Judge Wapner is Back! 80s Court – Journey

Post image for Judge Wapner is Back! 80s Court – Journey

by Jason Gross @SockofFleagulls

in Music, The 80s

After a long recess, the 80s Court is back in session and ready for another case of musical divorce. This time, we’ll take a look back at the “journey” of an American rock band and their “evolution” into arena rock gods.

The “departure” of Journey for almost 10 years between the late 80s and early 90s left fans with questions. Then in 1995, after a reunion, a new record, a top 20 hit, and a highly anticipated world tour, fans with “open arms” were left embracing a different Steve…Steve Augeri.

Longtime lead singer Steve Perry was left between a rock climbing accident and a hard-placed band, eager to satisfy its fans. I’ll admit, as your honorable 80s Court judge, I almost had to recuse myself from this case being an avid fan. But when I asked my bailiff Rusty to preside over the Journey case, his response was “only if Brendon Fraser and The Rock” are on trial. So I guess you are stuck with me and…


“The Case of the Separated Ways”

The Background

San Francisco was the setting for the band originally called the “Golden Gate Rhythm Section.” Guitarist Neal Schon and keyboard player Greg Rolie, previously of the rock band Santana, came together to form a new band with bassist Ross Valory, guitarist George Tickner, and drummer Prairie Prince in 1973. The original concept of the band was to serve as a backing band for established SF bay area recording artists. Prairie Prince, who was also the drummer for the Tubes, rejoined his group shortly after their first public appearance. British drummer Ansley Dunbar was then hired and newly named Journey had a lineup set to record their first album.

Rolie was the initial lead singer of the group. After two unsuccessful albums, Dunbar, Schon, and Valory took singing lessons to put harmony behind Rolie voice. The third album was still not a success. In 1977, Robert Fleischman was hired to share lead vocals with Rolie. Management differences between Fleischman and the band paved the way for the hiring of lead singer Steve Perry and breakthrough success. Perry’s vocals took Journey’s 4th album to #21 and charted two singles, “Wheel in the Sky” and “Lights.”

Their 5th album would peak at #20 and also yield their first top 20 hit, “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.” Journey would explore new “frontiers” on the charts from 1980-86, which included 5 consecutive albums in the top 10. During the peak of their popularity, the band was filling up NFL stadiums, some with over 80,000 capacities. Budweiser hired them to do radio commercials and two video games were also released using the band’s likeness. But success came with a price. After taking some time off after the ’83 tour, Journey returned to record a new album in 1986, leaving original member Valory and drummer Steve Smith looking for work. Studio musicians Larrie Londin and future American Idol judge Randy Jackson were hired as replacements.

After releasing the “Raised on the Radio” album and the ’87 tour finished up, nine years would pass before fans would hear Journey on Top 40 stations again. “When You Love a Woman” was a breath of fresh air to fans that were choking on compilation albums (3 were released in those 9 years.) With a hit single and top 5 album, Journey planned a world tour in 1997, but a hiking accident in Hawaii left Perry in the hospital contemplating surgery. After struggling with going under the knife and hesitation to even reunite with the band in ’96, Schon and Cain decided they couldn’t wait for Perry any longer. Steve Augeri was hired in 1998 and would record and tour with the band for 10 years. After Augeri developed vocal problems, Arnel Pineda was hired in 2007 in true “Rock Star” style. Schon first saw him on YouTube covering Journey songs and remains the lead singer until this day.


The Evidence

The success of Journey during the Steve Perry years is iconic among American rock bands. Lifetime sales include over 80 million albums and even in the iPod era, “Don’t Stop Believin’” remains the best-selling track in iTunes history (thanks in part to the Sopranos.) Since the band has been without Perry, they’ve done pretty well, which includes two top 15 albums in the past four years.

Perry had a successful solo career while still with Journey. In 1984, he cracked the top 20 twice with “Oh, Sherrie” and “Foolish Heart” and in 1994 “You Better Wait” was a top 30 hit. He appeared with his fellow band mates during their Hollywood Walk of Fame induction ceremony in 2005 and has hinted as recent as 2010 that he’s been writing and interested in releasing another solo project in the future.


The Verdict

It’s hard not to look at this case and think Perry was left in the dust. But where do you draw the line? Journey still obviously has their musical talent and is capable of producing hit records and successful tours. So can you blame them for wanting to continue and play their music? The real question is, did they cross the line moving on and not waiting for Perry? In this court’s opinion, yes.

God bless Journey and what they are doing now with Pineda. He’s got a great voice. But to me, it’s like divorcing your wife for a woman 20 years younger. Now, I don’t know if Perry is collecting alimony royalty checks (which he should), but something just doesn’t sit right with me. When you see a 50-year-old divorced man with a 25-year-old girlfriend, don’t you think “if they are okay with it, that’s cool. Good for him!” But don’t we also have in the back of our minds, “she’s either a gold digger or he wasn’t committed to his first wife.” I mean, what if Aerosmith got together and found a kid on YouTube to replace Steven Tyler. His replacement would most definitely sound better at this point, but wouldn’t you feel like you were cheating on rock-n-roll history?

