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15 Years Ago: Steve Perry Leaves Journey…Again

It was on May 7, 1998 that stadium rockers Journey earned a guaranteed episode of VH1′s then ultra-popular ‘Behind the Music’ series when singer Steve Perry broke ranks with the band for a second time.

At least the first time, in the 1980s, Perry’s exit had been voluntary: the result of his impressive recent solo success and growing indifference it fueled in the singer towards the group that brought him stardom in the first place, and which he’d subsequently selfishly hijacked, for all intents and purposes.

Left to their own devices, Perry’s remaining band mates, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain (Perry had unilaterally fired Journey’s founding bassist Ross Valory and long-serving drummer Steve Smith prior to recording 1986′s ‘Raised on Radio’) decided to capitalize on the waning days of glam metal by forming Bad English with John Waite.

Luckily, a decade spent largely in exile from the bright arena spotlights would pave the way for Journey’s triumphant mid-’90s reunion, which produced a Top 20 album in 1996′s ‘Trial by Fire’ that flew right in the face of America’s reigning “alternative rock royalty.” Three charting singles, a Grammy nomination, and imminent plans for a successful comeback tour made it seem just like the old days!

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

However, rather than bending to Perry’s whims this time, the remaining members of Journey decided to bank on their fan base’s renewed support and unquenchable hunger for tour dates by recruiting Perry-sound-and-look-alike Steve Augeri (formerly of Tyketto and Tall Stories) in order to get on with business as (almost) usual.

In the end, the band’s decision appears to have been vindicated by a successful decade-plus of touring and recording behind Augeri and, later, Arnel Pineda. Perry, for his part,  has maintained a relatively low profile, seemingly satisfied with belting out ‘Don’t Stop Believin” (now a universal anthem thanks to its use on ‘The Sopranos’) from the bleachers of his hometown San Francisco Giants’ baseball stadium.

Next: Top 10 Journey Songs


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