I got a chance to speak with Journey guitarist Neal Schon for a piece that ran in this week's edition of the Cleveland Scene prior to their upcoming show here in the area on Tuesday evening with Steve Miller Band and Tower of Power.
As is often the case, writing that story sent me to the music stacks to pull out some Journey. I was going to Buffalo to see Blue Rodeo and wanted to load in some tunes for the car. It's funny, for a long time, there wasn't really a lot of live Journey available officially beyond the well known (and for many people, the essential) Captured double live album which was released in 1981.
What I really wanted was a proper live album that covered more of the later material from Journey that came after Captured, you know, albums like Escape, Frontiers...they sold a few copies of those albums and had several hits, right?
Journey filled that request in 1998 with the appropriately titled Greatest Hits Live, which even though it was compiled from a couple of different shows, had a track listing that had the expected hits, but also went a little bit deeper with tunes like "After The Fall," "Still They Ride" the title track to "Escape" and "Line of Fire." It was a good starter package that still works great if you're looking for a single CD that has a lot of their best tunes from across the years.
Released in 2005, Live in Houston 1981: The Escape Tour brought a famous Journey gig home to consumers, available on both DVD and CD (marking the first time that a Journey performance from that era had been officially released on DVD, unless you count the semi-official release of Frontiers and Beyond, which was available very briefly for a minute from the official Journey website in the early '00s). For reasons that aren't quite clear, the CD has a live version of "The Party's Over (Hopelessly in Love) while the DVD does not, which could be quite simple to explain -- maybe it just wasn't filmed. First shown on MTV in the early '80s, the Houston show had only circulated on bootleg prior to the official release.
I couldn't find my CDs for either of those releases when I went hunting for them, so instead, I grabbed a couple of bootlegs. One of them was a show recorded in Norman, Oklahoma for Westwood One in 1983. The other one was a 1979 show from the Evolution tour, captured in Chicago for the syndicated Studio Jam series.
Listening to both shows back to back as I drove to Buffalo, it was interesting to hear the differences between the Gregg Rolie era of Journey and the Jonathan Cain era of the group. Cain gets a lot of criticism for his alleged role in turning Journey into a ballad band, but that wasn't really what stuck out to me, listening to the shows. Instead, it was interesting to note how Perry's role changed in the group between the two shows. During the 1979 performance, Rolie still had a commanding presence vocally in the Journey lineup, but it was hard to miss the charisma that Perry brought each and every time he took the microphone, especially for the songs he sang the lead vocals on.
Journey as heard during the Norman, Oklahoma performance is a different story -- Perry has very clearly taken the reins of the group and even if it wasn't necessarily Perry's band behind the scenes, it was without question, a hell of a partnership. The songwriting that he, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain were engaged in produced quite a powerful batch of material that gave Perry and the members of Journey a lot of firepower to work with onstage.
Even now, more than 30 years later, Schon realizes why the power of Journey still endures. It comes down to the usual things that are most important for a band that wants to build a legacy (even if you might not realize that's what you're doing at the time). It's all about hard work and good songs, as he shared during the interview.
“I think on the Journey level [that’s] why we’re still prominent and out there,” he says. “I think it’s because we basically work our butts off and we tour every year. And we continually play the music and have new audiences come in all the time, we’re claiming younger fans. And also I think mainly, I think we just got it right, you know we wrote a lot of really great songs, the three of us; myself, Steve Perry, and Jonathan Cain. And it was like we just got some things right and I think that’s why it’s etched in stone.”
Journey soldiers on with Arnel Pineda at the helm in place of Perry these days and together, they present a concert experience that is arguably as close to seeing the band with Perry in his prime as you're ever going to get. While Perry himself has recently returned to the stage for the first time in nearly 20 years, performing a handful of guest appearances singing Journey songs while backed by the band eels, it doesn't seem likely that he and Journey will reunite again.
And that's okay with me -- in my mind, there's room for both. Let Journey continue to do what they do and let Perry make whatever sort of music he might want to make on his own terms. I enjoy both. I like to watch Neal Schon play guitar and I enjoy hearing Perry sing -- so even if that doesn't happen on the same stage, it's all good. And although Perry's vocal abilities appear to have diminished from what he was capable of "back in the day," it would be fun to see him play some shows.
