Thursday, October 2, 2014

Journey, The #99 Artist of the Seventies*

Welcome to one of the most important of our music specials!  As the Rock Era has aged and evolved, it has become tougher to make "Top 100" lists.  For example, when I first produced the music special The Top 100 Artists of the Rock Era* in 1976, it took three good songs to make the Top 100; now, it takes a minimum of six really good songs to make The Top 100 Artists of the Seventies*.

Inside The Rock Era has featured several genre-specific specials.  It's quite an achievement to land a song on those, but if you are one of the overall Top 100 artists for a decade, you're in another league.  These 100 artists have done just that--they are The Top 100 Artists of the Seventies*.

Several of these first few artists barely made the list with a great album or two.  You'll see as we climb up the list that to rank higher, an artist must have enjoyed significant success through most years of the decade. 

We will present ten artists per day as we salute the great performers of the decade that many feel is the best of the Rock Era.  You'll hear some great songs along the way, and be fascinated by the stories behind the artists.

At #99*, a group with a long history prior to finally making it big:

This San Francisco group formed back in 1973, originally known as the Golden Gate Rhythm Section.  Lead guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist and lead singer Gregg Rolie had been together in Santana, and they invited bassist Ross Valory and rhythm guitarist George Tickner into the band.  In those early days, Prairie Prince of the Tubes was the drummer.

The Golden Gate Rhythm Section started out backing up other Bay Area bands, but they quickly set higher goals.  One of the first things they had to do, of course, was to select a better name.  Roadie John Villaneuva was the one who came up with Journey.

The group debuted with their new name at the Winterland Ballroom on New Year's Eve in 1973.  Shortly afterwards, Journey hired the great Aynsley Dunbar as their full-time drummer.  The new lineup played together for the first time at the Great American Music Hall, and Journey signed a recording contract with Columbia Records. 

In 1975, Journey released their self-titled debut album.  Tickner left the group after that release.  The following year, the group released Look into the Future, but it didn't fare much better.  The members believed the songs didn't have the vocal strength that they should, and Schon, Valory, and Dunbar all took singing lessons to add harmonies to Rolie's lead vocals.  

Journey's first album after this training was called Next.  The training certainly wasn't in vain; it would serve them well later in their career, but Journey's sound was still missing something.  Columbia requested that the group add a frontman.  Journey hired Robert Fleischman, and switched from a jazz fusion type of sound to more mainstream rock.

But Fleishman left within the year due to management differences.  So in 1977, Journey tried again--this time, they hired Steve Perry as their new lead singer.  Presto.

Perry soon proved he could not only carry lead vocals; he would go on to become one of The Top Lead Singers of the Rock Era*.  He also became a significant songwriter for the group in the years to come.

With that major piece in place, Journey released the album Infinity in 1978.  It was one of the best albums of their career.  Infinity reached #21 on the Album chart and gave the group their first million-selling album.  Journey released the single "Wheel In The Sky".  At a ridiculously-low peak of #57, it was proof that many Music Directors didn't have ears.  They had heard the beginning of one of the great acts of the 80's, and didn't know it!  Like several of the songs on Infinity, "Wheel In The Sky" is one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.  

Proof of the "underrated" moniker has come from Journey fans (and music fans all over) going back into the group's catalog and discovering this gem of an album, to the tune of now three million copies sold.  "Feeling That Way"/"Anytime" are two more Underrated Songs*; they didn't "make it" at the time either.  The two great songs are featured on the album back-to-back without pause, and that is how we present them here.

The single "Lights" didn't fare much better, #68 at the time.  But again, another favorite Journey track.

Journey didn't pay attention to the low song rankings by Billboard; they knew they had something, and we now know they did too.  Later in the year, manager Herbie Herbert fired Dunsbar, who soon joined Jefferson Starship.  Steve Smith, a Berklee Music-trained drummer, replaced Dunsbar in Journey. 

The group released the album Evolution in 1979.  The single "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" reached #16, Journey's first Top 20 hit.

Evolution contained another Top Track*--"Too Late", which peaked at #70.

Journey officially had five hits and sold six million albums in the Seventies.  By the time a new decade rolled around, Journey's success was brief but encouraging.  As mentioned above, there aren't too many acts in the 80's more successful than Journey, and they were a sensational live act, with Perry's passionate vocals and Schon's killer guitar work.

Join Inside The Rock Era tomorrow as we feature The #98 Artist of the Seventies*. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.