Off The Record w/ Joe Benson

November 13th, 2005

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Uncle Joe Benson's Off The Record with Steve Perry
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Live in Houston  - November 6, 1981 - The Escape Tour

UJ:  On November 6th, 1981, Journey played to a sell-out crowd at The Summit in Houston, Texas.  A brand new music television channel, MTV, filmed the event and aired it once that same month. The performance was then buried in a vault, until now.  24 years later, former Journey singer Steve Perry has dusted off that concert, remixed it and remastered it and added some bonus interview footage, and is about to release it as a double DVD and CD set called "Live in Houston  - November 6, 1981 - The Escape Tour".  Hey this is your Uncle Joe Benson, and Journey was at their height of their popularity in the Summer of 1981.  In fact, the very week the Houston concert was filmed, the Escape album hit #1 in the American charts.  Audiences were getting their first introduction to Journey classics like Open Arms and Don't Stop Believin', and today, Steve Perry is here to share that magical time.  It's a trip to the Houston Summit with Journey, Off The Record.

(Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin')

UJ:  It's your Uncle Joe Benson and Off the Record speaking with Steve Perry  who's been very busy of late.  There's a new CD/DVD out called "Live in Houston  - 1981 - The Escape Tour".  Not a short title, but certainly wraps things up. (chuckles)

SP:  (chuckles) Well tryin' to be specific of which it, from which it came from, ya know, it's

UJ:  This is an outstanding performance document.

SP:  Performance document, very nice.

UJ:  Let's just set this up before we get into this, actually what happened here.  At this point, 1981, you'd been working with Journey for 5 years

SP:  I would say that's close - yeah.

UJ:  4 -5 years, something like that.  You've gone through one personnel change at this point

SP:  Jonathan Cain came in, that's right. 

UJ:  and Greg Rolie

SP:  Actually, two.  Steve Smith came in after Aynsley left

UJ:  Aynsley Dunbar

SP:  and then Jonathan Cain came in.  And this was Jonathan's, I believe, first tour and first album, the Escape album and the Escape Tour. 

UJ:  When you did the Houston show, how far into the tour was this?  Was this at the beginning, was this half way through, was this two and a half years on the road?

SP:  I believe the tour started July of 81, is what I believe, and this was, November,

UJ:  November, so

SP:  and it ended the following July so it went for a whole year or longer I think at least.

UJ:  Journey was the first band to really use, what, videos on stage.

SP:  Yeah, live switching with, like 5 cameras, so that the people in the back had a good sense of what was going on too.

UJ:  You had state of the art, everything you're doing was a little cutting edge.

SP:  Yeah.

UJ:  You're feeling good that way

SP:  Yeah.

UJ:  Not that you didn't have confidence in the material right off the bat.

SP:  I think I had total confidence in the music and the ability for the band to perform it, you know, which I gotta tell ya, when, when I was working on this, as I was mixing it, I was mixing at a particular time It's in Stereo and 5.1 surround, so it had to be mixed it twice

UJ:  Uh-huh

SP:  but the stereo mixes, I was sitting there and I was watching the video assist, and cause I had to, ya know, make sure things correlated visually too, and when Open Arms came on, oh my goodness, ya know, I had an emotional moment when I couldn't watch the screen.  And it continued to hit me like that in a way that I can only explain, like, I had no idea that the song did reach that spot in my heart where I always thought it could be.  And by that, I really gotta tell you that it's better than the original master.  It's more emotional than the original master to me.  It's performed by everyone.  The vocals, which were, in my heart, so demanding the way I wanted to do them, though the master recording got close, but the way I really wanted to do them is the way they ended up on this particular project.  And I, and I got emotional a couple of times and I kinda tucked it back and did let the engineers know cause I couldn't look at the screen.  I had to keep my head down at the console, because it, I was being mugged by a plethora of emotions (chuckles)

UJ:  that was good

SP:  I mean, you know, 24 years ago He's so Young.. you know,

UJ:  (Laughing)

SP:  you know, you know, (laughing) who is that guy with the nose and the hairya know, and the band and, and seeing Neal playing so beautifully and watching Steve Smith, I mean it just, I got thrown back into, I had no idea it was that good

UJ:  Mmmmm.

