Stearns Square Hosts Journey Tribute Band: Who Was Journey???


Stearns Square Hosts Journey Tribute Band: Who Was Journey?

A Journey tribute band, The Great Escape, played recently at Stearns Square, an outdoors summer venue in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts.

I’m afraid I don’t have any video of that performance to share with you. I do have video of another recent performance of the same tribute band though. Here they are doing Faithfully. That performance is, I might as well say, true to its source. The performers do their job … faithfully.

Their fidelity has me thinking about their source.

Journey was formed back in 1973 by former members of Frumious Bandersnatch and Santana. The 1980s were the days of its own glory, when it was identified with the “power ballad” sound.

Power Ballads

What’s that? Well, generically a “ballad” is a story set to verse and music. In the later part of the 20th century, the term came to refer to quite sentimental stories, slow music, and belly-rubbing on the dance floor. Not stuff with which self-conscious ‘hard rock’ types want to be associated.

def-leppardBut by the ‘80s bands had discovered that they could first establish their rockin’ cred, and then let their guard down and include a weepy ballad in an album now and then. Like … Faithfully, above. Faithfully made it into a compilation released in 2009 with the title “Now That’s What I Call Power Ballads.”

Other classics of the genre are Def Leppard’s “Love Bites” (1987) and Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” (1988) both also included in that nostalgic 2009 collection.

power-balladsThe formula that developed over time for such ballads generally included a cheesy video [videos were new then, MTV was launched on August 1, 1981) and a killer guitar solo at some point in the second half of the song.

Return to Journey

Journey’s best known album, Escape, released in 1981, has since gone nine times platinum. Hence the name of the tribute group.

The follow-up to this was Frontiers (1983), which hit No., 2 on the album charts. Its track list includes: four big hit singles: Separate Ways (World Apart); Send Her My Love; and After the Fall.

Separate Ways was perhaps the paradigmatic power ballad. It also spawned perhaps history’s most poorly produced rock video. Here’s the video.

The lyrics seem of the conventional boo-hoo variety:

Here we stand
Worlds apart
Hearts broken in two, two, two
Sleepless nights
Losing ground
I’m reaching for you, you, you

lorgnettesBut then they get more complicated (as they often did – not all power ballads deserve the reputation for formulaic tripe they’ve developed in some quarters, among people who look down their noses through lorgnettes.)


That Awful Video

Though there is something to be said for the song, the video is a mess. Sometimes the band members are playing real instruments, sometimes they are only pantomiming the motions, playing “air keyboard” for example. There is no rhyme or reason to the alteration of mime and reality. The result has been effectively ridiculed here for example.

The backdrop of the set is apparently a warehouse, made it appears of corrugated (baby-blue) tin, and the set itself is a plain-looking concrete platform in front of the warehouse. Are we in an industrial park? When the camera does pan back a bit it looks like we’re at a wharf.

They did this shoot at a real wharf, by the way, in New Orleans.

There’s no coherent story to this video, so there is no explanation as to why the band should be hanging out at the wharf anyway.

jonathan-cainAt a couple of points, band member Jonathan Cain seems to be playing a keyboard nailed to the wall of the warehouse. It would probably have been better to stick to the air keyboard.

As the video opens a woman/model, wearing heels, a black leather skirt, and a white jacket, is walking by. She is obviously not dressed for a day of work in a warehouse/wharf setting, and she is oblivious to the music, though the musicians seem to direct their efforts at her.

We’re introduced to her from the rear but when the camera comes around and lets us see the face of this model, framed by Big Eighties Hair, she’s giving the camera (us) a rather fierce expression. Of course there’s no effort to explain that either. Except …

Oh I Get it

At the end of the video, there’s an oh-it-was-only-a-dream ending, with the model lying in bed, evidently still asleep, with headphones. We’re supposed to say, “Oh, I get it. That’s why nothing makes sense –it was just an arbitrary, random-images-generating dream. Perhaps she ate a rancid potato the evening before.” I think that’s what we’re supposed to say, anyway.

margaret-olmsteadThe model/actress, by the way, was Margaret Olmstead. A screen shot of Olmstead is below. If you’re interested in the on-the-set dynamics in which she was involved, follow this gossipy link.

It is enough to say that Beavis and Butthead were right to ridicule it. It shares a B&B episode with Milli Vanilli.

The song can be heard and appreciated without the video, and that is generally best. To those of us who were raised on radio, dissociating the music from the images seems natural enough. As it happens, Journey soon thereafter produced an album entitled …

Raised on Radio

randy-jacksonRaised on Radio (1986), was created in-studio with the help of Randy Jackson, the fellow best known to the broad public in the 21st century as one of the judges of American idol. I’ve put a photo of Randy back in the 1980s up at the top of this article. Here he as his more recent self though:

In the Raised on Radio era, Jackson was a session musician, and the band needed him to fill in after they had parted ways with their bass player Ross Valery.

For those of you who think of Jackson as a TV celebrity and don’t know about his younger ‘badder’ days, here is some more information and a bit of supportive video.

As to the use of videos, Journey sometimes did them better: as in their straightforward visualization of After the Fall.

Let’s enjoy that.

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