After a very long time The Music Club convened in person April 22nd, 2022 for a much enjoyed 25th Anniversary meeting. Enthusiastically hosted by Joan Barrett, who picked the theme ‘Memories’, the members – some original, some new – picked these songs to share…
Since it had been such a long time since the group had met, Joan kicked things off with this appropriate song, Etta James’ “At Last”.
Next up was Joel Constantian with his favorite Beatles track, “In My Life” from the ‘Rubber Soul’ album.
Quickly jumping in to segue, first time participant Mike O’Neill dropped a more obscure track by The Cyrkle, “Turn-Down Day”. Released on their album ‘Red Rubber Ball’ in 1966.
A change of era with the next track from Simon Hill, who recalled his past experiences in the Caribbean as inspiration for his pick – the B-52’s “Theme For A Nude Beach” from the ‘Bouncing Off The Satellites’.
Art Coussoulis went long and nobody objected to the nine plus minutes from Peter Gabriel’s epic ‘Secret World Live’ album. We all grooved to “Shaking the Tree”, which also features Paula Cole on vocals along with an all star band.
The Music Club co-founder Rudy Danzinger followed with the classic vocal from Julie London. The opening track on her 1955 debut album, ‘Julie Is Her Name’.
Another first time attendee Peter Klein followed with the epic 1968 track from Frankie Laine, “You Gave Me A Mountain”.
Third generation Music Club member Maura O’Neill kept the nostalgia going by spinning the 1964 Tommy Tucker classic, “Hi-Heeled Sneakers”, which she learned of from her late grandfather (and Music Club co-founder) David Haynes vast music collection.
Original Music Club member Barb Danzinger followed, recounting her experience working as a young blackjack dealer in Lake Tahoe and having Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and Peter Lawford all at her table together!
Another first time attendee, Sean O’Neill brought us back towards the present with the Phil Collins classic, “Do You Remember?”
Angelique Hill guided us in an Americana direction with a gorgeous track from New York band Hem and their 2002 album, ‘Rabbit Songs’.
Original Music Club member Lyn Overton was unable to be there in person so Joan played a track for her, the surprising (to anyone who only knows “Midnight at the Oasis”) cover of Dylan’s “Well, Well, Well” by Maria Muldaur.
The we were into open session and Joel led the way with Loudon Wainwright III and the awesome, “Heaven and Mud”.
Both Mike and Simon picked the same track to segue perfectly. John Prine’s, “When I Get To Heaven”, which everyone singing along!
Joan brought a sucker punch to the feels with the late Eva Cassidy’s incredible cover of Sting’s “Fields of Gold”.
Jaimee O’Neill went country for her first contribution offering up the Eric Church tearjerker, “Three Year Old”, from his 2015 album, ‘Mr. Misunderstood’.
Angelique added a second helping of Hem for the crowd – the delicious, “Half An Acre”.
…and Simon played the wistful “Dreamsicle” from the fabulous Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit’s 2020 album, ‘Reunions’.
Rudy sent us back to the 1950’s with Bobby Darin’s uptempo stomper, “That’s All”.
Joel gave us some more Loudon Wainwright III with the apologetic ‘Mr. Guilty” from 1975.
Mike followed with some 60’s soul in the shape of the dulcet tones of Lenny Welch and his 1963 hit, “Since I Fell For You”.
It was down to the younger O’Neills to close out the evening. First up Sean spun the Beach Boys classic, “God Only Knows”…
…Maura then ended the playlist with Linda Eder’s stunning jazz rendition of “On The Street Where You Live” from her 2003 album, ‘Broadway My Way’.
A great time was had by all! It was quickly decided that in-person meetings were back to stay and we would all work to expand the number of attendees.
Look out for the playlist from our next meeting (as well as Earworms) and follow our daily theme days on our Facebook Group.