Finally, “the Voice” of Journey has seemingly been replaced, which many thought was not possible in the 80s. I’m sure with all the people on this planet, you could find someone to hit just about any note and with a little training, could mimic even Elvis or Michael Jackson. But to me, Journey with Pineda is just not original. Yeah, you can put out new albums and write new songs, but at the end of the day, aren’t you just a band that is trying to sound like Journey with Perry? The 80s court rules in favor of Steve Perry….case closed!!


Disagree with the verdict? No, contempt of court here! Let me know if you have some evidence that you’d like to submit for either side in the comments section!


Jason Gross is a child of the 80s and loves to subject his two sons to cartoons, TV, movies, and music from the decade. Currently promoting a M.A.S.K. live-action movie script (co-writer), he also enjoys freelance writing about 80s music & pop culture. His background includes radio broadcasting and B2B direct marketing. Follow Jason on Twitter @SockOfFleagulls and check out Rediscover the 80s!



{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Corey Chapman (@chapmanrunner) May 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Another great case Jason. I agree with the courts decision. They should have waited for Perry.

And I would say The Sopranos finale is the ONLY reason that “Dont Stop Believin” has new life! The finale was 2007, and it was a top 100 download in 2008 & 2009. It was an iconic scene thats been spoofed hundreds of times since. To this day, when the song comes on the radio, I picture that scene, forgetting it was such a huge hit in the 80s.


Jason May 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm

You’re probably not the only one who thinks that.

Hard not to side with Perry. I know Journey has been selling new albums over the past 15 years…just don’t know a single soul that owns one. Most of the people I know stopped buying them in 1996.


Brian Morin May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I totally agree with the court in this case. To me Journey with Steve Perry > Journey in any other form. I still think of the left at the alter scene in The Wedding Singer when I hear Don’t Stop Believin.


Jason May 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Nice reference. I think of Caddyshack and the stereo in Dangerfield’s golf bag when I hear “Any Way You Want It.”


Lamar the Revenger May 21, 2012 at 8:35 pm

I saw Journey with Cheap Trick & Heart few years ago. Pineda was PERFECT.


Jason G May 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm

I don’t doubt it. Glad they are able to keep their hits from the 80s alive. He sounds great from what I’ve heard too, but seems a little weird to me.


Eric Bourgeois May 22, 2012 at 9:00 am

Perry doesn’t want to work anymore. Journey does. There was a Journey before Perry and a Journey after.

If Perry had resumed creating new music and touring you could make a case that Journey should have waited. But they knew he wasn’t going to do anything and they have a right to make a living. And in this case, their living means hundreds of thousands fans like me get to see Journey live and hear new music Mr. Perry would have otherwise kept from us.


Howie Decker May 22, 2012 at 9:24 am

Great point.


Jason May 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm

That is a good point, but if it wasn’t for Perry we probably wouldn’t be discussing right now. I don’t blame them for moving on and continuing to tour, but it’s not like people are buying a ticket to hear the new music with Pineda…people are buying tickets to hear Pineda keep the songs sung by Perry alive.
If Journey’s success had been more significant in the past 10 or so years, I’d definitely be on their side. That’s just my opinion though.
Thanks for the comment!


AJ May 22, 2012 at 10:25 am

I am sorry, but you do not have nearly enough evidence to make this verdict!! The band waited 8 years, then another 2. Perry was NEVER going to tour with them….EVER!!! His voice couldn’t handle it! Perry’s agenda for doing Trial By Fire was to get Sony off his back for not fulfilling his contract, and to squash the reunion that was already getting under way with a different singer at that time (Kevin Chalfant).

He may have needed hip replacement surgery, but that was just his way out. Period! If he wanted to be a part of Journey, he would have been. It is still true today. Trust me, I would love to see him sing with Journey again, but he can’t, and he won’t!

Sorry but this crap bugs me!! Journey would be dead if the guys who actually want to work were sitting around doing nothing. Neal and Jonathan did what they had to do to keep the band alive…move on without him! And I (and many others) are darn glad they did!


Lisa W May 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm

And yet they keep the door OPEN for Perry because they know any MAJOR success they might have is dependent on him.


AJ May 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Of course they do. I totally agree with that statement. My comment is based on them moving on without him. I’d be the first one in line for tickets if he returned, but based on past experience, it will never happen. I am just happy they are out there touring and keeping the music alive and making new music for us die hards! If it were based on Perry’s involvement, Journey would be dead. At least now they have a pulse…albeit a faint one.


