‘We never wrote a cock-rock song’: Jonathan Cain has a theory about Journey’s lasting resonance

Longtime keyboardist Jonathan Cain says Journey’s music has an innocence, an essential lack of cynicism, that helps it to resonate across the generations.

While others who had far more credibility with the critics have come and gone, Cain says in an interview with Chris Varias of The Community Press and Recorder, Journey songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’” continue to find their way into the culture via television shows from “Glee” to “The Sopranos,” and big-budget films like “Rock of Ages.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Neal Schon's forthcoming project 'The Calling' finds Journey's guitarist reuniting with Steve Smith, drummer from its biggest-selling era. Here's a preview.]

Much has changed, of course, for Journey since its early 1980s mega-platinum era: Cain, co-founding band guitarist Neal Schon and bassist Ross Valory continue now with a new drummer and vocalist. Arnel Pineda has helped Journey to a pair of hit albums — including 2011′s Eclipse — after the departure in the late 1990s of signature singer Steve Perry, co-writer on many of their best known tunes as well.

Yet, Cain says, the music remains — principally, because its all-American themes cross over generational lines.

“Every band has a character,” Cain tells Varias. “The Eagles can sometimes be cynical and sarcastic and write certain types of songs. Lyrically, what Steve had brought to the table and with his pop sensibility was this character. The character was this apple-pie, boy-next-door American kid that never really got the girl in the end. Even in “Lovin,’ Touchin,’” she was out screwing around with somebody else.”

Cain says the trio of Schon, Perry and himself would often talk about legacy bands, and their own place in the rock and roll narrative. Of course, then as now, Journey receives no love from the music press. (“I don’t care,” Cain says. “They can dismiss us as fodder. We’re still rocking.”) But something, nevertheless, has given their music a lasting resonance.

“We never wrote the cock-rock song,” Cain adds. “‘Girls, girls, girls’ wasn’t a Journey thing. Maybe that’s why it translates, I don’t know.”

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