Editorial: A Constructive Solution, Revisited
Recently one of the longest-running, if antagonistic, voices in the Journey community was silenced. Monker was banned from Back Talk. In the midst of a political argument between two other parties in the "Water Cooler" Forum, apparently Monker was denounced for "bashing" by two Back Talk members and he was banned. He was banned silently, meaning he wasn't told he was banned, and he only found out he had been banned when he tried to write a new post. He e-mailed the moderators, and after a few days received the reply that he had been banned for "bashing" two Back Talk members.
Monker was verbose, argumentative, occasionally arrogant, usually knowledgable, but always willing to get involved. Monker pioneered the "split-quote reply" technique now so popular amongst those who would reply to a post point-by-point. And he was often annoying. He alienated the Perry-heads early on, and in December of 2000, when a dozen or so Perry-heads were banned from Back Talk for no other reason than that they felt Steve Perry was the better lead singer, they started their own short-lived forum and decried the fact that they had been banned while their greatest nemesis, Monker, had not. They felt that Back Talk favored those fans who had accepted Steve Augeri. Monker's banning this week does not prove them wrong, but it does prove that Back Talk is becoming more and more strict in regards to what can and can't be discussed in its pages.
Monker may find this hard to believe, but we're sorry he was banned. We've had our differences with Monker in the past, both Jrnydv.Com and Dave himself, but being banned is hurtful and hateful and we don't wish it on anybody. That it was done silently, we believe, only makes it more insidious. Monker has disagreed with an Op/Ed here at Jrnydv.Com, and he has disagreed with other things Dave has said online, but we would never have advocated his being silenced (we even published exerpts of a Letter to the Editor he wrote in reply to the Op/Ed he disagreed with). Neither would Towanda, despite the many long arguments she had with Monker over the years. Nor do we think he would have advocated the same of us, as much as he may have disagreed with what Dave, Towanda, or others at Jrnydv.Com have said.
Unfortunately, Monker's banning is symptomatic of the tightening grip of the more reactionary moderators at Back Talk. The Op/Ed entitled "Poem," published here in this feature in September, summed it up well by paraphrasing a poem about the Holocaust: They came for so-and-so, and I did not speak up because I was not like so-and-so...and then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up. Towanda may have been the first who was silently banned--three years ago. By the time Dave was banned (not for anything he said or did on Back Talk but for the editorial direction of this website), people had realized that protesting the banning of others would lead to their own banning; now that Monker has been banned, we doubt that anyone left over there will speak up.
The Holocaust is a valid touchstone in that banning, as well as genocide, silences voices of dissent. But there is another important touchstone we can invoke here, and that is the way in which persons against the government of the Soviet Union were "found out" and punished. It was called denunciation. These "criminals" were denounced by party members as having said or done something in opposition to the will of the party. That sounds exactly like the way Monker was denounced: two Back Talk members denounced him to the moderators for "bashing." Even though it's unlikely that Monker actually "bashed" anybody (more likely his opinions, or his manner of stating his opinions, offended these people), his denunciation by party members caused his banishment to the gulag of the internet.
The problem is that Back Talk is the band's "official" forum. It's connected to the band's "official" site. And as long as Back Talk is the band's official forum, as long as it has the official sanction of Journey, the majority of Journey fans will think that it is the only special place to talk about Journey--for that reason alone. The majority of the Back Talk users (say 4000 of the 6000 registered members, and most of the unregistered readers) probably don't know about any other places on the internet where Journey is discussed, either in forum or tribute or fanzine form (excepting, perhaps, those sites which still have the privilege of being discussed on Back Talk). And so the policy of banning silently, as happened to Monker, and as happened to Dave, is inherently insidious in that it cuts them off from the majority of fans who need people like Monker and Dave most--for their points of view as well as their knowledge of Journey, past and present--without them ever knowing they're gone, without them ever knowing about the stifling, silencing process of banning that's going on.
Kind of makes you wonder how many of us were silently banned in the past--bannings we never knew about.
The moderators at Back Talk continue to claim that they have the right to edit or delete any post or thread or ban any person for any reason or no reason whatsoever because they are a private forum paid for with private funds. That's true--they have that right. It is censorship, but it is legal censorship.
But as the band's official forum, connected to the band's official website, they have a responsibility to the Journey community. And that means they need to handle their right to edit, delete, and ban in a responsible manner--which means NOT stifling people's opinions--even when those opinions appear to be competely wrong, or when those opinions offend the moderators (or, frankly, even when those opinions offend the band members).
That means they should ban people like Journeytroll at VH1, who really does bash people, but not people like Monker, who argue, even vehemently, or people like Dave, who editorializes (sometimes against Back Talk). They should not ban people for their opinions, even if those opinions are that the moderators are jerks. Even if those opinions, as much as we at Jrnydv.Com may disagree with them, are that the band produces bad music. The truest test of fairness and decency is the willingness to allow those with whom you earnestly and steadfastly disagree a chance to say their piece. Because when you allow that, you'll know that when someone agrees with you, the sentiment is truly genuine. That's why we consider Letters to The Editor and Op/Eds at Jrnydv.Com regardless of the opinion expressed.
