Don’t Stop Believin’: The Untold Story of Journey by Neil Daniels
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating and entertaining book. I’ve enjoyed listening to Journey since the 70s & have developed an even greater appreciation for them since I discovered their early pre-Steve Perry albums earlier this year. I didn’t even know they existed, but I happened upon them and I love all three, particularly Next. Neal Schon just shreds the guitar on “Hustler” on that album. Even though these three albums are called jazz fusion, there’s definitely some rocking going on. I had heard that Neal Schon was a guitar prodigy, but I didn’t know Eric Clapton invited him to join his band when Neal was 15, with Neal turning him down to go with Santana. In 1973, he and Greg Rolie left Santana to form Journey with some other musicians and they signed with Columbia, the company that put out the majority of their records. However, their first three albums didn’t sell too well, with Greg singing while doing keyboards, so they were pressured to hire a front man to sing — that’s how Steve Perry ended up with the band.
The book relies heavily on interviews with ex-manager Herbie Herbert, who literally hates Steve Perry, so you get a biased view of things at times, but it’s really fascinating to read how Infinity came about, as well as Escape, Frontiers and the other well known Journey albums, and how they consciously changed their sound to AOR. Was it a sell out? Some people would say yes. They claimed that they just wanted a bigger audience and this was the vehicle toward that. It worked too. Are there too many ballads and a lot less rocking with Perry? Yes, but still there are some amazing songs that stand the test of time. Of course, Perry left the band in 1986 after Raised on Radio because allegedly, his pipes were done. He couldn’t sing in range anymore and needed a break. However, they reunited in 1996 for another album, which didn’t do too well. It’s apparently below par. It’s one of the few Journey albums I don’t own. They were planning on doing a big worldwide tour to support the album, but Perry injured his hip during a Hawaii hike and had to have hip replacement surgery, knocking him out of the band, this time forever. There are rumors that this is merely an excuse, that there was bad blood. This may or may not be true. The point is, Journey continued without him and people had to get used to that.
Journey hired a new singer named Steve Augeri, who by all accounts was pretty good. They produced two studio albums with him in the early 2000s, but they weren’t huge sellers. After 10 years with the band, his voice gave out too and he was forced into retirement, replaced by Jeff Scott Soto, who lasted 11 months with the band. He wasn’t a true tenor and couldn’t realistically carry the old Journey standards sufficiently, so they let him go.
We get to the current Journey now. In late 2007, early 2008, Neal was checking out YouTube and came across a Filapino man named Arnel Pineda doing Journey songs on videos. He was so good and sounded so much like Steve Perry, that Neal flew him to California to audition for the band. He got the job. They decided to cut a new record, so Revelation came out in 2008. It’s a two disc album, with one being new, original stuff with Arnel singing and the other being old standards, introducing Arnel to the fans. They then embarked on a world tour which was quite successful. I’ve seen a DVD of them in concert in Manilla, and they really rocked it. The book was written in 2010, so it doesn’t get the current album from 2011 — Eclipse — in, but it talks about a new album being in the works. I have it and it’s actually very good. They shed many of the old Journey-style ballads for some real rockers where Neal shows his guitar chops and it’s pretty cool. Arnel is a good singer.
I learned a lot in this book. I learned that “Lights,” allegedly about San Francisco, their home town if you go by Perry’s statements on the live Captured album, was actually written by Perry about L.A. I learned that the band was pretty straight laced and recorded from 9 to 4, as opposed to so many big bands who come drunkenly crawling into the studio at 7 pm and record til 4 am. These people were businessmen, and to some little surprise, serious musicians. While Journey got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they’re not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, even though they’ve sold over 75,000,000 records over the years. It’s addressed in the book. I suspect they’ll never make that Hall of Fame because most critics consider them pretty lightweight, and there might be some truth to that.
I was particularly excited to get this book because there’s nothing out there on the band. Nothing at all. Allegedly one book was produced some time ago, but it’s long gone. This book is thorough, interesting, fair and the author did exhaustive research. My only real complaint is that the band members all signed various confidentiality agreements about what they can and can’t say about the band, so while there are many quotes, I suspect there’s a lot left unsaid as well. Still, I couldn’t put it down and I heartily recommend it for any Journey fan. You won’t be disappointed.
One thought on “A Review of Don’t Stop Believin’”
I enjoy reading biographies and this one sounds particularly fascinating. I never knew that Journey had such an interesting and diverse musical background. Kinda makes me appreciate them more. It’s also nice to hear that they were serious musicians who didn’t participate in the usual drunken orgy lifestyle.
Thanks for the great review!
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