SP: cause I didn't I was In it.

(Open Arms)

UJ:   At this point in time, when Journey's performing live on the Escape tour, was the set list pretty much the same every night?  So everybody knew kinda where their cues were, or?

SP:  Yeah, the show was worked up and we knew what the set list was.  And we did make a couple of changes for these two shows. There was actually two shows at the Summit sold out, but we audioed both, but MTV only showed up to tape one.

UJ:  When you look back at the video of this performance, and you see the audience from 1981

SP:  Hmmmmmmmmmm.

UJ:  Tell us what did you see?  You certainly didn't remember much of that

SP:  Like

UJ:  Not that there was anything wrong with your memory, but .

SP:  (laughing hard)

UJ:  When you saw

SP: (still laughing)

UJ:  What so you...(laughing) but I can't remember where that but no.

SP:  (Laughing)  Are you Casey Kasem?  Uh no sorry(laughing) real special case

UJ: (ala Casey Kasem) Coming up next, we have a special letter from poor Stephen who's lost his memory.  And we have a song by Carl "Uncle" Evan, talking about one

SP:  (still laughing) who writes from Duluthwho writes from

UJ:  You look at the video and you're seeing at an audience that you haven't seen for, oh let's say, roughly 24 years. And, audiences look different back then, but at the same time, this is the first time you're being exposed to these people as well.  There was a passion in the audience... 

SP: Ohhhh

UJ: for the music.  What did you see that you didn't remember?

SP:  I saw, first of all, as a musician, I was just stunned at how the band really wanted to be one of the best.  I could see that there was a mission between these 5 guys.  I was stunned, cause I'm a drummer, that Steve Smith was playing in a manner that was absolutely hard to describe, with a true fervor and vengeance in his playing that I just don't recall.  And I can see that, that kind of drive that he had, made it possible, for me as the singer, to sit in the back seat of him driving in the front and just soar.  So that was his contribution to the singing aspect, and I got to hear me singing in a way that I don't remember myself singing either.  And Neal.  Neal Schon was playing I think some of the best guitar I've ever heard of anyone and he outdid himself, and, and Ross played beautifully and so, that as a musician stunned me first

UJ:  Uh-huh

SP:  ya know.  And then the interaction of the audience.  We play, they react.  We stop, they react.  You announce a song, they react.  And, it was just such a high, ya know, and to, and, it was like being there again for me.  It was, it was as if there was some sort of digital memory in me that had forgot what it was like to stand there in front of these people in Houston, and I slowly started to recall the feeling of being there, because I watched the Quicktime video locked to audio for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, for about 3 months

UJ:  That's a lot of watching(chuckles)

SP:  Yeah, that's a lot of watching, ya know?  And you get a sense of, my goodness, it's hard to run from that. (chuckles)


JB:  You got any feedback from any of the other band members?

SP:  Yeah, they actually got off their particular tour, and Neal went into the office with Ross, and got to watch the entire show with all the special footage, bonus footage, we have interviews and the slide show I assembled, and they liked it a lot.  I understand Neal was moved.

(Lights continues)

UJ:  It's a live version of Lights from the new Journey double DVD and CD set, "Live In Houston - November 6, 1981 - The Escape Tour". Get your copy this Tuesday, November 15th. I'm Joe Benson and when Journey Off The Record returns, former singer Steve Perry remembers the fight over a now classic Neal Schon guitar solo, and sheds some insight on the state of his relationship with Journey today.

(Commercial Break)

SP:  Hi, this is Steve Perry, and welcome back to Off The Record with your Uncle Joe Benson.

JB:  Let's open one up, you mentioned Neal's playing.  Is there a song on here in particular that Neal's playing was, that blew you away with how intuitive and well it worked?