But as always, who knows what's up ahead?
Journey released Greatest Hits on November 15th, 1988. Sometime around that time, I saw it in my local record store (the sorely missed Crow's Nest in Crest Hill, Illinois) and had to pick up a copy.
Despite what my good Twitter pal @jukebox65 might want to believe, I was not a Journey diehard at that point. I was among the Journey curious, if there is such a thing. I had heard the name, knew at least a few of the songs and thought they had really, really cool album covers.
I wasn't alone in my purchase - the compilation has sold over 15 million copies through the years, making it one of those albums that everybody had a copy of at some point - right next to their copies of Aerosmith's Greatest Hits, Frampton Comes Alive and Bruce Springsteen's Human Touch and Lucky Town (ha! just making sure that you're still paying attention).
With the resurgence of vinyl, former Journey frontman Steve Perry set his sights on remastering the band's greatest hits for vinyl - both the original Greatest Hits release and a second volume to add additional tracks that were left off of the first one. Between the two, you've got a pretty good snapshot of many of the very best moments from Journey's career.
Perry's work on the two compilations allowed him to reacquaint himself with both the band's music and how great their songs sound when heard on wax. He says “I truly forgot how sonically exciting and just plain better these Journey tracks sound back where they originally lived…on vinyl.”
“The stereo separation, the center imaging and the sonic depth of the tracks themselves is more true to what we all loved about these original final mixes. All the instruments and voices, to me personally, sound so damn good that all I want to do is reach for the volume and turn it up!”
ATV would like to give you a chance to win vinyl copies of both volumes, plus a special added bonus - a unique journal notebook from Vintage Vinyl Journals, custom-made eco-friendly notebooks made from upcycled vinyl LPs and high quality acid-free paper. Each journal is unique and the one included with this prize pack includes artwork elements from Journey's Greatest Hits Volume 1 &2.
So you'd like to win this for yourself to enjoy on the turntable within the privacy of your own home as you scrawl your inner thoughts into your newly acquired vinyl-centric journal?
We'll make it relatively simple: send us a note with either your favorite Journey-related memory or perhaps an '80s concert memory in general, of a great show that you saw. We'll pick one lucky reader to be the recipient of this prize pack.
Journey once ruled the earth. If you’re reading Addicted to Vinyl, you know this already. Even if you did, the Journey story probably runs deeper than you realize. And it’s all laid out in a new book by Neil Daniels, the UK rock author extraordinaire who’s written books about Bon Jovi, Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin. Don't Stop Believin': The Untold Story Of Journey is due May 3 from Omnibus, one of the world’s leading rock & roll presses. It’s the first book about the band, whose history spans over 38 years, six singers and more than 75 million albums sold.
(Full disclosure: This author has contributed to two of Daniels’ books: Linkin Park—An Operator’s Manual and All Pens Blazing Volume 1, a collection of interviews with rock journalists.)
Journey are best known for their glory days in the 1980s, which produced hits and classic-rock radio staples like “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Wheel in the Sky” and “Open Arms”—all sung by Steve Perry, one of the greater singers in rock history. But the group had a career before Perry, and they’ve been alright without him: The band launched as a jazz/prog/fusion outfit. Guitarist Neil Schon and keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rolie had played in Santana in the early ’70s. Then Santana roadie-turned-band-manager Herbie Herbert culled Schon and Rolie and began forming a band around them. Herbert is a rare source for unvarnished stories about the endless behind-the-scenes intrigue that kept Journey from reaching even higher heights.
If all you know about the group is Vh1’s Behind the Music special, you’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, and you’re seeing it from a misleading perspective. Perry had strict editorial control over the show, and he has remained a key voice in the band’s affairs even after their 1991 dissolution, 1995 reunion, and his 1997 departure. Even show-biz powers of the highest caliber can’t reunite the parties: Since 1995, Journey has been managed by music-biz legend Irving Azoff, the Ticketmaster CEO who has managed the Eagles and Guns N’ Roses.
