Off the Record with Steve Perry and Uncle Joe Benson
Sunday, December 10, 2006
UJ: Steve Perry’s first musical memory took root at the age of three when he saw his parents perform in a community theater production at the local civic center in his central California hometown. He also has a vivid recollection of being 7 years old, walking around the house singing along to the radio. And of course, there’s the moment a few years later while riding in his mother’s T-Bird that he first heard Sam Cooke sing Cupid, and decided, basically on the spot, that he too would be a singer. This is your “Uncle” Joe Benson, and Steve Perry more than accomplished his childhood dream. He went on to front one of the biggest, best-selling stadium rock bands of the late 70’s and early 80’s, Journey. And if that wasn’t enough, he also launched a successful solo career in 1984 with the release of Street Talk. Despite the album’s massive success, Steve Perry took his mother’s advice and returned to Journey instead of pursuing a solo career. And today, the former Journey singer is here to celebrate both legacies, the entire Journey catalogue along with Steve Perry’s two solo albums, have all been digitally re-mastered, remixed and released. Each album also includes a handful of bonus tracks everything from previously unheard studio tracks to live performances. So here we go, music and stories with Steve Perry, Off The Record.
UJ: I’m talking with Steve Perry here, Off The Record, it’s your Uncle Joe Benson. You’ve made one public appearance, one performance in the last ten years or so.
SP: What is that? With the White Sox? (laughing)
UJ: Yeah. Standard size crowd for you.
SP: That’s right, that’s right. They kinda got me back into it, didn’t they?
UJ: Kinda drug you back into it.
SP: They drug me back into it yeah.
UJ: Actually, we haven’t spoken about this since it happened.
SP: Yeah. Those are great guys over there, all those guys, I swear to God, they are great guys, Anderson, Pierzynski, Rowand was in the team at the time, I mean there are some great guys there, Bobby Jenks, I mean there are some cool guys, you know, Crede…
UJ: Well, I know you’ve been enamored with baseball for a while.
UJ: The pacing of it, the way the game puts together and everything that has to go along with that, and you were rather surprised to find out that Don’t Stop Believin'’ was kind of like their team song.
SP: Yeah, it was a total accident. That season that they went to the World Series, they had adopted the song around July, and I didn’t know that until they had clinched the AL. And in the clubhouse in Anaheim, in fact, they had brought Chicago Times, and some other reporters, and they were down there in the clubhouse playing this song on 10, and singing it out loud, and the reporter asked them what’s this all about. And they said they were in this karaoke situation somewhere back in July, and they were really wanting to go to the world series, and as soon as they started, they asked the karaoke person or the band to start playing this song and they didn’t know it, and they were giving them I guess some serious grief for that, and after that, they started playing in the clubhouse. So, they started winning when they started playing it, that’s uh, from that point on, it became their sort of mascot song.
UJ: Were you surprise to find out they wanted you there for every game?
SP: I was stunned. I was really happy to go for one, and they wanted me there for all of the home stand. And when they had completely swept at that point, won the two games in Chicago, and they were on their way to Houston, oh my gosh, I was downstairs in the clubhouse, talking to Crede and Rowand and Jenks, and I said congratulations man, you guys are going to go all the way, I know you are, you are really good, and I can see a spirit in you guys that is just unstoppable, and we’re talking, and Crede looks at me and says, “Where are you going?” I said, “Well, I gotta get back, because at that point, the DVD from Houston was finishing and I had some promotion to do and things”. And he said, “You gotta go to Houston”. I said “Well, I gotta get back”, and he said, “No, dude I’m serious, you gotta go to Houston”. And he had this look in his eyes, like “Don’t play around”. And I realized the superstition about baseball. And I went with, “Oh my gosh, OK, I’d love to go, but I don’t even have tickets”. And he looked at me and said, “Tickets won’t be a problem”. (laughing) I said “Oh that’s right, I’m hanging with the team”. So I went.
UJ: So there you are, they’re celebrating their World Series Win.
UJ: You’re in a parade.
UJ: You’re up on the podium.
UJ: There were two things revealed.
SP: What did you get revealed, what did you get?? (laughing).
UJ: Number one: Baseball players couldn’t sing in tune if their lives depended on it.
SP: Ah that helped me out at that point. Yeah. (laughing)
UJ: and you, on the other hand, were spot on, and there’s Steve Perry and a microphone, even though it was a giant party and all this stuff was going on…
SP: in the streets of Chicago…
UJ: … you were right there,
SP: …I loved it!
UJ: You were right there. You had fun!
