Hi Everybody! Robert is back again with a new entry in his totally awesome ‘Going Solo’ series. We’re in for a treat today, as he covers one of my all time favorite singers – Steve Perry. Journey was my favorite band throughout the ’80s. I first heard of Journey from their Escape album, although I’m pretty sure I had been familiar with “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'”, but just didn’t know it was them. So, one Christmas I asked for some Journey albums (well, actually cassettes). I was expecting to get Escape. Instead I got their self titled debut, Next and Evolution. I loved all of them, but I’ll give you 1 guess of which one I played more than the others. Their pre-Perry stuff was really good. Neal Schon just totally shreds on most of the songs, and Gregg Rolie had a good soulful voice. But, when Steve Perry arrived, he just brought them up to a new level.
Well, I Believe that Robert is bringing Return to the ’80s up to a new level as well. So, Don’t Fight It, and enjoy this great article!
Oh, Steve Please Sing Again
Come on, be honest. You have been expecting an article on Steve Perry since you read the Phil Collins article. I cannot believe I have waited this long! In making my list of solo stars who came from groups, Steve Perry was first on the list. I promised myself that I would wait for at least three other solo stars before I got to Perry. Phil Collins – check, Peter Cetera – check, Don Henley – check. That makes three and good things come to those who wait. Well, I have keep the promise to myself. Here it is: Steve Perry.
Of course, there was life before Journey, but that is not really that important. After a few failed attempts at music as a career, Perry was ready to give up until he was given the chance to audition for a progressive rock band out of San Francisco. After what ended up being a clandestine audition while the band’s original singer was away, the band hired Perry and the rest is, well, you know, history. Journey now had a great vocalist – radio success was on the way. Not all members of the band were happy with then turn away from progressive rock to a more popular rock sound, but the success cannot be denied. Journey’s first album with Perry as lead vocalist was the 1978 release Infinity, which contained the singles “Lights” and “Wheel in the Sky.” Journey had its first two charting singles and an album that reached #21; Perry’s place was now solidified.
Perry would go on to record six more studio albums as a vocalist for Journey. Album sales would skyrocket and singles would continue to make their way up the charts. Despite all of this success, Journey has never released a single that would reach #1. The closest they came was “Open Arms” from the Escape album which spent six weeks at #2 in 1982. Almost unbelievably, the two singles that kept this song out of the top spot were (in order): “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band, and “I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Despite this lack of #1 single, Journey’s popularity would be evident in their album sales. With Steve Perry as a vocalist, Journey sold over 41 million albums worldwide (add another 20 million if you want to count greatest hits albums).
In 1983, Kenny Loggins released a duet with Steve Perry called “Don’t Fight It.” The song reached #17 on the Billboard charts. This was perhaps the first sign of Perry wanting to do something outside of Journey. Later that year Journey would release the album Frontiers. Perry would tour with Journey in support of this excellent album. The tour ran into 1984 – and now, finally, the subject of this article! In 1984 Steve Perry would release his first solo album Street Talk. The album was successful, selling over 2 million copies and peaking at #12 on the album charts. Perry released four singles from Street Talk: “Oh, Sherrie” #3, “I Believe”, “She’s Mine” #21, “Strung Out” #40, and “Foolish Heart” #18. At the end of the original video for “Foolish Heart”, Perry is seen walking offstage to the waiting members of Journey; they embrace and extoll the desire to make a new record. They would, but things would never quite be the same.
That is plenty of information, now let’s look at this fantastic album, Steve Perry’s first of two complete and released solo albums- the only one released in the ‘80s, Street Talk.
I challenge you to find an opening keyboard sequence that is more recognizable as the one in this song. You may find one that is close (a-ha, maybe), but this one definitely ranks near the top. Now try and find a match to those vocals that utter the now iconic, “You should have been gone, knowing how I made you feel / And you should have been gone, after all your words of steel.” This you cannot match. The song is an amazing opening to the album. It is a nearly flawless song that may have only one problem. Years ago I remember reading an interview with Neal Schon (guitarist for Journey). He was asked about this album and song, his reply, “We gave Steve our blessing to make a solo album – not another Journey album.” Perhaps that is why the song charted so well. It has a clear rock sound that Journey helped popularize in the early ‘80s. Whatever, I don’t care. This is a simple love song to his girlfriend at the time. It is a song that helped define the music of the decade.
Here is a nice little song about a relationship that may have turned sour. The guy is trying to hold on to it and help the woman see that is will be worth the time and effort. He says, “Well I know there’s a solution / Right here in our hands / Then the lonely, lonely hours we’ve wasted / Won’t be back again.” This song has a little ‘50s musical touch – a solid song and a good second track.