The journey continued after Perry left. The band recorded and toured with Steve Augeri (ex-Tyketto, Tall Stories), whose voice simply couldn’t hold up under the rigors of touring. After a short run with Jeff Scott Soto (the former Yngwie Malmsteen/Kryst the Conqueror vocalist) in 2006-7, Journey saw recording artist Arnel Pineda covering Journey songs on YouTube and recruited the Filipino singer. Pineda sang on 2008’s Revelation LP, and the band continue touring with him.
We haven’t read any of the book, so we can’t vouch for it. But Daniels answered some questions about his latest project. — D.X. Ferris
How many people did you interview?
Well, I will say I interviewed the most important person in Journey’s history: ex-manager and founder Herbie Herbert. He very rarely gives interviews, but when he does he is very forthcoming and brutally honest. Anybody who has read Andrew McNeice’s interview with him at Melodicrock.com [Click HERE to read it, but wait until you have some time; clocking in around 20,000 words, it’s the length of a short book. And if you want more, this Herbert interview is great as well.] will know what I mean. He was great, though: very articulate and intelligent, with an amazing memory recall. What he said about Steve Perry might not please Perry fans and many Journey enthusiasts, but it’s certainly worth reading. I also did a great interview with Robert Fleischman, who toured with them as their first frontman for about six months before he was let go and replaced by Perry. He had a lot of good things to say too, lots of interesting anecdotes that will entertain fans. I did a lot of interviews with others too, including Jeff Scott Soto.
Steve Perry wouldn’t talk?
I emailed the two women that run his fansite and I got an email addy from a writer who had actually interviewed Perry a few years back; I’m guessing it was Perry’s PR person. I didn’t get any replies. To be honest, I knew it was a dead end anyway. There’s no way he would have cooperated with me on a book about the full history of Journey. I knew that anyway, just because he rarely gives interviews these days. It would not have been an objective book with too much involvement from either Perry or the band. It is often best not to involve the artist, which is an entirely different question…
It’s a full history of the band, right? Does each era get its own section?
Yes, of course. Each phase of the band’s career is written about in detail. Obviously people wanna know about the Perry years more than anything else, and I tried to give as much space to Raised On Radio as I could, as it was a vital phase in the band's career when the whole thing pretty much collapsed after [drummer] Steve Smith and [bassist] Ross Valory were let go [in 1985]. I think there’s a pretty good back story too, from when the band formed in 1973 and a fair bit on the time when Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon played in Santana, which was really when the Journey story started. The book comes right up to the present day.
In a nutshell, what are the band’s roots with Santana? I don’t think even the younger fans from the ’80s know about that—I never did, at least.
Yes, not a lot of people know that Journey’s first three albums are sort of jazz fusion instrumental type albums. It goes to show how vastly different the band’s roots were from the eighties heyday. The whole AOR thing started with Infinity, when Perry first sang for them, and obviously lasts to this day. It’s a convoluted story, but basically Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie both played in Santana, and it was former Santana roadie Herbie Herbert than got Rolie and Schon to play a gig together with some other musicians under the moniker Golden Gate Rhythm Section, which morphed into Journey.
In terms of fractions, how much of the book is early days, the Perry years and post-Perry?
Urm, well I don’t know the exact word count of each chapter, and bear in mind I was given a strict word count by the publishers, which I could not go over. I think there is a fairly hefty chunk on the Perry years and certainly the post-Perry years with singers Steve Augeri, Jeff Scott Soto and now Arnel Pineda. There’s enough on the Perry years, certainly during the few months Fleischman fronted the band. But before that, it was rather complicated and hard to track folks down, which is why Herbie Herbert was so helpful with his interview. He really put the years ’73-’76 in perspective.
What’s the band’s best pre-Perry work?
I think those first three albums each have their own merits, and [it] goes to show just how damn talented Schon, Rolie and Valory were back then and obviously still—though as you know Rolie left Journey in 1980 and was replaced by Jonathan Cain. Listen to, say, Next, and then listen to Frontiers, and you’ll hear two totally different bands.
How did the original fans react to Perry?
Sales of those first three albums were poor, which is why they were almost dropped by Columbia. They really built up a fanbase through touring, and they didn’t immediately warm to Fleischman or perhaps Perry, but given just how damn good a singer Perry is, it wasn’t long before he was held in open arms by a new wave of Journey fans. The [initial] idea was to have Journey play on the same bill as a band like Foreigner but then on the other side, play on the same bill as, say, Weather Report. They somehow wanted to appeal to the jazz instrumental fanbase that had been with them since the start and also the melodic rock fans that loved REO Speedwagon and Foreigner, etc.