SP: Oh my gosh, you know, they invited me. Then after they’d won, I was going to go home again, and they said, “Oh no, you’re going to ride in the bus in the parade. And I’m going, “Oh, you gotta be kidding me”. And to ride in one of those open air, you know, roof-free buses down through the streets of Chicago, with everybody just ticker taping, freakin’… It was the loudest thing I’d ever heard in my life. It was fantastic.
Don’t Stop Believin’
UJ: It’s your Uncle Joe Benson talking with Steve Perry, Off the Record. You’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple three years in studios, with the re-mastering of the live DVD, and you’ve also, all the Journey albums now have been re-mastered or,
SP: Yeah, they’ve been re-mastered. Yeah.
UJ: Everything’s been re-mastered, so you’ve been studios a lot.
SP: Last summer. Last summer, I spent the whole summer just overseeing that with Dave Donnelly, who’s a great mastering engineer. And that was really an experience, from top to bottom, to, oh my goodness. It was cathartic, to start at the very beginning, to go through every single song and try to reach for a certain amount of sonics that I knew as a group we always thought we were capable of having, and with today’s technology you can do that, and I was extremely excited about it, and at the same time, it was difficult, because there were moments that I was just so proud of, and then there was a painful moment, because you know, time has passed and so has our involvement with each other.
UJ: Give me something on Any Way You Want It. Where did that come from?
SP: Well, you know, we were touring for quite some time off and on with a group called Thin Lizzy. And Phil was just brilliant.
UJ: Phil Lynott.
SP: Phil Lynott. He is brilliant. And we, I remember, we were hanging out a lot. And one time in Florida we had a day off, and we just sat around and he had certain rhyme schemes, little, little things he would work to do his rhyme scheme exercises. And I just have always been a fan of what he does. And the main thing was, after having them open for us, actually at the very beginning, I must clarify that we opened for them. First time I saw Journey, and sang backstage to try to get the gig with Journey, was back in the East Los Angeles area, I think it was San Bernardino, and so that’s when I first saw him. And then it had flipped, and we were headlining and they were opening for us. But the guitar-vocal-guitar-vocal interchange thing that happened between Phil and his lyrics and the guitarist and his arrangements, inspired the Any Way You Want It sorta give and take thing. It’s guitar-voice, guitar-voice, more guitar-guitar-guitar-voice. It be voice-voice and back and forth and that’s something that Neal and I think just instinctually picked up by hanging out with him, and doing it with him, and from that was born songs like I think Any Way You Want It, I think Stone in Love, stuff like that.
Any Way You Want It
UJ: Journey. Any Way You Want It. It was originally recorded mostly live in the studio for the 1980 Departure album. That’s the newly digitally remixed and re-mastered version. You’re listening to Off the Record. It’s being brought to you the new Epson High-definition Photo printers. And by Emergen-C. Boost your immune system and your energy level. Feel the Good. I’m Joe Benson. Former Journey singer Steve Perry’s here. We’re talking about the newly Journey and Steve Perry solo album re-releases. Everything has been digitally remixed and re-mastered, and all of the respective albums come complete with bonus tracks. Alright now, coming up next, the Journey album that Steve Perry still blasts in his car to this very day, and the story behind Sherrie.
SP: Hi I’m Steve Perry, and welcome back to Journey - Off the Record with Joe Benson.
UJ: The Raised on Radio album was recorded during contentious times. Might have been better for everybody to take a break at that point.
SP: Yeah (laughing)
SP: BUT, I must tell you, if you listen to Raised on Radio now, those mixes, now that they’ve been mastered, re-mastered, I mean, oh my gosh, the songs just stand up. I really believe in that album, always did. And I’ve always loved the way Jonathan and myself and Neal wrote that material. So I think if you listen to that record now you’d be very surprised. I sure am, it’s in my car, and I listen to it more than I maybe should. You know, when I’m driving down the road and I’m cranking it and the windows are down and someone pulls up next to me, I kinda turn it down, so they don’t think I’m some kinda you know…”Oh… Isn’t that him listening to his own music?” (laughing)
UJ: Be Good To Yourself
SP: Yeah. I heard it the other day, And be good to yourself, when nobody else will, oh be good to yourself, You’re walking a highwire, caught in a crossfire, oh be good to yourself. I think that’s the lyric. You know, it was written at the time, because I was going through a big, big change, you know, I don’t know how to put this. But you know you accomplish a certain amount of things you always wanted to accomplish, and sometimes getting there isn’t the fix you’d thought it would be. And not that I’m complaining, it’s just that sometimes, you do just have to take care of yourself, and you put your faith in proving to other people, record label execs, or anybody else that you’re worthy of their love or their support or their promotion or their respect and you dance hard for that only to find out that sometimes, it doesn’t come. And in the music business by the way, if you put your soul and heart into that and you dance hard for those things, and it doesn’t come, which it usually doesn’t, you crash pretty hard. And basically you’ve been putting your approval into the wrong place, when every night, after a show, you get all the approval you need, but being performers, we don’t seem to ever get enough of that, but, so you know, I’m learning where to get that, and so I guess you got to go be good to yourself at some point.
