Joe Benson: Gregg Rolie and guitarist Neal Schon first met in 1971 when Neal joined the band Santana which Gregg had co-founded with Carlos Santana three years earlier. By '72 both Gregg and Neal had left Santana. A year later the two were playing together again thanks to former Santana road manager Walter Herbie Herbert who added the two musicians to the line up of his new band "The Golden Gate Rhythm Section". Then as a result of a local radio station's Name The Band contest they changed their name to Journey and that's a fact. This is your Uncle Joe Benson. Journey's mostly instrumental debut album arrived in 1975. That album and the two that followed did moderately well. As a manager Herbie Herbert convinced the band to hire a strong lead singer a front man. You see Gregg Rolie who had done some singing in his Santana days was also serving as Journey's vocalist at the time. After one false start Journey found their front man in the form of Steve Perry and that's the story we will hear today Off-The-Record.
Joe Benson: Before you were approached by Journey or before you approached them you were in another band here in Los Angeles weren't you?
Steve Perry: Yeah, It was about 1977. It was the latest incarnation of my musical desires at that point. I had a lot of groups before this one but this one was the one that we called the Alien Project before the movie came out ya know. That was sort of a running name. Chrysalis was a record label at the time very interested and so was Columbia records and that's what I was in, yea.
Joe Benson: Were you approached by members of Journey or did you happen to see them?
Steve Perry: No, what happened was a demo that we had recorded that got those two labels interested in signing the group. Unfortunately the bass player got killed in a car accident July 4th weekend. And that particular demo drifted through Columbia's hands up to the management of Journey. It was kind of unbenounced to me that that happened and I was pretty much ready to give up my quest to be a singer in the music business. My mother encouraged me as she always did to hang in there and I had already closed my apartment down and said I was coming back home and ..uh.. shortly after that I got a phone call from Michael Dilbeck and Don Ellis who were running the west coast at the time and they said, "We have this group called 'Journey' . We are really sorry to hear what happened to your bass player but I think that you would be a welcome addition to the band. Would you like to meet with them?" And shortly thereafter I did meet with them and then I became a singer.
Joe Benson: Legend has it the second song you wrote with the guys or at least co-wrote with Neal was Lights. Did he have the riff worked up on that or?
Steve Perry: I had the song written .. this is kind of a funny story. But I had the song written in Los Angeles almost completely except for the bridge and it was written about Los Angeles. It was "when the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on LA". I didn't like the way it sounded (laughs) at the time. And so I just had it sitting back in the corner. Then when this whole thing changed, life changed my plans once again, and now facing joining Journey. I love San Francisco, the bay and the whole thing. "The bay" fit so nice, "When the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on the bay", ya know. It was one of those early morning going across the bridge things when the sun was coming up and the lights were going down. It was perfect.
Joe Benson: By the time Steve Perry joined Journey the band already started work on what would be there fourth album. 1978's Infinity.
Joe Benson: Steve Perry had already decided to pack in his music career when the call came in from Journey. And it wasn't till after he did a bit of soul searching and had a heart-to-heart talk with his grandfather who pointed out that Steve was unemployed and could really use a job, that he accepted Journey's offer. Steve Perry joined the Journey line up in 1977. And actually did some songwriting with Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie before even stepping foot on stage with the band. He finally made his live debut at the last performance of Journey's three-night stand at San Francisco's old Waldorf in late 1977.
Steve Perry: They did have me perform after we had written a couple of things. At a place that was called the Old Waldorf. And I think that was when they were testing the water because they had a certain following as a fusion oriented group at that point. And they were making a conscious musical change but they were testing the waters to see how people would or wouldn't accept me. So I did one show with them at the Waldorf, that was a frightening show because I was (laughs) thrown out in front of the die-hard fans who didn't want to see nobody out there ya know. But it went over pretty good and slowly the transition starting making change and we wrote more songs, finished the Infinity album actually.
