I have always keep Journey at arm’s length, out of fear they might be catching. I lived through their glory years, when the wheel in the sky kept on turning and the lights went down in the city, and I hated Journey the way a bull elephant must hate, well, everybody. I hated them to the extent that had a passenger in my car suggested not changing the dial when a Journey song came on the radio, I would have reached over his person, opened his car door, and pushed him out. In a 65 mph zone. Journey was an MOR nightmare, a journey to the end of the blight, and they gave me the heebie-jeebies with their signature stacked vocals, songs that were impossible to get out of your head no matter what you did to dislodge them, and last but not least Steve Perry’s super-polished tenor, which just flat out irked.
But over the years my attitude towards Journey has softened. I still like to make fun of them, but call it nostalgia or the imp of the perverse, I no longer turn them off when they come on the radio. I sing along. It’s as if at some point in my past the band ran a musical train on me, turning me into one of those pussy Journey lovers I loathed. The part of me that still despises them is disgusted by the part of me that is singing along, but is helpless to do anything about it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still no fan, but I have discovered that at their best Journey have an impressive skill at pop songcraft.
Journey was founded in San Francisco in 1973, and was made up of former members of Santana and Frumious Bandersnatch, a band best known for being completely unknown. Their first three albums, which did not include Perry, varied from jazz fusion to hard rock, the latter being most prominent on 1977’s excellent Next, which included a couple of great headbangers in “Hustler” and the instrumental “Nickel and Dime.” But they failed to break through to pop success, and on LP no. 4 (1978’s Infinity) Journey made several momentous changes; first they brought in Perry of the golden tonsils to handle lead vocals, and second they abandoned hard rock for a more commercial pop sound.