MIYAKO HOTEL, SAN FRANCISCO
There are a lot of sumo wrestlers here. They're big, they're fat and they're Japanese. In Japan, I'm told, they have groupies. In America, they just look big, fat and Japanese.
Here in the lobby of this hotel that has strange bathtubs, an old friend and I are having drinks, eating peanuts, watching the big fat sumo wrestlers out of the corners of our eyes. They speak no English and walk around in robes. Won't real clothes fit them? We don't know. We drink and watch.
FANTASY STUDIOS, BERKELEY
There are a lot of industry people here. We are standing in a listening room and getting to know each other, most of us. Playing very loudly is Escape, the new album by Journey. There are two tables in this listening room. One is covered with food, one is covered by bottles. Many people here have Journey jackets on. People congregate by the tables, eating, drinking.
Steve Perry walks in. Look, there's Neal Schon and isn't that Jonathan Cain sitting by himself over there?
Now it makes sense. These guys are members of Journey.
Here in this listening room, we industry people are drinking and eating and getting to meet Journey if we want to, which is really very nice. Sandy Einstein, a very nice man whom I've met before, works for Journey as one of the band's two publicists. Among other things, he helps co-ordinate gatherings like this. He asks me if I've met Steve Perry yet, and I haven't. I do.
Steve Perry is very nice, too.
IN, OUT AND IN THE MIYAKO HOTEL
Now that the listening party is over, I can have fun. Fun is going to strange San Franciscan bars that are not gay and getting drunk with old friends. Fun is: people asking you intelligent questions and you being too drunk to answer them. Bumping into jukeboxes while people at your table mutter when you walk away. Walking through the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant to a flight of stairs that leads to the dining room upstairs. Not getting any food because your waiter only speaks Chinese and you mumble a lot anyway. Being drunk and trying to eat someone else's food with chopsticks.
There are a lot of ways to have fun here.
MIYAKO MORNING INCIDENT
Sumo wrestlers have fun, too. One of them stands in the corridor of the Miyako hotel, facing the corner. He is big and fat. He is also peeing on the floor.
WAITING FOR THE BUS
It is bright and early now. Several of us are waiting for a big bus. The big bus will take us far away for four hours and we will be able to see Journey play. It will all start tomorrow, a big outdoor festival, three days of 12,000 people driving far away to see Journey, just like the rest of us.
Steve Perry is also waiting for the bus. He's with his girlfriend. Look! There's Neal and he's got his girlfriend, too!
What's that trophy Steve's got in his bag? "This is the prima award," he explains. Each year, he says, the members of Journey decide which member of the band is acting like the biggest prima donna. "I got it last year," explains Steve, who is laughing at the thought of it all. He's "taking charge" of the award this year.
Look! It's the bus!
Let's get in!
This nice big bus holds 40 people of so. It's about half-filled.
It's a very cozy set-up for an interview, which I will conduct if I can get the taste of last night's Chinese food out of my mouth.
One thing very strange about doing an interview in a bus. It's just like an airplane: the guy next to you is too close. Hippies call it "personal space"; you probably know what I mean. Not only am I interviewing Steve Perry of Journey, I am probably invading his personal space, which is something rock journalists don't often do.
Steve keeps being nice, too.
WHY JOURNEY CONCERNS ME PERSONALLY
1)Because on March 10, 1976, I wrote in a college paper that Journey "often approaches Santana at their early best combined with the tastier elements of New York's Vanilla Fudge. Since no-one talks about the Vanilla Fudge seriously these days, Journey is fated to go ill-described for at least two more albums." 2)Two albums later, Steve Perry joined the band, 3)Because The Rolling Stone Record Guide gave the first four Journey albums three stars each. 4)Because in the 1980 CREEM Readers' Poll, Journey was voted tenth in the Most Pathetic Category. 5)I was voted ninth.
AN INTERVIEW APPROACH
There are many ways to conduct an interview. You can be very nice, ask questions like "What was it like recording your new album?" and later be known as an "inoffensive" interviewer. You can also be horrid, ask questions like "You realise you sound like a duck when you sing?" and have lots of short interviews. By combining both approaches, you can ask "Lots of people say you sing like a duck what do you think about that?"
Nice people will answer questions like that and get mad at "lots of people." But not at you, the interviewer.
This interesting approach is often very fruitful.
CREEM: Many people have accused Journey of tailoring their music exclusively for FM airplay, And, I might add, at the expense of creativity.
STEVE PERRY: If we do, it's subconscious. I don't like to think that we're going to bore anybody with too much self-indulgence. We want to be melodically indulgent we really do and we just want to keep it interesting. And if I think there's a way of being musically self-indulgent and still interesting.
CREEM: Several might suggest that the rock press actually hates Journey.
STEVE PERRY: It doesn't make me feel bad, actually, I swear. Because I think that the people know, they like what we're doing. And just because one particular person who sits in what he thinks of as a driver's seat decides to say something, influence the people by his own personal opinion, that's pretty sad.
