GETTING MORE TALE #673: Message of Love
The old saying goes “Better late than never”. This is often true, especially in music. It is never too late to discover an old band. Be it Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, or Queen, it has been pretty easy for me to catch up. As is my modus operandi, when I discover a band I tend to jump in headfirst and not look back.
I took a similar path with Journey. Journey were never considered “heavy metal”, and although metal magazines did cover them, I was never exposed to their music as a kid. If they were not on the Pepsi Power Hour in the 1980s, then chances are, I didn’t hear them until later on.
Prior to official “discovery”, I think I only knew two Journey songs. “Any Way You Want It” was used on the Simpsons in a memorable scene. I also remember hearing “Wheel in the Sky” on the radio while eating out with my sister and my grandmother. “Who is this?” I kept asking. The song was incredible!
I didn’t find out for many years that it was Journey, although I did form an idea of what Journey sounded like otherwise. Dream Theater covered “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” on their Change of Seasons EP. “I hate that song!” said T-Rev upon seeing the EP. I didn’t care for it either. But I was still curious why Joey Belladonna from Anthrax counted Journey as one of his favourite bands. Something to do with the singer?
I really had no idea who Steve Perry was. I heard of him. I didn’t know he was one of the most influential singers of the 70s and 80s! In 1994, his solo album For Love of Strange Medicine was released. It was my first year at the Record Store and I still didn’t really know who he was. I remember stocking the CD, but I kind of blew it when I sold my first copy to a customer.
“This is supposed to be great,” said the lady buying the Steve Perry CD.
“Yeah,” I said, trying to make conversation where I shouldn’t have. “He’s a great guitar player.” Wrong guess.
“He’s also an amazing singer!” said the lady with class, trying not to embarrass me.
I will never forget calling Steve Perry a great guitar player. What a clueless poser I was!
My moment of discovery finally came in 1998. T-Rev, Tom and I were in a mall in Burlington, as I recall. The new Journey song came on: “Remember Me”. This was one a one-off track from the Armageddon soundtrack. It was credited as “Journey (featuring lead vocals by Steve Augeri)”. As I would later find out, Steve Perry quit the band and was replaced by a similar sounding Steve. I didn’t care about that, because the song was incredible! I looked forward to eventually getting the CD, which I would have been buying anyway for new Aerosmith and Our Lady Peace.
That was my gateway: a soundtrack song with a replacement singer, from a shitty Michael Bay movie. Embarrassing yes, but the truth it is.
My bosses and co-workers cringed as I jumped right into my new favourite band. First up: Greatest Hits, remastered of course. Bought it, loved it. It was a little light, with all those ballads, but I expected that. It was songs like “Only the Young” and “Separate Ways” that slayed me. To me it sounded as if Bon Jovi ripped off every trick he had right from Journey. Early Bon Jovi, for sure. Not everyone agreed with me on that, particularly Bon Jovi fans, but I don’t think it’s a stretch.
Next I acquired their Time3 box set, at which point I finally got a proper Journey education. From their progressive jam band beginnings to a bitter ending at the close of the 80s, the Time3 box set got me up to speed. Almost.
One thing was missing: Journey’s 1996 reunion album with none other than Steve Perry. Fortunately for me, one of my regular customers (whom the bosses hated because he chewed gum when he spoke) brought me a mint condition Japanese version of Trial By Fire, complete with bonus track. Something about the album clicked with me, and to do this day — do I dare say it? — I think it’s my favourite Journey. Trial By Fire is exceptional. It is diverse, perhaps even more so than prior Journeys. It is passionate, and Steve Perry’s seasoned voice is the real journey.
Of course all this new Journey love meant I was playing them in store, constantly. One kid named Matty K absolutely loathed every time Steve Perry sang “Whoa-oh-oh oh” in any form. Everybody else probably thought I lost my shit. What can I say? Journey’s music actually made me feel good. Of course I wanted to play it often, and I’m sorry the others hated it. And hate it they did!
Steve Perry didn’t want to tour after Trial By Fire and so was replaced by Steve Augeri for a couple releases…who was then replaced by Jeff Scott Soto in a killer lineup that didn’t last…and Soto was replaced by current singer Arnel Pineda. His remarkable story is the stuff for a whole other article, but I still love Journey.
Since I missed out the first two times around, I would love to hear a Journey reunited with Steve Perry once again. It doesn’t matter that his voice has changed. There is nothing quite like hearing him sing. Or play guitar? I can’t remember!