Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.
MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: The Mister Mister song “Kyrie” was written in response to a brutal attack.
“Kyrie” was a hit song released by the band Mister Mister in 1985 off of their album, Welcome to the Real World, hitting number one on the Billboard charts for two weeks (another song off the album, “Broken Wings,” also hit #1 on the Billboard charts for two weeks).
The song, whose title is a reference to the Christian prayer, “Kýrie, eléison,” is one of the more misheard song lyrics of all-time, as people often have a hard time understanding that the band is singing “Kýrie, eléison.”
Here is a sample of the song’s lyrics:
The wind blows hard against this mountainside
Across the sea into my soul
It reaches into where I cannot hide
Setting my feet upon the road
My heart is old, it holds my memories
My body burns a gem-like flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine
Is where I find myself again
Down the road that I must travel
Through the darkness of the night
Where I’m going, will you follow?
On a highway in the light
I don’t know where you would get it from those lyrics, but a longstanding rumor has come about that says that the song was written by the songwriter in response to a brutal attack. Is that true?
First off, one of the interesting things about this legend is that it is often attributed as having happened to Richard Page, the lead singer (and bassist) of the band, who co-wrote the music for the song with Steve George (the keyboardist for the group). However, the lyrics to all of Mister Mister’s song on this album were written by a man named John Lang, who wasn’t in the band otherwise. It was Lang who was, in fact, brutally attacked, along with his wife.
However, Lang insists that the song was not written in response to the attack. He told Jerry “Mr. Nusic” Osborne that the attack “had nothing to do with that song,” and that it was just something that he “got the inspiration from singing it as a kid in an Episcopal church in Phoenix, Arizona.”
Page was interviewed by Melissa Parker from Smashing Interviews Magazine in 2010, and he backed up Lang’s story (although it is interesting to note that he did not really know for sure himself):
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’ve said that “Kyrie” was essentially written as a prayer.
Richard Page: Actually I tried to discourage the whole song from being on the record. I was worried that people would think we were just a Christian band and I felt like that was the kiss of death. I thought that was a mistake and we couldn’t do that.
We needed to create more of a mystique about the band. I just felt that was showing too many cards and people would interpret it as that. The truth was the song just took on a life of its own and pretty soon it was just so good and it just kept going. It’s a great song. It doesn’t matter what it’s saying. So it ended up on the album and of course became a big hit.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Some people say that John Lang wrote it after he suffered an assault.
Richard Page: He had a horrible thing where he and his wife were attacked. It was terrible. I don’t know if that directly led to those lyrics or not.
I never really talked to him about it, to be honest with you. Maybe he said in an interview somewhere that the attack had something to do with it, but he definitely wrote it after that thing happened. It’s funny you should mention that. I need to ask him.
I think it is fair enough to go with Lang here.
So the legend is…
Thanks to John Lang, Richard Page, Jerry Osborne and Melissa Parker for the information!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org