EVH’s passing is still a bit fresh, and while he was not the huge influence on me like Alex Lifeson, Johnny Marr, and Neal Schon, I still feel that the world of guitar shines dimmer without him in it. I’m not the biggest Van Halen fan, but I seem to have all of their albums and have witnessed them live. I was obsessed with various aspects of their band throughout my life, and nothing sucks me back in like some good Twitter rants from any of their previous band members. Live they put on an amazing show while never really knowing how to actually play their own songs. I am going to jump (I mean, might as well) into their top 15 songs, but first I want to address the lead-vocalist elephant in the room. I like both eras (not even going to acknowledge the Cerrone album in my list), but for entirely different reasons. I will be lumping all the songs into one amazing numbered list with no bias towards either singer, but I do want to talk about them and their respective roles.
David Lee Roth is a goddamned paradox. He was a sex symbol with his striking visual presence and that amazing swagger, but he had the personality of a Game-Show-Host. He was completely sexual in his lyrical content, yet fully goofy in his presentation. Hilarious and yet opiniated and intense. Just a bizarre mixture of elements that somehow powered the Van Halen machinery. He gets a bit of a bad-rap for not being able to sing live, when the entire band was ridiculously sloppy. It wasn’t about the musicianship mechanics to him – it was about the entertainment value. If we are being really analytical, the band had three lead singers in their recorded history and he would place 6th in terms of actual chops (do the math on your own).
Sammy Hagar is easier to figure out. He wants to have a good time, make music he likes, have a lot of sex, and drink a lot of booze. He gets a bad-rap for being too commercially viable and not edgy like his predecessor, but unlike DLR, Sammy is a true musician. I would argue that each one was the correct vocalist for their time-line in the band.
As always, these are my choices for top-15, you need not agree even though this list is 100% scientifically correct.
#15 “Right Now”(For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge) This became the band’s Stairway-to-Free Bird, and I am not a fan. I am sure I loved it when it came out, and there is no denying the quality of this song and the importance of the message, but like most signature songs – it is tired and over-played. I include it because I am not a monster and to dismiss a band’s most important song because it became too popular just seems super elitist. Of course, this was also in the Pepsi Clear ads, so this song can just fuck right off.
#14 “Everybody Wants Some!!” (Women and Children First) …and I want some too!! This crystallizes everything that rock should be when you are young and have yet to discover that life will just be an endless cycle of bills. The guitar-turned-animal-voices against the tribal drumming and jungle squeals in the into set this apart from, well, everything frankly. How can a singer rap in the middle about the way the lines run down the back of the stockings without getting laughed out of the studio? DLR was a magician because I can still hear this song and not be embarrassed to like it.
#13 “Mean Street” (Fair Warning) I don’t know if this song would make this list without that freaking intro…but WHAT AN INTRO. Slapped harmonics in complete reckless abandon. This album was darker and at the time did not do as well commercially, but time has been kind to it – the more serious tone has aged very well, and the dark sonic corners make this album a must-have for rock fans.
#12 “Unchained” (Fair Warning) While we are on Fair Warning, let’s talk about the single greatest drop-D opening riff of all time. This song pays off the promise of where we could see the band headed on Women and Children First. That album had the best front cover in their career, but this album just went next-level sonic-ally. One break, coming up!
#11 “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)” (Balance) I like when Sammy battles with his faith and religious demons in lyrics. This song could have been very trite (and Van Halen lyrics are REALLY good at being trite), but instead we get him spitting out the words over the low growl of Michael Anthony’s (CRIMINALLY UNDERAPPRECIATED) bass. This song came out at a time that I was having a crisis of faith and I felt understood from the other side of my speakers.
#10 “Ice Cream Man” (Van Halen) I hesitate to put a cover tune on here, but the charm and delivery of the band in the early years is 100% captured in this song. The constant push/pull of Diamond Dave as a Sex-God/Car-Salesman has never been as apparent as it is here. The full-force of the band playing something so campy was so original, and while they were never able to quite capture anything this fun in later years, the honesty in their bombast was long-lasting.
#9 “Finish What Ya Started” (OU812) If they could have pulled off more songs like this, fewer people would have missed DLR. Sammy letting go and being campy as he tries to get the object of his affection is almost life affirming in it’s sincerity and silliness. It has all the hallmarks of a great Sammy melody, but with his tongue firmly in his cheek – a feat he was nearly incapable of on later releases.
