I had been thinking I’d do something related to Prince for this week’s Friday video — since his untimely death, a lot of interesting clips have been surfacing of him performing with other artists, or in unexpected venues — but this morning I had an inspiration to go with something a little different.
I was driving to the train station, headed directly toward the Wasatch Mountains that brace up the east side of the Salt Lake Valley like a fortress wall. The tattered remnants of last night’s rain clouds were snagged on the jagged peaks and flowing through the canyons and contours of the mountains like a thick, steel-gray liquid, and as I grew nearer to this ominous, beautiful sight, a song lyric leaped into my mind: “Kyrie eleison down the road that I must travel…”
Don’t look so surprised. For a time in the mid ’80s, there was a middle space between the electric-guitar-based rock that I loved and the synth-based New Wave stuff that I loathed, and the pop band Mr. Mister fell squarely into that sweet spot. “Kyrie” was the second of two number-one hits that emerged from the band’s sophomore album, Welcome to the Real World (the first being the more ballad-like “Broken Wings”). While the refrain was a mystery to me for years — I eventually learned that Kyrie eleison is Greek for “Lord, have mercy,” a phrase found in many Christian liturgies — I always liked the throbbing synthesizer rhythm that underpins the song (yes, there are synth songs I like!) and the overall uplifting tone of the lyrics, which manage to be wistful and optimistic at the same time. And even though I’ve never been a religious person, who hasn’t hoped for a bit of grace as we travel roads both metaphorical and literal?
“Kyrie” was released late in the year 1985 and eventually peaked in March 1986, occupying the Billboard Hot 100‘s top spot for two weeks. That was my junior year of high school. I had my driver’s license by then, and was starting to venture out on my own, usually in a brown 1970 Thunderbird that was probably three times the size of the car I drive today. I remember more than once putting my window down and singing along to this song with the wind in my hair.
The video isn’t especially memorable, I’m afraid, falling squarely into the cliche’d “shots of the band performing in a vast, darkened space juxtaposed with candid backstage shenanigans” category. But the song is good — interestingly, for a synth-based pop song from that era, it doesn’t sound especially dated to me — and the band was reasonably nice to look at. I still trend to dress more or less in the same style as the lead singer, Richard Page, for whatever that’s worth:
Sadly, Mr. Mister didn’t find much success after “Kyrie.” Their third album, Go On…, crashed and burned, despite generally good reviews, and the band broke up in 1990. A fourth album, which had been mostly completed at the time of the breakup, disappeared into the studio vaults for 20 years and was finally released in 2010.
And on that note, have a fine weekend everyone!