"Independently, I believe that everybody is as strong as the Journey thing. But independently there's an opportunity to just go and do something, or maybe it's easier for Neal (Schon) to hook up with somebody else. But when you put us in the same room together there are times when we have to compromise and collaborate. This is what a group is all about." So much for the best laid plans of men...
It was about 18 months ago that Steve Perry spoke those words - in these very pages. Since then, and since his solo record and the last Journey album, Perry's band has been diminished by two players leaving Jonathan Cain, Neal Schon and Perry. The split was seemingly an amicable one, with Steve Smith pursuing his jazz interests. Smith already has a couple of all-jazz albums under his own name. Then Ross Valory decided that he'd had enough of life on the road and wanted to pack it up. The result, claims Cain, is a "Journey as strong as it's ever been," and an album that is "a blend of all the different things that influenced us over the years."
Raised On Radio is the collective result of the labour of the remaining Journey trio. It is, as the name implies, a tribute to radio and the effect it's had on every rock and roller. Says Perry, "radio has played a major role in all of our lives and we just thought it was time to acknowledge the fact." One way the band has done that is to collect most of the most important radio hits of the past 20 or so years and string their titles together to come up with the title track, "Raised on Radio".
If you've been following the meteoric rise of Journey over the last 10 years, you probably know the story. The group was not founded by one of the band members, rather by Herbie Herbert who remains the band's manager and business mentor. At the start Herbert envisioned a sort of "filet" of studio bands when he had collected former Santana members Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie and two studio handymen, Aynsley Dunbar and Ross Valory. They saw something more and recorded three albums under their new moniker, Journey. In 1978 they brought Steve Perry on board to do the vocals on
Infinity. Along with Perry came platinum albums, hit songs, hordes of sweaty young girls and stardom. Dunbar hit the bricks with the Evolution album to be replaced by Steve Smith. These two records were followed by the release of Departure, Escape and
Frontiers. Plainly speaking, the band had more trophies than shelves to put them on. With Raised On Radio, the beat goes on.
What is it about Journey that keeps them ticking? According to their manager, "Journey is not a novel band. It's not like flame-throwers and special effects and novelty items., The bottom line is that they're great singers and songwriters and players and performers. What we do it try and use our theatrical knowledge to enhance and complement that. And we try to give our audience the best show possible. We keep our feet on the street and try to determine who are the most viable up and coming talents. At one time we thought Styx was and they were our opening act and so was Thin Lizzy. Van Halen's first tour that they ever did nationwide was as an opening act to Journey. And on and on."
Herbert continues, "they're consummate professionals. I realise that a lot of the fans look up there and they go 'that's all fun and no work.' There's probably more pressure in contemporary music than there is in any other form of entertainment. I think everybody's pretty aware how the entertainment business in general makes everybody pretty crazy. You have rampant problems with drugs and breakdowns in the home. In rock and roll, every night you have to go on stage and play the best show of your life. If Burt Reynolds has a headache, 'let's not shoot today.' You can't do that in rock and roll. These guys train for platinum just like athletes."
Steve Perry also has some strong feelings about the group that gave him his start. "I'm real fortunate to have been in the band Journey. I started with them in '78, they gave me a chance to express myself on vinyl as a vocalist, as a writer, as a part of the group. They had already had things going for a long time but we've helped each other all the way along. It's been a real collaboration to this point." Are things different now, after the biggest shake up in the band's history? Even Perry says, "change one ingredient and the whole thing changes, in anything. When you take one ingredient out of something it's gonna be different."
In addition to a change in the Journey rhythm section, there's a noticeable difference on Raised On Radio in the songwriting and musicianship. Says Cain, "it's a blend of all the different things that have influenced us over the years. It's probably the closest thing to a roots album for us, although we're exploring some new territories and sounds."
The major change on Raised On Radio is the role of Steve Perry as the producer. Explains Perry, "it wasn't like some people thought, 'Steve's coming back into Journey to change things.' We were concerned that other producers might try and change the band's sound and I was for making it sound like Journey. I think the album reflects that. The group itself has changed a lot because now we have the freedom to use different rhythm sections with any song Neal, Jon and I write. That gave us a more creative direction and freedom, but it was also a challenge all its own. Sure, it's been a real challenge for us, but I'm extremely happy that it turned out sounding like Journey. I mean, it really does, even with the change, I feel really good about it."
Journey's been through as many changes as any band. From one platinum records to the next, one thing remains consistent, their press. Herbie Herbert describes it this way, "it's a love-hate relationship. The press is a third party endorsement of what you do, or a third party slander. A nice picture, spell the name right and say what you will. If you get panned in Rolling Stone it means imminent platinum success?! I would be honest if I was a journalist but I wouldn't needlessly take shots. The press is so out of touch. The one I like is from David Lee Roth who every now and then says something intelligent, 'you know why the critics love Elvis Costello? Because all the critics look like Elvis Costello!' It doesn't hurt us and there are guys who really go out of their way. They say these bad things, 'music to take drugs by', 'Steve Perry reminds me of seal torture!!' C'mon, give me a break. He's a fine and sincere artist. Just say you don't like it!"
"Let the music do the talkin'" would seem to sum up how Journey has thrived in the face of put-downs and worse. The critics have never been able to get a handle on Journey's enormous success, but the fans have. And that's been the band's vindication. Why has the band been so successful? Herbert gets the final word, "I don't stand for any of the drugs or anything like that. Now if you're wired...you're fired! Smoke a reefer, have a beer, but don't be doing heroin or coke, amyl nitrate or any of that nonsense. What happens if you go up on stage hyped up on crack and then you go and get more hyped up for the show and then you go out to dinner and you get high and then it's seven in the morning and you're staring at the cracks in the ceiling grinding your teeth and the road manager calls and says, 'be down in the lobby in ten.' You can only take so much of that. What happens if Steve Perry gets ill and can't do three Meadowlands shows? It only involves $750,000 these kids have paid out. The concept here is, let's be responsible to our fans. No white knuckle ride for me. I want it to be smooth and comfortable. Let's be good to these people, they've been awfully good to us!"
© Song Hits, October 1986, Charlton Publications Inc.
"And Then There Were Three"
Journey Rocks On
By: Rich Sutton
Song Hits, October 1986