"It's so mid-eighties I can see Molly Ringwald and the rest of the brat pack dancing in a bedroom in my mind's eye": Mr. Mister master the period cliches on Welcome To The Real World

Mr. Mister released four slickly produced albums. Three bombed. Welcome To The Real World certainly didn't

Mr. Mister: Welcome To The Real World cover art
(Image: © RCA)

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Mr. Mister: Welcome To The Real World

Mr. Mister: Welcome To The Real World cover art

(Image credit: RCA)

Uniform of Youth
Don't Slow Down
Run to Her
Into My Own Hands
Is It Love
Broken Wings
Tangent Tears
Welcome to the Real World

Even at the height of their fame in the mid-80s, they were never cool. Mr. Mister was a terrible name for a rock group, and frontman Richard Page looked like Sting modelling for Top Man. But what this LA-based quartet created in 1985 was a classic melodic rock album featuring two of the defining songs of that era.

It might never have happened. After the band’s debut I Wear The Face bombed, Page was offered jobs with Toto and Chicago. He stuck with Mr. Mister though, and it paid off with their second album. 

Welcome To The Real World was a brilliant synthesis of AOR and new wave, comparable to The Cars’ classic Heartbeat City. And two singles topped the US chart: Kyrie, a quasi-spiritual anthem of huge melodic power, and Broken Wings, a subtle ballad as masterful as The Cars’ Drive. Both songs showcased the band's ability to craft memorable hooks without relying on excessive bombast, while deeper cuts such as Uniform Of Youth and Run To Her revealed Mr. Mister's penchant for introspective lyricism and musical exploration.

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Other albums released in November 1985

  • Done with Mirrors - Aerosmith
  • Cut the Crap - The Clash
  • Ice on Fire - Elton John
  • Down for the Count - Y&T
  • Delirious Nomad - Armored Saint
  • 9012Live: The Solos - Yes
  • White City: A Novel - Pete Townshend
  • The Chronicle of the Black Sword - Hawkwind
  • Psychocandy - The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • Rock A Little - Stevie Nicks
  • Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention - Frank Zappa
  • Come Out and Play - Twisted Sister
  • Pack Up the Plantation: Live! - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • Astra - Asia
  • Stereotomy - The Alan Parsons Project
  • Misdemeanor - UFO
  • Double Trouble Live - Molly Hatchet
  • The Dream Academy - The Dream Academy


What they said...

"Welcome To The Real World is a debut album from the band Mr. Mister, a four-man band with lots of promise. With Richard Page as lead vocals and bass, Pat Mastelotto on drums, Steve Farris at guitar and Steve George with keyboards and backing vocals, Mr. Mister has a sound that is sharp and clear, with strong vocals and sensible lyrics that are reminiscent of the band Chicago." (The Fulcrum)

"The music of Tangent Tears complements the title and the lyrics – angular, edgy, and punchy. Finally, the album closes aptly with the title track. Welcome To The Real World is another driving beat of a song that may be best appreciated using stereo headphones to be able to experience the panning of the instruments from the left to the right speakers. It has also a cinematic quality to it, giving it the power to conjure in the mind of ’80s teen action film aficionados movies like Gotcha! (1985) and Out of Bounds (1986). (Cryptic Rock)

"Mr. Mister rocked slightly harder and were certainly more spiritual in a positive but vague way than the primal scream therapy disciples at Tears For Fears. Still, it’s a pretty good guess that their fanbases overlapped a lot. True to the times, Welcome To The Real World had those heavily processed guitars and vocals, the Yamaha synths and Phil Collins booms, even served up in supersize portions. And yet, while revisiting it the other day, it still didn’t out and out suck. Huh." (Something Else Reviews)


What you said...

Greg Schwepe: Released smack in the middle of the 80’s (1985, to be exact), Mr. Mister’s Welcome To The Real World is a prime example of one of many bands that put out an album in this era with chart-topping singles featuring slick and polished AOR production, great songwriting and musicianship, and success probably never matched again at that level.

