By Contributing Pencilstorm Writer, Wal Ozello
This coming Friday night, April 7, Journey will finally earn their rightful seat in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, the controversy around whether or not former front man Steve Perry will be in attendance has overshadowed the importance of this band in Rock history. (Also... how about no word of all the other players including founding member Gregg Rolie?)
Much like their hometown Golden Gate Bridge spans across the bay and connects San Francisco to Sausalito, Journey effectively connected 70's Classic Rock to 80's Power Rock. Rooted in the San Francisco sounds of bands like Santana with a thick mix of blues, rock and jazz, Journey evolved over the years with different members much like their fellow 2017 inductee: Yes.
You can still hear their classic rock roots on their earlier albums like Infinity, Evolution and even Departure. Listen to the 70's feel in the chord structure, guitar and rhythm sections in both these songs, while the 80's feel of power rock can be felt emerging from the melody and keyboards.
Where the band begins to push the synthesizer and arena rock envelope is in their much more successful albums, Escape and Frontiers. Here in Separate Ways is a prime example of where Neal's angry hard guitar meets power synth, topped with driving drums and bass, layered with Steve's bluesy and emotional vocals.
For all intents and purposes, Journey invented the Power Ballad with songs like Send Her My Love, Opens Arms and probably the best 80's ballad ever, Faithfully. While the piano and vocals dominate this song, it's really the pounding, massive drum fills and wailing guitar solos that really make this song stand out.
Journey never transitioned into the MTV generation well, and due to Steve Perry's personal issues (his mother passing away during the recording of Raised on Radio and a degenerative bone condition discovered after the release of Trial By Fire), the band never had the success they had in the late 70's and early 80's. Steve had a shortlived solo career while Neal and Jonathan teamed up with John Waite from The Babies to form Bad English, then Neal went on to play in Hardline. Journey has tried to rekindle that magic over the years and now are basically a touring band with their new singer, Arnel Pineda.
There are many reasons why Journey belongs in the Rock Hall. Don't Stop Believin' is the most downloaded song in history. All the members of the Escape/Frontier line-up are virtuosos in their own right. Steve Perry has one of the most awesome voices in rock, Neal Schon plays a killer guitar, Jonathan Cain's talent as keyboardist is only superseded by his songwriting skills, Ross Valory plays a funky rock bass and Steve Smith is a god on drums.
But the most important thing is the impact Journey has had in rock history. We'd never have 80's rock music without Journey. Van Halen's 1984 wouldn't have been the success it was if Journey hadn't lead the way with the powerful synth-guitar formula. Bands like Aerosmith and Van Hagar could have never made their triumphant return to rock n roll without Journey opening the door to Arena Rock. There would be no Bon Jovi, no Huey Lewis & The News, Duran Duran, David Lee Roth, and any other Hard Rock band. We would have missed out on every hard rock power ballad that was ever written. Even Prince was influenced by their work. Concerned that Purple Rain sounded too much like Faithfully, The Purple One played the song for Jonathan Cain before its release to ask for his blessing.
I'm sure there are those that would argue a world without Bon Jovi and Huey Lewis & The News would be just fine, if not better. Those are probably the people that believe Classic Rock should have never died and their dislike of Journey runs deep.
Journey nailed the classic rock coffin shut with their release of Escape and Frontiers, ushering in a new era of rock 'n' roll. I, for one, am thankful they did. Classic Rock was going to evolve and it was better for Journey to take it into the direction they did. Congrats on your induction into the Rock Hall of Fame.
A child of the 80's, Wal Ozello is the lead singer of the Columbus hairband Armada. He's the author of the science fiction time travel books Assignment 1989, Revolution 1990 and Sacrifice 2086 and a frequent customer at Colin's Coffee.