SP: All of them!  I mean, every single one of his solos was the best I ever heard him play.  They were as good as the record and then he would add, and elongate and extend and just, and peak 'em in ways that, you know, you really don't have time to do back in those days on a long playing album.  You don't have time, you know, and so you would chop things down and you would do certain, you know, four minute, five minute formats for songs, sometimes, but, in this live thing, you really get to hear his virtuosity.  I mean, the solo on Who's Crying Now is a timeless piece of work.  It really is.  And it's simple, and it's heartfelt.  It's the outtro solo, and I will tell you a story, that when this was the single, and we when started to record it, I'm sorry, before it became a single, Sony wanted us to cut it off, to fade it, and then when we, when I argued and said "We're not cutting it off.  It's the outtro solo", they said, "Listen nobody does that".  So I said, "Well, that's what we do!".  And they said, "But radio will just not play it, because it's too long".  I said, "I don't give a damn, because you're not cutting the solo.  It's brilliant". They said, "Well, we're just going to send the radio a faded version".  I said, "If you do, I'm going to kill you". 

UJ: (Laughing)

SP:  You know, I fought for that solo being exactly the way it ended up. Now, it's a timeless piece of the song.

(Who's Crying Now)

SP:  Who's Crying Now was a song that was originally started in my car driving up the I-5 freeway.  I had a mini cassette player in my hand and I was coming back from Los Angeles, and we were about to get together, Jonathan Cain and I, and start writing, and I don't know what happened.  I was just listening to the radio at that time, and, and I just got inspired and I started singing this, you know, "One love feeds the fire, one heart burns desire", and that's all I had.  I had "dah-dah-dah-dah-dah" and that's it.  And it was, of course slower, and I showed it to Jon and we started putting a feel.  I always liked sort of a, a Fleetwood Mac coupled with What's Been Going On by Ace feel, you know that song?

JB:  Yeah

SP:  Dhung...uh ung...uh ung

JB:  and, and again, good driving music, rhythm of the road.

SP:  Yeah, it had a rhythm thing.  It just had this mesmerizing rhythm, that pocket, so that became the pocket for this hookline, and then it was written with Jonathan Cain and myself.

JB: This is a, an extremely special moment in many people's lives, in the fan's lives, but especially in the band members' lives, and here we have this rare opportunity to see

SP:  Mmmm

JB:  a moment in time like you were saying.

SP:  M-huh

JB:  In your case to watch it for fourteen hours a day for four and 1/2 months.

SP:  (laughs)

JB:  And you're seeing this interaction that musicians live for.

SP:  Mmmm.

UJ:  Every, everybody who ever picked up a guitar wants to have an interaction with someone, and there happens to be five people who did it

SP:  Mmmmm...

UJ:  better than anyone else

SP:  Mmmm

UJ: and it's captured right here. And yet, you also see these things, see the personal relationships.  Was this like looking back at pictures of old girlfriends or something?

SP: You, you get a lot of emotional, what's the word I'm looking for , laserbeams.

UJ & SP: (Laughing) 

SP:  You know, it's absolutely the case.  I saw the interaction between me and Neal, and there were moments it was fantastic and then moments it was sad.  This is something only I would see, and when I say the word sad, I think I mean that I could see some distance between us as people, and I could see those moments, and then I could see moments where there was no distance between us.  But you know, it's a band

UJ:  Yeah.

SP:  and, and some of the things that brings bands together are the very things that bring them apart, you know.  So, and all relationships in fact, you can live in a relationship and that's going to be the case.  So, it was like watching old girlfriends, and I'm sure when they, when they're watching it, they're looking at their old girlfriend too(laughing)

UJ:  (laughing)

SP:  meaning me. (laughing) Yeah,  "Hey I don't remember him, or her!"  Ya know.  So, yeah, I think it brings back memories of our interaction with each other and it can be good and it can be bittersweet.

(Wheel in the Sky)

JB:  You weren't concerned about the video end of it because of having seen earlier videos of yourself and Neal with the pajama white things and the giant hair or anything

SP:  (Laughing)

UJ:  OK, I had to say that

SP:  (Laughs)

SP:  You talking about the capes?

JB:  Yeah.

SP:  (laughing) Hey, listen!  There's some spandex that is not on this either, OK?

UJ:  (laughing)

SP:  But luckily, this was our Levi and t-shirt phase.  You know, we were having just a good time being a rock band, this was the, not the early time.

