Before Journey arrives, Debbie Newman, director of artist development and video for Columbia Records, goes over the storyboards, a series of sketches detailing a video's camera movements. She has questions about camera angles, and when Diaz and the art director Jessica Scott have satisfied her, she issues a warning: "The band is going to put you through hell. They're going to have a million questions. They've never dealt with anything like this before."

When the band arrives from San Francisco that evening, it goes to Miss Scott's room to get their first look at the storyboards. Lead singer Steve Perry looks like a child being led to the dentist. Other than the band's initial meeting with Diaz the week before, its only input has been a phone call in which Perry explained to Jessica Scott the emotion conveyed in each song.

The art director's interpretation of their song, "Separate Ways" has 56 camera movements. In it, the band sings and plays as an attractive young woman walks along a deserted part of New Orleans. Shots of her walking will be intercut with shots of the band members, approximating the song's theme of a man and a woman who were once in love going their separate ways. At the end of the video, the woman will be in bed wearing a Sony Walkman, indicating the entire episode had been a dream.

As each sketch is explained, Perry's face flushes, his imprecise features bulging with anger. Referring to a line in the song, dramatized by a shot of the woman bending down to take a stone out of her shoe, he asks incredulously, "What's that got to do with surviving the tide?"

"Don't worry," Diaz says soothingly. "You're going for the obvious. There're better ways to convey emotion in these things."

When the run-through is over, Perry is still skeptical, saying: "I've gotta get my licks in now because when it comes to editing, I'm not going to be there. Are we going to make something timeless or are we going to make something typical?"

At 10 the following morning, the band arrives at the Louisa Street Wharf to find the instruments set up outside a condemned, pale blue warehouse facing two large monitor speakers and the Mississippi River. Paul Ledford, crew soundman and editor, is sitting atop a pickup-truck can with a small tape recorder and a master tape of "Separate Ways."

The day's first shot finds the band in everyday clothes going through the song, with Perry lip-synching the words and the band members feigning their instrumental parts. For each take, the song is blared loudly. By the end of the day, everyone really knows that song. On the first few takes, the band is quite stiff, although both Buckholtz and Diaz are purring encouragement constantly. On the other hand, a discouraging cold wind off the Mississippi causes the T-shirt clad Perry to run for cover in a Winnebago between takes.
Perry is doing his best.  Instead of just lip-synching, he is actually singing the song, his voice powerful enough to be heard over the amplified sound of the band on tape. He seems to have calmed down somewhat, but he is still trying to feel his way. "I feel naked without the mike," he says pointedly to Buckholtz. "I need some input from you, Tom."
As the day wears on, about half the camera movements on the storyboards are filmed, and the band is feeling more at ease with each take. By the late afternoon, Journey is confident enough to suggest movements of its own.

For the keyboard player Jonathan Cain, Journey's foray into "concept" video is a necessary if somewhat uncomfortable step. "Visual impact is very important these days," he said, ducking into the warehouse between takes. "This is the 1980s. We feel we're a band of the future, so we've gotta do well at this. Yet we don't want to be embarrassed out there. There were times this morning when I must admit I felt like I was on 'Celebrity Bowling'."

***

The second day of shooting takes place near some abandoned railroad tracks on the other side of the warehouse. The pre-Mardi Gras weather is unseasonably cold. Buckholtz, resplendent in coonskin cap and fire-engine-red MTV sweatshirt, sets up the first scene along the tracks.

Later that afternoon, at another warehouse on the wharf, head gaffer Alvin Henry is maneuvering a forklift up and down as Buckholtz films the band singing atop a pile of shipping materials. By this time, even Perry has come to life, though the cold he has caught prevents him from admitting as much.

In the meantime, Columbia's Debbie Newman huddles constantly with Buckholtz and Diaz: "I don't like the mike," she says, motioning towards the microphone Perry has been given as a prop. "It's too big. Plus, sometimes he has the mike and other times he doesn't. It's confusing."

These were the first "concept" video clips Journey ever made, but the band is no stranger to MTV's audience. The group was involved in the station's first "One Night Stand" contest, one of a series of audience-building promotions. This one involved a drawing in which the winning entry and three friends were flown in a Lear jet to a Journey concert, at a cost of $20,000. But, says the MTV programming director, John Sykes, "MTV was so new and different, we couldn't give away six-packs and pizza."

Like any cable programming service, MTV must sell itself to local cable operators. Unlike the Cable News Network, for example, MTV does not charge local cable operators to carry the service. Even so, MTV has spent heavily on advertising, and today is seen in Manhattan and Los Angeles, the two crucial markets for potential advertisers. It has been gaining new subscribers at a rate sometimes exceeding one million homes a month. Although its 12 million homes represent a little more than 39% of the nation's 31 million cable subscribers, talks with cable-systems operators indicate that as older systems are upgraded and their channel capacities increased, MTV should have little trouble increasing its subscriber base even more rapidly.

***

The following evening, crew and band have reassembled at a film studio in New Orleans. The group members are outfitted in tuxedos for the next song, "Chain Reaction." A glittery, Art Deco set has been constructed, with the crew working three consecutive 24-hour days to ready it. On one side is a black-and-red tiled bar with red leather bar stools, ersatz martinis and an auburn-haired female mannequin. To the left of the bar is a black-and-white checkerboard, Lucite-tiled stage, where the band stands with its instruments. A vivid sky backdrop, flown in from New York, is draped over the rear of the set, giving it a Magritte-ish look.

In "Chain Reaction," the lead guitarist Neal Schon makes a pass at the mannequin until he is interrupted by Perry. The two men argue about the woman in alternating verses. Halfway through the video, the mannequin is replaced by a real woman.

Buckholtz's and Diaz's general utterances seem to have paid off. One take after another goes smoothly, with Perry and Schon establishing a bond with Buckholtz's camera. Perry suggests a way to get the entire band into a shot with him and Schon. Buckholtz is initially skeptical, but experimenting with Perry's suggestion gives him a similar idea that Perry likes.

Will Journey's gamble pay off? Will their initial foray into what John Sanborn, a highly regarded figure in the avant-garde video art field, calls the "next logical extension of musical theater" propel Journey into the 1980s? MTV thinks so, of course. "Separate Ways" went on the air recently, as Pittman says, "in heavy rotation," and "Chain Reaction" followed shortly thereafter. Journey's new album, "Frontiers," has been selling rapidly.

Although Steve Perry seems fairly pleased with the experiment, he is not yet a total video convert. "I still hope the music comes first," he says.

However, the guitarist Neal Schon seems to have seen the wave of the future for rock music, and decided it works. "Next time," he says, putting his arm around director Tom Buckholtz, "you're going to write the songs with me. That way, we'll definitely get it right."

Source - unknown, 1983
Journey
On The
Video Set

1983

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