CREEM: One can't help but think, though, that you and the rest of your band would really like it much better if everybody liked you.
STEVE PERRY: Oh no. No, no, no, no. That would be boring. Everybody's got to hate something. If there's controversy, you're better off.
CREEM: Suppose you read somewhere that Journey was a band that never took any chances, that always played it safe
STEVE PERRY: Well, I'd like to know what they think a chance would be, first of all. Do they mean putting out an album that would be disliked because it's so different or something? Is that a chance? That's stupidity.
CREEM: Many people rock critics among them often lump Journey with other bands like Styx, Foreigner and Kansas.
STEVE PERRY: How can we be lumped in with groups like that?
CREEM: I'm asking you
STEVE PERRY: I think that's another intoxicated person writing something stupid. Just because you talk about baseball players who all play baseball, they're all still different. I can't believe it. It's apples and oranges. These people I don't believe it they show what a limited insight they have into their own gigs. They don't have enough musical background to be able to distinguish what the people already know. It's too bad that they sit in such places of influence. And destruction, sometimes. Malicious destruction.
CREEM: Thank you, Steve.
(Please note: Above interview was severely edited.)
A QUICK BREAK
We're all leaving the bus! Let's eat.
Mexican food sounds great, Is this Stockton? Wow.
TWO HOURS LATER
Let's get back on the bus.
Sure was a long lunch.
THIRTY MINUTES LATER
NEAL SCHON: This Mexican food is driving a hole in my stomach
FACTS ABOUT NEAL SCHON
Neal Schon, Journey's guitarist, has just finished recording an album with Jan Hammer. Hammer is a keyboard player who was once in the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Neal Schon is a very good guitarist. Better than most, actually. Nice guy, too.
NEAL SCHON ON THE ALBUM HE JUST RECORDED WITH JAN HAMMER
"It was during a time period when everybody had taken off for a vacation, and since we could all do what we wanted to do during vacation, I chose to go to New York and see if I could get along with the guy.
"It sounds like a 1990's Band Of Gypsies somewhat. Jan sounds like Buddy Miles on drums and we're playing some burning rock 'n' roll. There's some real good blues on it, too. Hard rock with blues.
"We did it real fast. We got together and wrote the material in the first three days. Then we laid it down and wrote lyrics to it afterwards.
"Jan's really a frustrated rock player, ya know? I knew that rock was what he wanted to hear - I think he was afraid I wanted to get fused out. All I wanted to do was to get into what I wanted. He hates to sit down and play keyboards; he likes to hang 'em around his neck and move around. He's really energetic, one of the most energetic people I've ever met. And one of the most creative."
WACKY FACT TO INSURE CREEM-LIKE STYLE
This part of the story is being typed on the back of a Strother Martin bio. He was in "The Champ".
BUS RIDE ALMOST ENDING
Well, the bus ride is almost ending. Been a long one too.
Pretty productive. Talked to Steve Perry and Neal Schon. Both nice guys, like I said. Perry seemed a little more "guarded" than Schon, but it could just be personal temperament.
Of course, no-one ever said Neal Schon sang like a duck.
BUS TRIP BONUS
Neal Schon brings over a Sony Walkman, very generously, reminding me that I'd said I'd like to hear the album he'd just made with Jan Hammer.
I listen to it.
It is very good. Wow.
We are now at the festival site. The band goes through a sound check. Others take the bus to their lodging. Big day is tomorrow, so no one but a few security people are at the site. Sound check is soon over.
Back on the bus, to our lodging.
NAME OF LODGING
"Poker Flat Lodge."
FIRST NIGHT AT POKER FLAT LODGE
The Mexican food drove a hole through my stomach. I could still taste last night's Chinese food. I went to sleep. The end.
THE MOUNTAIN AIRE FESTIVAL
Lots of people here. Because they are all from California, they are tan and trim and have no pimples. They are very healthy. Two bellydancers bellydance in front of the many booths that are set up around the festival. One can buy and eat ice cream, sno-cones, health foods, tacos and pizza. One can buy and wear Journey t-shirts, leather vests, jackets, underwear, jewelry and headbands. One can only watch the bellydancers.
So this is California! I breathe in the fresh mountain air. Look at all those young bodies! Journey has many fans, and to the casual eye many of them appear to be nubile, scantily clad young ladies under the age of 18. They walk around sucking on popsicles. Parachutes open overhead, carrying skydivers and the afternoon's entertainment.
Nightmare, Journey's management company, also manages a young San Franciscan band called 415, who are slowly being groomed for massive international stardom and who, judging from their opening set, may attain it. There are wheels in the sky and wheels on the ground, and the big wheels behind Journey know which way their wheels should be rolling.