Back Talk continues to fail this test.
Subsequent to the writing of this editorial we learned that Monker's posting privileges at Back Talk had been reinstated. We assume that this had something to do with the public outcry surrounding Monker's banning, and we were glad to see that even those who oppose Monker's attitude and opinions numbered among those who rose in protest against this unfair act. We are happy to see Monker's privileges restored and we certainly see this as a step in the right direction, but we must point out that a lot of work still needs to be done to correct the legacy of unfairness that has surrounded the official site for far too long.
Op/Ed: Poetic Justice Reigns Supreme--even in Journeyland
Please note: Op/Eds are not necessarily representative of the official editorial position of Jrnydv.Com.
Nearly every Journey fan who visits the official web site forum knows of the strange and sometimes unfair tactics that the moderators use whenever somebody says something they disagree with or disapprove of. When this "unspeakable atrocity" occurs, those moderators simply "ban" people. They defend that right by saying that their web site is pivately owned, so they can make whatever rules they want to. While it might be perfectly legal for them to censor people on their site, no one can argue against the fact that it is still morally and ethically wrong to do so.
Sometimes those steadfast "official rules" are also bent or broken for certain people, who are later allowed to return, which only proves that no rhyme or reason exists on this "official" forum. Yet it seems not many people have a problem with that unfairness, and very few people bother to speak out against it when it happens to someone else--unless, of course, it happens to them. This double-standard is the reason for this article.
For the purpose of this article, I've dusted off my American Heritage Dictionary. A forum is defined as, "A public meeting place for open discussion." It goes on to add, "A public meeting or presentation involving a discussion usually among experts and often including audience participation." Now, perhaps Webster has a slightly different meaning, but I'll bet anyone that the neither "banned" nor "censored" appears in that definition either.
Internet lawyers all agree that anyone who creates a web site has the right to do with it whatever they see fit--as long as it is legal. That is not what I am debating. When you include a public forum for fans to engage in conversation on that website, however, that "right" is then subsequently split between the site's ownership and the site visitor's freedom of speech. There is a fine line between the two, and a healthy balance must be attained for the site to be successful and to provide a positive experience for everyone.
I am sure that everyone would agree that being censored is a very unpleasant experience. Unfortunately, many Journey fans have come away from the official site with this negative treatment. What the forum moderators don't seem to realize, is that this "right" to "ban" people, inevitably reflects poorly on the band members of Journey, too, ultimately giving them a bad reputation for treating their fans so negatively--even though they probably don't know anything about it. If they do, they haven't been very proactive in changing that policy.
Just for kicks, I looked up the term "poetic justice." Definition: "An outcome whereby a person receives his just deserts in a manner peculiarly or ironically appropriate." What I have witnessed is that some people seem to feel that it's perfectly okay for one forum to ban someone, but it's not okay for another site to do the (perceived) same thing. That is just an immature reaction based on juvenile justice. It holds no merit and it wins no argument. Censorship, in any form, on any web site, is wrong.
Let's take a look at the bigger picture for a moment. The Statue of Liberty, which reaches out to immigrants and encourages them to join our melting pot, does not say, "You are welcome here only if you agree with everything we say." And yet this is the message that the forum moderators seem to be sending to everyone who participates on the official Journey forum. Similarly, Hitler also imposed the same mentality on German citizens. As a matter of fact, I was banned for stating such opinions on the official Journey forum.....but I digress.
The odds are highly doubtful that this particular message would ever show up anywhere on an American symbol of freedom. Why then should that message be tolerated on a mere web site for a classic rock group like Journey? Doesn't that go against the freedom of speech outlined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution? I believe it does. And I'm not the only one who feels that way. Communication on a web site forum is also a two-way street based on the law of Karma. In other words, "You receive from the world what you give to it."
To all those in management at the official Journey web site, and to all the moderators there who send that skewed message to the visitors--those fans who provide them with paychecks and job security--I say: anyone who is banned from the official Journey forum for whatever reason, is always welcome here at Jrnydv.com. Censorship and banishment will not happen here.
If you love the music of Journey, as we do, and if you have differing opinions, which everyone does, you can come here to Jrnydv.Com and state those opinions, and contribute something positive as a tribute to this group of musicians for whom we all have a passion and deep love. While your opinions may not always be shared by the owner of Jrnydv.Com, and while the owner has a right not to publish anything he feels is poorly written, inappropriate, entirely wrong, or immature, you are still allowed and encouraged to state those differing opinions and to work on improving the article. A writer is always encouraged to continue working and rewording and expressing those opinions, in a more appropriate and mature manner, for eventual publication at Jrnydv.Com.
Nobody has ever been censored at or banned from Jrnydv.com. Good writing takes time and many rewrites before it can be considered effective, persuasive, and publishable. Good writing is an art form. It is not an easy art form for the victims of instant gratification out there who simply want to have a temper tantrum in front of other people on the internet. That's not what an Op/Ed is, and that's not what a positive Journey website is all about, either.