#8 “The Dream is Over” (For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge) While the Sammy Hagar years brought far more commercially successful singles, the album tracks were never as interesting and adventurous as the DLR period. In some ways, it seems that Sammy’s ability as a TRUE songwriter got in the way when it was time to just let loose. This song is a notable exception. Not a single, but just a burner of a chorus driven song that comes out of nowhere on this mostly forgettable hard-rock album from a time when hard-rock no longer mattered.
#7 “Eruption” (Van Halen) I just did not know where to put this. It could be number 1 or number 15. It isn’t really a song, but it was the piece I recorded from my stereo speaker off the radio so that I could play it for my grandfather. “This is ONE guitar!” I screamed. He was as impressed as I was. Eruption is a time-capsule. it is the musical moment that changed everything. We often think about the guitar world pre/post EVH, but really, our musical calendar is defined by less than 2 minutes in 1978.
#6 “Mine All Mine” (OU812) Every drummer friend of mine has kind of a revolving list of who the “best” rock drummers are. You have your Pearts, your Barkers, your Smiths, your Bonhams and Moons… occasionally some arrogant drummer prick who has to throw in Gadd… but almost always missing from this list is Alex Van Halen. I assume it is because you cannot trust a drummer who thinks that is a quality snare sound. Does he even know to put the silver things on the bottom to get a “snap”? Seriously horrendous. If you can’t get past his non-snare (which I am guessing was the inspiration for the St Anger drum sound), he has some of the most interesting and understated recorded parts in hard rock. The obvious riff is the intro to “Hot For Teacher”, but I prefer the opening groove on this song.
True fact, I met AVH at the Sacramento airport in 1988. I was only able to get a handshake and say one thing to him, but I made it count – “I LOVE your syncopation in Mine All Mine”.
#5 “Summer Nights” (5150) As incredible as the backing vocals in VH were from the very beginning, they were more novelty and kitsch in the DLR days – maybe because DLR was (technically speaking) a weaker singer than both Michael and Eddie. Sammy saw the possibilities and the harmony vocals became an integral part of the arrangement, rather than a counterpoint of musical humor. “Ahhh Ahhh, Summer Nights!” in the coda of the song is as catchy as the chorus. The guitar in this song is such an interesting departure (and growth) from the EVH of just 2 years prior that it seemed like the clouds parted anytime this song played on a boombox in July of ’86.
#4 “I’m the One” (Van Halen) Barbershop Metal. This song is a goddamned mic drop. This often overlooked gem from the first album completely brings into focus what was going on with this exciting new band. Sex, swagger, goofiness, musicianship, and a party. Van Halen in the early years would not have worked one bit if they took themselves seriously. The dichotomy of over-the-top guitar-hero antics with the reckless abandon in the rhythm section, fronted by THE rock star needed humor and silliness to ground it and make it accessible. This song captures all of that and delivers it in a climatic a cappella bridge that still floors me decades later.
#3 “Dance the Night Away” (Van Halen II) This is barely even a rock song. Just a ridiculous pop song with hooks around every corner, and the best sounding track in their early years – it isn’t encumbered with overtly busy guitar and questionable tempo from the drums. The keyboard textures in the chorus elevate the hook, and the backing vocals are pure magic. DLR truly bringing his smooth baritone game front and center. VHII was never going to live up to the aural onslaught of their debut, but this proved there was far more in their future than just retreads of Kinks covers.
#2 “I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” (Balance) For a “love” song these lyrics seem bleak. I recently learned that this song is from the perspective of Sammie’s ex-wife, that (as he says) he, “was a bad guy to”. Apparently, sometimes you don’t get over someone, no matter how badly things end and you need them to know that you will never stop loving them. I like how romantic and effed this is – not because I fall into those kinds of mental traps, but because it is REAL for many people. While Sammy might be too “straight” in his songwriting at times to be truly creative, he often does really express true, universal feelings. This song also benefits from a greater production sense than most of their material. While most of this album blew serious chunks, this song was a sonic and emotional masterpiece.
