Still They Ride

A newly minted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame offers an occasion to look back on the career of Journey. That's right, Journey.

Of course, 50 million Journey fans could be wrong -- just ask a critic. And Journey always had plenty of critics. The Washington Post called the group's music "five-chord fluff" in one review, and said Perry's singing had "all the nuance of a siren" in another. The New York Times labeled Journey "heavy-handed purveyors of a style so hackneyed that only a massive infusion of passion and energy could revitalize it." And in his California Magazine column, rock writer Greil Marcus invented a Journey Award for the worst album by a California band.

Journey won it every year.

"They made Eddie Money sound like Muddy Waters," Marcus explains today in an e-mail. "It was the self-evident phoniness in Steve Perry's voice -- the oleaginous self-regard, the gooey smear of words, the horrible enunciation: It was the 'ci-tay' in 'Lights' that really made me want to kill."

Steve Augeri sings with Journey. When the band 
called Augeri in 1998, he was working at the Gap.
Jeffrey Mayer
Steve Augeri sings with Journey. When the band called Augeri in 1998, he was working at the Gap.
Today's Journey: Ross Valory, Steve Augeri, Neal 
Schon, Deen Castronovo, and  Jonathan Cain.
Mark Weiss
Today's Journey: Ross Valory, Steve Augeri, Neal Schon, Deen Castronovo, and Jonathan Cain.

Perhaps as much as the five-chord fluff and the gooey smear of words, hipsters and critics hated the band's naked embrace of capitalism. At a time when selling swag still meant selling out, Journey extended an open palm to Madison Avenue, licensing an Atari video game and shilling for Budweiser, among other offenses. ("After a hot gig, we go backstage and we open ourselves an ice-cold Budweiser," Perry cooed in one radio spot.) And manager Herbert ran the band like a business, taking direct control of everything from in-store marketing to the lighting and video production at the live shows. (Herbert and Schon still co-own Nocturne, the company Journey created to sublet its massive light rigs and video screens to other acts. Today, clients range from Madonna to Paul McCartney.)

Rolling Stone tagged the Journey-men early on as "corporate rock," but if the label bothered them, it didn't slow them down any. "I love money," Schon explained in Hit Parader in 1983. "I want to make as much as I can."

Schon still feels that way. "I wasn't the manager," he says, "I was never the guy that was coming up with this stuff, but I never thought it was a bad deal. You know, a lot of people that write, they think that if you're not slamming heroin into your arm or something, you're not really living rock 'n' roll."

Dave Golland puts it another way. Golland, a Brooklyn-based historian, runs fan site with all the detached dispassion you'd expect from an academic. The site features reviews and interviews dating back to the '70s, a comprehensive history of the band, even an annotated and corrected version of the band's official bio.

Says Golland, "I guess screaming fans just trumped screaming reviewers."

There are still plenty of screaming fans, especially here on the sidewalk, in Hollywood, at 11:15 on a Friday morning. They hold up hand-lettered signs that say "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Journey4ever," and they surge into the barricades set up to keep them from overwhelming the band.

One woman up front points to the teenage girl at her side. "I named my daughter after Steve Perry," she says, establishing her fan credentials right off. The girl, Stephanie, waves shyly.

Four feet to her left are Eric and Jeannie. They drove from Memphis for this, but they won't be at tonight's celebratory House of Blues show -- which sold out in minutes -- because it ain't Journey without the Voice. They have no kids to name for Steve Perry, says Eric, but, "We got a bulldog called Steve Augeri." He cackles at his joke. Actually, the dog's name is Journey.

Regardless of what they named after Steve Perry, though, none of these fans seems to think he'll show. None of them.

Perry and the band members haven't spoken for seven years, not since early '98 when they told him to tour or cut bait. And though every current and former member was invited -- including Randy Jackson, the American Idoljudge who played bass on 1986's Raised on Radio -- organizers say Perry hasn't responded. Even the die-hards concede it's a long shot that he'll be here.

"No way," says a 40-ish woman from just outside Tampa who answers the question "What's your name?" with "Real name or screen name?" (Real name: Dale. Screen name: JrnyBrat.)

"Zero percent chance," says another woman, who's holding a sign that says "I * Journey w/Steve Perry."

"Oh, I hope so," says another, clutching at her chest. She's clearly the wild-eyed optimist of the bunch.

It's not just the fans, either. "I don't think he comes," Cain says. "I sort of think he doesn't, no. He's not good at confronting situations like this, you know? Never was. I mean, it's just part of his personality."

Cain has reason to doubt Perry. Back when the band's star was announced in June 2003, the singer went on "Uncle Joe" Benson's SoCal radio show and mused, "The big question is whether I would show up or not and, I've got to tell you, the honest, honest feeling is that I just don't know if I want to do that. It's not that I don't think I'll show up at the star someday and take a picture standing on it, and look at it and have a moment of reflection to myself, for how hard it was to possibly see that happen in my lifetime. But whether or not we stand together anywhere again is gonna be difficult for me to say."

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.