Those who choose not to continue reworking and rewriting those opinions forfeit any complaint they may have about their article not being published. Apparently, with the evidence of a few reactionary tantrums being thrown around out there in cyberspace, it seems that the opinions some people state simply aren't worth working on, to benefit others who may eventuallly get a chance to read them. Instead, those few people would rather spend their time and energy blasting and verbally attacking Jrnydv.Com and/or its owner on other Journey-related web sites, than take the constructive criticism to heart and make a conscious effort to express those opinions in a better, more journalistic way.
Anyone who complains that Jrnydv.Com "censors" articles seems to feel completely justified in throwing temper tantrums and blasting the site's owner with personal attacks all over the internet, rather than aspire to a higher degree of maturity in order to see the truth of the situation. This double standard of how some people perceive and react to unfairness on web site forums is a matter of constant debate.
Good writing is a journalistic aspiration at Jrnydv.com. Simply blasting something in an angry tirade is not an appropriate definition of "Op/Ed." (Here comes that dictionary again). The definition of "Op/Ed," is: "A newspaper section, usually located opposite the editorial page, that features articles expressing personal viewpoints." To express a personal viewpoint is to take responsibility for each word you write and to express it in a mature manner for publication.
Jrnydv.Com does not censor or ban anyone for writing their opinions. The owner of Jrnydv.Com simply encourages better journalism, and expects the mature writer to accept that responsibility. The writer always has a choice: to keep working on it, or get angry, toss it aside, and throw a fit. Commitment to improving their writing is an obvious requirement for anyone who wants to have an article published, no matter if it's for a newspaper, magazine, or web site.
An "editorial" is defined as "An article in a publication expressing the opinion of its editors or publishers." An editorial is something that the owner of a web site must take full responsibility for, because it reflects the entire site as a whole. Many people get these two definitions confused. For instance, if someone submits a well-written opinion against something Journey-related, and the owner of Jrnydv.Com feels that it expresses the majority of the team of volunteers who work together on his site, then he has every right to publish it as an editorial because he takes full responsibility for every word of it, and is prepared to face opposition, to defend it and respond to any type of reply that comes from the readers.
If, however, the owner does not feel that it is an appropriate, mature expression of those who volunteer at Jrnydv.Com, he does not have to publish it. It's a simple concept. Anybody else who owns a web site would do the same, but as I have proven here, that is not the true definition of censorship. Banning someone from a web site for saying something a few people in power disagree with or disapprove of is, however, the exact definition of the word censorship.
Furthermore, it needs to be said that anyone can write an Op/Ed for Jrnydv.Com. Op/Eds that are submitted to Jrnydv.Com are emailed to senior staff who participate in a vote on whether or not it is mature, appropriate, and well written. It's not just decided by one person. So accusing the owner of Jrnydv.Com of censoring an article that was not published is a false accusation.
David does have the final word, of course, but in my experience he is fair, mature and diplomatic in making those decisions. He does not deserve to be blasted or verbally abused or attacked on other Journey forums, because that reaction is based on the immature mentality of someone who wasn't willing to take responsibility for reworking the article. As with everything else in life, you simply have to be willing to work hard for something you believe in. That is what Dave expects of everyone who comes to Jrnydv.Com because that is how Dave created this Journey tribute site in the first place. In fact, if the members of Journey didn't believe that, there would be no official web site, awards, or platinum albums on the wall. There would simply be no moderators, no fans, and no music to celebrate.
You can share in that passion and love for the music of Journey here at Jrnydv.Com because we believe that teamwork is of the utmost importance, as well as mutual respect, professionalism, kindness, communication, and having an open mind. We also encourage people to be mature and responsible for the words they write, which is the sign of excellent journalistic practice. We also believe that helping each other to make good things happen in celebration of this band is our top priority.
Despite any negative experiences you've had with Journey's management or forum moderators, and in response to any negative comments you may have seen about Jrnydv.Com, and/or its owner, this article is written for every Journey fan to show that Jrnydv.Com is a safe and mature haven to come to, when they experience banishment or censorship or abuse by the official site. Compared to that type of treatment you may have witnessed or been victim of on the official Journey forum (for being a "Perryhead," for instance), I can guarantee your experience as a volunteer, writer, consultant, or fan here at Jrnydv.Com will be 100% stress-free, and much more positive and enjoyable. The bottom line is that a web site is supposed to be entertaining, informative, and enjoyable to visit. Journey owes it to their fans to provide that to them on their official site. It is a challenge to rise to and accept, and I hope someday they will.
So, in closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the moderators for banning me from the official Journey forum two years ago. Without that negative experience I wouldn't be a staff member at Jrnydv.Com. For a long time, I boycotted everything Journey. I put my CD's away, I packed up all my collectibles, and I avoided every Journey web site out there because of that negative and hurtful experience. Then I found Jrnydv.Com. Here, instead of being banned or attacked for stating my opinions, I am allowed and encouraged to state them, and rewrite them several times if necessary, like I have with this and every article I write, for all to see. Unlike those people who waste their time bashing Jrnydv.Com, I feel that what I have to say is important enough to work on. Like Dave, I take that responsibility seriously, and I aspire to better journalism to improve myself as well.
