Neil Daniels Author Neil Daniel spent a lot of time writing and researching Don't Stop Believin': The Untold Story of Journey. Gathering and conducting interviews, assembling timelines and trying to make sense of a history that dips back nearly 40 years was not an easy thing to do. Here he talks a little bit about writing the book and what he found out when he did.
Interviewer Steven Rosen: What was it about Journey that so intrigued you? Why write about them?
Neil Daniels: There are just so many different phases to their career, so I thought that aspect alone was strong enough for an enjoyable, interesting book. The history of Journey is an epic and very complicated one going right back to 1973 when they formed as a sort of jazz instrumental type outfit. I was a bit surprised there had never been a book before, but publishers are well-known for shunning this kind of music, which is why there have never been books on other AOR/melodic rock bands. I doubt there’ll be more to be honest. Journey are just about the biggest of their ilk so publishers will avoid the other acts. They’d come out of years of obscurity – well, to the mainstream anyway; us fans had followed them through thick and thin – when Glee helped re-launch their name and of course ‘that song,” as it is now referred to, became the most popularly downloaded song ever.
What were some of the amazing things you discovered about the band?
Certainly the band was very political behind the scenes; there were lots of arguments and back-biting. Steve Perry doesn’t always appear to be the angel fans think of him as. But that’s bands for you. This is the band that created some of the most beautiful rock ballads ever created yet they fought like cats and dogs to create those songs. I think Neal Schon is a hugely underrated guitarist and I’m glad he got his way with Eclipse. It’s a great album; their best since Frontiers. It’s some of the most amazing guitar work he’s done.
What are your feelings about the three basic periods of Journey’s development: the early albums with Gregg Rolie; the second period with Steve Perry; and the current lineup with Arnel?
I think those years with Gregg Rolie were vital because during those years they really worked it on the live front; Herbie Herbert said he was gutted when Rolie left. Then of course Jonathan Cain entered the picture, and the band hit the big time with Escape. I think when Steve Perry entered in 1977, it was make-or-break time for the band because Columbia were not happy with the record sales. Perry is, of course, the greatest singer in the history of AOR – no one can sing like he does. Then with Arnel Pineda, they really needed to have a hit record because it had been such a struggle with Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto. Both are fantastic at what they do but Journey did struggle to be taken seriously again. Now with Pineda, they are having hit records and playing in big-sized arenas again. I mean, Journey just played a sold-out show at Wembley Arena in London – go figure!
Was there a defining moment in Journey’s career? An album? Song? Concert?
Good question and a difficult one to answer. I guess the album that really hit the big-time for them was Escape. It was a huge album, and still to this day, 30 years later, it sells and is often dubbed one of the best melodic rock albums of all time. It got the band playing stadiums in the US, and that’s when they became a household name; certainly in America. Some would say Frontiers is a better album though; more complex. But that’s a matter of taste.
Talk about Neal Schon and what made him such a special guitar player?
I don’t know why it is that he is not recognized nor mentioned in the same breath as Vai, Satriani, May, Iommi et al. In my eyes, Schon is just as important and as talented. His sense of melody and structure is incomparable. Eclipse really shows the breadth of his talent on the fretboard. Maybe it’s because of the nature of Journey’s back catalogue or the fact that Journey have never really been popular with critics that Schon is often shunned? When was the last time – if ever – he was on the cover of a guitar mag?
Journey is currently touring with Foreigner and Styx—do you see any similarities in the arcs of these bands?
Certainly their careers have crossed paths; they are all of the melodic rock vein, and all three bands have had a fair number of line-up changes. Styx are not quite as popular, and no other AOR band has dented both the UK and USA album charts as Foreigner has – not even Journey. Certainly Journey and Foreigner have crafted some of the most recognizable power ballads of all time… oh, and they’ve both been covered by Mariah Carey. I saw this three-band bill in Manchester the other week – it was so great to see such a line-up in the UK.
How do you begin a book like this? Where do you start? How much time did you take in interviewing the principals? Gathering research?
I started by conducting interviews and gathering research, which I arranged in chronological order and then I created a huge timeline of events to lead me through the band’s history. I wrote the bare bones of the book and built the research into it. Although Journey formed in 1973, readers do need to know a little bit about Santana prior to ’73, which I wrote about. I realize I won’t please every fan, but hopefully most people will enjoy it.
How did you feel upon completing the book? Was it the book you wanted to write?
I am happy with it. Sure, some fans might complain for whatever reasons, but that’s always going to be the case. I would have liked the aborted chapter on Schon’s solo career to have been included, but there was a contracted word count…maybe it will make future pressings. Overall, though, I think it is a good, taut history of the band, and it wasn’t exactly an easy task. So far it’s been getting good reviews, which I’m obviously pleased with. It was a triumph to get this book published in the first place, given how unlikely a bio of Journey might have seemed a year or two ago. Check out www.neildaniels.com for info on my future books.
Neil Daniels is a freelance British writer specializing in rock and heavy metal. Educated at Middlesex University, where he obtained a BA Honours degree in Film Studies, he has written books on Judas Priest, Robert Plant, Bon Jovi and Linkin Park. He co-authored
Dawn Of The Metal Gods: My Life In Judas Priest & Heavy Metal
(with original Judas Priest singer and co-founder Al Atkins) featuring many rare and previously unseen photographs of the band from the early years (1969–1973) as well as bits of memorabilia.
Contributor Steven Rosen interviewed author Neil Daniels, author of Don't Stop Believin': The Untold Story of Journey (see accompanying review), about
his book for curledup.com. Steven Rosen/2011.