Prior to this week I had never listened to Welcome To The Real World in its entirety. But boy, had I heard Kyrie and Broken Wings before? Of course! All over FM radio and MTV at the time, if you listened to any music media, you knew these two songs and who Mr. Mister was. Now, is it fair to call them a “Two Hit Wonder?” To be honest, I can’t say I ever heard anything from them on the radio ever again after these two monster songs. But if you’re going to be known for two songs, well, these are some pretty good ones. Both set this mental mood where I can create my own images about the song in my head.

Mr. Mister is filled with soaring airy keyboards, but plenty of delayed clean and stinging distorted guitars to satisfy a wide audience. This kind of album is the yang to my ying. As much as I like really loud rock, I also like a wide variety of bands like Mr. Mister. Looking back at other bands I was listening to in 1985, I found the list to include those with very similar styles; Toto, Starship, Level 42, Foreigner, The Outfield, Asia, Wang Chung, Mike + The Mechanics. Stuff with uplifting (but rocking!) songs that stuck with you.

Finally hearing the “non hits” from this album, they all stuck with me. Run To Her, Into My Own Hands, and Is It Love all had that “it” factor with the melody, instrumentation, drumbeat, whatever, that stuck with you after the song. I had mentioned a few weeks ago that one album we reviewed had no “Velcro;” nothing stuck with me after the album was over. This album has songs with some “stickiness,” that if I were an A&R man back in the day, would lead me to exclaim; “Yes, that one!”

Overall, Welcome To The Real World is a decent representation of the music from the 80s for bands of this type. This was a style that resonated with the record-buying public. I do find it interesting that if you look at Mr. Mister and the other bands I listed; while some released more albums (some not so many), it was the ones during this 80s timeframe that defined them. 8 out of 10 for me on this one. Takes me back.

Mike Canoe: Very polished, very well played and produced pop with touches of rock, jazz, and even a little prog. Not anything I paid attention to at the time besides radio staples, Kyrie and Broken Wings but I like it well enough now. Ballad Run to Her reminds me of King Crimson's Matte Kudasai while Black/White, Uniform of Youth, Into My Own Hands, Is It Love? and the title all track traffic in the same dance pop as Rick Springfield, Hall & Oates, Corey Hart, etc. Kind of lightweight for where I was at the time, but I enjoy it now.

Iain Macaulay: This just reminds me of that Jonathan King BBC TV show No Limits, where the two singles were played constantly amongst a background of saccharine 80’s AOR and commercial pop rock. And that is not a good thing.

Chris Downie: As sobering a thought as it is to consider the 1980s are as far away from today as that decade was from the time of WWII, the power of nostalgia has been scathingly critical and kind in equal measures. For every Killing Joke there was a Kajagoogoo, after all. Yet in between, there were bands who set out with a fine early album – resplendent with huge MTV hits – from which a blossoming career seemed to beckon. Then said bands would often fail to capitalise on that promise, before fading into 'where are they now?' obscurity.

Like others in the same timeframe (Cutting Crew and Asia are but two examples) Mr. Mister captured the hearts of melodic pop-rock audiences with the ear candy of early singles such as Kyrie and Broken Wings and appeared destined for great things. While the AOR sheen of this sophomore album does date it indelibly to the decade from whence it came, the songwriting craft is undeniable. The album's deep cuts are also impressive.

If there is a criticism to be made of the band, it is their falling short on subsequent releases, which meant their failure to kick on from early success has relegated them to the fringes of 80s AOR history, remembered fondly by diehard fans of the decade, but sadly overlooked outside of that nostalgia bubble. 7.5/10.

Brian Carr: I guess timing is important when it comes to listening to Club albums. Honestly, I didn’t think too much about this week’s selection, Welcome To The Real World by Mr. Mister, because I didn’t think much about the hit singles when they were often present in the 80s. I didn’t hate them, but neither did they move me in a positive way. I might have passed completely this week, but a drive across town plus mowing for the first time this year gave me a chance to listen to a band I never gave a chance. (Timing #1)

Welcome To The Real World is definitely an album of its time, with 80s production, synths and guitar tones. But here comes Timing #2: wasn’t it nice when guitars were an important part of pop tunes? Sure, in an ideal world Mr. Mister’s hit album would have a little more guitar and a little less synth, but at least the axe-work is there in the mix. The vocals are low-key but not annoying. I’m not entirely sure how much I like the songs, but ultimately I liked Welcome To The Real World considerably more than I expected. I’ll most likely listen some more, both for the guitar and maybe to try to figure out what Tangent Tears are.

