By Andy Greene for Rolling Stone | February 7, 2017
The Medieval trumpet sounds at the beginning of the “Oh Sherrie” video signify the beginning of a royal wedding sometime in the distant past, but they also mark the launch of Steve Perry’s brief, but memorable solo career. “Oh Sherrie” – the first single from his 1984 solo debut Street Talk – was written in honor of his real-life girlfriend Sherrie Swafford. In this post-Thriller era, music videos were getting increasingly elaborate, which Perry mocked by beginning the clip dressed as a prince in an ancient church before ripping the crown off and telling the director it had nothing to do with the song.
“What about the kidnapping of the princess?” asks the exacerbated director. “What about the flaming forest of doom scene? Steve, what about the battle to the death between good and evil?” If you ask us, this sounds like a pretty cool video. Also, maybe the time to object to all this is before sets are made, extras are hired and a small fortune has been set. A flaming forest of doom doesn’t sound cheap. Didn’t he see storyboards? The director flew over from England for God’s sake.
The nutty video isn’t the only thing bothering Perry this hectic morning. A publicist tells him she’s set up some TV interviews, and she introduces him to Jackie from something called Video Rock Magazine. Jackie (who seems to come from the Aimee Mann school of fashion) has some pretty great color for her piece considering she just saw him walk off an expensive video set, but Perry doesn’t even say hello.
As the publicist expressed some justifiable worries they’re going over budget, Steve plops himself down on a stairwell and finally begins to sing “Oh Sherrie.” It’s a song about a tumultuous relationship, and he grips the banister in pain as he belts it out. But then suddenly the real-life Sherrie Swafford enters the picture. She sees Perry singing about how she’d be “better off alone” and pauses a bit, overwhelmed by the intensity of the moment. But as he begins begins playing a broom like a guitar Sherry is won back by that Perry charm and cracks a big smile. Meanwhile, Jackie from Video Rock (totally missing this great moment for her article) and the crew of the video are sitting around twirling their thumbs. Perry is thinking about nothing but Sherry though. The broom bit was enough to make up for all their past drama, and they walk off arm-in-arm, ignoring the shouted pleas of the director.
The song became a huge radio and MTV hit, rising to #3 on the Hot 100. Later that year, “Foolish Heart” reached #18. This must have seriously freaked out Journey, but two years later he came back to the band for Raised On Radio. In a gross violation of the Phil Collins/Genesis Rule (which states that solo songs must never get played at band concerts), Perry made them do “Oh Sherrie” on the supporting tour. Neal Schon probably played it through gritted teeth, but he likely felt lucky that Steve was willing to come back at all. When the tour ended Perry had the option of recording another solo album or continuing on with Journey. He opted to do neither, essentially disappearing for nearly a decade. He briefly returned in the mid-1990s for a solo album, a solo tour and a Journey album before vanishing once again.
For what it’s worth, we have great sympathy for Jackie from Video Rock Magazine. We’ve tried to interview him about Journey’s impending induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and pretty much got the same treatment. Journey is getting inducted in two months. The band has been very clear that they want to reunite with him for the evening, but Perry has given no indication that he’s even coming, let alone singing “Don’t Stop Believin'” with Journey for the first time in 30 years. If he was still dating Sherrie she might be able to talk him into it, but they broke up years ago. It turns out she was indeed better off alone.
Andy Greene is a Senior Writer for Rolling Stone.