Do you deal with Irving Azoff much in the book?
No, not really. Of course he is mentioned, but there isn’t a great deal of info out there on him, and I daren’t go in to too much detail. He is a very powerful figure, you know! He’s not someone I’d want to piss off, if you know what I mean. Besides, it’s about Journey and not their management, but I get what you’re saying.
How integral has Azoff been to their success?
Oh, very important. He has really helped the band reclaim some lost ground, although it has taken them awhile. I’m not keen on the way Augeri and JSS were treated in the end, especially JSS. I think he was treated rottenly, but JSS said the management were, in fact, very good to him while he fronted the band, so who knows, eh? Maybe it’s not the management but two key players? We can only read between the lines. Certainly the famous and now retired A&R man John Kalodner was important too, and I’ve read that he tried and tried to get Perry back with Journey after the whole Trial By Fire era, but of course—as we know—it did not work out.
In Behind the Music, Steve Perry says he never felt like a full-fledged member of the band—it’s one of the more famous complaints in rock history. Like most people, I’m inclined to say he was being overly dramatic when he said it. But then again, he did say it, so he probably really felt it. What’s your take on his relationship with the rest of the band?
This is such a famously complicated story and goes to show that behind closed doors, everything was not rosy in the Journey camp—there were two divisions with Steve Perry on one side and Cain/Schon on the other. Perhaps this is the reason why before there has never been a bio of Journey? It’s obvious that what Perry said was not strictly true; we can guess that. I mean, I’ve been told he basically took control of the band in the mid-eighties, and as we know Raised On Radio was meant to be titled Freedom, sticking with the one-word album titles. And is it a coincidence that ROR sounds a lot like Perry’s first solo album, Street Talk? Also, who fired Smith and Valory? Hell, I love Perry. He’s the greatest melodic rock/AOR singer of all time and one of the greatest singers in any style of popular music, but I think he had a lot more control than he has ever let on.
Do you cover his solo career?
Yes, thankfully there was enough space in the book for a chapter on Perry’s solo music, and it’s discussed in a fair bit of detail. I did write a chapter on Schon too, but it was too long and had to be cut out. Shame. But then again, he is very prolific outside of Journey with his solo work as well as HSAS, Bad English, Hardline and Soul SirkUS, etc. The book is about Journey though, so let’s not forget that. The Perry chapter is a bonus.
Why did Perry retire? He’s not coming back, is he—with Journey, with anybody?
Urm, well, if you read the book, there is a bit at the end about the possibility of a solo album, and rumor has it he is recording some solo tracks. But as for Journey and any type of tour or even a live performance…. I would not bet on it. I really can’t see it happening, and when I read rumors of a reunion, I just know they’re fabricated.
The band dumped Jeff Scott Soto right as “Don’t Stop Believin’” was getting huge again, after The Sopranos’ finale. Why do you think they axed him?
In the band’s eyes he wasn’t the right singer for Journey. They were contracted to finish the tour with Def Leppard and needed a frontman, so they hired JSS. I saw them in Manchester and thought they were great—but the collaboration left many Journey fans feeling cold. Let’s make this clear: JSS is a damn fine singer and one of the very best frontmen in melodic rock, but he wasn’t right for Journey in most fans’ eyes. However, the way in which his departure, after just a few months, was dealt with was not very nice at all. It was shitty, to be honest. Brian May wrote a very articulate piece about it on his excellent blog, Soapbox. JSS was very cool to interview—so articulate and well spoken and also honest. He’s not bitter at all. He loves Journey and even wrote a brief foreword to my book. He is one cool guy!!
Have you seen the band with Arnel Pineda? I saw a TV performance early on, and he was still doing the big hand gestures with those karaoke-style vocals, where everything got a little extra unnecessary flourish. And that soured me on him.
