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Original members include Prairie Prince, drums; Gregg Rolie, keyboards; Neal Schon, guitar; George Tickner, guitar; and Ross Valory, bass. Later members include Jonathan Cain, keyboards; Aynsley Dunbar, drums; Robert Fleischmann, vocals; Steve Perry, vocals; and Steve Smith, drums. Addresses: Record company--Columbia Records, 2100 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404.
One of the most popular bands of the 1980s, Journey blended power rock rhythms with sentimental balladry. Though often dismissed by critics as purveyors of formulaic and bland "corporate rock," millions of record buyers found Journey's expert musicianship and emotional love songs a refreshing relief from the ultra-hipness that characterized so many rock bands of the time. "The group provided a service--a refuge for those wary of the cool detachment of new wave. Journey's keep-on-believing anthems spoke to more people than any ironic David Byrne lyric did," David Browne wrote in Entertainment Weekly.
Selling more than 15 million records in the United States, Journey had 17 top 40 singles between 1978 and 1986, including "Faithfully," and "Don't Stop Believin'." Joel Selvin, pop music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, called Journey's "Open Arms," the "track that probably did more to invent the modern rock power ballad than any other single."
Artistic and personal differences led to Journey's break-up in early 1987, when the band was still enjoying tremendous success. After nearly a decade apart, Journey reunited to write and record an album of new material, Trial by Fire. Released in October 1996, the album offered Journey's hallmark "power pop" and quickly moved into the top ten. "One of the things we've always known is that there are certain musical directions that fit what (our) chemistry is about. We're going to sink or swim being what we are and not by trying to reinvent ourselves and not by trying to be the flavor of the month," Journey's lead singer Steve Perry explained to Melinda Newman of Billboard magazine.
Journey was founded in San Francisco in 1973 by Walter "Herbie" Herbert, a former road manager for the band Santana. "I wanted to orchestrate another major group in the San Francisco tradition of Jefferson Airplane, Santana or Sly and the Family Stone," Herbert told People in 1981. Calling themselves the Golden Gate Rhythm Section, Herbert's band initially consisted of bassist Ross Valory and keyboardist Gregg Rolie, both ex-Santana members, guitarist George Tickner, and drummer Prairie Prince. Their first gigs were anonymous back-up work for other groups passing through the Bay Area. In December 1973, sporting the new name Journey, the band made its debut at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom.
The first of Journey's many personnel changes came in early 1974 when drummer Prince decided to return to his old band, The Tubes. He was replaced by English-born Aynsley Dunbar who had worked with Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, and John Mayall. Playing a type of instrumentally oriented jazz-rock fusion, Journey quickly became a favorite in the San Francisco area via club dates and local airplay of their demonstration records. In the autumn of 1974, Journey signed a contract with Columbia Records. Their first album, Journey, was released in 1975 and sold about 100,000 copies, largely to Bay Area fans and music industry insiders familiar with the instrumental skills of the individual band members. After completion of the first album, Journey embarked on a lengthy U.S. tour in order to increase its nationwide visibility. After the tour, Tickner left the band to attend medical school. He was not replaced and Journey continued with a single guitarist. Two more albums--Look into the Future, 1975, and Next, 1977--enjoyed larger but still modest sales.
Herbert, who remained the band's manager and guiding force in the 1970s and 1980s, decided Journey would need an overhauling in order to attract a larger following. "Originally, the band was very self- indulgent. A lot of long solo excursions were created specifically to set up Neal Schon for his guitar statements," Herbert told Ben Fong-Torres of Rolling Stone in 1980. Herbert engineered a shift away from instrumental numbers toward vocals. Up to this point, vocalist duties were handled by Gregg Rolie, who, as a member of Santana, had sung such hits as "Black Magic Woman."
In the summer of 1977, Robert Fleischmann, a Denver-based singer recruited by Columbia Records joined the band for its tour as the opening act for Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Fleischmann proved adequate but unexciting. He was soon fired and replaced by Steve Perry, who had sung with the defunct California band Alien Project. Perry's soaring tenor voice, solid songwriting talent, and exuberant on-stage personality were just what Journey needed to smooth out its rough edges. The band's first album with Perry, Infinity, was released in the spring of 1978 and was notably more melodic than earlier Journey efforts. The album was supported with a grueling 171 city tour of North America and Europe, Journey's first as a headlining act. The work paid off and Infinity went to number 23 on the U.S. charts. Three singles from the album--"Wheel in the Sky," "Anytime," and "Lights"--were minor hits.