Furthermore, I would like to encourage the moderators to continue mistreating and banning people from the official forum. They have proven it is official that they treat the fans badly. It is also official that Jrnydv.Com treats Journey fans with respect. So please, Back Talk, keep censoring people, and banish every "Perryhead" that comes along. Those people who are alienated and censored have a choice, and a voice. Word of mouth is a very powerful thing, especially on a computer screen. Jrnydv.Com appreciates that, and takes great pains to strive for something better for everyone. Unfair censorship has no place on a web site forum that was created to celebrate music we all love.
Those discarded fans can choose to react in an immature "juvenile justice" mode, or they can react as mature adults, and continue their love for this music on a web site that treats people with much more respect. Journey fans will always have a better place to come to here at Jrnydv.Com. The more disgruntled fans that are sent our way, the merrier. All the moderators are doing is making Jrnydv.Com and its staff of volunteers stronger. And we love that poetic justice!
Op/Ed: Steps Towards the Reconstruction of Back Talk
Please note: Op/Eds are not necessarily representative of the official editorial position of Jrnydv.Com.
I would personally advocate that the following guidelines be followed in the future and applied retroactively:
1. There should be no silent banning. Announcements should be made on the forum, and the reasons why individuals were banned should be clearly stated. Those members who requested the banishment should be listed as well.
2. There should be equal enforcement of all stated rules and no enforcement of any rules that are not stated.
3. Editing, deleting, warning, and banning should be used as constructive, preventative measures rather than punitive measures, with an eye towards rehabilitation rather than punishment.
4. No one should ever be banned for anything said or done outside of Back Talk.
5. Whenever the Back Talk rules change, an announcement should be made in the forum.
Letters to the Editor and Public Commentary in response to "A Constructive Solution, Revisited," "Poetic Justice Reigns Supreme--even in Journeyland," and "Steps Towards the Reconstruction of Back Talk"
Michael "Skylord" Sorrentino (former webmaster and moderator, Back Talk): [On "A Constructive Solution, Revisited"] Whether or not you disagree with Monkers removal from Back Talk is irrelevant. To imply there are similarities between the way Back Talk is managed and the Holocaust is reckless and irresponsible journalism at best and the asinine ratings of a wanna-be journalist at it's worst. How can you expect people to take you seriously when you imply the silencing of the Jews and the genocide that followed is similar to the way Back Talk is being run? I don't recall the last time a dissenter of Back Talk was burned to death in an oven, forced to endure torturous experiments under a insane doctor or taken out in the street and shot dead. [On "Poetic Justice Reigns Supreme--even in Journeyland"] This is so liberal it's laughable. Towanda's Liberal/Socialist views really shine through in this piece of work. Her attempts to bolster her points by citing immigration, the Statue of Liberty and Freedom are insidious. Even going as far as citing the Constitution, she conveniently leaves out the fact the Founding Fathers went to great lengths to prohibit the Government from coming into your house, telling you how to eat, telling you how to live and most importantly, telling you you do not have the right to decide who can visit your house and who can't. Unless journeymusic.com becomes journeymusic.gov, it will never be required to follow the same stringent rules applied to government agencies in regards to freedom of speech. I understand and support the right of anyone to protest their banning from a non-government sponsored or managed place such as Back Talk. To deny a property owner the right of restricting access to their personal property is a blatant violation of that property owner's rights. We don't have to like it. We even have the right to rant or protest it. Most importantly, we do NOT have the right to force them to permit ANYONE passage on their property. In closing, I question the mental state of anyone who turns their perceived "wronging" (banning from back talk) into a mission to let every Journey fan in every corner of the globe know of their plight. In the grand scheme of things, this is merely a rock band with a website on the internet and a message board as part of that website. Does your bitterness of being banned really consume your life to the extent you feel compelled to make it an issue years after it happened? How lonely, pathetic and sad your life must be.
itcouldhavebeenU: Just came from reading these....NICE JOB!
LeadVOCALZ: I would highly suggest a more balanced and unsensationalistic approach when addressing what is an otherwise legitimate issue. To compare the banning and "tightening of the reigns" that you see the moderators at BT doing to the Holocaust simply undermines the credibility of your assertions. I could expect such dramatic tripe from Towanda, but I would hope you would set a higher standard.
Jrny4u4: all the mods need to be removed on backtalk, they are too trigger happy! it's no wonder why they are so hated by many!
Monker: ...Towanda's article...She's just all over the place, making generalities, and repeatedly repeating herself. She talks a bit about "good writing"...well, IMO, it's not 'good writing' to take an idea and repeat it three or four different times in three or four different paragraphs in three or four different ways...It makes the article MUCH longer then what it needs to be, and makes it MUCH harder to keep the reader's attention, and it makes it MUCH harder for the reader to understand whatever point(s) you are making.
