Earlier today, a gentleman who shares office space with the company I work for walked up to my desk, where I have a couple of albums prominently displayed, including Cheap Trick’s “Heaven Tonight.” He asked me if I was actually a Cheap Trick fan, or if I just liked to collect cool-looking records.
After spending a few seconds trying to reconcile his use of “cool-looking” in reference to this really pretty gay-looking album cover, I said “I love Cheap Trick.” Then, fearing he might be some kind of Cheap Trick fanatic interested in some really deep Cheap Trick talk that my limited Cheap Trick knowledge would prohibit me from contributing to in any real meaningful way, I added, “I’m not a completist or anything. I love ‘Surrender.'”
He smiled and told me Cheap Trick was coming to Verizon Wireless Music Center this fall with Heart and Journey. And for longer and with more seriousness than I am really comfortable admitting, I considered it.
I would jump at the chance to see just Cheap Trick. If Cheap Trick headlined a club tour, I’d be there with my “Heaven Tonight” album in hand, hoping Robin Zander or Bun E. Carlos would sign it after the show. But they’re just the opener at this geriatric-fest.
I enjoy Heart, but not post-hot-Ann-Wilson Heart. Not that her declining hotness had anything to do with the band’s decline. Then again, maybe it did. Their music began to descend into overproduced, soft rock shitiness right around the time she began her climb to Carny Wilson-like physical proportions. Anyway, I digress.
My feelings about Journey are more complex. One of my first favorite songs was the propulsive “Wheel In The Sky,” a stadium rocker about how Steve Perry is running on a “dusty road,” and later finds himself “stranded in sleet and rain” trying to get home to his girl, who, he worries, might give up on him. Interestingly, the lyrics were written by Journey bassist Ross Valory’s wife.
“Wheel In the Sky,” though not a power ballad, contained elements of the raw emotion and soaring vibrato vocals that would later prove devastatingly affecting on the band’s biggest hit, “Open Arms.” Perhaps the most well-known and most celebrated power ballad of all time, “Open Arms” helped pave the way for hit-hungry hair metal bands in the mid-to-late ’80s. Which, of course, is too bad.
Still, I like a lot of Journey songs, and I even quite enjoy the Steve Perry single “Foolish Heart,” which too often gets overlooked thanks to the pop culture ubiquity of the soul-offending “Oh, Sherry.”
Even if you’re among the legions of people who think of Journey as a laughing stock, you can’t dispute their technical prowess or huge hit-crafting chops. And when “The Sopranos” used “Don’t Stop Believin'”, Journey even recaptured (OK, captured) some hipster cred.
It took me awhile to own up to it, but I’m no longer ashamed of liking Journey or any of their lesser known late ’70s contemporaries like Ambrosia, Firefall, Toto or Poco. But after reading this interview (you’ll have to scroll down a bit) with former singer Steve Perry, I find it hard to hear their music without feeling sorry for the sad little fellow.