The newest Journey album, Raised On Radio, is a back-to-basics endeavour for the band which has pared down from a fivesome to a trio: Steve Perry, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain. Not only did Journey have the battle of the band that struggle that brought them to their current line-up but each individual member fought a personal battle of his own in the last year. Steve Perry lost his mother to a long, debilitating illness; Jonathan Cain went through a painful divorce. Steve's solo success had also raised questions about Journey's survival as a band; but despite all this, the band plays on.
Maybe it was the enforced introspection that inspired Journey to keep it simple and that very simplicity dictated that Journey be one of the first bands in the video age not to make a video for any of the songs off of the new album. They wanted to remember good old rock'n'roll, its marriage to imagination, and their own sweet youth when the music came from the radio, not the tube!
FACES: Let's start by talking about the album, the concept Raised On Radio. How did all that come about?
JONATHAN: We wanted to look at the roots of all of our different inspirations, I think, and we wanted to make an album that sort of included those things, blues, and Motown, and rock'n'roll, and the different elements that we had sort of grown up with, and Raised On Radio was just kind of an accidental title that we came up with, and it became a concept, as we started writing.
FACES: Meaning that radio was the place where all those inspirations came from?
JONATHAN: Exactly. I mean, when we grew up we didn't have videos to look at. The only place to get our source of musical information was from the radio; the car radio, on the beach with a transistor. That's where we first heard the songs that changed our lives.
FACES: But then you seem to have taken it a step beyond a musical concept, and actually made is a career concept - no videos.
STEVE: We don't want a director to come in and tell us what to do. We write the songs and we have a certain image of what the song's about, and we want you to have a certain amount of freedom to adapt that song to your own life as you see it, not as someone else sees it, and visual impressions are very powerful. As far as the director coming in and saying "I've got this great idea, I've got some smoke and a few caves, you're going to love it," no, I don't think so.
JONATHAN: You have to understand that when you're in a position like we are, they try to sell you directors and producers, and it's like a blind date, there are no guarantees. It's your career, and these songs are very special to you. Anyway, we're not actors, we're musicians, and sensitive musicians, and we just didn't feel like we needed to get into that.
FACES: Do you feel that the advent of video has destroyed the imagination that a listener brings to music?
STEVE: I think in some cases, more often than not, yes. It becomes a fantasy which is seen through someone else's eyes. I think that one great thing about radio is that it creates a mystery. It really creates its own mystique, and it gives you the availability to fantasize, and I think music is basically that way too, and radio projects that image; some videos do not. Some visuals destroy the availability for you to have that song be something you particularly see in it. Because you've seen it, from that point on when you hear the song, you are burned into that visual. So to protect that, I think you have to be very careful.
FACES: So the theatre of the mind remains intact.
STEVE: Yeah, the theatre of the mind that's a good way to put it is still free.
FACES: We talked about how radio influenced you because it brought you so many musical ideas. But can you tell us a little bit more about growing up, the kind of radio you listened to, and what it meant to you at that time?
STEVE: Well, I was raised in the central Joaquin Valley of California, and, in fact, there is a radio station in my hometown that looks just like the cover, two towers like that, and that radio station meant everything, because that was where I got the connection of the top tunes that were circulating around the world. I got exposed to an awful lot of music through that station, that still lives with me now; and the mystery of those artists is still intact in my mind, that theatre of the mind is still there.
FACES: Speaking of the beginnings of rock'n'roll, why are the Everly Brothers particularly thanked on the album?
STEVE: The Everly Brothers, personally, are friends of mine. I just love the Everly Brothers for their quality of music, and songs that they used to have. They really were the Beatles until the Beatles came along, and the Beatles took their sound, and will admit it. Lennon and McCartney took the two-part harmony and the writing capability, and turned it just a little bit more English, and absolutely took over their slot at that point. The reason I personally thanked them on the album was because my mother was very ill at that point, when we were doing the album, we flew her to the Everly Brothers' concert in Lake Tahoe, and they dedicated a song to her; and it was called "Dream", and it's one of my favourites, and she started crying, so I just want to thank them.
FACES: Do you think your own music is less heavy this time?
