‘I don’t think Steve Perry liked me singing': Gregg Rolie opens up about leaving Journey

Gregg Rolie, in the space between two albums — 1977’s Next and 1978’s Infinity — went from fronting Journey to playing a secondary vocal role. Credit, and he says some blame, goes to the arrival of Steve Perry.

Certainly, Perry’s arrival turned Journey’s pop fortunes. Previously known as a volcanic jam band, Journey had fashioned a more prog-focused update of the Santana sound that Gregg Rolie and (during later incarnations) Neal Schon had helped create before splitting off to found Journey. But the highest any of their initial three Journey recordings had gotten on the Billboard album charts was a paltry No. 85, with Next.

The next year’s Infinity — powered by newcomer Perry’s vocals on tracks like “Lights” and “Wheel in the Sky” — would, of course, shoot into the Top 25, eventually going triple platinum. Their commercial fortunes had changed for good. Yet key tracks like “Feeling That Way,” “Anytime” (both from Infinity) and “Just the Same Way” (from 1979’s Evolution) illustrated that Rolie still had plenty to contribute, even in this next iteration.

By 1980, however, he was out — having shared little of the spotlight, save for the melancholy track “Someday Soon,” on that year’s Departure album. Rolie has consistently blamed burn out for his exit, just as Journey went into the commercial stratosphere with albums like 1981’s Escape and 1983’s Frontiers. He says he wanted to start a family, to settle down after launching two separate world-travelling acts.

But that doesn’t mean Rolie couldn’t sense that things were changing in the band, anyway. He can’t help but feel Perry was slowly pushing him away.

“I always wanted to sing a song or two, a couple would have been nice but then it got less and less,” Rolie tells Rock Cellar. “I don’t think Perry liked me singing. It was never discussed but I really think that’s what was happening.”

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