Saturday, November 29, 2008

What Really Happened with Journey?

This is a mystery that’s never really been solved and is straight out of a dime store detective novel. Journey was a group at the height of their popularity that self-destructed going down in an incredible flame out but to this day many fans still wonder just what went wrong. Sure there’s been a lot of supposition but even thought the band itself has addressed this issue it always feels like something has either been left out or plain left unsaid. Using interviews, word of mouth, modern science, a slide rule, a smattering of innuendo and my extensive imagination I will try to clear up the foggy mess that has been left behind and make it clear for everyone to understand just what I think happened.

It has been documented that guitarist Neal Schon wanted Journey to rock more while vocalist Steve Perry wanted the group to continue down the path of ballads and mid tempo songs that he had been leading them on. This was an extremely successful path I might add. Every band will have arguments which normally lead to creativity and better songs and such was the case here. People tend to forget that Journey could flat out rock and they proved it with songs like Stone In Love and Any Way You Want It. In 1983 during the bands downtime Schon decided to flex his rock muscles with a side project called H.S.A.S. The acronym stood for the band members last names: vocalist Sammy Hagar, Neal Schon on guitars, bassist Kenny Aaronson and drummer Michael Shrieve. They recorded a mostly live album at the end of that year that featured the song Top of the Rock and a cover of A Whiter Shade of Pale and briefly toured in 1984. Keep in mind that this was music that did not fit with the direction Journey was going in nevertheless Schon felt he needed to get it out there.

Now Steve Perry has also stated in an interview that he felt like this was a distraction and that Schon should have been focusing on the band. So he did the natural thing of course and recorded his own solo album. It featured the ballads Oh Sherrie (which was an ode to his girlfriend who broke up with him not too much later) and Foolish Heart, both songs sounding remarkably like Journey songs. Oh Sherrie shot to # 3 and Foolish Heart went to # 18 on the charts. I believe this was Steve Perry letting Neal Schon and the rest of the band know that he didn’t need them to do Journey. He could and would do it on his own if he felt like it. The point was made and Schon lost control of the group that he had co-founded. Perry promptly sacked bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith and replaced them with session players (most notably Randy Jackson) as the band recorded the album Raised on Radio in 1986. Although the band had several hits and reached # 4 something was clearly missing. Perry’s mother was ill while the album was recorded and he was away for periods of time which made everything more difficult. After the tour the band members decided they were through and Perry ended up taking a break.

He would not release another solo album until 1994. In 1996 the popular lineup of Journey re-united and recorded the cd Trial By Fire. While preparing for a world tour Perry suffered a hip injury and decided to wait on surgery thereby postponing the tour and losing all momentum that they had built. The rest of the group grew tired of waiting and decided they would continue on without him which upset Perry tremendously. By now Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain were now leading the bands direction. This desire to keep it going would later affect Perry’s replacement Steve Augeri who developed vocal problems and was out of the group in 2006. He was replaced by Jeff Scott Soto who did not sound enough like Perry and the fans let the band know about it. He was gone in a blink of the eye, barely lasting a little over half a year. That brings us to Journey’s current vocalist Arnel Pineda who sounds extremely close to Perry while maintaining his own identity. The band released a stellar double cd with him in 2008, Revelation, which went platinum and headlined a sold out tour with Cheap trick and Heart.

So there you have it. My opinion on what really happened to this once and now current great band. There’s been too much of hurt feelings, pain and head-butting over control of the direction of the band. For those of you who dream of the day that Steve Perry will return to the fold and once again man the helm of Journey I say quit dreaming and forget about it. It will not happen for a long time if ever. Neal Schon has regained control of his group and will not let go of it again and Steve Perry will require complete control to once again be a part of this great group. I don’t see this happening now and perhaps never. But that’s okay. I’ll still pay to see Arnel lead the band as long as they continue to have something to offer the fans. I’ve seen them with Perry and Augeri and just missed the chance to see them this past summer with Arnel. But that’s story for another day.

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