UJ: You had Randy Jackson in the studio working with you and Journey. Was he commenting on your pitch?
SP: (Laughing) Yeah, He said,“Aw Dawg!” You know, I never, I never heard Randy say the word “Dawg” until recently. (laughing)
Be Good To Yourself
UJ: Uncle Joe Benson talking with Steve Perry – Off the Record. You had a couple solo releases throughout your career. The first one, Street Talk… was that down time in Journey? Was this a pressure release from working within the confines of the band? What led up to…
SP: Well, what led up to, was that Neal did a solo album first, I said, “you shouldn’t do this”. You know and I told the manager, I said, Herbie, you know, don’t do this. You know, it’ll mess with the group. I said that to the manager, and manager told Neal and Neal wanted to do it. He’d worked with Jan Hammer once. So then, he did that, and we did another record, and he did another one. And I said, “Ok, now, you’re poking the bear here. I’m gonna do one”. And that’s when I did Street Talk. Right after the Journey tour was over, I went and did a solo album in Los Angeles.
UJ: Your first solo album, Street Talk, …
SP: You’re killing me…(laughing)
UJ: There’s a great song that starts off the album, and was a hit single as well, Oh Sherrie is the name of it. There actually was a Sherrie.
SP: Yes, there was, and she’s in the video. Yeah, that was my girlfriend for almost six years, and that’s her in the Oh Sherrie video.
UJ: And I got to tell you right off the bat, your vocal that opens that is stunning. Was it difficult to figure out how to start the song?
SP: Well, it was a tribute; it was an accidental tribute to be honest with you. I had the idea to start it vocally, but Bill Como who I wrote the song with came in with that beautiful piece in the front. And so we decided let’s try to tag that in the front. It was originally intended to close with it, but it sounded so beautiful in the front, and then it fades away and the voice comes in by itself. But the idea of a voice starting by itself was a tribute to one little stick out vocal moment that the Four Tops when Levi Stubbs screams “Bernadette”. I never forgot that the first time I heard it. It was just like “BERNADETTE!!!” I’m like, “WHAT? What was THAT?” It was, you know, it was the most coolest cry-out on a track! And I remember I was in the back of a Chevy on the way to the prom or something, I can’t remember, but it was just killing so it was kinda like that, you know, that was the idea.
UJ: Oh Sherrie, from the newly digitally re-mastered Steve Perry solo album, Street Talk. This is your Uncle Joe Benson and coming up, we’ll hear a previously unreleased Steve Perry tune, just one of four demo songs that originally landed him the singing gig with Journey back in 1977. And we’ll even debut a brand new song, featuring vocal work from Steve. This one was just recorded, and you’ll hear it here first, on Off The Record.
UJ: Joe Benson talking with Steve Perry, Off the Record. One of the bonus tracks that you included on the Street Talk CD, the re-mastered Street Talk CD, is Don’t Tell Me Why You Are Leaving. You wrote that with Danny Kortchmar, and Craig Krampf is co-writer on that as well. It never occurred to me, which is an embarrassing thing to admit, but a guy who is born the same day as Sam Cooke, had that kind of background as far as R&B singing, there is a feel to that … I’ve never heard you sing a song like that.
SP: Yeah, it was kind of a total R&B tribute to the music when I was coming up. It was a blend of Sam Cooke meets Otis Redding. Those two guys completely knocked me for a loop when I first heard them singing, and there was so much feel and honesty in their voices. And when I was in my group in high school, the Sullies, we used to do a lot of R&B. I was a drummer-singer at that time, and that’s pretty much ALL we did. And we were one of the more working groups in the San Joaquin Valley. We had always a lot of work. And you know, I just wanted a song that paid tribute to that. And me, I know that Kortchmar loves R&B, so it just happened. And it was that concept, once again, Kortchmar and I talked about it, ya know, you’re going through a divorce, “You don’t have to tell me why you’re leaving, just please, just go”, but no, that’s not what happens. “And ANOTHER THING, lemme tell you what else… lemme tell you why else I’m leaving…You’re a blah-blah-…” (laughing) you know, ok.