Joe Benson: The Infinity tour went on for 9 months or whatever, and then it was time to record Evolution. Had you been writing the songs on the road? Or was it like, the tour is done let's take off two days and I'll me you down at the (studio).
Steve Perry: No, the Infinity tour went on for 185 shows back-to-back. I mean I remember those days. It wasn't like one on one off, two on, one off. We're talking five on, one off , four on one off. I remember getting home. I didn't even have an apartment. I knew I was going off, ya know, on the Kittyhawk, to sea, that's what it felt like to me, I was on board ship. I remember getting back to my mom's house for Christmas because we did break for a week for Christmas. Right after that we just went and started writing the next one.
Joe Benson: When did it occur to you that songs like "Lovin, Touchin, Squeezin" and "Too Late" for that matter, people had no idea what you were talking about but still were placing things of their lives and using your songs as a soundtrack for that.
Steve Perry: That is an interesting thing. You can only go inside yourself and draw that which you feel it's coming from but when the lyrics finally get written and you finally sing it and it's finished. You're right some of the bigger songs have multiple meanings to multiple people. That can be a wonderful thing. It can fit their own little movie situation they're going through at the time and sometimes it can mean other things to people entirely which can be a little frightening.
Joe Benson: Departure was another album, the third album in a row and you had also toured for a thousand dates.
Steve Perry: Oh yea. We were the hardest touring band. We would stay out there. I came back to my mom's house another time cause I didn't have an apartment yet because I'm still on tour. Ya know. I parked my car in the garage and I remember the phone rang one Christmas again, and I leaped out of bed and ran down the hall thinking I was late for the bus. I mean it was so then I would reach to the phone and dial 9 for a line out. (Laughs) I knew that I had been on the road too long.
Joe Benson: Steve Perry and Neal Schon co-wrote "Anyway You Want It" on their bus during the Evolution tour. The Departure album was released in 1980. The band at the time said the record title signaled leaving their older material behind and heading into the 80's.
Joe Benson: During the Departure tour, original Journey member Gregg Rolie officially announced his departure from the band. The 1981 live album called Captured which featured two new Journey songs was recorded during March and April of 1980 on the Departure World Tour. It was dedicated to the memory of the band's good friend AC/DC singer Bon Scott who died as Journey's departure tour was just ending. One of the new songs on the live record, "The Party's Over/Hopelessly In Love" who Steve Perry wrote on Ross Valory's bass backstage at Detroit's Cobo Hall was released as a single. But it stalled out in the 30's on the single's chart when "Who's Cryin Now" was released from Journey's next studio album Escape.
Joe Benson: When you were recruited for Journey Gregg Rolie had handled all the lead vocals up to that time. Did you get along with him well. Or was there a week or two it took to work in. Because you guys, when you shared lead vocals that was special as well.
Steve Perry: In the very beginning I have to tell you that Gregg Rolie was the guy who took me under his wing. I had nowhere to stay in the Bay area and he put me in a downstairs bedroom of his house. While we were writing and recording the Infinity record him and I would drive everyday to San Francisco to the studio. He was like a really supportive guy and really was positively behind the idea of me being in the band. At some point in time I don't know what happened but at some point in time I think we did become professionally competitive. That was just bound to happen I guess on both fronts. But I tell ya he really did take me under his wing in the beginning because I was the new kid and he gave me a lot of strength and support. I think he had had enough of the road, I remember in Germany, I'll never forget where he actually told us that he was gonna leave the group when we got back to the states. He would do a few more shows then he wanted to have a family. Those were real things that he wanted to do and he did. That's when we found Jonathan Cain. In fact he helped us pick Jonathan Cain as his replacement. He said you should check this guy out.
Joe Benson: Very few people in the music business get to hook up with somebody that they click with in a song-writing basis the way you and Neal did. There was a magic about that. I don't know if you were aware of it as it was happening or not.
