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Saturday, June 03, 2017


My last post on this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees is on the most detested artists to go in this year, Journey. Serious rock devotees don't like Journey, some of them with a passion. You won't find them on classic rock stations--if you do hear them on the radio, it's on MOR stations or those channels that play nothing but love songs. They are classified as "arena rock," which is shorthand for a corporate sound that has absolutely no edge and kind of defies the definition of rock and roll.

That being said, Journey were vastly successful, selling 48 million records, with 18 top 40 singles (oddly, never reaching number one) and their signature song, "Don't Stop Believin'," is the most downloaded song released in the twentieth century. They certainly have their followers, but their fans are not the kind you will find in a punk club or listening to hip-hop. They are older, whiter, and more middle-class than most.

For what they did, though, Journey did it damn well. Consider "Don't Stop Believin'," which though ubiquitous is a miniature masterpiece of construction. A song about two down and out strangers meeting and forming a bond, the song does something radical by withholding the chorus until the very end of the song. This creates a suspense--when are they going to get to the title? Even after hearing it several times I still am surprised by how long it takes to get there.

Other songs, like "Open Arms," "Wheels in the Sky," and "Nights" are also classics of their genre. Whether they can be considered rock is a question, as they are overwhelmed with strings and keyboards, but the electric guitar is there if you listen hard enough. It's vanilla rock, but sometimes vanilla ice cream does the job.

I read about the formation of the band and was interested that one of the key members, Neal Schon, came from Santana, who were about as unlike Journey as any band. Other members came from a San Francisco psychedelic band that I was amused to see were called Frumious Bandersnatch (from the poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll).

Journey hit their stride from the late '70s to the early '80s. I've been listening to their first volume of greatest hits. They've been around for over forty years, in various line-ups (vocalist Steve Perry didn't join until 1977, and left for good in 1998). So perhaps their music has had different sounds. But the sound they are known for is the one with Perry's soaring voice singing familiar bromides. I guess they might say, "Don't hate us because we're popular." And, after all, they never sold out. They were always this way.

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