Jason May 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Ouch, touched a nerve! You might by right AJ, about Perry being the main reason for the 8 year absence, but why did the other members go into other projects like Bad English? Why didn’t they pressure Perry to leave then if he did have an agenda instead of the band showing signs of moving on from Journey themselves? I believe they all might have needed a break and wanted to leave it open for all to comeback.

To be honest, if I were Journey in ’96, I probably would have done the same and left Perry behind. I haven’t watched all the documentaries, but from what I read there are opinions on both sides (as their usually is.) I don’t really buy into what Perry’s been quoted about “not feeling included” either, but my main point for siding with him is its seems Journey is Steve Perry tribute band now. Don’t you feel that at all?

One question I have for you and/or people that are glad that Journey is still around…are you glad because the albums since Trial By Fire are great OR are you glad because you get to hear the hits original sung by Perry live? I think most would say the latter which just doesn’t make sense to me.
If Journey really wants to keep playing for the sake of playing, then good for them. But if I want to hear their hits, I’ll put on their greatest hits cd.

Appreciate the comment! Love hearing both sides of the debate!


Eric Bourgeois May 22, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Steve Perry was only 1/3 of the writing team and only 1/5 of the band at any one time – and not even a founder. And he wasn’t even the chief architect on many of the songs. Its hardly Steve Perry Tribute band.

I enjoy hearing the hits (who else is gonna do them justice?), I really enjoy hearing deep cuts….but if they didn’t keep releasing new music I wouldn’t still be a fan. They are an active entity. If they just went out and opened for someone and did 10-12 hits – I wouldn’t respect that. But they are a clear dominant headliner and with the exception of a few years (including last year) they do a nice job mixing hits with deep cuts and new tunes.


Jason May 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Eric, all valid points on Perry, but once he became the voice, the band took off. Hard for me not to take that into account.
I haven’t been to a recent show, so I don’t know how much time they spend on playing more recent songs versus songs when Perry was with them. If they are mixing new and old as you say, I can respect that.


Eric Bourgeois May 23, 2012 at 11:54 am

They don’t play enough new for me – especially last year. But most bands with a big greatest hits selection find it difficult to play new songs. The casual folks comprising the large majority of the sheds want to hear the hits. But this would be happening even if Perry were in the band.

I respect them for releasing now 5 albums Post-Perry and playing between 2-6 songs a night off the new album each tour.

AJ May 23, 2012 at 11:59 am

Good question. I would have to say both. I love going to see them live, although I must say their shows have become quite familiar over the years. I’d like to see them shake things up a bit more by playing deeper cuts and more new songs more often, but I also know that will cause a whole lotta “potty breaks” and “beer runs” for the majority of the fans that only came to hear the hits. I enjoy all of the new music they put out and have several songs since ’98 on regular rotation on my iPod along side the Perry era songs. I understand Journey would not be anywhere near where they are without Perry’s voice, but since he has no interest in singing again, and quite frankly, held up the band for nearly 10 years, I am glad they moved on without him. I enjoy the songs played by the people that created them…just like I enjoyed watching Perry sing them with 4 different people on stage with him during his solo tour in ’94.

Neal and the boys moved on to do Bad English and other projects in hopes that one day Steve would come back and sing with Journey. They know, as we all do, that the best possibility for them to be successful would be to have him at the mic. That’s why they dumped Chalfant so quickly (and Rolie subsequently quit again) when Perry came back to do Trial by Fire. When Steve decided he was not going to tour using the hip problem as his excuse, they decided it was time to try to move on without him. I hated the idea at first, but was glad they did because they kept their music alive and continued to make new music.

Is it strange to see someone else up there singing Perry’s songs? It was in ’98, but not anymore. The man at the mic now is doing an outstanding job keeping those songs alive. Much more than I could say if having a Perry-fronted Journey since ’98 was the only option, because it would not have existed.


SharePointJoe May 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

The Family guy version of Don’t Stop Believin is pretty epic. It’s no Steve Perry but it’ll do.


Howie Decker May 23, 2012 at 11:23 am

LOVE how many comments there are on this post – think we’ve discovered that Journey is a raw nerve for a lot of children of the 80s!


AJ May 23, 2012 at 1:01 pm

We are easily the most passionate bunch of fans that you can find!! Despite what side of the Perry/Schon feud you might be on, there is no doubt we are all bound together by the love of the music they created together!


Jason May 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Well said, AJ. Whole-heartedly agree.


Howie Decker May 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm



S July 27, 2012 at 11:36 am

There was a musician who had not had success and was getting by working at his family’s chickenfarm who got a call from an run-of-the-mill Bay area band who played guitar heavy songs to small male dominated audiences. Then this chickenfarmer gets a call to add his melodic, high-pitched, crooner tones to the Bay area band; Journey the arena mega-hit group is born. Journey is Steve Perry. I think this is a win/win because post-Perry this was all just performing platinum hits as much as possible for additional revenues; and the band moved forward.


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