‘He brought the voice’: Journey’s Neal Schon remembers how Steve Perry changed everything

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Steve Perry’s arrival with Journey in 1978 didn’t immediately translate into huge radio airplay, but co-founder Neal Schon says he could tell from the beginning that things were changing.

“He brought the voice that got us on the radio,” Schon tells the Classic Rock Society. “At the time, before he joined the band, the biggest problem that the band had was that we couldn’t get on the radio — but we were selling out everywhere we were playing. So, we had this big underground audience, if you will — sort of like a (Grateful) Dead audience. They followed us everywhere. They were diehard Journey fans. They came to see us jam.”

Schon and Gregg Rolie founded the group in 1973, after leaving Santana together. But none of their three pre-Perry albums had gotten any higher than No. 85. 1978’s Infinity, meanwhile, went all the way to No. 21 on the strength of a pair of low-charting singles.

“When Perry came to the band, we went more vocally oriented,” Schon adds. “The first record really didn’t have any big hits, but ‘Lights’ and ‘Wheel in the Sky’ got our foot in the door. Then things started unfolding for us on the radio.”

1979’s Evolution would become Journey’s first-ever platinum recording, beginning a string of seven such successes through 1996’s Trial by Fire.

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