There is a pervasive attitude among some rock writers today who attempt to summarize the remarkable transformation by the San Francisco band Journey on its 1978 fourth album, Infinity: veteran but commercially-struggling group hires word-class singer, which anybody would recognize; shortens song arrangements; and instantly becomes the biggest band in America.
“Wrong,” says Journey lead guitarist/songwriter/co-founder Neal Schon in this week’s classic rock interview.”Wrong!”
Even though I had been playing Journey on the radio starting with “Of a Lifetime” on their 1975 debut, 90% of whom shortly would become Journey fans first heard and saw the band because of the songs on Infinity, including “Lights”,”Feeling That Way”,”Anytime”, “Wheel in the Sky”, and “Patiently“. Yet two vital facts seem to elude the rock history revisionists: Journey had already tried, unsuccessfully, to be more commercial by shortening their songs on their third album, Next. And in band co-founder Gregg Rolie, “Journey already had a lead singer,” Steve Perry emphasizes.” I wasn’t brought in to replace anyone.” Truth be told, band manager Herbie Herbert had already tried to bring in an outside singer, Robert Fleischman (who even co-wrote “Anytime” and “Wheel in the Sky”) before Perry, so the odds of grafting any new singer onto this well-established quartet were slim and none.
The points that seem to be most under-appreciated in the turnaround of Journey is the strong, instantaneous collaborative songwriting that Steve Perry provided, particularly with Neal Schon on “Lights”,”Patiently”, and “Somethin’ to Hide”. And as America would soon learn after Infinity‘s release 35 years ago, Perry could be an excellent front man in concert, not anchored behind a bulky Hammond organ like Rolie, energetic and seemingly effortless in singing over 170 shows on the barnstorming Infinity tour. – Redbeard
From left: Gregg Rolie, Ross Valory, Neal Schon, Steve Smith, Steve Perry