Alex Hayes: Blimey, dig out those shoulder pads, leg warmers, and an old VHS copy of Top Gun. This week's album choice is so incredibly 80s that it would probably be a little unjust to call it bordering on cliche. In fact, it's jumped over the fence and is camping out on cliche's front lawn. It's exactly what one would expect from the band behind the worldwide mega-hit of the time, (I Just) Died in Your Arms.

Oh no, wait. That was another band, wasn't it? We are actually dealing with Mr Mister here, and their successful 1985 album Welcome To The Real World, an album that is about as typical of that period as you can possibly get. Thing is, as an unabashed 80s kid, this shouldn't really faze me at all. I'm not one of those who quickly rushes off to don a metaphorical hazmat suit whenever albums like this get selected for the club, treating the music within like it's some kind of radioactive waste. I'm very nostalgic about those days, and should get some enjoyment out of this, right?

I'd never heard Welcome To The Real World in full before this week, but I'm obviously very familiar with the album's two hit singles, Broken Wings and Kyrie. Who isn't? Both are excellent examples of the glossy pop rock/power balladry that was all the rage at the time, and they still hold up really well today. Despite what some might say, not all the music from this era is now hopelessly dated and borderline unlistenable. When done properly, this blending of strong songwriting and emerging technology produced some pretty scintillating stuff, and these two tracks have endured for good reason.

Common fodder for 80s compilation albums nowadays, Broken Wings and Kyrie are comfortably the best two tracks on offer here. I was actually one of the many that bought Kyrie as a 7-inch single back in early 1986. I was 11 years old at the time, and that chorus was just too bloody irrepressible to resist. If only the rest of the album was this good. It isn't, though.

I wasn't aware of this until now, but Welcome To The Real World actually produced a third hit single over in the US, Is It Love. That's probably because the song only managed to scale the dizzy heights of number 87 here on the UK Singles Chart. It certainly doesn't measure up to either Broken Wings or Kyrie, and neither does the remainder of the album. It's all gated drums, trying to squeeze as many sounds out of the trusty old Yamaha DX7 as humanly possible, and, frankly, not much else of note.

So, it's not the production quality that is ultimately lacking here for me; it's the songs themselves, most of which are pretty forgettable. Being augmented by the technology of the time is fine; being overreliant on it is another thing entirely. That's the reason that I can't award Welcome To The Real World any more than a 5/10.

Philip Qvist: Yes of course Welcome To The Real World sounds like an 80s record, but maybe that's the whole point.

I do have a twinge of nostalgia for that decade; after all I graduated from high school and university in that decade, I did military service in the 80s, I started my first two jobs in the 80s, while I was ready to move to my first home as that decade was about to come to an end. And let's not forget about the parties, visits to the pubs, the nightclubs, the music, and the all-nighters with friends that came part and parcel of that decade.

So no, I don't really have an issue with an album released in late 1985 sounding like ... well ... an album released in the mid 80s. Which means I'm willing to forgive Steve George's keyboards and the production. For better or for worse it just came with the territory.

So with that in mind what do I think of Mr Mister's second album? Is It Love, Kyrie and Broken Wings are the dominant songs of that record, and hardly a surprise as all three cracked the Top 10 of many charts around the world.

As for the rest - I would say Run To Her is my weakest track, along with possibly the title track, while the first three songs Black / White, Uniform Of Youth and Don't Slow Down are amongst the album's strongest tracks.

Singer / bassist Richard Page has a more than decent voice, Steve Farris is a pretty good guitarist who doesn't allow the guitar to dominate proceedings, while drummer Pat Mastelotto has played for a host of good acts over the years.

It's an album of its time for sure, and I suspect it will lose marks as a result, but after giving it another spin today it still sounds bloody good - and there is a big reason why it outsold their other three albums by more than a tenfold combined.