So let’s say that you are in love with someone and, unfortunately, it doesn’t work out. You hold on for as long as possible, but then you just have to move on. Well, what you have is another Steve Perry song – and a good one. Perry has a clear ability to write songs with simple lyrics that pack an emotional punch. For instance, “Go away, go away / I sing goodbye to you / When the song is one you’ll be on to someone new.” Since this is a solo album by a fantastic vocalist, the music take a bit of a back seat; be sure you do not miss the guitar in this song.
Most people do not want to spend their lives alone. The speaker in this song is in the uneviable situation of (still) looking for that special someone. He is tiring of making the wrong decision. The beautiful song sounds a bit autobiographical to me. Perry has gone through several meaningful relationships – see “Oh Sherrie” – but has had trouble finding a lasting one. His recent reappearance is due in some ways to the sad death of Kellie, a close companion of Perry’s (read more about her here- he is very open about it: http://fanasylum.com/steveperry/). This song has the singer begging for better guidance and help to find true love, “I need a love that’s strong / I’m so tired of being alone.” The video is simple, but effective. There is Perry, onstage – alone.
Speaking of difficult relationships – this song describes another one. Here there is a man at his wit’s end, “I don’t need this condemnation / There’s no room for mistakes / There’s no time for forgiveness / It’s written on your face.” The frustration is palpable. I really like how the song builds to a climax with a burst of guitar.
What do you say – let’s stay with relationships, shall we? Here there is a man who is posturing and fighting for the one he loves. It seems like another guy has creeped into the picture and – as you can guess, the singer does not like it, “I heard her call out your name / Late last night in her sleep / That’s why I came here to say / No, it won’t be easy to steal her away.” Just a bit confrontational. This is another song with some great guitar work.
This is a track that really sounds like Journey. The song rocks a bit, has solid lyrics, and a big chorus. I really like the twist that Perry puts in the last repetition of the chorus. During the entire song the singer is marvelling at his former love’s unhappiness. It is as if he is saying ‘Hey, we broke up! You should be happy’ – as the title suggests. The songs ends with, “But now I’m happy, now I’m on my own.” Nice optimistic twist.
Many Journey songs could be called inspirational – “Don’t Stop Believin’” or “Be Good To Yourself”, for example. This songs has the same sort of feel. It tries to provide that push some need to believe in themselves and continue the drive to be a success. I think this song has some of Perry’s best writing: “Looking down I watch the night / Running from the sun / Orphan stars and city lights / Fading one by one.” Gorgeous.
I am a complete sucker for allusions! I love when I read or listen to an original work that refers to other people or events. Allusions make this song one of my favorites on this album. The first verse alone has four allusions: “Where did he go / The man who said I have a dream / Where did they go / The four who sang let it be / Jackie’s alone / She lost him one November day / L.A. motel / One sad mistake took Sam away” Wow! Martin Luther King, Jr., The Beatles, JFK, and Sam Cooke all in one verse – fantastic. The song, and allusions, continue to become an homage to the great artists who came before Perry started his career.
When I record my first solo album, I am going to copy Steve Perry and end with an absolute rocker. This song has the best guitar work on the album and highlights Perry’s perfect rock voice. I love the simple aggressive nature of this song. It captures an age old problem, “It’s hard to love somebody, especially when they don’t belong to you ‘cause they’re loving someone else.” This is the perfect end to an excellent first solo album,
Despite the success of this album and of his next one with Journey, Raised on Radio, Steve Perry would not release his second solo album until 1994. There was another solo effort that was started in 1988 – Against the Wall – but it was never completed. In 1994 Perry released For the Love of Strange Medicine. I feel obligated to include two of the songs from this album.
I distinctly remember driving on an old Nebraska highway when I first heard this song on the radio. I nearly drove off the road! Steve Perry has a new solo album! I am not joking when I tell you I told the next twenty people I saw about it. The song is a rocking plea – one in line with Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” and Poison’s “Fallen Angel.” The singer is imploring a teenaged girl to slow down and not be drawn into the seedy underside of the world. This song gave millions of fans hope that Perry was back for good. Unfortunately, this was not the case, but what a great song.
This is an excellent ballad that reminds me the Journey’s song “When You Love a Woman” which will be the first single from Trial By Fire, the 1996 album that marked Perry return to the band for just one album. There is nothing fancy about this song. It is just a great ballad from an artist with a great voice.
For most fans of ‘80s music Steve Perry would be the first name they think of if asked about solo acts who started with bands. Street Talk is a fantastic album that once again displays the unique vocal talents of one of the most iconic voices of ‘80s rock. If you are reading this then you, like me, hope beyond all hope that he will one day release new music. Recent reports reveal that Perry has renewed his songwriting copyright. Last summer he made appearances at both a San Francisco Giants baseball game where he lead the crown in a rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin’” as well as showing up at an Eels concert to sing a few Journey classics. His voice should never be silenced and this solo effort shows why. All of us fans of ‘80s rock (im)patiently await his return.