#1 “Why Can’t This Be Love” (5150) When the Van-Hagar thing was announced, I was not enthusiastic. It wasn’t that I loved Van Halen with DLR and couldn’t fathom a different singer, it was that I was so over Van Halen (Diver Down and 1984 were letdowns – at the time – for me), and Sammy’s “Can’t Drive 55” bullshit songs were just insipid. Imagine my surprise when this combined the best traits of both bands – Sammy’s pitch-perfect high-register and knack for chorus writing, with the onslaught of the trio’s perfected mid-80’s soundscape. This song still does it for me. Rock with texture, soul, melody, and heart. It moves me as much today as when I first heard it. The entirety of my Senior year summer and first love is captured in under 4 minutes of pure rock bliss.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip through the Van Halen-Lee Roth-Hagar catalog and will check my earlier lists of my favorite Journey and Rush songs.
I have found the resurgence of Journey’s popularity to be fascinating.
I am not a Journey-hater, in fact, I was quite the fan back in the day. Viewed through the proper contextual lens (thinking about not just the time frame of their heyday, but also within the boundaries of their contemporaries in regards to genre and musicianship), their songwriting and abilities meet or exceed anyone else from their class (Toto, Foreigner, Survivor, etc…). Even now I really only have one issue with their music, and that is that they do not know how to even accidentally include subtlety in anything they present as a whole (I say “as a whole” because the rhythm section is gloriously understated and rich with textures.)
As of late, they have made headlines from their internal lawsuit that has Steve Smith and Ross Valory pitted against Neal Schon and Jonathon Cain, while simultaneously Steve Perry has crept back into our pop-culture awareness simply by showing up. Added to the publicity juggernaut is Arnel Pineda’s hollow (yet seemingly sincere) diatribe about embracing walking away if it means Steve Perry can come back into the fold (hollow because everyone in the know is aware that Steve Perry will never set foot onstage with Neal Schon again.)
This has all gone on in the midst of massive sold-out stadium tours and very public on-again / off-again / on-again feud/friendship between Schon and Cain. This all has me completely engrossed in re-visiting their catalog and sharing my findings with a trusty numbered list. Much like my recent ranking of the best Rush songs, this is entirely based on my listening experience and is sure to be different than anyone else’s. I will share why I think what I do, and as always, I welcome your comments.
Here is the undisputed list of the top 20 Journey songs of all-time.
#20 Don’t Stop Believing Yes, this is their “Stairway-to-Hotel-Tom Sawyer” and is the most Journey-est of all the journeys, but it is over-played, over-celebrated, over-covered, and over-karaoke’d. I included it because I kind of have to, but also because before it magically became a gargantuan hit decades after its initial release, it is one of only like twelve songs that I can remember exactly where I was the first time I heard it.
The song defies a traditional (or even extended) song structure. It really doesn’t have a chorus, and the title comes at the end. It is geographically incongruous with any map of Michigan I can find, and the chords were predictable even back in 1981…but it is a timeless anthem and does deserve some kind of recognition.
#19 The Party’s Over The lone studio track on the excellent “Captured” live album. Dig this – they adopted the Scarab as their logo and had featured him/her/they from birth (Infinity), to flight (Evolution), to adventures (Departure), and to being captured, which for a live album is basically the most clever thing my 11 year old brain had ever seen. This song sounds like a throwaway that just happened to land right, and hearing Journey not be so calculated gave us some true magic…and check out the freaking drum intro; complex, inventive, and groovy AF.
#18 After All These Years Is this really in the best 20 Journey songs? I dunno, but when I heard it with new-comer Arnel Pineda hitting all those glorious post-Perry notes (and doing it without sounding like a carbon-copy), I knew that Jonathon Cain had not lost one ounce of his songwriting protein shake.
#17 After the Fall This isn’t even rock, it’s like barbershop with fusion. The Steve Smith groove propels and twists in ways under the vocals that played by anyone else would have been bombastic, but in a band with no subtly in their writing, Steve Smith constantly pulled the rhythm section back and created a pocket of wonder.