UJ: It’s my observation, as we go on in years, if we survive, we gain wisdom. For a guy who started out inspired by the Beatles in a Hard Day’s Night, like so many of us, for a guy who worked R&B for so long while he was getting the chops together, impressing chicks behind the drums…
SP: Tryin’ to…
UJ: Tryin’ to. For the things you’ve been through in your career arch,
UJ: I betcha there’s something in your voice these days that you could add to a song like that…
UJ: …that isn’t there the first time around.
SP: Yeah. There’s a lot in me right now that starting to come out writing. There’s, I don’t know, I think I’m rediscovering things that mean a lot to me that I thought I could let go of. And there’s just, some people do just keep going and they never stop. You know and I personally had to walk away from it all at the time that I did and thought that was it. But I’m not sure now… I really realize I really I love music. And I just love all kinds of music, there isn’t one kind of music that I don’t love. I mean there is an incredible composer called Alan Silvestri and he’s brilliant and he’s did the music for many films. I go watch him occasionally, because to watch the 160 piece orchestra with his arrangements, it sounds like the most huge rock & roll symphony you’d ever want to hear, and he’s very rock & roll, and so I love all kinds of music.
Don’t Tell Me Why You’re Leavin’
UJ: There’s bonus tracks on the Street Talk CD, probably not news to you, but there’s some killer songs.
SP: Well, My My My, and Harmony and Makes No Difference are the other three songs being, the fourth one would be If You Need Me, Call Me, which are the songs that got me the gig in Journey. But the thing is, If You Need Me, Call Me has always been on the Greatest Hits as a bonus track, the Steve Perry Greatest Hits, but the original My My My, Harmony and Makes No Difference have never been released before, so I went back and grabbed the original tapes, and mastered them. And knowing that it’s, you know, 1977, I believe, they sound pretty cool. And it sounds like the singer in Journey, which is fantastic, you know, and just sounds like me, it was a great band. And this was, unfortunately, the bass player died in a car wreck just before we were about to be signed by a record label.
UJ: So My My My, and Harmony and Makes No Difference were part of the demo that got you into Journey.
SP: They were the demo that Herbie originally heard the four songs, and If You Need me Call Me was the fourth, and yeah, he heard those songs and picked up the phone and called me and said, “I want you to go to Denver, Colorado and hang out with the band a little bit”.
My My My
UJ: My My My, one of the four songs on the original demo that landed Steve Perry the singing gig with Journey. It’s on the just released, re-mastered version of Steve Perry’s solo album, Street Talk. I’m Joe Benson. Steve Perry is here, and when we come back, I’ve got a brand new song featuring vocal work and production from the former Journey singer. It’s an Off the Record exclusive. Be among the first to hear it right after this.
UJ: It’s your Uncle Joe, talking with Steve Perry, Off the Record. You mentioned how being involved with the World Series, albeit not necessarily by your choice to begin with…
UJ: …opened you up to different ways to look at things. You spent a lot of time in studios in the last few years while re-mastering was going on, or recording was going on, you’ve possibly spent so much time in the studio, you’ve developed, like, “Studio Tourettes” , and …
SP: I do have “Creative Tourettes”,
SP: That is..,What is that? That is so biz…Who told you that??? You’re, like, crazy…
UJ: Well, it happens….(laughing)
SP: I mean, I do, I go and hang out with bands in studios and I sit back there and I’m biting my fist, you know, there are teeth mark in my fists. And sometimes, I just can’t help it, I have Creative Tourettes. I’m like having moments like I when was in the band. And I just adjust things, and sometimes they take those ideas and run with them and it’s fun. I think that’s what I was talking about. I, … Yeah… I’m getting kinda creative about that stuff again.
UJ: The band is from Athens, Georgia.
UJ: Home of R.E.M…
UJ: among many others.
UJ: Their name is Guff, G. U. F. F.,
SP: That’s right.
UJ: as in not take any
SP: as in Do NOT take any Guff… (laughing)
UJ: You were in the studio a couple days with them.
SP: Yeah, two days.
UJ: And that had to be so much fun.
