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Why Steve Perry Left Journey for Good

Michael Ochs Archive

On May 7, 1998, Journey lost singer Steve Perry for a second time. At least the first time, in the ’80s, Perry’s exit had been voluntary, the result of recent solo success and growing indifference toward the band.

And left to their own devices at the time, Perry’s former bandmates, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain formed Bad English with singer John Waite. (Perry had fired Journey’s founding bassist, Ross Valory, and longtime drummer Steve Smith before the group recorded 1986’s Raised on Radio.)

But a decade mostly spent away from the bright arena spotlights paved the way for Journey’s triumphant mid-’90s reunion, which produced a Top 20 album, 1996’s Trial by Fire, which swam against the current of the era’s reigning alt-rock. Three charting singles, a Grammy nomination and imminent plans for a successful comeback tour made it seem just like the good old days.

Unfortunately, those touring plans were derailed when Perry suffered a hiking accident and refused to undergo the hip surgery necessary to get him back onstage. This opened the door to renewed ill will and undoubtedly dredged up memories of the singer’s late-’80s power grab for Journey’s fate.

But instead of bending to Perry’s whims this time, the other members of Journey banked on their fan base’s renewed support and unquenchable hunger for tour dates by recruiting a Perry soundalike Steve Augeri in order to get on with business.

The band’s decision appeared to have been vindicated by a successful decade-plus of touring and recording with Augeri and, later, Arnel Pineda. Perry, for his part, has maintained a relatively low profile, seemingly satisfied belting out “Don’t Stop Believin'” from the bleachers of his hometown San Francisco Giants’ baseball stadium and occasionally showing up to perform with the indie-rock band Eels.

In 2016, Journey were announced as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2017. Schon said Perry “should be” at the induction ceremonies in April 2017. “Musically speaking, I’d love to have him do a song with us – or two, or whatever,” he said. “What would be even greater would be for him to do a song with Arnel too. I’m open to everything. I’m very open-minded to whatever happens, and any ideas that are brought forth.”

Perry commented with just a simple, “I am truly grateful that Journey is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” at the time.

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