#16 Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever? This song came out right about when my first girlfriend and I broke up – which was the night before I got to see Journey (the only time) in concert. This means there is a feel, an emotion; a sense memory attached to this song that is an indelible mark on my emotional intelligence. This is not the best Journey ballad. It isn’t even in the top 5 songs on this album, but there is something so goddamned magical about this chorus that even thirty-plus years after its release, I am still saddened when it ends and I truly do want it to go on forever.
#15 Faithfully Far superior to the higher-charting (yet penultimate power-ballad) “Open Arms”, this song leaves the world of great songs and transcends to being a “standard”. Songs exist because these kinds of 3-minute emotional story snapshots are captured on tape. Melody and lyrics when they work perfectly together are the highest form of art.
#14 Never Walk Away Hearing this for the first time and I knew that the world still had Journey in it. Not my favorite band. Not the most innovative band, but somehow I think the world is brighter with their songs in it, and nothing post 1986 ever felt like we’d have another one of these kinds of songs to fall back on.
#13 Who’s Crying Now As a song, I know there is magic here, but it does not fully do it for me. I love it as a craftsman, but it just never fully “has” me…until the guitar solo, which is one of the finest solo’s ever committed to tape. All the bending precision of David Gilmore, tone like Hendrix, edge like EVH, pentatonic mastery like King (B B and Albert), all rolled into an undeniable Neal Schon sound.
#12 When You Love A Woman All my friends freaking hate this song; with good reason – no subtlety (except in the drumming), cliché lyrics, trite arrangement, and a Steve Perry vocal where you can hear the strain of years on (and then away from) the mic. …But here’s the deal – the song is effing beautiful. The strings that come in on the bridge take this from power ballad, to majestic, and from the soaring solo until the end of the song we have a true sonic masterpiece.
#11 Too Late This is a song about addiction. In a field of mostly love songs, and sort-of-love songs, more love songs, and a few inspirational lyrics about liking fans (still kind of love songs), this is WAY out there for them. This is from the Evolution album, which gets largely ignored because it falls between Infinity (the first to feature Perry) and Departure (which was the first true blockbuster in terms of visibility), but for me this is the height of Perry’s voice.
He is effortless in hitting the stratosphere and sounds like he found his confidence with his place in the band, yet he’s still just kind of going for it. This album also brought in Steve Smith, who was as important to their sound and FEEL as Perry. The vocal on this, and specifically the way it wants to get ahead of the beat while Smith keeps pulling the band back is breathtaking. It feels like you are in the room while they are cutting this.
#10 Separate Ways Don’t think about this keyboard intro. Okay, now you can sing the entire thing in your head. Has there ever been an opening synth line this iconic? Perry sings this song that was inspired by bandmates going through divorce with 100% conviction; He sings with such an urgency that you never know he doesn’t have a dog in a divorce fight.
Apparently, they wrote this specifically because they did not feel they had an upbeat, contemporary song that could properly open the shows on their Escape tour. That seems like such a weird thing now – to open on your biggest tour with a new song no one has ever heard. This move is the closest they ever got to being punk.
#9 Mother, Father Have you seen live Journey footage from when Deen Castronova was playing drums? Spoiler alert – he sang this Escape rocker and just nailed it. No small feat – Perry in his heyday nailed this in one take on the criminally quickly recorded album (their biggest album, and one of the top selling rock albums of all time). Escape was recorded in just 3 weeks, almost entirely live in studio; I wish Tik-Tok and YouTube were a thing at Fantasy Studios in 1981.
#8 Patiently I saw this on Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert and my young mind exploded. I even caught it on re-run so I could record the audio onto my cassette deck. The song is awesome as an almost prog ballad-gone-rocker, with vocals that we now take for granted. The thunderous Ainsley Dunbar build gave me goosebumps, but the real showstopper was the Neal Schon Black Les Paul that could not be turned up loud enough.
