Aptly named Evolution nudged Journey closer to pop: ‘I learned a lot from that situation’

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Evolution, released on April 5, 1979, underscored the pop promise that Steve Perry brought to Journey on just his second outing.

The single “Lovin,’ Touchin,’ Squeezin,'” plucked from the middle of side one, would streak to a then-best-ever No. 16 for Journey — a group whose highest-ever charting song had been “Wheel in the Sky” from the year before, which stalled out at a paltry No. 57.

Based on a true story of youthful heartbreak from Steve Perry, “Lovin,’ Touchin,’ Squeezin'” also helped push Journey into the Top 20 on the Billboard album charts for the first time, as well. It seems Steve Perry caught a glimpse of his girlfriend giving another man a lingering goodbye kiss before he raced away in a sports car. That moved Perry to compose “Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin’,” which — despite its soaring nah-nah conclusion — served as a kind of “love justice,” Perry said in the Time3 collection’s liner notes.

Really, it could just as easily have been renamed “Lovin, Touchin,’ Jammin,'” since it came together — as many did with a 1970s-era lineup also featuring Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie — through loose in-studio collaboration. The song showcased newly installed drummer Steve Smith (who provided a nifty stuttering rhythm), even as it sidelined Journey’s long-time bassist Ross Valory, who didn’t start out at his traditional spot.

“That rhythm is a simple 12/8 blues shuffle, a very traditional old-school blues feel,” Steve Smith tells us, in an exclusive Something Else! Sitdown. “The song developed as a jam started by Steve Perry playing the bass. Actually, that song is reminiscent of a Sam Cooke song called “Nothing Can Change This Love”; Steve was very influenced by the great Sam Cooke. When Journey worked on writing new songs, it was a collaborative effort.”

Elsewhere, you hear how those loose jams could develop into something far more in keeping with Journey’s earliest albums on a song like “Daydream” from Evolution. An episodic triumph, it was very much in keeping with the prog-rock pretensions of the day — from the dreamy, Jon Anderson-esque verses, to its rangy guitar riffs, to its forward-thinking keyboard asides.

For Steve Smith, who had only just joined Journey during the previous tour, that collaborative spirit defined the period. Tracks like “Daydream” were composed in a free-flowing manner, something the drummer says directly impacted his own subsequent turn toward jazz.

“The band wrote collectively in a rehearsal room,” Smith adds. “The music would develop in a jam session-style situation. Most of Journey’s music was developed collectively at first and then fine-tuned into songs. I learned a lot from that situation and continue to write like that to this day.”

The success of “Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin,'” however, was undeniable — and it changed the course of things for Journey forever. By 1981, Journey had retooled around Rolie-replacement Jonathan Cain — formerly keyboardist with the Babys — and scored a No. 4 hit “Who’s Crying Now.” That opened the pop-chart floodgates, as Journey reeled off six Top 20 hits in a row through 1983.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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