JONATHAN: I think it's just more streamlined this time, it's leaner and it has more song quality. We're still Journey, by all the sounds, I mean, it still sounds like a Journey record to me, but I think, we did try some definite blues things, some R&B, things that are another kind of a groove for us, y'know, where we wanted to try something a little bit different.
FACES: You said it still sounds like a Journey record. What does a Journey record sound like?
JONATHAN: Well, I think it has lots of colour to it, lots of personality to it. You have the obvious identities in the band that are present and heard, y'know, with Steve's voice and with Neal's playing, and the lyrics, and the whole concept of the sound, makes Journey.
FACES: Why is this record rated ROR?
STEVE: (Laughs) Raised On Radio is a radio-oriented record. I mean, we just totally tried to protect the theatre of the mind, to make a radio-oriented record, with fantasies.
FACES: Steve, why did you produce the album? I read that it was a real conscious decision.
STEVE: It was. We had a meeting, and everybody was really pushing for me to do it because they liked what I did with my solo album, so, I went ahead and produced it. It really was a group decision, and it really more or less protected the value of letting everybody else have their production ideas involved too. Because if there wasn't someone in the band producing the album, I'm sure the producer would have changed the group. I'm sure he would have stuck his brand on it. So at least the rest of the guys had a chance to be producers and involved in production ideas, if one of the members of the band was protecting the right to do so.
FACES: What does that do ego-wise when one member of the band has that much influence?
JONATHAN: I don't think it had that much ego involved, I think the responsibility did get to Steve eventually, and, he even threw his hands up in the air a couple of times, and it was hard. We all had to adjust and learn the roles that we had to play, as supporter, and pipe-in with your things "You're the producer, well, what are you telling me what to do?" We had to kind of get all of this together, choreography-wise. Once we got it together, it was a smooth machine, and it operated real well.
FACES: Now that you've pared down from five members to three, is it more streamlined, more compact?
JONATHAN: It has its problems now. I don't think there is any Utopia situation. A band's always going to be a band, and even if it's only three of us, it's still a band, and it still has its sticky moments.
FACES: Everyone says you've helped to redefine the Bay Area sound. Do you think you have?
STEVE: I think that there's a lot of groups that define the Bay Area sound. I think we're just one more group that helped colour the whole thing in. We're just trying to be what we are and stand by it
FACES: What is the Bay Area sound?
JONATHAN: It's rhythm, it's like the Jefferson Starship from my recollection of the Bay Area, the Santana thing, y'know, the sort of jamming, wild, reckless abandon kind of thing. It was just more of that kind of like Haight-Ashbury days.
FACES: It's changed a lot in the '80s. I think that was real identifiable.
JONATHAN: That will never change, though, I mean, that's history.
FACES: Since you grew up here, you just have that in your blood?
STEVE: I don't think you have to grow up here, I mean, you just have to be around here, something happens. It's in the water. (laughs)
JONATHAN: There's a lot of magic here for music, and you just need to plug in.
FACES: Steve, after the incredible success of your solo album, what made you decide to do another Journey record?
STEVE: Well, Jon called me on the phone, and said there were unfinished songs that weren't written. And, it can't be over yet, because there seems to be too much of a creative drive, and, basically, that was some of the reasoning; but mainly, my mother was very ill, as I mentioned earlier, and she could barely speak at all, and I posed it to her, I said, "I'm dumb-founded which way to go; what would you do?" And she said she'd do another Journey album, basically, and so that's why we got together and why we did a Journey album.
JONATHAN: God bless Mary.
FACES: What's the future for this group? Is there going to be another album?
STEVE: Probably so. I mean, at this point, we're just trying to be what we are, and stand by it, and go on the road and enjoy ourselves. I mean, this pre-time, making the album, rehearsing the show, getting it ready, building the stage, getting our crew designed, all that getting it done has been time-consuming, and a very, very emotional strain. The fun part now is just to go on the road and play, but that's where everything comes from first. So that's what we're looking forward to first before we think of anything else.
© Faces Rocks, March 1987, Captain Jack Publications, Inc.
Laura "Legs" Gross
Faces Rocks, March 1987