To this day, I remember exactly how it made me feel when he switched over from his acoustic and slammed those gigantic chords – an articulation of all of life being ahead of me, and all of the answers are inside those six strings. I can only re-visit that very private moment for a short time before the inevitable regret of adulthood kicks in.
#7 Send Her My Love Not a power ballad, more of a longing and a regretful goodbye. This has some amazing guitar work shrouded in a wash of glorious reverb and delay that ping-pongs against the unusual drum track in mystifying ways. Neal Schon’s guitar cries while Perry’s vocal lays the groundwork for an incredible payoff in the chorus. This might be the lone “subtle” track in their catalog of over 150 tunes.
#6 Be Good to Yourself As disappointed as I was that Smith and Valory were fired during the recording of this record, there was no denying my delight at hearing this song. Everything I loved about Journey without any of the over-worked arrangements that plagued their previous record. This song, like many others, features a lyric written by Cain, inspired by something Perry said. This kind of writing parallels my own creations, so I am intrigued by what goes into that.
#5 Ask the Lonely This song was cut from Frontiers (along with “Only the Young”) in favor of two very experimental tracks (that also happen to be the two weakest tracks on the album). Frontiers could have been to Escape as Hysteria was to Pyromania, but they truly blew it.
This song is vocally deceptive. Some Perry performances you just shake your head and go “Nope. Can’t sing that.” other ones you can kind of fake, and on some of the Frontiers stuff when he went with Jonathon Cain’s vocal register, you can karaoke the hell out of them. This one sounds like the latter, but here’s an alert for you – you can’t sing this. Literally no one can.
#4 Anyway You Want It The structure of this is far more 2021 than 1980; having a repeating I – V – vi – IV looped with the dynamic contrasts coming from the vocal phrasing, but Neal Schon just wanted to rock, so here we are. This is one of three songs that made me want to be a musician. The guitar solo was the catalyst, but eventually the drums on this, and of course the vocals, also captured my soul.
Much of Neal Schon’s playing is out of my wheel house. While I have played lead guitar in cover versions of Journey, I have never attempted this lead. I can hear where he goes, and while it is a bit fast, this is one I think I could learn…but I never want to. There is something magical about still not fully knowing what he is doing. A piece of my youth that I can voluntarily hold on to. (I will sing this any chance I get, though.)
#3 Winds of March No idea what the hell they are singing about. Parenthood? Being in love? The changing seasons? Don’t know, don’t care. I can’t say anything about this piece of music except that when I finally got Infinity on vinyl, I literally wore this track down to nothing.
#2 Sweet and Simple Have you even heard this? Not a single or even a deep cut for AOR radio. This is the definition of an “album cut”, but it transcends magnetic particles (or ones and zeroes) and becomes pure spiritual emotion. It is laid back and sounds like it might just be a nice Sunday afternoon drive between musical errands, but something happens along the way – it tricks you into not paying attention and then this hook of “it’s what I like to do” comes in and changes your world.
This is one of those songs where there is a singular moment that is so strong, that everyone in your inner circle has to be exposed to it. I remember when I got Signals by Rush – there was this opening drum fill on “Digital Man” that was so transportive, I just had to play it for my grandfather. He did not understand the bands I was getting into, but I knew if he heard this drum fill, in 6 seconds we’d be on the same page. I wasn’t wrong.
For anyone who didn’t “get” Steve Perry (and yes, while he is great…he is a crooner and not a belter. If you loved Bradley Delp and Lou Gramm, Steve Perry was perfection. If you were a Roger Daltry or a Bon Scott fan, this was not going to be your thing), the bridge on this song was the “first one’s free” moment. I would play at least the middle for any of my friends that would just give it a chance.
#1 Suzanne Not a huge hit by Journey standards, and objectively I know this isn’t transcendent/standards writing, but holy shit if this just doesn’t do it for me like so few songs on the planet – it does not matter my mood or physical location; if this song comes on, it has my attention and the whole of my heart for every single beat.
I hope you enjoyed my top 20 Journey songs. If you’ve made it down here, maybe you’d enjoy my top 40 Rush songs, too.