LAWoman: Comparing banning on BT to the Holocaust? People need to step back and get a perspective. Back Talk is a message board for a rock band. Let's not compare anything that goes on in that tiny section of cyberspace to the attempted genocide of an entire race. I did like the deal about: "Monker pioneered the "split-quote reply" technique now so popular amongst those who would reply to a post point-by-point." Reads a little like an obituary though. Monker, I think you should make a little tombstone for your sig and put that quote on it.
Editorial: Some Thoughts On the Electronic Ticket Process
First let us say that the author been to well over 1000 concerts in the last 40 years. That gives him a vast experience in purchasing concert tickets going back to the 1960s. In the old days, like in the years of the Fillmore East, or the Garden State Arts Center, you would go to the box office and that’s where you’d find the best seats. Now, the box office doesn’t matter, with almost all the venues using electronic ticketing. Now we have the Internet, and Ticketmaster, and Tickets.com.
There aren't any good things to say about the electronic ticket process except that you don’t have to leave home to purchase your tickets. That is the only good thing. Now the frustration begins when you sign onto your computer with the hope of getting good tickets. The author has spoken to many people about Ticketmaster, and only one person had anything good to say about them. That person was lucky, getting tickets in the first 10 rows. All the others only had bad things to say.
It’s hard to understand how tickets to a concert can go on sale at 10:00AM and you’ve been logged on since 9:45AM, and when it’s time to purchase tickets you don't get what you want. The order screen comes up, you‘re asked for your event, and you answer all the questions. Now the new security feature appears. A word appears and you must retype the word. You wait your minute and the ticket location appears and you’re in the thirtieth row. Yet if you go to a ticket broker's website an hour later they have the first 10 rows.
How many times has this happened: good tickets finally come up on the screen, you follow the steps and enter your information and--guess what? Your computer freezes up, or your credit card info takes too long to process, etc. Your allotted time to purchase expires and you lose the seats. If this hasn’t happened to you, you are very fortunate. You re-enter your info and instead of being in the fifteenth row center, the next tickets are for the twenty-fifth row, far corner. Let’s not even talk about the service charge of $8.10.
We understand that most of the first row tickets are held by the concert promoter. These tickets are held for the artist, radio stations, record label management, etc. But how do the brokers and scalpers do it? They beat the system. They do this in many different ways. They have connections at the box office at the venue. They have telephone numbers to the ticket service that the general public doesn’t have. They hire people to purchase tickets for them and they most likely have people who work at the electronic ticket service on their payroll.
When Journey played Wilmington, DE in 2001, the concert promoter did not use electronic ticketing. What a pleasure! You dialed the number and spoke directly to their own people. When the author needed an aisle seat due to a leg injury, it was no problem. The customer service rep found an aisle seat in row 10. Try to do that With electronic ticketing!
June 12, 2003
Op/Ed: Times Imbroglio a Lesson For the Journey Community
Please note: As with any Op/Ed, the opinions expressed herein are those of the individual and not necessarily those of Jrnydv.Com.
The Jayson Blair plagiarism case, which resulted in last week's resignation of the two top editors of The New York Times, stands as a shining example of how a media organization can investigate itself and hold itself accountable with the same zeal with which it goes after others. There is a lesson to be learned by any organization with similar dilemmas. When you have scandal in your midst, don't cover it up; expose it to the open air and let the resignations, if necessary, fly.
The scandal began early last month when it was discovered that Times novice reporter Jayson Blair had plagiarized and fabricated news and evidence on at least two major stories to which he had been assigned: the DC sniper (which, it will be recalled, was the reason Gregg Rolie canceled most of his Fall 2002 tour) and the rescue of PFC Jessica Lynch outside Baghdad in April. Blair plagiarized local newspapers around the country and in some cases invented his own evidence, and for a short while was a highly-respected young reporter with a bright future.
On May 16 the New York Times ran a two-page article on Blair's acts, after an investigation following accusations of plagiarism by one of the newspapers Blair had used. There followed a town hall-style meeting of Times employees in a neighboring Times Square movie theater (Times Square in New York City takes its name from the newspaper, which is published around the corner on West 43rd Street) to discuss the Blair situation as well as complaints many had about how the newsroom, which has won eight Pulitzer Prizes in the two years since Executive Editor Howell Raines, 60, has been in charge (mostly for coverage of the World Trade Center disaster). The ultimate result was the resignation of Mr. Raines, who managed the editorial page before his promotion in September, 2001, and Gerald Boyd, 52, the paper's managing editor.
But it could have gone a very different way. The management of the Times might have acted to censor and quiet the issue, in which case the story would never have come to light. Jayson Blair would have been quietly fired and stories of the plagiarized outside newspapers denied or ignored. Anyone mentioning the Blair case publicly would have been fired (in the case of employees) or shunned (in the case of outsiders) by the paper's management. Newsroom problems would have continued to be ignored, and the two senior miscreants whose policies had contributed to the tense, unprofessional atmosphere that fostered the problems in the first place would have remained in their jobs, secure in their salaries, pensions, and benefits. Editors who had so often called for the resignation of discredited corporate and political leaders would remain in power despite their own misdeeds.
