Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

JOURNEY

U.S. AOR band formed in San Francisco '73 by Neal Schon (b 1955, San Mateo CA),a  guitarist influenced by Cream-era Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, who allegedly turned down an offer from Clapton at age 16 to spend two years with Santana '71-3. The original lineup included Ross Valory on bass (ex-Frumious Bandersnatch, b 1950, San Francisco), Prairie Prince (b 7 May 1950, Charlotte SC) on drums, George Tickner, guitar. Prince left to play with the Tubes, Tickner left rock; replaced by much-travelled UK drummer Aynsley Dunbar, ex-Santana Gregg Rolie (b 1948), keyboards. Rolie's singing and songwriting were crucial, but neither he nor Schon were great vocal shakes, as LP Journey '75 indicated with an emphasis on instrumentals. Look Into The Future and Next '76-7 broached the top 100 USA LPs, but the band still needed a frontman: the first choice Robert Fleischmann was ditched for Steve Perry (b 1949, Hanford CA) who, together with ace producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen etc), propelled Infinity '78 to no. 21.

The once 'progressive' band went overtly commercial, peddling competent, uninspired AOR that Americans lapped up; Dunbar fled to Jefferson Starship, crying sellout; the band with new drummer Steve Smith (graduate of Berklee) cried all the way to the bank with platinum albums Evolution '79, Departure '80, live two-disc Captured '81. The road-weary Rolie quit, replaced by ex-Babys keyboardist Jonathan Cain, from Chicago; Escape '81 was a no. 1 LP USA, spawned video game Journey-Escape, mega-hit singles including top five 'Who's Crying Now', 'Open Arms'. Frontiers '83 had four top 40 singles; Perry, Smith and Schon also pursued separate projects: Schon made LPs with Jan Hammer, Sammy Hagar; Perry did the best with solo Street Talk '84, three hits including no. 3 'Oh Sherrie'.

Wringing out every dollar, Columbia anthologized less successful early LPs as In The Beginning '79. Polished, harmonious, guitar-based, squeaky-clean with just a touch of macho, Journey epitomized everything about radio AOR that fans love and opponents detest; it is hard to disagree with Pete Frame (Rock Family Trees), who observed that 'A single record like ''Louie Louie'' ... probably had more influence on the development of rock than Journey's entire output.' After Raised On Radio '86 Smith left. Schon, Perry, Valory, Cain and Smith re-formed '96 for Trial By Fire '96; their Greatest Hits album was still said to be selling 6,000 copies a week in the USA in the late 1990s.

Perry left in 1998, and he and the band are no longer speaking. The band's 'Don't Stop Believin' ' (from Escape) was heard on the last episode of the hit HBO series The Sopranos in 2007,  and was a top ten Billboard hit in 2009 when the cast of the TV show Glee covered it. It was one of the top-selling songs of all time on iTunes, and the band were still touring in 2011, with Schon, Cain, drummer Deen Castronovo (from Bad English, etc) and vocalist Arnel Pineda, from the Philippines, discovered by Schon singing Journey's songs on YouTube. Their albums Revelation 2008 and Eclipse 2011 were still big hits.