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.
Before I give it away, I have to ask you a question.
Have you ever heard a song by one of your favorite bands and upon listening to it for the first time, you instantly knew that you and the band had grown apart and were headed for a divorce?
Welcome to my world in the year 1984.
After championing said band to all of my friends and enjoying their tunes many times over, I about PUKED the first time I heard "Jump" by Van Halen.
Where in the hell did this piece of schlock come from?
Well, after some thought and some years of reflection, it's pretty apparent as to where it started for them and that's the same place that it ended for me.
As you probably know, Eddie Van Halen contributed the guitar solo to Michael Jackson's "Beat It." What you may not know it that he did it free of charge as in "No Royalties for Eddie, Thanks for Coming and See You Later."
Having watched piles of blow and fast cars and fluff chicks go right out the door based on that decision along with seeing the potential for "Arena-Rock" singles growing by the minute, Eddie jumped right on that soon-to-be runaway train and got himself a piece of the pie by writing the biggest piece of garbage Van Halen has ever produced.
As referenced in a Wikipedia entry about the song, David Lee Roth and Ted Templeman, producer extraordinaire (Montrose, Van Morrison, Little Feat, and the Doobie Brothers when they were still good), wanted to continue taking the band down the hard-rock road.
Eddie was blinded by the dollar signs in his eyes, resisted their request and insisted on releasing one of the worst singles of all time.
Let's look at what preceded this and what came later.
After their phenomenal debut album, the band was on the road so much and in an altered state of mind so often, they never again issued an album that was fully mature and complete. Van Halen II and Women and Children First both contain great rock moments ("Dead or Alive, Take Your Whiskey Home") but they have so many moments that reek of demos and ideas that were not fully realized.
Knowing this and probably getting tired of Dave's personality and the hassle of being a mega-star in demand, Eddie was ready to cash in. Thus, the release of one of the worst singles of all time.
Little did we know at that time that Eddie was setting the stage for one of the worst rock bands of all time in Van Hagar, but I digress...
"Jump" is a song that would not have been nearly as offensive were it released by a band that had not produced such greatness as "Aint Talkin 'Bout Love" or "I'm On Fire." Even "Jamie's Cryin" had substance.
But coming from the guys who gave hard-rock a major kick in the ass when it was most needed, "Jump" is inexcusable and indefensible.
There have been hundreds of one-hit wonders over the past 50 years which have produced nonsense singles so I get that not every song has to be a great one. But none of them were Van Halen in 1984 disappointing their fan base so terribly. You had to be there and I know a lot of you weren't. Many of you who were likely enjoyed the tune in grade school. Enough said.
Don't even come at me with the "Bands progress and you don't so that is your problem" take. "Jump" is a SELL-OUT in every way and it stinks.
What could have been never was because Eddie got greedy and ruined a real rock and roll band. Shame on him and shame on you for digging that song.