Why Journey Performed ‘Separate Ways’ Long Before Recording It
One of Journey’s best-known songs came together in less than 48 hours.
Released Jan. 5, 1983, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” was a powerhouse track that immediately resonated with listeners. The song was written on the road as Journey, still riding high on the success of their 1981 album Escape, found themselves playing to thousands of passionate fans on a nightly basis.
Despite their popularity, all was not well within the band. Two of Journey’s members, guitarist Neal Schon and bass player Ross Valory, were going through messy divorces at the time. Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain witnessed how the respective breakups were affecting their bandmates and sought to pull creative inspiration from the situation.
"There's got to be a more soulful way of looking at this," Perry reportedly told Cain. The two began working on a song idea, something Journey didn’t typically do while on tour.
"Usually we don't write songs that far in advance of an album," Cain admitted to Hit Parader in 1983. "But on that occasion, Steve and I were just working an idea backstage and it all came together.”
Listen to 'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)'
“Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” evolved quickly, with Perry and Cain crafting the song’s basic structure. The tune's captivating synth line was originally formulated on a little Casio keyboard. The musicians were aiming to create something that was “real urgent sounding, but still had rhythm and melody.” In less than a day, they presented the idea to the rest of the band, with the entire Journey lineup then fleshing the song out during soundcheck.
Soon the band opted to add the tune to their set list, even though “Separate Ways” had not yet been recorded, let alone released. Response to the track was electric.
“It doesn’t matter where we put this song [in the set] because it has always had a strong effect on the audience, all the way back to the first time we played it—before it was even recorded,” Schon recalled in 2008 to Guitar World. “It was written on tour and we threw it in the set to see how it would go down. The audience had an amazing reaction to it without even knowing what it was. A big part of Journey’s influence comes from Motown mixed with R&B and blues, and that’s pretty much where ‘Separate Ways’ is coming from. It’s got a heavier guitar than an R&B song, but I think that’s what makes it sound like Journey.”
The band officially released “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” as the lead single from Frontiers on Jan. 5, 1983. The tune quickly raced up the charts, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Its accompanying music video earned heavy rotation on MTV – which may not have been a good thing. The clip, filmed on a wharf in New Orleans, was panned for its cheesiness. Everything in the video – from Journey's attire, to the band’s air instrument playing – became fodder for jokes.
Watch the Music Video for 'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)'
"I'm at a loss to explain that video," Cain admitted in the book I Want My MTV. "I will never live down those air keyboards. No matter what else I've done in my career, sooner or later people find a way to ask me about the 'Separate Ways' video."
Still, the clip did little to dull the popularity of “Separate Ways.” The song remains one of Journey’s definitive tracks and ranks as their sixth most-played song in concert, according to Setlist.fm.