35 Years Ago: Journey’s ‘Infinity’ Released
Ever wake up one morning wondering what your name was? Whether this was your beautiful house (David Byrne has, but that’s another story)? Whether you somehow missed something that was sitting right under your nose?
This sense of disorientation probably afflicted many fans of ‘70s prog rockers Journey when they dropped a needle on the band’s fourth studio album, ‘Infinity,’ which was released 35 years ago.
Prior to the LP’s recording, Journey members, vocalist/keyboardist Gregg Rolie, guitarist Neal Schon, bassist Ross Valory – and drummer Aynsley Dunbar, were handed a sort of ultimatum from their record label, Columbia, demanding they deliver a hit (or five) to make up for the band’s three artistically ambitious, but commercially disappointing, prior albums.
Journey’s strong-armed manager, Herbie Herbert, felt the problem could best be solved by enlisting a true front man capable of stomping the stage (seeing as Rolie was ever trapped behind his piano), and encouraged the group to begin auditioning unknown but charismatic lead vocalists, pronto!
The first serious candidate was one Robert Fleischman, who got as far as recording a few demos and performing some scattered dates with the band (see him here, somewhere behind Schon’s copious afro), before being passed over for the even more suitable Steve Perry. With their new lineup now in place, Journey moved ahead with step two in their wholesale transformation: reinventing their sound.
Saying adieu to the overwrought progressive style of yore, the band was literally reborn as a commercial pomp rock colossus, ready to fill entire stadiums with melody — and hook-laden anthems like ‘Wheel in the Sky,’ ‘Lights’ and ‘Anytime’ — most of them born of the brand new Perry/Schon songwriting team.
Needless to say, Journey’s metamorphosis was a resounding success, rescuing the band from the proverbial prog-rock scrap heap, and paving the way towards arena rock ubiquity. Heck, some folks are probably still scratching their heads about the entire transition.