Chad Orzel, who knows of my predilections, has pointed me in the direction of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Journey, which offers an album-by-album retrospective of the most radio-persistent rock band from the 80s. It’s not a bad overview; I don’t think any over the age of 25 really needs a recap of the Escape/Frontiers era of Journey, but most people are clueless about the band pre- and post- Steve Perry , and this is a useful way to learn a little about those eras.
In the circles I run in, Journey is looked on with something less than regard, which means that the band’s cultural persistence irritates and terrifies most people I know. I remember ten years ago, when the Escape-era line-up reteamed for the Trial By Fire, Ted Rall declared that the reunion album would debut to massive indifference, so I bet him a fiver that the album would enter the charts in top five. In fact, it debuted at #3, and Ted still owes me $5. Look, people like Journey. It’s like the multivitamin of rock: It’s got the rockers for the boys, the ballads for the girls, Neal Schon’s technically impressive fret work, Steve Perry’s swoopingly expressive voice, Jonathan Cain’s major-chord bell ringing keyboards, Steve Smith’s thundering drums, and whatever the hell it was Ross Valory brought to the party (mostly, a droopy ‘stache). Maybe it’s not in the best taste, but name a multivitamin that tastes good. No, Flintstones don’t count. So chalky.
The other thing, which is what I told Ted at the time, is that for the vast majority of Suburban Americans between the age of 14 and 24 in the early 80s, when it was time to make out and you put Escape on the turntable, you were automatically spotted two bases. Honestly, if you didn’t have a hand under a bra or massaging a button fly by the end of “Who’s Crying Now,” Steve Perry would stop what he was doing, fly to your house and then beat the crap out of you for blowing a sure thing. God forbid you actually flipped the LP, because then, baby, you were going home. There’s an entire generation of white 22-to-25-year olds walking around today whose moment of conception is largely coincident to the second chorus of “Open Arms.” These people will be driving along with their moms, that song will come on that radio, their moms will get a small, wistful smile, and these people will spend the next three minutes, nineteen seconds uncontrollably shuddering.
Good times, good times.
Anyway, that’s why all you snobs will never be rid of Journey; too many other people got lucky with Steve Perry yodeling in the background. Deal with it. It could have been worse. There’s a whole bunch of 15-to-20-year-olds whose mothers were inseminated to Warrant. No amount of therapy will ever make that right.
To finish up, allow me to indulge in my own Journey-geek dorkiness by once again hauling to my own techno remix of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” named, appropriately, “Don’t Stop.” If you’ve not already subjected yourself to it, I assure you it’s pretty much as terrifying as you might imagine. Enjoy!