Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Night Videos - Great Moments in History 8/23/86

Journey is known for a lot of things, but did tight porn star jeans have to be one of them? Did they have a bet with ex member Gregg Rolie to see who could lose circulation in their leg the fastest?? Does Neal Schon bear a slight resemblance to Ron Jeremy here??? Yes, I think he does.

There are certain moments in my teenage life that will live with me forever (or according to this blog a lot of moments) but one of the best times I've had was August 23, 1986. That was the day I saw the an spectacular event. It was the first time I saw Journey play live.

The mid-80's were a rough time to be a Journey fanatic. The band was inactive, Steve Smith formed a jazz combo, Steve Perry had solo success proving he didn't need a band to be popular and music was changing from the everyman Arena Rock to the poodle haired pretty boy Pop Metal scene. When Journey regrouped to record a new album, bassist Ross Valory and drummer Smith were quickly shown the door. Rumors flew about keyboardist Jon Cain and guitarist Neal Schon writing separately from Perry. It seemed doubtful the album would ever be finished.

Then, a ray of hope - the first single "Be Good To Yourself" rocked! Then, hope sank a bit as the record came out - Raised on Radio was more R & B than Rock. It's a great album, just wasn't the album I was hoping for after the group spent three years away. Still, when the tickets for the Mountain Aire festival went on sale you couldn't stop me. Calaveras County? Where is that? Didn't matter, I was going to Journey's first live performance in three freakin' years. And so were my friends Chris, Derek and Chris' friend Scott. We all graduated high school in '86 and on that hot summer day we hopped into my parents station wagon and I drove to Calaveras County.

The trip was long, we got a little lost somewhere, and Scott ridiculed Derek with insults most of the way almost resulting in a fight in the back seat. It was like Jerry Springer on wheels. Anyway, I pulled over and Chris got the two to get along and started rapping with Derek You Be Illin' by Run D.M.C. over and over like a new catchphrase. It took about four-five hours I think, it was a long ass trip.

We made our way to the open field where the concert was held and sat down at about the middle of it. Whitesnake's "Slow an Easy" blared on the sound system confirming we were in the right place. It was blazing hot and we were drinking a lot of water when the first act in the Mountain Aire festival came on. Device!

What's a Device you ask? It's the band songwriter Holly Knight formed, since her songs worked so well for Heart and Scandal maybe it would work for her group too. It was a great theory that failed in practice, none of the early concert goers were in the mood for Hanging on a Heart Attack . The parachute panted lead singer would later score a hit with a restructured Animotion a few years later.

After that pain had ended, Canadian rockers Honeymoon Suite hit the stage. They worked the stage like pros and gained some attention for minor radio hits like "What Does it Take", "Feel it Again" and "Bad Attitude". But it was the smash New Girl Now that drew the first big pop from the crowd.

What momentum HMS built up was quickly diffused when ex-Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor went on. Taylor did his best to rock out and show off his impressive chops but all shred and boring songs makes Andy a dull boy. I did like his 45 Take it Easy which was the only listenable part of the whole venture. The only "Reflex" I felt was a gag reflex. Or maybe it was the draining heat bearing down.

Like Star Trek movies it seemed we were destined for every other artist to suck until The Outfield broke the streak. Their stadium rock by way of The Police posturing was a big hit as they reeled off song after song from their well received Play Deep album. They even played a new song, "Since You've Been Gone" before it had been released on a record. Their live image wasn't entirely serious as guitarist John Spinks repeatedly wagged his butt at the audience. Everything was cool until Your Love, a three minute gem that progressed into a ten minute sing along. It was the. longest. sing. along. ever. The audience as a whole had to sing "Your Love", then the audience had to sing in thirds (right, middle and left) and then the thirds had to sing against each other. At least it didn't go to the "only the women" or "only the men" crap but as it was I wanted to go to the stage and make them stop. I lost some respect for those British boys out there in the dry winds of Calaveras. Even if what they were really doing was killing time for the sun to go down.

Because there's nothing like watching a band in the second runner up position of a festival show try to make the sun go down. When I went to see The Police in '83 the band before them, The Fixx, played their big hit "One Thing Leads To Another" three times in a row for that very reason. It's like would it kill you to learn just one more song?

At last, night fell and Journey took the stage for the first time since Frontiers. The opening salvo of "Only The Young", "Wheel in the Sky" and "Line of Fire" blew everyone away. Steve Perry's voice was in fine form. Neal Schon tore up his guitar solos as Jon Cain keytared his way across the stage. American Idol judge Randy Jackson gave a big thumping bass line for Rick Springfield drummer Mike Baird to slam down with his heavy beat. And then things got a little mellow. Six songs from Raised on Radio were played, including the atrocious "Positive Touch". Things picked up as two of my personal faves "Ask The Lonely" and "Suzanne" were performed. Then mellow again with quiet instrumental interludes in place of rock solos and selections from Steve Perry's solo album confirmed this was a poppier band. All doubts were stripped away as they launched into The Four Tops "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" during the encore.

Even with the new direction, the greatness of Journey could not be stopped. I used to wonder how fans would be lucky enough to be at a concert that was taped for a video. That problem was solved as Journey filmed their first video for the ROR album, "Girl Can't Help It" (when initially released the band said no videos would be made for ROR). The third single from the album, "Girl Can't Help It" provided a permanent visual record of a great moment in my personal history (though it can't top marrying my wonderful wife). About a year later I was watching a TV special on Journey and also from that night was a recording of "Be Good To Yourself" which was played at the end of the regular part of the set that night. Now I had two permanent records.

By the time we drove back home, we had been up a full 24 hours. We all grew up a little that day. Some of us went to college, others never saw each other again. But we all share the knowledge of what happened on that fateful August day. Journey's comeback concert ruled. Totally fuck*n ruled. August 23rd, 1986.

Journey "Girl Can't Help It"

Journey "Be Good To Yourself"

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