During the tour problems developed with drummer Dunbar, who was finding it difficult to adapt his free-wheeling playing style to Journey's tighter new material. "He was bored and frustrated with the music," bassist Valory said of Dunbar to People in 1981. Dunbar left the band on bad terms in October 1978 and was replaced by Steve Smith, drummer for Montrose, the opening act of Journey's tour. Dunbar later joined Jefferson Starship. From its beginning, Journey had considered itself a family, with band members, manager, road crew, and other support staff integral parts of a unit. Though Dunbar was considered the more accomplished drummer, Smith fit in better with the band's musical and personal attitude. "The problem with Aynsley was that he was anything but a team player. He was doing anything and everything to look great. And he did," Herbert told Rolling Stone in 1980. Team spirit was a Journey fundamental. Early on the band and its staff incorporated themselves as Nightmare, Inc. and plowed their earnings back into lights, sound equipment, and trucks, a strategy which enabled them to operate with debt-free independence. Having signed with Columbia Records as a corporation, Journey enjoyed a great deal of control over its albums, down to the choice of artwork, and was free to make endorsement and publicity deals without the approval of Columbia. Another Journey rule was no hard drugs; band members steered clear of heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines.
Journey continued on an upward spiral with the albums Evolution (1979) and Departure (1980). Songs from the albums, including "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin," and "Any Way You Want It," broke into the top 20. A double live album, Captured (1980), gave the band its fourth million selling album. A hectic schedule of touring, writing, and recording was too much for keyboardist Gregg Rolie and he left Journey in the spring of 1981. "I'd been on the road for 15 years and it was time to smell the roses," Rolie told People. Rolie was replaced by Jonathan Cain, formerly of The Babys.
Journey hit the top of the charts in September 1981 with Escape, which remained in the top 20 album count for more than a year and eventually sold over nine million copies. The album featured the popular singles "Who's Crying Now?" "Don't Stop Believin'," and the million-selling "Open Arms." Ticket demand put Journey concerts into stadium venues and in 1982, the band pioneered the use of giant video screens to enable fans to see the action on stage. "Our manager had a company put together with us and we sorta guinea pigged that whole system. That was when video was kinda going crazy and everybody was spending money making videos, we thought that the people who deserved to see us were the people that came to our shows," Jonathan Cain said in a 1996 interview with an Atlanta radio station, Star 94.
Though Journey had always prided itself on an easygoing, cooperative attitude, success began to take its toll and egos expanded. The bickering band was able to put together the 1993 album, Frontiers, which was only kept out of the number one spot on the U.S. charts by Michael Jackson's phenomenal Thriller. Singles were "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)," "Faithfully," and "Send Her My Love."
After an enormously successful U.S. tour with Bryan Adams as an opening act, Journey members decided to take some time off to work on independent projects. The most notable of these projects was lead singer Steve Perry's Street Talk, a top selling album of 1984. Perry's music, including the hit singles "Oh, Sherrie" and "Foolish Heart," were hard to distinguish from Journey songs and indicated that the public wanted more Journey.
Journey regrouped in late 1984 to commence work on another album but personality conflicts made progress slow. After several marginally productive months, Smith and Valory were fired from the band, leaving Perry, Schon, and Cain as a three-man operation working with session musicians. Finally released in May 1986, the Raised on Radio album was yet another success. Hit singles were "Be Good to Yourself," "Suzanne," "Girl Can't Help It," and "I'll Be Alright Without You."
Despite continuing success, the members of Journey knew the end was near. After completing a Raised on Radio promotional tour in February 1987, the band went its separate ways. "The constant touring had made me crazy. The road is an addiction, and the audience is the ultimate narcotic. We had been together 10 years, and it was difficult to leave. But I wanted to jump off the merry- go-round before the band drove itself into the ground," Perry told USA Today in 1996. Neal Schon said in the Star 94 interview that "We got burned out, we sorta reached the end of the rope ... when you reach that point and its not fun anymore it's time to give it a rest."
