Journey formed during the mid-'70s as a somewhat nondescript progressive rock band that gave hardly a hint of the phenomenon the group would become in the subsequent decade. Although early on the band already contained lead guitarist and Santana prodigy Neal Schon, he was the only major piece of the puzzle present from the band's chart-topping years. And it showed, as singer and keyboardist Gregg Rolie just never generated much excitement. Of course, in his defense he had few of the pop hooks Perry had to work with during the band's peak era.
Journey's Commercial Metamorphosis:
The experimental Journey's struggle to find an audience gave way in 1977 to the hiring of Steve Perry as lead vocalist. This change soon squeezed out Rolie completely, as Perry began to take on more and more duties as frontman for early successes "Lights" and "Wheel in the Sky". As the '70s came to a close the band made its final significant addition for its impending superstardom in keyboardist Jonathan Cain, formerly of John Waite's melodic arena rock band the Babys.
Ignition & Warp Speed:
With a lineup now solidified, Journey released the album Escape in 1981, and with it the band became an instant phenomenon. 1983's Frontiers similarly pumped out hit singles, and almost overnight the band had become a major arena attraction. While these years certainly churned out some premium rockers in "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Separate Ways", the power ballads "Open Arms" and "Faithfully" drastically expanded the band's audience, especially female fans.
Decline, Reunion, Final Dissolution:
Journey released one more studio album and embarked on one more world tour in the '80s, but its popularity was starting to drop off a bit at this point. Perry receded into relative seclusion for almost a decade before a 1996 reunion album, which found some success. But his inability to tour led the rest of the band to push on without Perry, a move that forged a schism still yet to heal. A version of Journey continues to record and tour today with Perry clone/lead singer Arnel Pineda.
Journey - A Legacy Enhanced?:
It took more than a decade perhaps, but the reputation of Journey has lately begun to emerge from relative derision and indifference. Often labeled as commercially successful but somewhat vapid middle-of-the-road rock, the band's music continues to attract and retain admirers in new generations of fans as well as performers. Simply put, no band in the '80s more successfully combined a sweeping arena rock sound with commercial viability, and more and more that truth is taking hold today.