(Wheel in the Sky continues)

JB:  Wheel In The Sky.   You can find that live version on the upcoming Journey DVD and CD set, "Live in Houston  - November 6, 1981 - The Escape Tour". It'll be in stores this Tuesday, November 15th . I'm Joe Benson and coming up Off The Record, former Journey singer Steve Perry remembers the city that inspired Don't Stop Believin', and he explains why he decided to attend Journey's Hollywood Walk Of Fame ceremony last March.  It's a little star talk, and some more live Journey music, when Off The Record returns.

(Commercial Break)

UJ:  This is your Uncle Joe Benson, Off The Record here, speaking with former Journey singer, Steve Perry, who has produced the new DVD and CD combination.

SP:  Right.

JB:  What's the name of the new record?

SP:  It's called "Journey, Live In Houston 1981, November 6th 1981, The Escape Tour".

JB:  On this performance of Don't Stop Believin', what do you see as different than the original recording?  Is there something extra coming through?  You have a reinterpretation of the lyrics after all these years, seeing what you did with it?

SP:  Well the song originally was sort of born out of a feeling I got after we had done a previous tour to Escape.  I, we were in Detroit, and I was at the hotel downtown, and we'd finished the show, and I'm not sleepy because I'm jacked from the show, and I'm looking down, and I'm looking, and the city streets are all quiet, but there's all these people on the streets, man on the corner, and these streetlights, and I'm thinking, man, it's unbelievable, people just creeping late at night.  It's 2 in the morning and they're still out, creeping around and when we got back together in San Francisco to write what was going to be the next record, Escape, Jonathan and I got together and started working on this.  And when we started working on the lyrics, that moment came to mind and I think I discussed it with Jonathan, about, you know, there were streetlight people, you know what I mean, people down there, living under the street lights, and we start throwing things back and forth, living just to find emotion, hiding somewhere in the night.  It took off a life of its own and to this day, I think everybody lives in the evening, is when the things really start to happen, and when the sun goes down, and the later it gets, the more it starts to happen.  When you really are looking to find emotion, hiding somewhere in the night, you're looking for something, you know, to get over with.

UJ:  Did you have in your mind anything that that song might be around twenty years?

SP:  No, you don't know.  You just follow your heart and you, you make the decisions along the way that you think are the best for the songs, and the band members were doing that, and I was doing that, and I was writing lyrics with Jonathan Cain, and we were making the best decisions in those areas, and we're trying to do the things musically that we love, and I'm trying to sing the melodies that move me, and that's it.  Then you try to mix it in a way that it satisfies what you think it's supposed to be at the time you're doing it, and that's it.  You let it go.

(Don't Stop Believin')

JB:  At, uh, some point in early 2005, it was deemed that the various members of Journey, past and present, might be in town at the same time, and got themselves a tribute on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. 

SP:  Mmmm...

UJ:  It had been discussed for a long time, put together by fans, the fans' drive behind it.  I don't think anybody in the band, in particular, that was pushing, but it was certainly an honor.  I was surprised that some of the older members, George Tickner

SP:  Yeah.

UJ:  was there and

SP:   Aynsley Dunbar was there.

JB:   A couple people weren't.  Herbie Herbert

SP:  And Gregg Rolie wasn't there.

JB:  Gregg Rolie wasn't there.

SP: Yeah, I was really looking forward to seeing Gregg.

JB:  And.

SP:  And Herbie too. I thanked Herbie specifically.

JB:  Yeah.  If people listening to Off The Record were paying strict attention about a year or so previous to this event actually taking place, I asked you what would happen, you said you didn't know.

SP:  Yeah, but I didn't.

JB:  If you were inclined, if you went, you would go specifically to thank the crew, and the people you worked with to make sure they were mentioned.  And you detailed exactly what actually happened, and it was supposition at that point.  It wasn't something you really thought about doing until the last minute, was it?