SP: It was a lot of fun. It was with a producer, Noah Shark, and he produced a group called Orson which are #1 in England for weeks, I think 15 weeks, and now he’s back in America and he was doing this punk group. And they are great guys, just a bunch of great guys. And their sound was interesting and it reminded me of the kind of musical thing that was in I Can See It In Your Eyes, and I told them that song was going to be a bonus track that never been released before, that it was kind of a punky Journey song, and you guys were a punk band and you could take it to the next level I thought and give it some contemporary credibility, you know. And in fact, I’ll help you guys do it, you know, we’ll do it together, and we’ll produce it together, and so we re-tracked it in two days, sang some backgrounds, and Ash, the lead singer, he sang his “ash’ off.
UJ: This is the first time you’ve performed with a band in the studio in a while?
SP: I think so, yeah, I think so. It’s the first time I’ve sat with a group and worked together with them. Yeah. It was really a lot of fun, it was reminiscent of the old days, it was.
UJ: A lot of energy.
SP: A lot of energy. It is really great to be with a band, you know. You really think you are part of a thing bigger than yourself. You know you really do.
UJ: Isn’t that the truth.
SP: It has this whole other thing that it becomes that it can’t be without each other.
I Can See It In Your Eyes
UJ: The song is called I Can See It In Your Eyes. The band is Guff with a little vocal backing there from Mr. Stephen Perry, is my guest on Off the Record.
UJ: Nice job.
UJ: Can’t fake those pipes. (laughing)
SP: You recognize me in there?
UJ: You were in there.
SP: Good, good, good.
UJ: The band is really good, too!
SP: The band is good. They’re rocking.
UJ: It’s myspace….
SP: myspace/guff.com I believe is where they are.
UJ: OK, a little independent act.
SP: They’re an independent act on Go-Kart Records. They’re trying to get going, they’re not big, but they’re trying to be, and if everyone loves them, they will be.
UJ: You see these kinda things, and I know for a fact that the kind of draw of being on stage in front of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people, that draw hasn’t been there so much for you for a while.
SP: No, but…
UJ: Pretty powerful getting off stage, after performing like that, you gotta be rushing for a while.
SP: Yeah, it’s rough.
UJ: That part has not been a draw for you for quite some time.
SP: Well I can’t say that. I can’t, you, how honest do you want me to be?
SP: Ok. It isn’t that I don’t miss it. I miss it terribly. There’s just other things right now that I can’t get into, but vocally there’s no way that I can bring certain vocal things out of myself in front of a microphone with a pair of headphones in a studio that I can find when I’m standing in front of people. People bring it that out of me, it’s their voice; it’s not mine, because I can’t do it without them there, so obviously it belongs to them. Because without their input at that moment to get me to do things, I can’t get them, I can’t go get them. And very interesting, and so what I miss I think is that what they bring out of me that I can’t get without them.
UJ: You’re voice is in incredible condition, you’ve been practicing, you’ve been singing.
SP: (laughing) Please…stop it….this guy, you know…
UJ: You’re physically ready to be out on stage any moment…. Perry…
UJ: When do you start auditioning for band members?
UJ: I’ll watch for the posting.
SP: I told somebody the other day if the arrangement of Hey Jude is the arc of my life, ok, I will admit out loud to you, Joe, that I am in the “Nah-nahs”.
SP: OK, I’m in it, but Joe, it’s ok. And I guess if I’m in the Nah-nahs, that means you’re in it too. OK We’re not in the third verse, we’re not in the bridge, we’re in the nah-nahs. OK. But if we’re in the nah-nahs, let’s turn ‘em those mother f’ers up… f it, turn ‘em up! Let’s turn ‘em up LOUD.
Separate Ways continues
That is the brand new, digitally-remixed version of "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)". You can find it on the just-released, re-mastered version of Journey's Frontiers album. The entire Journey back catalogue, along with all of Steve Perry's solo albums, has been digitally re-mastered and re-released. All the albums come with various bonus tracks, including previously-unreleased demos and live performances. Off The Record is a presentation of Westwood One, and was brought to you by the new Epson Hi Definition Photo Printers, and by F-Y-E - for your entertainment. The only store with listening and viewing stations where you can sample a huge selection of CDs, DVDs, and games. Find a store near you at F-Y-E dot com. Off The Record was written and produced by Stacie Parra, production and engineering by Ron Harris, assisted by Dave Amaya. Executive Producer Norm Pattiz. Special thanks to Westwood One's Stephanie and Steven Cocio, and of course a big thank you to Steve Perry for taking the time to chat. I'm Joe Benson, you can email me at unclejoe at unclejoe.com and I'll see you next time for PINK FLOYD "Off The Record", featuring my brand new conversation with drummer Nick Mason.
Transcribed by Honey Baby Kate C. - 12/10/06.
Proofread, Approved and Used by Permission of Joe Benson. Thanks Joe!