From a jazz-rock jam band to arena rockers, from major-label status to independent recording artists, Journey has adapted and endured through the decades to hold onto its fan base despite countless shifts in musical trends and fads.
The veteran rockers, who will be in concert Wednesday night at the SeaGate Convention Centre, got their start in 1972 as a studio band that specialized in backing other artists during recording sessions, said Ross Valory, Journey s original bassist, who is on the current Detour 2004 tour.
The band went from a prospective rhythm section for recording artists who were flocking to San Francisco, to a time when it was decided to put us on the map, Valory said in a phone interview from a tour stop in northern Ontario.
The original lineup Valory, former Santana members Neal Schon and Greg Rolie, drummer Prairie Prince, and guitarist George Tickner decided to hold a radio-station promotional contest to choose the band s name.
Most of the names were pretty stupid, Valory said. Actually, a staff member ended up naming the band.
But the group gave the public the impression that the name was chosen by a radio listener because we thought it was the diplomatic thing to do, he added.
And they were pleased with the name of Journey.
It s an appropriate name for a band that has existed from New Year s Eve 1973 and has traveled extensively ever since, Valory said.
The group has had a number of personnel changes through the years, most notably the departures of Prince, Tickner, and Rolie and the additions of Steve Perry on lead vocals, Jonathan Cain on keyboards, and Aynsley Dunbar and Steve Smith on drums.
The current lineup features Schon, Valory, Cain, Deen Castronovo on drums, and Steve Augeri on vocals.
Along the way, the San Francisco rockers have sold more than 50 million albums and produced such radio favorites as Who s Crying Now, Don t Stop Believin'," "Open Arms," and "Be Good to Yourself."
During the band's glory days of the 1980s, Journey played to sold-out crowds in basketball arenas, its songs were in heavy rotation on the airwaves, and every album was treated like a treasure by its record labels.
"We had complete artistic control for years," Valory said. "We had great relationships with the qualified people at CBS and Sony, but they were always held at the door. When we were ready, we would say, 'This is the music, and this is the art work, and let's go.'●"
After the members of Journey went their separate ways in the late 1980s, the label brought them back together in 1996 to record the album "Trial by Fire."
The reunion marked the end of the cozy arrangement with the record label over artistic freedom, Valory said.
"The relationship changed, in my opinion, with 'Trial by Fire,' because it took the record company to put the band back together. They were already in the door. It was their baby, not ours," Valory said. "Nevertheless, we're proud of what we did accomplish."
Why did Valory and drummer Steve Smith decide to leave Journey in '86?
"What's the best way to put it?" Valory said, choosing his words carefully. "It got to the point where success and lifestyle was really affecting everybody in the band. We had differences and ego clashes. As a result, Steven Smith and I left. Not long after, the band basically dissolved."
While there was some concern about reuniting for the "Trial by Fire" album, he was pleased with the final result.
Unfortunately, Valory said, Journey lost out on the opportunity to capitalize on its reunion because Perry was dragging his heels about going on tour.
"We waited upwards of 19 months, almost two years, for Steve, but he did not choose to tour with the band. At that point, Jonathan, Neal, and I said, 'Let's find a way to go on, but in another fashion.' Which we did, putting the band together with two new members, Deen Castronovo and Steve Augeri. We proceeded to go right on the road and have been touring ever since."
Today, Journey is going more for the mileage than for pure horsepower, playing medium-sized concert venues and releasing its albums on its own independent label.
"We play major markets in one year, and instead of completely going away, we go to outlying areas, to secondary and tertiary markets, where the fans might not have been able to make it to the major markets," Valory said.
That brings Journey to state fairs, county fairs, and even a recent concert during a rodeo show in San Antonio, Texas, he said, adding: "We rocked the house in between bull rides. Yee haw!"
Going the independent route for their recordings once again gives Journey complete artistic control over their music.
"We sound dignified again," Schon said of the band's first independent release, "Red 13," in 2002.
In its first incarnation, Journey was a high-powered jazz-rock band whose recordings and concerts showcased the musicians' improvisational skills during extended jam sessions and blistering instrumental solos.
The first three jazz-rock albums earned critical acclaim but failed to make much of a splash on the sales charts.
It wasn't until 1977, when Schon, Rolie, and Valory joined with Perry and Smith that Journey began to fire on all cylinders as far as producing radio-friendly rock hits.
The blend of soaring lead vocals, power-chord guitars, and propulsive rhythms brought Journey its first top 20 single, "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'," from its 1979 album "Evolution."
More major chart successes followed with the double live album "Captured," which reached No. 9, and the 1980 album "Departure" hit No. 8 on the charts and yielded the hit single "Anyway You Want It."
Rolie left in 1981 and Cain, formerly of the Babys, took his place. The new lineup hit high gear right away with "Escape," the band's first No. 1 album, which produced three top 10 hits and stayed on the charts for more than a year, and "Frontiers," which reached No. 2 on the Billboard album chart.
After the 1998 reunion, Journey contributed the single "Remember Me" to the 1998 soundtrack of the movie Armageddon, which sold more than 3 million copies and hit No. 1 on the Billboard album chart.
The band's 2001 album, "Arrival," was one of the most prominent casualties of the Internet music-downloading frenzy led by the song-swapping site Napster.
"'Arrival' was our last issue for the CBS/Sony contract," Valory said, "and unfortunately, it was completed in August, 2000, and within a week it ended up on Napster - seven months before its release date!"
Schon said a Sony employee in Europe had given an early pressing of the disc to a friend, who put it on the Internet, which allowed Journey fans to get free copies of the songs through Napster.
The disc ended up as a flop in the sales charts.
"It's hard to say whether it was because of Napster or whether people were not interested in the new music," Valory said. "No one will ever know."
But as always, Journey continued to chug ahead. The group enjoyed a banner year in 2003, headlining with Styx and REO Speedwagon on VH1's "Classic Rock's Main Event" tour and earning a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
"It's our feeling, and the reflection of most people who have seen the band in the last six years or so, that the band is the best it's ever been," he said. "The band is kicking booty."
Journey will be in concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the SeaGate Convention Centre, 401 Jefferson Ave. Tickets are $45 from the box office, 419-321-5007 and all Ticketmaster outlets. More information on Journey can be found on its Web site, www.journeymusic.com.
Contact David Yonke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.