It was 40 years Saturday (July 17th, 1981) that Journey‘s Escape was released. The set, which was the band’s seventh album, topped the Billboard 200 albums chart for one week starting on September 12th, 1981, and to date has sold over nine million copies in the U.S. alone.
Escape, which was the band’s first set with keyboardist-songwriter Jonathan Cain, who replaced both Santana and Journey co-founder Gregg Rolie, featured five hit singles — including “Open Arms” which topped out at Number Two, “Who’s Cryin’ Now” which hit Number Four, “Don’t Stop Believin'” which hit Number Nine, “Still They Ride” which peaked at Number 19, and “Stone In Love” which hit Number 13 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.
The popularity of “Don’t Stop Believin'” shows absolutely no signs of fading with the band’s signature tune now passing streams of 1 billion on Spotify. Back in 2009, the track made history by becoming the first catalog digital track to reach 2 million downloads. Today, the song boasts over seven million digital downloads. The song is forever burned into popular culture for its legendary use in the 2007 series finale of HBO’s The Sopranos.
Last year, during the height of the Covid pandemic, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” was blasted daily at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital and in the “Big Apple” at New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital as patients slowly recover.
Veronica Hall, a resident nurse and president of the president of Henry Ford told The Detroit News: “The song is a sign of hope, a reminder to patients to never give up and a motivational thank-you to tired, never-stop-trying team members.”
Former-Jourmey frontman Steve Perry recalled joining band in 1977 during the recording of the following year’s Infinity album and partnering with guitarist Neal Schon: “I certainly was the new kid on the block when I joined them, but I was okay with that — bring it on! And wasn’t afraid of reachin’ and I think we pushed each other. The more I would reach, the more I was demanding on him to do something and the more he would come up with things, the more I’d be demanding him to come up with something that would work with him. It was a very important driving force.”
Jonathan Cain had a hand in writing every single song on Escape. When we recently caught up to him, he shed light on his classic ’80s collaborations with Steve Perry: “I think my relationship with Steve, it was kind of divine intervention that the Lord would bring me to this guy that could just sing like that (laughs), y’know? And how many things we had in common and how much we loved just writing great songs, y’know? And he really loved the ‘hit’ song. I didn’t have any idea I would have that kind of chemistry with him. And we got to writin’ songs together — it was just magical.”
The ongoing massive success of “Don’t Stop Believin'” doesn’t surprise co-writer Steve Perry, who told us he was aware of the sing’s potential by the reaction it received in the concert halls: “It’s a funny thing, because though those other songs were hits — bonafide radio hits — whenever we played ‘Don’t Stop Believin’; if you see the Journey DVD live, it’s 1981 Houston, it’s called. If you see that DVD that was filmed in Houston back then, that song gets a response like it’s getting now to the live audience. So, my point is, during the live shows that song always got a great response — it just wasn’t a radio hit.”
Co-writer Jonathan Cain recalled to us where the original inspiration for ‘Don’t Stop Believin” came from: “I needed money. ‘Called my father. ‘Help me out. Should I come home to Chicago?’ He says, ‘No, stay in Hollywood — something good’s gonna happen. Don’t stop believin,’ Jon.’ So, y’know, I had. . . I write stuff down and I wrote down ‘Don’t Stop Believin” somewhere in my spiral notebooks of many lyrics. And then when they asked me to come up and write the Escape album, we were looking for another song. And so, Steve (Perry) said, ‘Go see what you’ve got. You must have something laying around, y’know?’ So, I saw the lyric and then I said, ‘Well, we need another song — I think Steve is gonna like this idea.'”
Guitarist and Journey leader Neal Schon broke down for us how the legendary track originally took shape: “Y’know, Jonathan (Cain) brought in the chorus, which is the piano riff that ends up being the verse, also. Then I came up with, like, the B-section of the song. And then him and Steve (Perry) threw around the melodies more and more — Steve did his thing on it and then — bang! Y’know, like an hour later, two hours later, there the song was. And before you knew it, we were in the studio recording it, and I listened back to it when it was done and I went, ‘Man, I think that song’s gonna be big.'”
Steve Perry told us that the passage of time only further solidifies his opinion of how incredible Journey was during its heyday: “What a great band we once were. What a great band. I think the older get the more I’m able to look back at the forest now, ’cause I certainly walked out of the trees. I think everybody was just following their heart and their nose and following that lead. Just doing what we do. We’re a band. We record, we rock, we instinctually reach for what we believe’s a good idea — and argue about stuff, agree, disagree, and move forward. And we were just crankin’.”