Sunday, January 14, 2024

Book Review: Livin' Just to Find Emotion

Since exploding on the scene in the late 1970s, Journey has inspired generations of fans with hit after hit. But hidden under this rock ‘n’ roll glory is a complex story of ambition, larger-than-life personalities, and clashes. David Hamilton Golland unearths the band’s true and complete biography, based on over a decade of interviews and thousands of sources.

When Steve Perry joined jazz-blues progressive rock band Journey in 1977, they saw a rise to the top, and their 1981 album Escape hit #1. But Perry’s quest for control led to Journey’s demise. They lost their record contract and much of their audience. After the unlikely comeback of “Don’t Stop Believin’” in movies, television, and sports stadiums, a new generation discovered Journey.

A professional historian, Golland dispels rehashed myths and also shows how race in popular music contributed to their breakout success. As the economy collapsed and as people abandoned the spirit of Woodstock in the late 70s, Journey used the rhythm of soul and Motown to inspire hope in primarily white teenagers’ lives. Decades later, the band and their signature song remain classics, and now, with singer Arnel Pineda, they are again a fixture in major stadiums worldwide.

Livin' Just to Find Emotion will be released on February 6, 2024. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers provided an early galley for review.

The music of Journey is part of the soundtrack of my junior high and high school years. For someone growing up in a western New York town, these songs were vibrant and expansive, evoking freedom and possibility. When this one popped up on upcoming releases, I was definitely interested to check it out.

Right from the introduction, Golland makes it clear that this is more than just a rehashing of the band history and discography. Given his profession, he looks at the band's journey from a very specific viewpoint: race. I was curious to see how this would play out as Journey is not a band I think of instantly when the word "race" comes to mind.

I learned a lot from the early chapters, especially the origins of the band and their connections with other groups. In fact, throughout I enjoyed seeing how Journey's path crossed with other acts of the time as well. It gave me a lot of context for the music going on at the same time. Of course, when Perry joined the group with the Infinity album, that is when they also hit my pre-teen listening radar.

The latter chapters after Perry's departure were also very interesting, especially for someone like me who put the band aside after that point. From what I can tell, I was hardly the only one. Still, watching as those who remained did everything they could to keep the band relevant was also an interesting read. Overall, this is very much a classic rock 'n' roll story.

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