I thought Revelation was an amazing album and the best the band had made since Frontiers. But when I saw them in Manchester, Pineda really grated on me. I wanted Deen Castronova to sing the whole gig from his drum riser! [Pineda’s] running around and everything really annoyed me and I got bored. However, he’s really slowed down on all that and worked on his stage presence, and I thought the Live In Manila DVD was excellent. He has improved and will continue to improve, but he will also burn out?
The tours are still popular. All in all, how would you evaluate the move to add Pineda?
Vocally, he is the best singer they have had since Perry in terms of the way in which Journey songs are sung. It was either hire Pineda or shut the band down. I’d rather have Journey with Pineda than without. And let’s face it, as I said, Revelation was a bloody great album.
What do you think makes “Don’t Stop Believin’” one of the transcendent, perennially popular rock songs?
I’m fed up of hearing it! Ha. I think lyrically and vocally it is the perfect rock ballad. It has a very catchy and memorable chorus and some great keys and guitars. Let’s face it: Rock bands know how to make ballads!
What’s the band’s best deep album cut?
Hmmm… I think Escape and Frontiers are fine representations of Journey’s talent and of the AOR/melodic rock genre as a whole. They’re both damn fine albums with great singers, great production… the whole lot.
What song should have been a bigger hit?
They should have been a bigger band outside of America and Japan, and thankfully now they make return visits to Europe, which they did not do for a long time. It’s hard to say which ones should have been bigger songs but I can say that two of my fave Journey ballads are “I’ll Be Alright Without You” and “Girl Can’t Help It,” both from Raised on Radio.
By the time you were done with the book, who was your favourite character in the story—either someone you liked the most or someone who was the biggest character?
I’ll use this question as an opportunity to say just how criminally underrated I think Neal Schon is. I mean, he is one of the greatest and most versatile guitarists in rock music, yet do you ever see any mainstream attention? Or any other guitarists talk about Schon’s skills? I don’t know why. He really does deserve far more reverence.
When is the book coming out?
The book is out via Omnibus Press on May 3. If it’s not at your local book shop you can order online at Amazon US and UK or any other online book store. Feel free to email me through my website, www.neildaniels.com. Keep on rockin’!
The only reason that this isn't real, is because Steve Perry hasn't thought of it. Yet. Thanks to Kurt for this one!
I was talking on the phone with Addicted To Vinyl’s fearless leader about a great many things the other day, when an unscripted, non-thought out discussion about Journey broke out. At some point, the discussion turned to the fact that neither one of us found much validity to the “Greatest Hits” add-on that Journey put out with last year’s great Revelation release. My mind quickly started darting as I made the genuine point that the actual Steve Perry greatest hits disc was of no use to me because of the shoddy editing of the song “Girl Can’t Help It” (want proof, listen to both versions of the song at the 2:37 mark, where the original has a sort vocal line from Perry that’s omitted from the remaster for some unknown reason – horrible). Through the discussion, it kind of dawned on me an interesting fact that I don’t think I’d ever considered before. The popular era of Journey was, by far, the worst era of Journey.
I’m sure at this point, you are scratching your head and going, “huh”? This being said though, let me spell out a few things to make the argument. First, I’m a Journey enthusiast. I’ve seen the band easily 20 times, with the only vocalist in the band that I haven’t experienced live being current vocalist Arnel Pineda. I saw them as far back as 1981 or 82 (whenever the tour with Bryan Adams was). I almost got kicked out of the Army for sneaking out of training to see the Raised on Radio tour in Indianapolis. I’ve seen some of the Perry solo shows. I own everything they’ve ever done, and am always on the prowl for bootlegs of the band (which, by the way, if anyone has the King Biscuit Flower Hour Frontiers concert from around 1983, please email me!). Simply, I love the band.