The New York Times should be commended for its ability to exercise upon itself the same zeal in reporting they exercise so well when stories break outside the organization. All of us in the Journey community can take a lesson from that, sanctioned official sites and independent news sites alike.
August 27, 2003
Op-Ed: On Journey and the Lead Singer Question
Op-Eds are the opinion of their authors and not necessarily the official opinion of this website.
It's no secret that I have disagreed with the Journey decision-makers on many an occasion these past few years. The decision to tour on the greatest hits yet again in 2003 is just one example; given the way Styx used the sellout-capacity arenas of Classic Rock’s Main Event to push their latest album, Cyclorama, my feeling is that Journey blew an incredible opportunity to sell Red 13 and Arrival to the thousands of Styx and REO fans who perhaps were unaware that the new albums existed, or how good Arrival in particular is. I’m buying Cyclorama; aren’t you?
But I have always believed, at least as long as I have been running this website, that Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain (who appear to be the most important Journey decision-makers now that Herbie Herbert and Steve Perry are out of the picture) made a wise decision in replacing Steve Perry with Steve Augeri in 1997. Perry stated in VH1’s Journey: Behind the Music that his decision to have or not to have hip-replacement surgery was his decision to make. And that is true. The decision to undergo a major medical procedure is a personal decision, and should never be a “band decision.” But in refusing, initially, to have the surgery, Perry was making it impossible for the band to do business—to get out on the road and to continue to record. And so while Schon and Cain had no say over Perry’s medical decisions, they had every right to make continued membership in the band contingent on a member’s ability to do the job. Perry’s decision to not have the surgery at that point made it impossible for him to do the job required of the lead singer; the band had every right to replace him. And I remain glad that they did, although, like most of us, I wish they could have worked it out somehow.
And I had always felt that Steve Augeri was the correct choice as the replacement. This feeling was a gut reaction at first, based on having heard him live, but it was reinforced when I met him. Steve Augeri is truly a fine human being, and to paraphrase Mike Wise of The New York Times, it’s hard to imagine Steve Perry packing Woolite and doing his own laundry.
I also agree with those who say that Steve Augeri is currently a better singer than Steve Perry. I say “currently” because he can’t outdo the Steve Perry of Infinity or Departure, but he is nearly ten years younger than Steve Perry and he can hit notes that Perry would probably be unable to reach today. Age has taken its toll on the golden tenor of yesteryear, as is evident not only in reports of their having to transpose all the songs down a third for the Bill Graham memorial concert ten years ago but also in Perry’s performance in For the Love of Strange Medicine (1994). This deterioration occurred for a number of reasons, some of which the singer does not discuss publicly, but the decline can probably be traced even as far back as 1982, when the band was putting together the material for Frontiers and it was decided that the album would be an exploration of Perry’s lower range. And so, at least technically, my feeling is that Steve Augeri is probably a better singer than Steve Perry in 2003.
But three weeks ago, I heard Kevin Chalfant sing live for the first time. Chalfant was lead singer of The Storm (which featured Journey’s Gregg Rolie on keys and additional lead vocals, Ross Valory on bass, and Steve Smith on drums) and he had been considered as a possible replacement for Perry in 1997. Chalfant had also stood in for Perry at the Herbie Herbert roast some years before, and he had sung Journey material live with The Storm. Three weeks ago, he and his band, Two Fires, opened for Gregg Rolie Band and he later came on during Gregg’s set to sing three Journey numbers. I was there with Towanda, covering the show for the site, and afterwards we interviewed Chalfant, as well as some of the others. The Journey songs, naturally, were from Gregg’s era with the band: “Just the Same Way,” “Anytime,” and “Anyway You Want It.” Kurt Griffey played Neal Schon’s lines as well as he plays those of Carlos Santana (which is saying quite a lot) and Ron Wikso covered Steve Smith on skins phenomenally (which is not surprising, as he attended the same music school as Smith—Berklee in Boston). Rolie was, well, Rolie. ‘Nuff said. But what amazed me the most was how well Kevin Chalfant did on vocals, and how the band—which rarely gigs, let alone with Chalfant up front—meshed into a truly marvelous musical experience reminiscent of 1980 Journey at its best.
After “Anyway You Want It,” Wikso yelled something over at me that I couldn’t quite make out, so I walked back behind the drumset to better hear him. He said “It’s better than Journey,” and I assumed he meant today’s Journey. And you know what? He was right. I love Journey—the music of Journey, the experience of a Journey concert—but that moment—with Gregg Rolie, Kevin Chalfant, Kurt Griffey, and Ron Wikso—was magnetic, almost hypnotic. I imagined it was like seeing Journey the way it ought to be done, back to the basics. A festival crowd, scrappy, hungry musicians—musicians’ musicians, not so much rock stars as artists. I immediately envisioned the perfect Journey lineup—the dream lineup that could never happen. I envisioned Kevin Chalfant and Gregg Rolie on lead vocals, Rolie and Jonathan Cain on keys, Neal Schon on guitars, Ross Valory on Bass, and Steve Smith or Ron Wikso on skins. But in the very moment I envisioned it, I realized that at least a part of it had been possible in 1997, had Neal and Jon chosen Chalfant instead of Steve Augeri. It’s debatable whether Steve Smith would have stuck around for at least one tour had it been Chalfant, but either Deen Castronovo or Ron Wikso could have filled that bill more than adequately.
