Singer Steve at peace with his legacy – but wishes ex-bandmates would listen to tribute song he wrote for them
Steve Perry is at ease with his legacy as the best-remembered lead singer of Journey. And he has no problem with the band continuing without him and performing his songs.
But the iconic singer is saddened to think his former bandmates have probably never heard a song he wrote as a tribute to them on his last solo album.
Perry – who says he’s close to recording his first new material in 13 years – fronted Journey from 1977 to 1987, then again from 1995 to 1998, before splitting with the band in acrimony.
The split centred on his refusal to have hip surgery when Neal Schon and co wanted him to. They decided not to wait until he went under the knife at a time of his choosing, and instead replaced him – a move which led to Perry “turning off” his singing career.
He tells Melodic Rock: “I had to turn it off and go away because it was too painful.
“When my hip crashed and I had to have a replacement, that was so, so crazy. I never had anything stop me like that. Nothing stopped me. I could do anything. All of a sudden, guess what: you can’t do it.
“I had to have a hip replacement and the band were telling me when they thought I should do it. And I said, ‘You know what? Major surgery like this is not a band decision.
“So there was an ultimatum given to me – and I don’t respond well to ultimatums.
“But I have to respect the fact that they were impatient and they wanted to go out there. At the time, I fucking hated it. I hated them for doing it. But now I can look back with clear eyes, you know. I can’t blame them. They just wanted to get going.
“I was going to go to surgery, but not on their timetable. So I had my hip replacement and the rest is history. They’ve gone on and I’m where I’m at.”
Perry admits he had a hard time dealing with the fact that Journey were touring with a new singer, performing songs he’d written with them. But he reflects: “The break-up was so painful for all of us. I’m not saying just for me, I’m saying for all of us. I hope you print this – I want you to print this: the break-up was painful for all of us. But it had to happen.”
Having dealt with the pain, Perry’s now dealing with having shut down a major facet of his life. “I started giving myself a chance to write music again.
“And that meant that I had to dream again. And if I get into the fantasy of dreaming again I’m going to have the blues again. And if I’m going to feel the blues then I’m going to be depressed. And then if I’m going to be depressed I’m going to write music. And if I write music, then I’m going to feel good again. And if I feel good again, I’m now back again on the rollercoaster.
“So, I thought in my mind it was better just to run away and not feel any of it. And that worked for quite a few years – but it certainly isn’t a way to live life and I do not recommend it.
“I do not recommend running from life, though I needed to.”
Perry wrote the song Anyway, from his album For the Love of Strange Medicine, about his Journey colleagues. He says: “Read the lyrics: ‘We believed in music, brothers till the end / Nothing stood between us, a fire burned within / Oh how I remember, wounded but alive / Lost in our insanity, escaping to survive’.
“It’s about the band. We did believe in music till the bitter end. Though you have your moments and you hate each other, you’re joined at the hip because you have a mission. And we had that. We had that spark. We had that goalpost in our hearts, all of us. And it truly was a fire that burned inside us all.
“That song was my homage to them – and I don’t think any of the Journey members ever heard it, to be honest with you.”
But as he looks towards completion of his new studio, and begins filtering down the 50 songs he’s written in recent years with a view to turning them into a solo release, Perry is comfortable with the events that split him from the band.
“It was going to happen anyway,” he says. “Life had showed up and there was a fork in the road between us. I look back on it as the most painful time in my life; but you know what? They need to love their lives. They love performing out there all the time. The fans love the songs we wrote.
“I just think that it’s really okay. It’s really okay.”