SP:  It really wasn't. It weighed on me heavy because, you know, as everyone knows, I haven't been in the band since, I think it's May of 98 was the legal separation between myself and Journey.  And, and so, they'd been on doing their own thing, and I'd been doing mine, and so I didn't know if I wanted to go to the Star Walk of Fame event.  And the thing that really, really kept on eating at me was that I got quiet one day in Hawaii, and I asked myself what I should do.  And then my mind said, if your mom was alive, what would she tell you.  And the answer really came.  And the answer was, well, if anyone deserves to be there, I think you do.  And it wasn't that I was more deserving than anybody else, she was just simply saying, that's the way she would say things, that you deserve to be there as much as anybody else does.  And I thought ffffttttYeah!  You know?  So, that wouldn't go away

UJ:  Yeah

SP:  and so months turned into months, and the time got close and at the last minute - showed up.  Walked out there, nobody knew.  Not a person knew.  I had to lie to my attorney, 'cause they had people gettin' him to front me, you know, "Well, do you think he might show, uh", "I don't know", and they'd called me, "Well you maybe think you might go, 'cause if you are, I might gowell,"  "Well I don't think I'm going".  I had to lie to everybody, just so I could have the choice to choose!  At the last minute I chose to go, and I pulled behind it, and I waited, and they said the band was there, and my particular assistants had radios, and they said the band's about to walk out, and that's when we pulled up, zoomed up, and walked up.

(Mother, Father)

JB:  Steve Perry calls Mother, Father, Sister, Brother his favorite performance on the upcoming live Journey DVD and CD set, "Live In Houston - November 6th 1981 - The Escape Tour".  The remastered, remixed collector's edition will be out on Tuesday.  It's your Uncle Joe Benson, and if you're wondering whether you'll ever see Steve Perry on a concert stage again, or maybe hear from him on a new studio record, wonder no more. The former Journey singer answers those tough questions, plus a few others, coming up next.  Off The Record will be right back.  

(Commercial break)

JB:  Talking with Steve Perry here, formerly of Journey. You haven't performed on stage for a few years

SP:  Quite a few years, yeah.

JB:   but you've spent much time reviewing this material for the DVD.

SP:  Mm huh.

JB:  Not the first time you've looked at live performance material, but you were living and breathing this for several months, as the producer.

SP:  Mm huh.

JB:  Responsible for every minor and micro edit that went into things that somebody in the band might like or might not like.  There was a little bit of pressure on you.

SP:  There was a lot of pressure to be honest.  I did it with Allen Sides, and and sat there with John Kalodner coming in occasionally, and the band members weren't there, they're out doing their own thing, and I found the most amazing thing though.  The longer I watched it, the more my original concerns for it to be great came up inside me.  These voices would come up to me and say, "Is there enough guitar?". 

UJ:  (Laughing)

SP:  And I'd look around, where's Neal?  Is he here?  You know?  You know?  "I don't hear the piano there".   Uh, where's Jon?  Is Jon here?  These ghosts in my body, you know?  So, they were there.  They were there.  Believe me, I walk with this stuff, OK Joe?  I'm in therapy but I'm OK.

JB:  Did you, at some point, say I wouldn't mind being on stage to do that again?

SP:  (sucks in air) You're hurting me Joe.  I would love to, you know, I did my solo tour and that was really something.  I played all the Journey material, that was the last time I toured, and then put the Journey back together for the "Trial By Fire" CD, and then my hip crashed and the rest is history. 

UJ:  Mm huh.

SP:  I sure would love to perform again, but I've yet to, (struggling) well, I've yet to do that and I've also keep writing ideas and I've yet to walk in the studio.  I had a gut feeling you'd ask me about some of this, and I didn't know how I was going to answer it, butI

JB:  Well, let me, let me provide you with a little thing here.  Now, of course, you made mention before

SP:  Course, you're going to leave all this in, so that we can like let this run, so that, you know

UJ:  (chuckling)

SP:  people get a continuity of the emotional struggle at this moment that I'm going through, so they can really get a sense of when I do answer it, that.

JB:  You have an instrument, your vocal cords, and you've said, and I quote you, directly, that they have to be in shape in order to last in concert, in order to hit the notes, and all that stuff.

SP:  Uh Huh, to sing, period.

JB:  To sing, period.  But you know, old buddy Dave Navarro has offered you a chance to come up and

SP:  (Laughing Hard) Hah Hah Hah!  He told you that, did he?

