It’s been a year of extreme ups and downs for Journey. Last April, the group was triumphantly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, featuring their first onstage appearance with Steve Perry in over a quarter century. Journey also headlined a successful arena tour and performed at Classic East and Classic West alongside Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles.
But behind the scenes, the group was melting down. Tension between guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain aired on social media last summer. The trouble appeared to stem from Cain publicizing his Born Again Christian beliefs and members of Journey visiting the White House in July, where they were photographed with President Trump. (Cain’s wife, Paula White, delivered the invocation at Trump’s presidential inauguration.)
Schon, a founding member of Journey, was notably absent. “I was not informed by anyone about the White House visit,” Schon tells Rolling Stone in a brief interview. “They have said many times that I wasn’t invited. That being said, I wouldn’t have wanted to be. We’ve up to that point never been involved with anything political or anything evangelical or any one religion. Being the founding member … I felt I should have been informed as they went as Journey, not individually.”
Schon was also upset that Cain is uninterested in recording new Journey music. “Jonathan apparently is telling people that we are not getting along because of creative differences,” Schon tweeted on June 7th. “Not so. We haven’t been creative.” Later, he alleged that the band might somehow go on the road without him. “How would you feel if u found out that the rest of the band wanted to tour without me?” he wrote. But Schon also seemed to be ready to end the Journey tour. “Only 2 more shows D.C. And NYC,” he tweeted on July 27th. “Then I will fix this all.”
But Schon’s conflicted reports masked a major medical condition he was quietly facing on the road. “I was diagnosed with a serious case of double pneumonia in Washington, D.C., in the middle of the tour,” he told Rolling Stone. “I continued touring against doctors’ advice for everyone’s sake including the other bands that were touring with us at the time.”
After a small reprieve, Schon will return to the stage on February 9th, for a special show with original Journey singer/keyboardist Gregg Rolie and former Journey drummer Deen Castronovo. The concert will benefit North Bay Fire Relief. Schon says the show will spotlight three songs from Journey’s first three albums along with selections from their latter work. He also just released a four-track EP that features instrumental rendition of “Ava Maria” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love” along with the Journey hits “Faithfully” and “Open Arms.”
What will the rest of 2018 hold for Journey? Schon wants to get back on the road. There are already strong indications that a co-headlining tour with Def Leppard will be announced.
“I’m ready,” Schon says. “I’m just waiting to hear the word from management.” The turmoil of this year coupled with his decision to play the North Bay Fire Relief show without any members of the current Journey might suggest that changes to the band are imminent. But Schon says the lineup won’t change.
Schon was more evasive when asked who controlled the band name and whether he had the legal authority to dump Cain and continue on as Journey. “I am not worried about it,” he said. “I think my fans know who I am.”