So how would today’s Journey be different had Kevin Chalfant been chosen? It’s hard to say. Certainly the die-hard Steve Perry fans would not be able to accuse Schon and Cain of choosing a Steve Perry lookalike. Kevin Chalfant looks nothing like Steve Perry. He’s shorter, has very different features (read: no schnoz!), and dresses less garishly (no tails or leopard prints). But he sure can belt ‘em, in a way that puts Steve Augeri, unfortunately, to shame. Steve Augeri works very hard, and he’s got a lot of heart. He’s also a very nice guy, to be sure. But so is Kevin Chalfant. And somehow I doubt Kevin Chalfant would have performed on CBS’ The Early Show in 2001 with a sore throat and a bad cold. I also think Chalfant would have contributed more in the songwriting department than Steve Augeri (take a listen to either of The Storm albums and you’ll know what I mean). And finally, there would likely be a very different band dynamic, onstage as well as off. An old Herbie Herbert and Nocturne crony, Chalfant can assert himself, and he wouldn’t feel eternally grateful to Schon and Cain for giving him his “last shot,” as Augeri must feel. He’d bring more perspective to the job, and he’d be a true “equal partner.”
But I would not advocate a change in band personnel now. Too much water has passed under that bridge. Steve Augeri is Journey’s lead singer, and that’s the way it should remain, unless Steve Perry signs a binding contract to come back (and I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one; he appears to like retirement just fine). What I’m saying is that an opportunity was missed, and a better decision could have been made. Schon and Cain should think about that the next time they have to make a major decision, personnel or otherwise. The past few years have, unfortunately, seen a string of bad business decisions (with a few good ones thrown in occasionally). Azoff Management and their Journey-man, Tom Consolo, seem content to let Schon and Cain call all the shots—be it the new musical direction or the break with Sony. Perhaps, as I have advocated all along, they should find some way (any way!) to bring Herbie Herbert back into the picture. The decision-making members of the band should admit that while they may be great musicians, they stink as businessmen. It’s time to call in the expert.
Oh yes, I mentioned that we interviewed Kevin Chalfant. I asked him, among other things, why he’s not currently the lead singer of Journey. That interview will be published on this website shortly, and I have no doubt that you’ll find his answer very interesting.
Letters to the Editor re: "On Journey and the Lead Singer Question"
By David Pelleman
August 29, 2003
Let me sum my thoughts up with this: I could not have agreed with you more. It was not that many years ago that I truly discovered Kevin Chalfant in my quest to find more “Journey-like” music. The Storm (both albums), The VU and his solo albums are totally amazing! I have been saying since I [first heard] Kevin that he is the most under-rated talent in AOR of all time. Why? I do not know. Maybe because he does not have the image as others do but what he lacks in that department he makes well enough up in substance such as song writing and singing which you pointed out effectively.
Steve Augeri is great and I also had the chance to meet him and the rest of the band. I do also think that his contribution to the band from a song-writing standpoint is not there and he plays it very safe, but effective, when singing the greatest hits during the concerts. But as you pointed out, it is quite hard not to be appreciative of his efforts.
P.S. I bought Cyclorama after the show, too.
August 31, 2003
I believe the "niceness" of Steve Augeri was probably a major contributing factor in the decision to hire him over Kevin Chalfant. Jon's comment that Neal wanted his
band back comes to mind. I believe that Neal wanted someone more passive--another bad decision. Chalfant would likely have helped Journey "move on", rock more, and find that new direction that Neal says he was looking for. It possibly would have been easier for fans to accept Chalfant and a new direction and new music rather than the endless nostalgia tour.
A persistent complaint throughout the summer--other than the set list--has been the sound. Many complain that the vocals are being drowned out. Recently, Neal Schon complained in an interview about Steve Perry turning down his amp during a concert so the audience could hear the vocals. Clearly, Steve Augeri has not been so bold. Kevin Chalfant might have been.
I believe that Neal's ego made the decision of Augeri over Chalfant. Neal could not run over Perry and probably could not have run over Chalfant. I believe that Neal was looking for a lead singer that he could absorb, and--to both the detriment of his own career as well as the detriment of Journey as a band--Steve Augeri has been "nice" enough to allow Neal to do exactly that.
