I recently found myself watching the latest incarnation of Journey on late night cable. Steve Perry was M.I.A., replaced by a young Philippine gentleman whom guitarist Neal Schon discovered on YouTube. The impostor really nailed it too. He had a range that rivaled (if not, bested) Perry and he certainly wasn’t lacking in energy. But is it still Journey without their famed frontman? It’s a common problem many of these reunion bands face. For example, The “New” Cars sans Ric Ocasek (with Todd Rundgren standing in for him). And don’t get me started on Chicago, The Commodores, Earth, Wind & Fire and all the other glorified cover bands hijacking a trademark in the name of nostalgia.

Back to the missing former lead singer. In the late 90’s, there was a VH1 documentary on Journey which featured Perry’s ridiculous quote “I never really felt like part of the band”. It’s pretty fascinating, the sparing that has since occurred between them — well documented in various interviews in which Schon and Perry seem to take pleasure shredding one another. Not sure why I really care about any of this, apart from basic schadenfreude inherit in us all. In any case, here’s a sample of the warfare:

GQ Interview with Perry and Schon (separately interviewed)

Conclusions, biased by my own experience as a musician:

1) During the mid-90’s reunion talks, Perry realized that he had lost his upper register (voice) and over-played the hip injury. He probably should have just said that.

2) Perry gets the hypocrite award for being upset about suggesting they tour without him (“stone is broken”) since he had effectively toured without Journey while doing their tunes during his own solo stint (83?).

3) Schon is certainly a tremendously gifted guitarist; how many 15 year-olds get hired by Santana, after all? Perry, too, is without question an amazing vocalist. None of the conflicts seemed to have anything to do with musicality, apart from Perry firing drummer Steve Smith for not  being able to play with a click track.

4) Reading the various interviews with Perry, he comes off as a self-obsessed loner. He also talks of being stalked by throngs of women eager to marry him. Who knows, maybe that’s the case. Then again, maybe he should get out a little more. Beyond that, he doesn’t appear to be doing much of anything now, except listening to the cash register go cha-ching (quoting Schon “he gets paid like a motherfucker on those songs”).

At least he was able to help close the Sopranos…

Incidentally the new singer has a name, Arnel Pineda. Here he is crooning with the band. Note to Mr. Cain: dude, that Kurzweil digital piano sounds like crap. Putting it in a red piano shell is not helping. Just saying.