In 1988, Columbia released an extremely popular album of Journey's greatest hits. According to USA Today, the greatest hits album still sells 500,000 copies annually. Meanwhile, former Journey members continued to work in the music industry. Cain and Schon formed the band Bad English with John Waite who had been with Cain in The Babys. Bad English recorded two albums and had hit single with "When I See You Smile" in 1989. Schon also recorded a number of instrumental solo albums, including Beyond the Thunder in 1995 and Late Nite in 1989. Steve Perry released a second solo album, For the Love of Strange Medicine in 1994.
During a promotional tour for his album, Perry, who had not toured with his earlier solo effort, discovered that he enjoyed being a frontman for a band more than being a solo performer. He also noticed the strong audience reaction to the Journey songs included in his act. A severe respiratory problem caused Perry to cut short his tour. While recuperating at home in the Bay Area, Perry was contacted by Columbia Records executives inquiring about the possibility of a Journey reformation. Columbia's interest prompted Perry to phone Cain and the two met at a local coffee shop. "I hadn't talked to him in years ... I said 'Just listen man, before it's too late. For reasons God only knows, there's a lot of people out there who love us, and I saw some of them not too long ago. Maybe it's time to try again," Perry told Billboard.
Perry and Cain then contacted Schon and the three got together to see if they could still write songs as a team. They were not interested in reforming only to revive their old hits. "We figured that if the songs came together and were as honest as the early ones, then we'd have a reason to make an album. We didn't want to resurrect a dream just to put it on life support," Perry told USA Today.
In mid-1995, after Perry, Cain, and Schon came up with some song ideas, Smith and Valory returned to the Journey fold and work commenced on a new album. Tempers occasionally flared in the Marin County, California, studio where the album was recorded but a mellow attitude generally prevailed. Cain told Star 94 that the band members had learned from their past difficulties not to "take a lot of stuff for granted first of all ... Don't take your friendship for granted. If you got something on your mind, come right out with it. It's better to hit people straight on with it. We used to brood, go away and not really confront each other a lot of times." While putting together the new album, Journey hired a new manger, Irving Azoff, who had engineered the successful reunion of The Eagles. "He's done an incredible job with The Eagles, but that didn't have a lot to do with why we picked him. It was more because we all felt overwhelmingly comfortable about working with him," Perry told Billboard.
The reunited Journey released Trial by Fire in October 1996. As in the past, most critics sneered at or gave begrudging praise to Journey's work but the public responded enthusiastically. The new album quickly went to the number three spot on the U.S. charts, which is not surprising since Journey had retained many of its old fans. The band's fan club, Journey Force, had remained active until 1993, six years after Journey itself had broken up, and a core of diehard followers still puts out a monthly newsletter called Faithful Ones News. Also, frequent airplay of Journey songs on adult oriented or "classic" rock radio stations over the years had provided the band with new fans.
Some commentators have attributed the success of the returned Journey to disenchantment with tougher-edged grunge and "alternative" sounds. "Is it just a coincidence that ten years later Journey is back--and selling millions of records alongside Celine Dion, Toni Braxton, Kenny G and other decidedly non-grunge acts--as alternative music slips off the charts and back into relative obscurity?" wrote Lee-Anne Goodman of the Calgary Herald. Journey's Schon agrees, telling Goodman--"I think people are ready for anything that's going to lighten their lives, take some of the darkness out of it, put a smile on their face and not make them want to run out and shoot up heroin."
by Mary Kalfatovic
Founded in San Fransisco, CA, 1973; released debut album Journey, 1975; released Infinity (first album with vocalist Steve Perry), 1978; disbanded, 1987; reunited, 1995; released Trial by Fire, 1996.
- Selective Works
- Albums Journey, 1975.
- Look to the Future, 1976.
- Next, 1977.
- Infinity, 1978.
- Evolution, 1979.
- In the Beginning, 1980.
- Departure, 1980.
- Captured, 1981.
- Escape, 1981.
- Frontiers, 1983.
- Raised on Radio, 1986.
- Greatest Hits, 1988.
- Trial by Fire, 1996.
- Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton. The Encyclopedia of Rock Stars.
- New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1996.
- Periodicals Billboard Magazine, October 5, 1996.
- Calgary Herald, February 21, 1997.
- Entertainment Weekly, October 25, 1996, p.114.
- People, October 12, 1981, p.141-145; November 18, 1996, p.25.
- Rolling Stone, June 1, 1978, p.22; June 12, 1980. p.8-10.
- San Francisco Chronicle, December 13, 1992, p.53.
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 17, 1997.
- USA Today, November 12, 1996.
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