BANGOR, Maine — The band’s name has become legendary and synonymous with the term superband as it heads into its 40th year of performing.
Journey has produced one diamond, two gold and eight multiplatinum albums, along with two Billboard charts No. 1 hits, six Billboard Top 10 singles, and 18 Top 40 U.S. singles. Yet longtime members such as Jonathan Cain say the band is criticized for not being a rock ‘n’ roll band.
“Look at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I mean, they haven’t been knocking and we’ve probably sold twice as many albums as half of those bands,” said Cain. “Rolling Stone and the L.A. Times never liked us, but we have the most downloadable song of all time.”
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Journey has sold 47 million albums in the U.S., making them the 28th best-selling band, and “Don’t Stop Believing” became the top-selling catalog track in iTunes history three years ago.
“It’s easy to rap success and we’ve kind of taken the approach that you can make fun of us if you want, but it’s legit and we’re still here,” Cain said. “I think we’re as much a rock band now as we ever were with Deen Castronovo playing drums.”
Fans overseas seem to agree.
“We’ve gone over to tour Europe with Korn and other heavy metal or death metal bands and they [fans and the other bands alike] love it,” said Cain.
Founding members Neal Schon and Ross Valory; Cain, who joined the iconic band in 1981 and helped ignite an eight-year span that would be the peak of Journey’s popularity and success; Castronovo; and much-talked-about lead singer Arnel Pineda, whom Schon discovered in 2007 through YouTube videos, will make the trip to Bangor to perform at the Waterfont Concerts Pavilion on Friday night. They’ll be joined by fellow ’80s music legends Pat Benatar and Loverboy.
The show is the latest virtual sellout during a successful national tour. That’s nothing new for Journey, which routinely sold out stadiums with five times the seating capacity of the Bangor Waterfront, but it wasn’t always like that. As the new millennium began, the band was in a rut. Lead singer Steve Perry and his signature voice had long since left the band and the size of the venues Journey was playing was shrinking.
“We were needing a shot in the arm in the vocal department after losing Perry,” said Cain. “We were quietly selling 15,000 to 20,000 seats a show and making noise, but people just weren’t paying attention.”
Then came a confluence of events in 2007 that Cain says reignited the Journey brand name: While Journey was taking a yearlong break, Walmart began selling an exclusive Journey album, the Broadway play “Rock of Ages” started playing to sellout crowds and reviving interest in ’80s rock, and the already iconic Journey hit single “Don’t Stop Believing” was used to close out the final episode of “The Sopranos.”
“I knew it was pretty big, especially given how popular that show was,” Cain said. “It gave the song some legitimate juice, and the way I wrote it is the way it was used.”
The Walmart album sold well and the Journey brand was back. Perseverance paid off.
“We stayed at it when it was tough and hard because we had an end goal in mind,” Cain said. “I look at Lynyrd Skynyrd as my model and what they did with their band and their brand.”