UJ:  (Laughing & coughing)

SP:  DAVE!  You're spanking me! I can't believe this!  This is like a back door spank!

JB:  Well, this, this is

SP:  He did, he offered me to come up and sing with his

JB:  Camp Freddy

SP:  Camp Freddy thing, and I told him I would do that, but I'm a little out of shape, but if I warmed it up, I'd give him a call.  I went and watched him play a few times, yeah.

(Stone In Love)

JB:  Would you get on stage? You thinkin'?

SP:  I'm thinkin'.  I'm thinking about the stage.  I mean there's nothing more I would rather do, but it's tough. It's tough, and, and it's hard to even discuss it.  I mean I have a certain requirement within myself to be myself, or not to be myself

UJ:  Uh huh.

SP:   and so I'm the most demanding person.  And I've I had this conversation with a very close friend of mine, I'm the most demanding person I have to deal with.  It isn't what the people would think.  He told me one time, that good friend of mine, he said "More than likely, you at your half best would probably be plenty." And

JB:  Yes, I

SP:  And I said, "Well I don't see it that way, thanks for saying that, but I doubt it!"  He said, "OK whatever". You know, ok, you know he was trying to be honest with me.

UJ:  Uh huh

SP:  So you know I'm struggling with that all the time, I mean, when I have to sit and watch this DVD, it absolutely, oh what is the words, there's just no words to put in, there's no words to cover the feelings.  Would I go back to 1981, November 6th ?  In a minute!

UJ:  Uh huh.

SP:  Uh, would I do it all again?  In a minute!   Would I do it differently?  Not a goddamn thing!

UJ:  Uh huh.

SP:  You know, I would be the same guy.  I want them to be who they were.  I want us to be at that point just like we were - to not agree and to agree to disagree if nec...  I mean everything.  It's just that's, that's what it was.  I don't think it can be recreated, nothing can be recreated, but do I enjoy singing?  Man I love singing.  But now, it's confined to my car and my shower.  And ah, sorry Joe, but you can't be there. (Laughs)

JB:  However, to win the grand prize, in the Steve Perry shower

SP:  (still laughing) If you call right now     

JB:  Send 20 dollars to.

SP:  That's right, we're going to give away two!  One for the car and one for the shower!

JB:  So what would Steve Perry sing in the shower?

SP:  Oh my goodness!

JB:  (slightly away from the mike) You're thinking a long time about this!

SP:  I am!  I am!  Because it depends, you know.  It depends on my mood, really, where I'm going, or what I'm doing, or, whayou know.  Is it a morning shower or is it a night shower, you know.  Night shower's a different kind of, probably more Marvin Gaye, a little Sam Cooke, you know.  Morning shower might be, I don't know, it's just a morning shower is just a little yodelish, you know.  (giggles) Yodelayeeoooo!

JB:  Yodel!  Oh, I was afraid you were saying Yoda-ish, that would not work, no no

SP:  No, no, no.  Yodelish. I don't know, I

JB:  And then in the car, it's something to do with the anger, frustration, the blues pouring out with three dollars a gallon gasoline.

SP:  No, I do, I do what you guys do is I sing with the radio and I hope they, I don't want to be on that show, ever!  You know (laughs) 'cause it's not pretty! (laughs)

(Anyway You Want It)

JB:  Steve Perry and Journey, live!  Any Way You Want It closing out the November 6th, 1981 show at the Summit in Houston.  That live performance is coming out on a two-disc DVD and CD collector's set this Tuesday, November 15th.  It's called "Live In Houston - 1981 - The Escape Tour", and was produced by former Journey singer, Steve Perry, who remixed and remastered the original audio.

Journey Off the Record was written and produced by Stacy Parra.  Production and engineering by Ron Harris.  Assisted by Dave Amaya.  Special thanks to Westwood One's Steven Cosio and Yohan Shankar. Executive Producer, Norm Pattis.  And a big thank you goes out to Steve Perry for taking the time to chat.  I'm Joe Benson.  You can email me at And I'll see you next time for the Doors, Off the Record.

Transcribed by Kate C - 11/14/2005.
Proofread, Approved and Used by Permission of Joe Benson. Thanks Joe!