Journey’s Ongoing Feud Might Trace Back to 2017 White House Visit
Journey fans may find it sad and even shocking to witness Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain trading barbs and lawsuits in recent months while preparing for their recently launched 50th-anniversary tour. But it's not unprecedented. To put the current acrimony in context, fans only have to look back about five and a half years, to the summer of 2017.
The inciting incident took place on July 27, 2017, when Cain, singer Arnel Pineda and bassist Ross Valory visited the White House and snapped an Oval Office photo with then-President Donald Trump. Although Cain is married to Paula White-Cain, who served as the evangelical advisory board chairman in the Trump administration, the keyboardist told UCR that he considered the visit a "historic opportunity" and "not an endorsement" of the president.
Schon, however, took to social media to voice his displeasure with his bandmates.
"I will remain strong and consistent with the belief we've always shared and agreed upon — Journey should never be used and exploited by anyone, especially band members, for politics or any one religion," the founding guitarist wrote. "I've been here since 1972, and this has always been our belief. This was an intent to exploit the brand and use the name. Journey was not there — three individual members were. ... Tours are done all the time, but it could have been privately. ... I had no prior knowledge of this from anyone. Not band members or management. This clearly shows no respect for unity, just divide."
It was the first in more than a week's worth of hostile missives from Schon, who explained, "I don't have a problem with Trump. It's all politics. We've never allowed this. It's not smart to mix." He later tweeted, "I don't care about anyone [visiting] the WH. They have tours, but using Journey is not accepted by myself." The guitarist maintained that the visit and photo op were "exploitation without my permission and at my expense, being the founder," and promised that his bandmates "will be hearing from me."
Schon also posted cryptic messages such as, "One way or the other I won't be dealing with any more toxic shit. Done." And elsewhere: "People can live their life as they wish but leave it at the door."
The former president continues to be a sore subject among Journey's ranks, as Schon filed a cease-and-desist order against Cain last December, demanding that he stop playing the band's songs at Trump rallies, just one month after he sued Cain for allegedly restricting his access to the band's shared American Express card. When Cain countersued Schon in January for allegedly charging over $1 million in personal expenses to the band card, the guitarist's attorney called the allegations "as phony as a three-dollar bill" and chalked them up to Cain's "sour grapes" over the cease-and-desist.
The timing of the 2017 White House fracas was particularly interesting since all had been sweetness and light during Journey's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction a few months earlier in Brooklyn. The celebration even brought former singer Steve Perry back into the fold, though he didn't join the band to perform onstage at the ceremony.
Watch Journey Perform 'Don't Stop Believin'' at the 2017 Rock Hall Induction
A few weeks after the tour, Cain said there had been no discussion about the White House or any other issues. "I don't know. I just don't know. You’d have to talk to [Schon] about it," he told UCR while promoting his solo album Body Language. "I stayed neutral on it all. I woke up one morning and there was a storm, and I just didn't get it. Arnel and the guys — Arnel especially — wanted to go meet the chef [Cristeta Comerford] who cooked there for 22 years who was Filipino. So we did, and it was a private tour. ... It wasn't Journey-paid. And somehow a picture got taken ... and then, boom, the picture came out and everything happened. It was just an innocent visit. It wasn't anything political."
As for Schon's reaction, Cain said, "Well, you know, he decided to share it with the fans instead of talking to me. ... I have no comment on it, except it was a private visit, which turned into this big, blown-out thing. And then, of course, more stuff came out, and more stuff, and it was hard. It was just hard to watch."
Journey did play a handful of shows after the blowup, touring with Asia and taking part in the Classic East festival featuring Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan and Earth, Wind & Fire at New York's Citi Field. Asia drummer Carl Palmer later told UCR that he didn't notice any dissension in the ranks during the tour.
"It was not evident at all," Palmer claimed. "They were incredibly professional. They would pass each other in the corridors and ... fist-bump each other. You would not see any of that [rancor] at all. ... That may have been going on in social media, but it was not going on onstage and it was not going on in the corridors — and we did 42 concerts altogether with them. I don't think it's ever a wise thing to wash your laundry in public, but that's ... up to them. All I can tell you is they were the utmost in their professionalism every which way, and I was absolutely knocked out by them."
Cain said the reason for that is simple. "The music is bigger than all of it," he insisted. "It's bigger than any kind of squabble, any kind of whatever you've got. We just showed up and played our asses off, that's all. I love this band too much, and Ross loves this band, and we love our fans. I think in the end, we all have to just tolerate and get along. I'm prepared to do that."
He added, "I think time heals all things, and you move on."
That seemed to be the case, as Journey was back on the road in the summer of 2018 for a massive arena tour with Def Leppard and the Pretenders. In 2020, Schon and Cain fended off an "ill-conceived corporate coup d'etat" by Valory and drummer Steve Smith, firing the two and resetting the band with a succession of new members, including the short-lived returns of bassist Randy Jackson and drummer Narada Michael Walden. The latter co-produced Journey's latest album, 2022's Freedom, and performed with the group through the end of 2021, including a massive performance at Chicago's Lollapalooza that summer.
Watch Journey Perform 'Only the Young' at Lollapalooza 2021
"There was tremendous turmoil coming from every angle, especially towards me," Schon told UCR back in 2020. "Once I actually sat and talked with Jonathan, we cleared everything and we got rid of the conquer-and-divide scenarios, and we realized we had a lot more to say — musically, together, and as brothers. We're stronger for that, and so is the band."
That reconciliation seems to have reversed as of late, but Journey remains onstage together, with tour dates planned through April. And if the band members were able to set their differences aside previously, fans shouldn't stop believin' that they'll make it through their golden-anniversary celebration intact.