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revisionist history, or, ohmigod, someone's actually trying to rescue the reputation of journey

In today's Chronicle, Peter Hartlaub writes about a band that was "hated on by critics, only to sell millions of copies," a band "who made the best music ever to come out of the Bay Area," and band "that was falsely persecuted -- the musical version of a Death Row inmate who didn't commit the crime." Yes, he's talking about Journey, in particular their album Escape (Hartlaub is celebrating the album's 25th anniversary). As one of the "relative handful of haters" who thinks Journey is one of the shittiest bands of all time, I feel obliged to comment on Hartlaub's misguided attempt to talk nice about that crappy album. Besides, I'm kinda tired of getting hate messages from Carpenters fans who don't accept the truth of my statement that the Carpenters sucked big time ... let's bring the Journey fans out, see what they have to say.

First, Hartlaub is wrong when he says critics don't get Escape. While it is true that critics in general disliked Journey, Escape was the one Journey album that got some critical respect. The All Music Guide gives it 4 1/2 stars out of 5, and it seems to be very popular with British critics, making various all-time lists (info from Acclaimed Music). So you see, Peter, critics can be wrong sometimes, too.

While Journey was making Peter Hartlaub's favorite album, other bands were making music too. Black Flag with Damaged, perhaps the best of all the LA punk albums of the early 80s, and X, the best of the LA punk bands, with Wild Gift. Northern California had their punk rockers, too .... 1981 saw the release of Flipper's debut album. U2 gave us October, and there were fine albums by artists such as the Psychedelic Furs and the Neville Brothers. R.E.M. released their first single, "Radio Free Europe." There was "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel," only one of the greatest records ever made. "Oh Superman," "Start Me Up," "I Love Rock and Roll," "Bette Davis Eyes," "Controversy" ... and you're gonna talk to me about fucking Journey?

Hartlaub thinks critics are stoopid, but look what he says about the title cut to this "classic album" ... a cut, I would add, that he calls "the best song on the album -- maybe on any album." "Listening to the song 'Escape' is the equivalent of getting a personal two-hour life-coaching session by Tony Robbins and then smoking PCP."

Leaving aside the fact that anyone who had to sit through two hours with Tony Robbins would need something a lot stronger than PCP to recover, I can only assume that Peter Hartlaub is pulling my leg and I, gullible as always, have fallen for it. At one point in his article, Hartlaub dares us to listen to "Don't Stop Believing" 35 times in a row ... after reading his piece, I can only prescribe for Hartlaub that he lock himself in a room with a bunch of that horse tranquilizer and listen to the first Stooges album 35 times in a row. Maybe then he'll understand just how crappy Journey was.

Comments

Paul

Wow...I haven't read that piece. Journey revisionism...well, in an era where George Bush can feature as a brave patriot, I suppose anything is possible. Not sure I can go with you on Damaged as best punk LP, insofar as any of the first three X LPs outshine it by far IMHO, but it's certainly a lot less PCP-inciting than Journey.

You'll appreciate this tale of misery: my mother worked at ABC during the 70's & early 80's, during which period, you may remember, they had an execrable Saturday Night Live rip-off called "Fridays," notable now mostly for having hooked Larry David up with Michael Richards. Oh, and Melanie Chartoff was cute in a kind of up-tight 80's cocaine-addled way.

Anyway, one night she came home to report that The Jam were going to be appearing on Fridays in a few weeks and that she'd taken the liberty of securing me tickets. Score! Of course nothing could expiate her grievous error in failing to inform me some time earlier that The Clash were appearing on the show, but hey, she was trying.

So a few weeks later my girlfriend and I happily drive down into LA from the hellish sub-suburb where we lived, park, stand in line with a bunch of KLOS bumpersticker sporting morons, which puzzles us, and get in to the studio, find our seats, and settle in....

...at which point we're told that we're in for a big treat because that week's musical guests are Journey, kids, and isn't that great!?!

Mom had read the calendar wrong; The Jam had taped the previous week. My girlfriend and I sat, stone-faced and horrified, through two Journey songs and some of the un-funniest "comedy" skits in Christendom. Actually, they weren't un-funny; they were anti-funny. And the Journey songs...well, no need to go into detail about how soul-searingly empty and awful and corporate and vapid and soulless they were - you already know that.

What a horrible afternoon and evening... So we went to Oki-Dog and the Starwood afterwards. I think we ended up seeing The Gears and somebody else; I would've settled for Oingo Boingo and Wet Picnic at that point.

Nice to find your blog; I met you a few times when we were both grad students in the 90's.

Steven Rubio

Hey Paul, I do recall your name and I think I can see your face in my mind.

I certainly agree that X was the great LA punk band, but I'd still go with Damaged if I had to choose one album. "TV Party," "Gimme Gimme Gimme," "Rise Above," "Six Pack," these songs defined LA punk for me, living in Berkeley.

I remember Fridays! I remember the Clash on Fridays ... as I recall, the sound was abysmal, you couldn't hear anything but gnarly roar, which of course delighted me.

Good to hear from you!

Paul

Actually, the sound, while not great, isn't all that bad. I've got it on tape, secured for me by my mother off of the master working copy way back when. It's got SMPTE timecode running on it, but hey, it's a lot better quality than if I'd taped it off the air. I've just finished transferring it to DVD, actually, where it looks pretty decent, all things considered.

Steven Rubio

Well, I'm practicing my own revisionism then :-). As I experienced it, anyway, I really did think "what's wrong with the sound, it's like they turned it up to 11 and the sound system broke down starting at 9."

I'm getting too old ...

zendoug

All's i know is: i didn't even know that i had memorized the entire escape record as a grade schooler til i went to japan a few years ago and was forced to sing half the songs off their album at countless sake-sodden karaoke parties. unfortunately, listening to journey back in the states while sober isn't as much fun, somehow.

though the video for "separate ways" (featuring awesome air keyboard outside a warehouse) is perhaps the most important music video of all time. i suggest all your readers go directly and watch that video 37 times while inhaling an entire bottle of nasonex and you will understand the brilliance that is steve perry...

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