By Gary Graff for Billboard.com | December 20, 2016
Two questions loom large now that Journey is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Will Steve Perry be there on April 7 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn? And will he perform?
Right now, there’s no answer for that.
Guitarist and co-founder Neal Schon tells Billboard that he’s already put in a call to Perry, Journey’s frontman from 1977-98 and singer of all its greatest hits, to discuss the induction. “I’m trying to get through to Steve to say congratulations, and hopefully he’ll call me back,” Schon says. “I would hope that Steve would at least do something with us. He went and sang a couple songs with the Eels last year to let people know he can still sing, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed but I’m not counting on anything.”
Schon continued to express his hopes that “surely [Steve] can come and do one, a bit of one song with us; Even if it’s a couple whole keys down it’s not something we can’t handle. I’m looking forward to hearing from him and just seeing what he’s thinking and if he wants to share that at all. It should happen. It’s silly for it not to.”
Meanwhile, Journey and the Journey nation of fans are celebrating over the end of what’s been considered one of the bigger snubs in Rock Hall history. Journey won the public vote with 250,758, and though it only earned the band one extra vote added to the tally of more than 900 professional voters, Schon feels it made an even greater statement about his band’s popularity and impact.
“I think we’ve had the credentials for quite some time, but really it was our fans that did it,” Schon says. “They just came on full-force and voted like maniacs, and their dedication to us and the music throughout all the years of just standing by us is testimony itself for what’s about to happen. Our fans voted so hard that even though they say it’s only one vote, I think (the Rock Hall) would’ve gotten several thrashed by them if something didn’t happen. It’s great for us either way; If we don’t get in, our fans are gonna go nuclear, but I’m glad it took a turn for the better.”
In addition to Schon and Perry, Journey original members Ross Valory, Gregg Rolie and Aynsley Dunbar will be inducted, as well as current drummer Steve Smith, who’s on his third run with the group, and longtime keyboardist Jonathan Cain. Arnel Pineda, the group’s frontman since 2007, won’t be inducted, but Schon promises that the Filipino native will get his due from his bandmates.
“I think it would be great for Arnel to be there and for everybody to witness him and everybody to give thanks to him for carrying on our legacy so well with us,” the guitarist says. “We’re truly grateful for finding him, and I think Steve Perry would be, too — or should be.”
The induction will put a little more juice into a year where Journey is already planning some special things. The group goes to Japan in February for shows playing its “Escape” and “Frontiers” albums in their entirety for Udo Productions’ 50th anniversary. A subsequent North American tour will take the band to secondary markets, and during May it plays a nine-date residency at the Joint @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. And, Schon adds, “I think because of what’s going down and the induction, we’re going to get some more offers to extend things and play more shows. I’m up for it.”
Mostly, however, he’s pleased that the band he started after leaving Santana with Rolie will be getting what’s felt to be long-overdue recognition. “I’ve always felt that Journey has been a special band, even from the very get-go, that we were bringing something different to the table,” says Schon, who’s also working on a solo album with Narada Michael Walden and has been approached by producer Kevin Shirley to make a blues record.
“I felt that the band was so musical and musically diverse,” he continues. “There really wasn’t anything we couldn’t play. I think a lot of critics got frustrated with it ’cause they couldn’t just put us in a box. And we’re still here kicking it hard, so to have (the induction) happen before we’re all dead, it’s a good thing.”
Gary Graff is an award-winning music journalist based in Detroit. In addition to Billboard, Billboard.com, and Billboard.biz, he also writes regularly for the New York Times Features Syndicate, Journal Register Newspapers, Revolver, Music Connection, United Stations Radio Networks and more, and for radio stations in Detroit and Milwaukee. He has written books about Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, rock ‘n’ roll myths and other subjects.