So all in all, an enjoyable record that doesn't pretend to tax the mind - even if Mr Mister is a daft name for a band. An 8/10 for me.

Now how about a remix and a production upgrade?

John Davidson: This is so mid-eighties I can see Molly Ringwald and the rest of the brat pack dancing in a bedroom in my mind's eye with posters of Heart, The Power Station and John Parr cluttering the walls. Miami Vice is on the TV and everyone has the sleeves of their lightweight suit jackets rolled up, their hair slicked back and the bad boys have designer stubble just to show how hard they partied all week while climbing the corporate ladder.

I haven't mentioned the music yet, but that's a kindness. This is all about a vibe and it's one I left behind four decades ago.

Underneath the synth effects and the corporate blandness of the production there are probably some decent songs but I can't hear them I'm afraid.

Kyrie is undeniably catchy and far more enjoyable than Broken Wings which I didn't even like at the time.

Roland Bearne: Great album, the cassette was on rotation (along with Eat 'Em And Smile) for pretty much a whole term at college. 

Lee Ritchie: The singles are (still) great. The rest of the album? Not so great. Firmly stuck in the 80s, which is OK, but the album tracks have dated badly.

Bryan Fitzpatrick: Never liked that band. Boring 80s pop rock with zero emotion. The Wonder Bread of music.

Derek Baker: It's a fantastic hi-tech AOR album, and captures everything I love about the era to a T. Don't Slow Down is a banger.

Mark Herrington: Welcome To The Real World would benefit from a remix that strips away the distracting keyboard sounds and 80s production.

Admittedly, I played this a lot, for a couple of years, back in the day. Beneath the ‘froth’ there are some pretty good songs, and some not so good. The best track for me is Don’t Slow Down , which has a Foreigner / Asia sound and is generally less well-known. 

Is it Love, Kyrie and Broken Wings have featured heavily on soft rock compilations for many years, and for good reason, as they are good earworm tunes. Uniform of Youth is a good song heavily burdened by the dated production. The ballad Run to Her is a bit second-rate, with no real hook. The rest of the songs are a bit poppy, stop-start sounding and not as good or memorable for me. 

So, overall a mixed bag with some great soft rock staples and a few less good tracks. It's crying out for a refresh.

Chris Elliott: MTV rock by numbers. The singles are fine – they're filler for 80s compilations more than iconic 80s hits. The rest is forgettable. Well, ignorable is more accurate. Let's just pretend the synth's a guitar. This just makes me think Nigel in his 1.6 Ford Escort with aftermarket spoiler, or every rep's Ford Sierra. Not that I'm prejudiced.

Gary Claydon: Remember those video jukeboxes that were all the rage in the '80s? Cost a fortune and were full of MTV darlings, churning out generic pop-rock while earnestly running through 'Posing for Popstars 101', exhausting an entire wardrobe department's supply of loose-fitting jackets and shirts with no buttons, at the same time gazing longingly at some pneumatic blonde draped over a gleaming Yank muscle car? There were certain bands that always seemed to be playing on those. Bands like Mr. Mister.

If this is what floats your boat, great. It just leaves me with a sinking feeling. Bland Bland Bland.

Hai Kixmiller: Break out your Blues Brothers Ray-Bans, flip up the collar of your Lacoste Izod shirt, fasten the seat belt of your DeLorean Time Machine and get ready to be transported back to the '80s.

Mr. Mister's Welcome To The Real World is a gentle, pop-rock stroll back to the 80s. Strewn about, here and there, are catchy hooks from songs like Is It Love, Uniform Of Youth, and Don't Slow Down. These fine ditties will definitely have you poppin' and rollin' your shoulders to the music.

Welcome To The Real World delivers some solid, chart-topping hits with Kyrie and Broken Wings, along with a few gems that help to cement Mr. Mister's place alongside their other pop-rock, synth heavy contemporaries like Toto, Chicago, Starship, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Supertramp.

A surprisingly entertaining and fun listen.


Final score: 6.54 (61 votes cast, total score 399)

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