That being said though, as time has gone on, I’ve come to where I find the “popular” era of Journey to be not only the weakest musical point of their career, but in some ways unlistenable when compared to the other two eras of the band. To define the “popular era”, I would say it runs from 1981 to 1996; encompassing the albums Escape, Frontiers, Raised on Radio and Trial By Fire. Sure, that’s basically the timeframe when you find 99% of their hits. Being honest, there’s no denying some great music in that time. “Stone In Love”, “Escape”, “Be Good To Yourself”, “Don’t Stop Believin’” were all massive, while lesser known songs like “Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever” or “Eyes Of The Woman” were as good as anything they ever recorded. That being said though, I would argue that the entire era of the band was, by far, the weakest musically and was carried solely on the massive success created from Escape. To that end, Frontiers followed Escape and went platinum six times, even though the reality of the situation was that it’s basically less than half of a good album. Sure, “Separate Ways”, “After The Fall” and “Faithfully” were all decent, but none of the big three there were anything more than recycled ideas that didn’t make Escape. As for the rest of the album, utter trash. “Chain Reaction”, “Back Talk”, “Rubicon” – all were fragmented ideas that Herbie Herbert listened to and said, “just polish that turd and get back on the road while you are hot”. The song “Troubled Child” would not have made it on any level with the old Journey either. You have to think that the tired, lack of substance they were creating is what led the band to begin to fragment as the musician’s musician, drummer Steve Smith, no longer wanted to make tens of millions of dollars with the band at this point and left. Ross Valory also left too. When Raised on Radio emerged, it felt just like what it was – a splintering band performing a collection of average songs written with the Cain polish with no artistic agenda other than to take it back to the road with some other guys and squeeze the last penny out of the band. Seeing those shows, it’s clear that Perry was ready to move on as well, but stuck around for the payday (which had to be enormous at that point). He had mixed in a solo album that did very well at that point, and was a better album artistically than either Frontiers or Raised on Radio. It’s not surprising that the band did nothing for the next decade following – almost ashamed of the commercial success they had achieved at the expense of their artistic integrity.
Looking at that artistic integrity, it’s clear listening back to the 1st era of the band that their career was built on that before Jonathan Cain poured his syrup on this hard rock band. Listening to albums like Infinity or Departure as examples, it’s clear that they really were a very different band from the radio hit machine they became. Listening back now, the songs just hold up. Certainly, they did have hits during this era as well. “Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin’, “Wheel In The Sky”, “Lights” – all were hits, but not nearly on the level that future songs would bring. Listening back now though, the grit and rawness of these songs makes these songs much more timeless than anything from the popular era. There was much more of a sense of attitude with the band at that time too. To hear a song like “Where Were You”, there was a swagger that permeated the song; a swagger that would be completely removed when the band got popular and wrote little more than happy, feel good music. There was also a sense of fun that left as the band got sterilized by fame. Listening to the vocal trading and the overall brilliance of “Feeling That Way/Anytime”, you can tell that these guys had a lot of fun in the studio producing this masterpiece. You can literally feel Perry doing his best to one up Gregg Rolie vocally, and Rolie fighting back as the song progresses. Arguably, this era of the band was the best. Certainly, it packed the most substance and has the musical integrity that the popular era lacks. Listening to this stuff now, it’s much less dated than the hits era.
Interestingly, the post-Perry era of Journey has seemingly taken a lot of these elements from both eras and created a more interesting hybrid than the hits era ever produced. Sure, albums like Arrival smelled of Jonathan Cain trying to wedge his glucose into every note of every song, but for some reason you have to envision that vocalist Steve Augeri (a guy who made his mark in more metalled up bands like Tyketto and Tall Stories) pushed back a bit, and got some support from Neil Schon (a guy who always wanted to be a metal guitarist, but chose cash over passion). The Augeri years had a lot more rock than most expected, and even some experimental stuff which seemingly left the band the day Cain joined the outfit. Listening to the Red 13 EP, you can only classify that as Journey trying to do something different. For me anyway, it worked well. Finally, enter Perry sound-alike Arnel Pineda to the mix, and you find Journey just trying to write an album that’s encompasses both classic and the hits era of the band. Revelation is, to me, the best album this band has done since Departure for many reasons. It brings the old school rock (“Never Walk Away”, “Change In The Weather”). Cain has his places to overload the music with hooks and radio ready schlock (“After All These Years”, “Where Did I Lose Your Love”). The highlight though is the return of the older, raw writing vibe. Songs such as “Like A Sunshower” could have been written in 1975, and would fit beautifully up next to the classic music of yesteryear. The band is back, and they’ve found a way to solidly mix all of their eras together. Hopefully the platinum success of Revelation will keep them from trying to reinvent the glory days again. Simply put, that era just didn’t hold up.