Song Of The Day 9/23/2015: Journey – “Spaceman”

Stopped Clock Week – I feel kinda bad about not liking Journey. I just sound like a big ole crosspatch. What have they ever done besides try to help people? They’ve given us a lot of emotional support for all stages of our lives: falling in love, going to prom, getting married, getting divorced, closing on commercial land deals, being arrested for embezzlement, breakfast. All of their biggest albums were named after abstract one-word nouns, like Infinity, Escape, Departure, Frontiers, Somnambulism, Flaccidity, Inhalants. Steve Perry, the man who gave Journey the breath of life, was a very good singer whose voice was the tenor hum of the electric universe in the ’80s, and he obviously had a big affection for Sam Cooke for which I’ll not criticize anyone.

And Journey loved them some scarabs. You’ve seen the scarab, right? It first showed up on the cover of Journey’s album Departure, poised amidst the span between Earth and a planet that’s some sort of cross between Venus and a Burger King, its falcon-like wings ready make the gentle descent homeward. Then the scarab returns on the cover of Escape (a more purpose-driven synonym of the word Departure), having apparently been ensnared by a waspish bowling ball before arriving back on Earth, but now using its powerful lamellae to compromise the inner core of its Brunswickian prison and blast its way through to sweet interstellar freedom. That scarab’s a bad mother shut-your-mouth. It also appeared on the covers of Captured and Journey’s Greatest Hits, but in scenes of repose, the legend of its outer-atmospheric heroics now affording it a moment to relax and accept your genuflections.

Anyway, I don’t care for Journey’s music. Its net effect was this wallpaper quality, the sort of music that played alongside our early ’80s adjustments but didn’t really absorb them. You think that’s damning? Look what first-gen rock critic Dave Marsh wrote about Journey’s entire output as of 1981:
In a 166-word blurb in the 1983 edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide, Dave Marsh, the Bruce Springsteen biographer and guardian of rock-critical orthodoxy, gave one-star reviews to all of Journey’s albums while emptying his rucksack of insults: “Stepford Wives rock,” “calculated,” “nitwit,” “plodding,” “banality,” “utter triviality,” “exploitative cynicism,” and worst of all, surely, by Marsh’s lights, “Paul Anka and Pat Boone.”
I shan’t take quite the hardline approach that Rolling Stone used to employ back when their reviews were well-written, but by and large I nod with Marsh. Finding a song I liked by Journey required me to dig through their three-album, pre-Perry past, when keyboardist and native Seattleite Greg Rolie handled lead vocal duties, and delving into prog had not yet been stricken from the Journey agenda. And I found one, the first track from their 1977 album Next. It’s called “Spaceman,” and it’s actually about not being a spaceman. “I’m a cosmopolitan, right-handed wingless man,” Rolie sings. That describes me to a T, though I like a good plate of wings. I dig “Spaceman.” It’s only a few Neal Schon solos too much for inclusion in a Wes Anderson wide-angle shot. Will music-supervise for food. And a check. Food and a check.

Infinite scarab attack! --

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