as Canada.

Come on, Miss Mystery
Here I am, what’s left of me
Some day, Miss Mystery
You’re gonna find out what you meant to me

Classic eighties song plot.  Boy meets girl.  And she leaves him reeling. 
Funny, despite all their stardom, these stars were misfits, who were using music
to get EVERYTHING!  Money, fame and sex.  That’s the game.  It doesn’t last
long.  The public loses interest.  The dope kills you.  YOU lose interest when
you realize that it’s not out there, but inside, that being a star doesn’t
solve all your problems.

Of course, this is the OLD stars.  The MUSICIANS!  Not the NEW stars.  The
FACES!  Groomed by handlers to be famous.  These new people revel in the
exposure, they’re comfortable with it.  But the real musicians.  They’re outsiders. 
ALL creative people are outsiders.  Living in their heads.  But hating their
loneliness.  They create for connection, but when they get it they don’t know
what to do with it.  They STILL can’t fit in.

It’s a conundrum.

But it’s not only the life of the musicians, it’s the life of the FANS!

To stay home all afternoon and listen to records you’ve GOT to be a social
misfit.  It’s these misfits that are the heart of the business.  The people who
NEED the music to get by.  The casual buyer…to him the music is an
accessory, that can be discarded as easily as last year’s purse.  But try to get a
vinyl junkie to part with ONE record.  To these people…they’re searching for a
HIT!  Like DOPE ADDICTS!  They keep flipping the stations, keep reading, just
looking for something that will feed their jones.

Today I found it.  The sun was almost completely down.  I was mentally
bedraggled.  But when I heard Black ‘n Blue’s "Miss Mystery" that mood disappeared, I was in RELIGIOUS REVERIE!

Take a listen.  See if it works for you.  Listen to the extended sample on
Jim Vallance’s site:  Miss Mystery

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