Has it been 10 years already? For Journey, the past decade has been a resurrection of sorts, as they began touring again and releasing a couple of new studio albums along with a second GREATEST HITS compilation. All it took to get their motors running again was the signing of a new lead singer, one who eerily sounded like their most popular and most charismatic former frontman, Steve Perry.
Throughout Journey’s 44 years of existence, the band has been a revolving door when it comes to members. As of today, they have had a total of 20 personnel who have come and gone, with just a solitary individual who can claim the distinction of being with the band through it all, from inception, during the trench years, at the peak and the subsequent plateau, to the resurrection—lead guitarist Neal Schon.
Schon was there when the original members of Journey came together in San Francisco in 1973, formed to serve as a backup group for the more famous Bay Area artists. With him was Gregg Rolie on keyboards and lead vocals, Ross Valory on bass, George Tickner on rhythm guitar, and Prairie Prince on drums. They weren’t even called Journey then, but the Golden Gate Rhythm Section. They didn’t stay as a backup group for long and instead developed their own jazz-fusion style. Even the not-so-thrilling name of the band was quickly abandoned in favor of “Journey” that roadie John Villanueva came up with. Prince left the band not too long since, and British drummer Aynsley Dunbar took his place.
Journey’s eponymously titled debut album came out in 1975. Before they can cut their second album, LOOK INTO THE FUTURE (1976), Tickner called it quits. The two albums barely registered, and so was the third, NEXT. Their musical company, Columbia Records, requested for a change in their musical style. As a result, they added frontman Robert Fleischman to share vocal duties with Rolie, and transitioned to a style similar to Foreigner and Boston. They went on tour in 1977 and wrote the hit “Wheels in the Sky.” Fleischman, however, was out before the year ended due to differences with management. This proved to be fateful, however, as the band landed the lead singer that would finally bring them success, Steve Perry.
With Perry on board, Journey released INFINITY in 1978 that went on to become their first RIAA-certified platinum album, with the single “Wheel in the Sky” landing at #57 on the U.S. charts. Later that year, drummer Dunbar was fired and replaced by Steve Smith. In 1979, they produced EVOLUTION that spawned their first Billboard Hot 100 Top 20 single, “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.” A year later, DEPARTURE came out and reached #8 on the album charts. Rolie then quit, but suggested pianist Jonathan Cain to take his place.
1981 to 1982 proved to be Journey’s golden years, with their album ESCAPE going nine times platinum and spawning three top-ten hits: “Who’s Cryin’ ‘Now,” “Don’t Stop Believin,’” and “Open Arms.” Their follow-up album, FRONTIERS, reached #2 on the album charts and sold almost six million copies. It also generated four Top 40 hits: “Separate Ways (worlds Apart),” “Faithfully,” “Send Her My Love,” and “After the Fall.” They have also become one of the top touring and recording bands in the world
Journey decided to take time off the following years, allowing members to pursue solo projects. They got back together in 1986 to record the album RAISED ON RADIO, but without bass player Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith, who were fired for musical and professional differences. Studio musicians were hired in their place, including bassist Randy Jackson who would go on to become one of the judges of AMERICAN IDOL. Despite the personnel change, the album went multiplatinum and produced four Top 20 singles: “Be Good to Yourself,” I’ll Be Alright Without You,” “Girl Can’t Help It,” and “Suzanne.” A tour followed, covered by MTV and made into a documentary. Perry, however, could not or would not remain actively involved, leading to the cancellation of the rest of the tour. Journey would go on an indefinite hiatus.
Perry, Schon, Cain, Valory, and Smith reunited in 1995, with a new management to boot, signing with longtime Eagles manager, Irving Azoff. Their 1996 album TRIAL BY FIRE produced the hit single “When You Love a Woman” that was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1997. A tour was planned, but then Perry injured his hip while hiking in Hawaii, and for a time refused to undergo hip replacement surgery. And so in 1998, Schon and Cain decided to look for a new lead singer. Drummer Steve Smith left the band as well.
The band found another Steve—Steve Augeri—to handle lead vocals, while Deen Castronovo became their new drummer. The new look Journey produced a new album in 2001, ARRIVAL, and in 2005, was inducted in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They went on a tour to mark their 30th anniversary, and released their 12th album, GENERATIONS. A year later, Augeri was dropped from the band, due to “chronic throat infection.” Taking his place was Jeff Scott Soto, who worked with the band for nearly a year until June of 2007 before being fired as well. Ironically, around the same time, HBO aired the finale of its series, THE SOPRANOS, with the band’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” playing in a diner jukebox.
With the heightened nostalgia for 1980s music that the series triggered, Schon and Cain knew they needed to find another lead singer soon. While searching through YouTube videos of Journey cover bands, Schon chanced upon a group from the Philippines called The Zoo. He was so impressed by how its lead singer, Arnel Pineda, sounded so much like Steve Perry that he contacted Noel Gomez, the video’s uploader and Pineda’s longtime friend, and got the singer’s email address. Pineda thought Schon’s email inviting him to audition as a hoax until Gomez convinced him to reply. Ten minutes later, he was talking to Schon on the phone. On August 12, 2007, Pineda, along with his manager Bert De Leon, flew to Marin County in California for a two-day audition. Pineda was star-struck and described the audition as nerve-wracking and tense. Journey officially announced him as their new lead singer on Dec. 5, 2007.
For Pineda, the past 10 years of being Journey’s frontman would seem to have come and gone in a blur. Debuting as the band’s lead singer on Feb. 21, 2008 at the Viña del Mar International Song Festival in Chile, he wowed both the crowd and the media, describing him as a very well fit for the band, “his vocal aptitudes shining through, which are very similar to the legendary musician of the band, Steve Perry.” He has since made two albums with Journey, 2008’s REVELATION that achieved platinum status, and 2011’s ECLIPSE, which debuted at #13 on the Billboard 200 chart. Also on the same year, they co-headlined Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
Castronovo, the band’s long-time drummer, was indicted for assault in 2015, and was replaced by session drummer Omar Hakim. A year later, Steve Smith rejoined the band.
Capping off Journey’s 10-year rebirth was its induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the class of 2017. Perry, Schon, Cain, Rolie, Valory, Dunbar, and Smith received the honors, while Pineda performed with the band, and got to meet and hug his idol, Perry backstage. He later posted on his Instagram account a photo of the encounter, saying, “One of the sweetest hug you can ever get from one of my heroes and silent mentors…it means the world to me…waited 35 years for this moment…”
For the band, and for Pineda, the journey may have come full circle, but after 10 years of being together, the next leg of their trip has just begun.