The year was 1982. It was a Saturday night. I was flipping through all four channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS – because my dad was too cheap to spring for this new-fangled thing called cable TV) and there appeared on PBS, Journey’s 1981 concert (promoting their hit album Escape) at the Houston Summit. PBS ya’ll.My teenage hormones raging, I was completely captivated by this band and in particular, their lead singer, Steve Perry. I was practically in tears when the show ended. I wanted more. Not only was their music the absolute best in the industry (because you know, at age 17, music is life), but Perry’s stage presence was the stuff of legends. His vocals, soulful, and the range of which justifiably earned him the moniker, “The Voice”. His long dark hair and tight jeans were something for a teenage girl to behold. Visions of Steve in his yellow leopard print shirt and his tuxedo tails invaded my dreams that night and many others thereafter.
And thus began my one-sided love affair with Steve Perry and the band Journey.
Every Saturday afternoon, while my mom grocery shopped, you could find me in the magazine aisle, pouring over every Tiger Beat and 17 magazine, looking for stories on and pictures of Journey. It was a good day when the magazine’s centerfold poster was Steve Perry. Move over Willie Aames, there’s a new crush in town.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered Journey had been around for a while and had released several albums pre-Steve Perry. My vinyl collection grew as I found myself spending all my allowance at Second Hand Records, searching for the older Journey albums. But the newer stuff, that was mine on the day it was released!
They even had a video game. And yeah, obsessed as I was, I owned that too.
When I got my first car, a Journey sticker adorned the back window. My cassette case filled with Journey.
I still remember one Friday afternoon in January 1983. I was a high school senior and my mom was picking me up from school for a doctor’s appointment. As I buckled in, she pushed Play on the car’s cassette player. The opening beat of “Separate Ways (World Apart)” pounded out of the speaker; my mom had surprised me with Journey’s latest album, Frontiers.
I saw them for the first time following the release of Frontiers and was just beside myself. There are truly no other words to describe what that was like. Steve danced across the stage, his dark locks shorn just above his shoulders. All my teenage dreams had come true. Well … maybe not ALL of them. Because you know … hormones.
While in college, I had a pet parakeet. While he (or she?) was not quite as musically-inclined as the talented Mr. Perry, I named him ‘Perry’.
Steve released his first solo album, Street Talk, in 1984. Friends gifted me the album for my birthday that year, which I listened to for hours on end and probably drove my sister (who was my roommate) crazy. Steve was a little more subdued when he toured for this album (of course, I went to see him!), but still … there was something magical about his voice.
My first husband was almost as huge a fan as I was. Like a high school boyfriend of mine, he too had dark hair and a strong chin. And what’s more … he could sing a bit like Steve Perry too. If you’ve read my post An Ounce of Strength, you know those were about the only redeeming qualities the man had. We saw our favorite band together when they toured for their album Raised on Radio. As the front man of Journey, his stage presence had returned to the category of ‘riveting’, his dark hair now longer and permed. What? Well … it was the 80’s. And he was still damn sexy.
Once I re-entered the dating world post-divorce, my friend Debbie said to me, “Now remember, Sharon, we don’t date guys just because they remind us of Steve Perry!” She was a wise one, Deb was. Miss you, Deb!
I saw Steve for the final time while he was touring for his second solo album, For the Love of Strange Medicine. This was far from my favorite piece of his work. I found the music odd, and very much unlike the Steve Perry I had fallen in lust with some 12 years prior. His hair, now practically down to his waist, looked greasy and stringy. But … I certainly wasn’t going to turn down tickets I won on the radio by answering the question, “Who was Journey’s drummer for the Escape album?” Uh … duh … Steve Smith! I think the highlight was when his red tuxedo tails descended from the rafters and he greeted it with “Why hello there, old friend”. I do, however, still have the concert t-shirt; it’s become a “work shirt” of sorts and it saddens me when I wear it, to think that he basically fell off the radar.
In 1996, Journey released one more album together with the same band members as were together for Escape. It was after this release, and before they could get out on the road, when Steve left the band following a hip injury. My hopes for ever seeing them together again vanished. Poof.
I tried to listen to Journey when they brought on different lead singers. But nothing, in my opinion, would ever be as good as having Steve Perry standing (and gyrating … um … dancing!) up front. It’s for this reason, that while I love their older music, I won’t see them in concert without him. I feel it would be sacrilegious, really.
And in some small way, I want that part of my youth, the point in time when Journey was filling stadiums nightly, to remain intact.
Over the years, I randomly googled Steve Perry to see if, by chance, he was re-joining Journey (sadly, it looks as if that will never happen) or even release some solo work. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The only thing I would find occasionally was the rumor that he had throat cancer.
In 2014, video of Steve singing with a band called The Eels emerged (who names their band after a sea serpent? really?) Why hello there, old friend, how I have missed you. He sang a couple of Journey songs and it was almost disturbing. His voice was raspy, somewhat off-key, and he was moving rather slow. This was definitely not the comeback I had waited so long for.
A couple of years ago, Journey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I was elated to see them all together and heartbroken at the same time, for Steve Perry would not be performing with them.
Journey’s music provided the soundtrack to my teenage and young adult life. And various songs highlight significant memories.
When I hear “Open Arms”, I can’t help but think of Brian, a dark-haired boy I met in Georgia while on a band trip.
“I’ll Be Alright Without You” served as my own personal anthem after finding the strength to leave my first husband.
And “Lights”, which was playing as Keith and I sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge while on a cruise along California’s coast.
Heck! I even had a God-awful tattoo put on my foot with the Infinity symbol, the symbol which long-graced Journey's album covers!
I guess you could say Journey is, without a doubt, my all-time favorite band.
I had all but given up on the prospect of him re-emerging, when last week, who, but one Steve Perry appeared on Good Morning America. Imagine my complete and utter delight upon hearing he had released a new solo album after having been MIA for the better part of two decades.
He’s apparently been doing the media circuit for two months, leading up to the release of Traces. Where have I been and why didn’t anyone tell me?????
As I listen to tracks from his latest release, I’m easily transported back to that Saturday night in 1982. And just like 1982, I’m awoken in the middle of the night with music from Steve Perry playing in my head. It’s not Journey, no. But there are glimpses of the old Steve Perry. The vocal range, a little smaller. The hair, a LOT shorter. “The Voice”, alive and well.
As my husband leaves for work, seeing me glued to YouTube, watching both old and new videos of Steve in action, he says to me “I know you must be getting all hot and bothered. I’ll be home early today.”
And my 17-year old self smiles.