September 01, 2003
I agree with Journey-Dave that Steve Augeri is currently a superior singer to Steve Perry. I believe that the overwhelming choice of Perry in the singer survey is all about the voice of the eighties. He was, in my opinion, the greatest rock singer of that decade. In the opera world, they have a term for tired voices. They simply say that a singer has become "sung out", and I believe Mr. Perry, having pushed his voice to the limit each performance for so long, is indeed, sung out. However, Journey fans are still longing for his return to the group. Even though Steve Augeri can hit the high notes that Perry can not these days, and even though the band would have to lower the songs a full third for him, they would be sellng out stadium after stadium, upon Perry's return. Sorry that I have been living in a cave for a while, but I have never heard Kevin Chalfant sing, either with The Storm, or on his own, but will order his CDs soon. If what you say is correct, then he would be great wth Journey, or maybe closer to the sound that would give the band back the X factor that is missing today. However, I still believe that the real star was and still is Perry, and If Neal Schon is so concerned about "paying the bills," he would do anything to get him back.
November 22, 2003
Op-Ed: The Band's Fan's Tale
Op-Eds are the opinion of their authors and not necessarily the official opinion of this website.
Time for my story? Good; listen, I implore,
And I'll tell you a tale of musical lore
(Although it may be one you've heard a time before…)
'Twas but only a score and ten years ago
That a guitarist played, with a magnficent 'fro.
He formed a band with his keyboardist friend
And they hoped to play together until the bitter end.
The band, unfortunately, was without a name
How, my friends, were they to find fame?
A contest was held for the fans to decide
And many proposed jokes and titles that deride.
But one stood out immediately as the best
Journey, it was said, could stand above the rest.
The band played small venues, moderately attended;
Even so, the group was happy, the guitarist defended.
Of the first three endeavors, the records were bold,
But still Journey's music was not well sold.
The management company had hoped for success,
While the group itself simply wanted no stress.
So auditions and ads for a singer went out
For the band was to have a new voice, no doubt.
They soon found a man they thought would be the one,
But, not long after, discovered he was no fun.
The manager searched and he found a surprise;
A voice on a tape that left him hypnotized.
He called up the guy
And ordered him to fly
Across the San Joaquin
And the montains in between.
"We don't need him," the band rolled their eyes.
"He is not all our style, and we tell you no lies!"
Yet the manager, nevertheless, could not quite boast
Of his band that still had yet to earn their post.
So the new man was hired,
And the other was fired.
The band then took a quite different turn,
Praying that the music did not crash and burn.
When Steve came out for his very first show
Some cheered, "Yes!" while others hollered, "No!"
The album Infinity rose to the top
They dared not predict just where it would stop.
As for the singer, well, it was a dream come true
He was more to the band than they ever knew.
Before, he had shoveled through the hot summer hay
And now he was singing of the city by the bay!
Evolution was next, and what more can be told
But just to recall the lovin' touchin' of old?
Fast up came Departure, Steve album of three,
Journey had a new drummer, one they called Smitty.
"Any way you want it" was the tagline they sang
While through radio speakers the band's success rang.
Gregg the pianist soon exited the band,
But not without suggesting a replacement he'd planned.
Jon Cain was the name
And with many new songs he came.
Escape brought out tunes of love and believing
In a hope to recover from Gregg's sad leaving.
The new pianist was a hit, stage after stage
You hardly knew then that Journey had begun to age.
The guitarist was happy (just look at his band!)
Journey had held hearts all over the land.
Soon, another album, Frontiers was its name,
Was a slight break from what had brought in the fame.
Neal's guitar cried "faithfully" so fantastically
That fans were left swaying in their seats happily.
But all good things will come to an end
As the each of the men took their own separate bend.
Raised On Radio was released, returning the pleasure
But it only extended to a certain short measure.
Dear Ross and Smitty, long part of the band's guide,
Now were now no longer allowed for the ride.
After another hit song or two,
Steve pulled away, and the rest did, too.
And so we then thought that our Journey was done
We'd had our fights, our music, and our fun.
A decade later, they were back in town!
The two gone were back; they were not a man down.
But tragedy struck,
Just the group's luck!
No sooner had the rehearsals began
Than Steve's hip hurt greatly, nearly killing the man.
The band's close return had so nearly been right
Now suddenly their future was fading from sight.
The tour was cancelled (after much discussion, they say)
And so Trial By Fire slowly faded away.
Neal wanted to play, the passionate man,
He wanted some shows, to please the fans.
Just something to calm the itch that he had.
So the band told the singer, "It's driving us mad!"
What happened next, well, it's surely debated
But one thing was sure - the singer's role was fated.
So the band left Steve, or he left the band;
Whichever pleases you more, just choose a hand.
Arrival attempted to regain the lost mark
But still many fans had been left in the dark.
A new drummer and frontman have entered the game
Though string and keyboard still remain the same.
Journey still travels, town after town,
And most will assert they can still lay it down.
Whatever the drama may be about,
Journey still continues, without a doubt.
So you may listen to Augeri
Or you may listen to Perry.
Whatever your preference, of material there's enough,
Although the group's history may seem rough.
There's a lesson here to aid you, if it can:
'Tis to keep the peace between every man
Lest the slight differences in the ways we play
Consume ourselves. Nothing more will I say.