Steve Perry: I don't think so, honestly I don't think so.
Joe Benson: For as much as you were working, you never had time to set back and reflect on it. Then Jonathan Cain comes into the band and "zap" you gotta second time around.
Steve Perry: Right. Well what happened was Jon is a really great songwriter, so when you bring another great songwriter into that We had sort of a three-way thing going where Jon and I would do something, Neal would bring in a bridge, or Neal and I would do something, and Jon would do the lyrics. Depending upon what was lacking it seemed like either both would finish or a third would come in and finish the pie. Because of it, it stepped to another level, it really did.
Joe Benson: By the time the Escape World Tour had ended in 1982, Journey had been touring non-stop for years. Taking brief breaks to record albums , not fully realizing their burnt state of mind. The band took a very short three-month break before going to work on what became their Frontiers album.
Steve Perry: At that point we had worked so hard . I think that we were, as a group, seeing so much of each other. We had made some money, we were actually starting to run into some conflicts which would just be normal. That's what happens in bands. But I must tell you that the Frontiers record was absolutely made with all the same strength and with all the mission the group had in the Escape record. In the middle of that Frontiers tour , maybe before the tour, definitely at the end of the tour, we were pretty stressed and I was burnt.
Joe Benson: Separate Ways was inspired by both the divorces of Neal Schon and bassist Ross Valory. The song was written by Steve Perry and keyboardist, Jonathan Cain in a single afternoon. In fact Perry and Cain co-wrote almost every song on the Frontiers album leaving Neal with co-writing credits on less than half the material. By the time the Frontiers tour ended in 1983 Journey had performed for some 2 million fans in 72 cities. A national gallop poll at the time named Journey the most popular band in America and that most popular band was in dire need of a real vacation.
Joe Benson: It took Journey three years to release a follow-up to Frontiers. During that three-year period Steve Perry released his successful solo album Street Talk. Original bassist Ross Valory quit the band and both Perry and Jonathan Cain dealt with personal crisis. Perry lost his mother and Cain suffered through a divorce. It took the band two years and two tries to finish what would be 1986's Raised on Radio. And because Steve Perry helmed the production the concept album sound was radically different from the past records. Nevertheless, Raised on Radio went on to sell over two million copies and after the tour ended in 1987 Journey officially went their Separate Ways.
Joe Benson: I heard Send Her My Love is your favorite song?
Steve Perry: It's one of my favorites. You know it's hard because as I look back now boy I'm really proud of everything the band accomplished when we were together. Send Her My Love is one of my favorites. It's cinematic, it's got some kind of visuals to it, a little more than most. In the sound of the instruments, the feel of the drums, the character of the voice and the echoes. It just sounds cinematic to me.
Joe Benson: When people think of Journey. Fist off what they think of is the music and what it meant in their lives. On another level they think what was the band , what did the band mean. What thought would you like to put in their mind.
Steve Perry: Journey was not just me. Journey was an entity bigger than the pieces. It was the sum of the parts that made this bigger entity. When we were at our biggest peak there was such a lot of conversation at that point that groups didn't have too much identity. Which I found very, very disturbing because I've always felt and still do that Journey had it's own identity. I would like to see it remembered for a group, the incarnation of myself and the guys as a group that had honest, honest heart-felt music. That really came from aggressive angst and passionate heart and all the stuff in between.
Joe Benson: Journey reunited in 1996 and released the "Trial By Fire" Album however, that reunion was cut short when Steve Perry's degenerative hip condition kept the band off the road. Journey split with Perry and continued on with another singer, Steve Augeri. After a couple of delays their first album together will be out next month. As for Steve Perry, during three days of California Speedway for the CART Championship series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series season finales, Steve told me he has been getting into motor-sports a real lot. He's also been writing and recording some demos but has no plans at this time to launch into anything formal. He's "too busy enjoying life" right so!*
*Thanks Uncle Joe!