Over so soon? Time for daredevil airplane stunts: planes zoom this way and that, looping and falling, and the Californians ohh and ahh. Is it the fourth of July? Next up: Billy Squier.
Billy is very good much better than his new album is. He will prosper.
What a crazy audience in California!
BUS INCIDENT A DAY EARLIER
CREEM: OK Neal, this about wraps it up. Any final comments to the millions who read CREEM?
NEAL: Millions, huh? . Hmmmmm. OK: 'We're getting' ready to COME OUT!!'
CREEM: Out of the closets?
NEAL: No, NOT outta the closets!
(end of tape)
MEMORY OF A FREE FESTIVAL PART TWO
Nice set from Hall & Oates. Don't know if they belong here, though.
Hey, look who's next! Journey!
Meanwhile I am strolling back and forth, looking over these mystical campgrounds and, sadly, also looking 27. People are getting burnt by the sun, not to mention the "health" food. Journey are going through their set, doing just fine I suppose, and new addition Jonathan Cain former Bearsville solo artist (1977) and ex-Babys keyboard player pulls out a rhythm guitar. Great move.
Interesting person, too.
JONATHAN CAIN ON HIS EXPERIENCE AS A MEMBER OF THE JONATHAN CAIN BAND, WHO RECORDED ONE ALBUM FOR BEARSVILLE RECORDS
"Tony Outeda from Foghat comes up to me and says 'You think you're so cool.' And I said, 'No, buddy, don't come on to me like this.' He says, 'Why don't you let the other guys in the band sing, why don't you let the guy with the high voice sing?'
"I say 'The guy with the high voice ain't got the balls to sing. I'm the fuckin' singer, and if he wants to challenge me, he'll go for it. He ain't got the guts, he don't wanna sing with me like that.
"I say ' You think I don't let him sing you're full of shit. He's go no balls, he ain't a rock 'n' roll singer. I am.'"
END OF SET
Journey's set is over. Good response. Crowd loves 'em.
FORCED TO DRINK!
The people are leaving, but not us. That's because we know that there's a special party waiting for industry people, radio contest winners and self-serving journalists. Bottles and bottles of Japanese beer are on ice, which makes me sad. I no longer drink beer. Bottles and bottles of champagne are put on ice, which makes me happy.
SORRY ABOUT THAT, CHIEF
I am observing a young woman who is wearing spandex pants and who I would not be looking at were I not one who enjoyed champagne in excess.
Oh boy! She's coming over here!
Hi, she says, can I have some of your champagne? The guy I'm with is too busy talking to everyone. Did you know I'm gonna be a model? I just had my portfolio shot today. This champagne is great. Guess how old I am. Give up? Fifteen! No-one ever believes it, but it's true!
MOMENT OF SILENCE
And ya know what else? Don Adams is my grandfather! That's right, the guy from Get Smart!
TWO VIEWS OF STEVE PERRY'S VOCAL TALENTS
1)"Steve Perry is probably the best vocalist in rock." - A good friend who works for Columbia Records but says that hasn't influenced his opinion in the slightest. 2)"Steve has an instrument that God only gave to so many people. And God gave Steve a voice that rings like a bell. And inspires me. When I hear Steve sing, and sing words that I think about, and the melodies that we come up with . I get chills." Jonathan Cain, newest member of Journey.
ONE VIEW OF STEVE PERRY FROM DON ADAMS' GRANDDAUGHTER
"Jeez, I went up to him and asked for an autograph, and all he said was "no thanks"
THREE TRUE FACTS FOR PEOPLE WHO SAY THEY HATE JOURNEY
1)The first two Journey albums, Journey and Look Into The Future, which I listened to all over again before writing this, are actually very good albums that a lot of people have forgotten about. Filled with post-psychedelic "Heavy" numbers. They combine the best of Vanilla Fudge, first-LP Argent and Yellow Submarine Beatles and beat out anything Santana or other S.F. heavies ever did. 2)The soundtrack Dream After Dream, recorded in Japan after Departure, features the Steve Perry Journey and is probably the best thing they've done in years. It was also never released here, which makes things confusing for Journey haters. 3)Also, Journey sells more albums than you do.
NEAL SCHON ON THE WORLD
"It's, uh, a beautiful place .(laughs)"
LAST NIGHT THERE
Back at Poker Flat! Finally corner Jonathan Cain, who talks a lot and knows what's going on. Good guy. Bye.
At the motel bar, people are dancing, it's packed. Journey's in there. I'm drinking, a waitress sees me at the bat, walks up, says "You guys were great today, you play great keyboards!" and I'm questioning the ethics of little trips like these that make you hang around with a band, like 'em a lot as people, and then go home and try to write about 'em. It's even more fun to question my own ethics.
THERE'S IRONY EVERYWHERE
Reading the newspaper on the way to the San Francisco airport: Interesting story about a little Italian kid who's trapped in a well. Looks like he'll never get out.
© Creem Magazine Inc., September 1981