Journey were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame six months ago — but ever since, instead of riding high, the band has been plagued with drama.
Last week, headlines nationwide declared internal strife amongst the kings of ’80s radio due to the presidency of Donald Trump. Guitarist and founding member Neal Schon posted angrily on social media about three of his bandmates visiting the Trump White House on July 31 without him — a visit, he says, the band previously agreed not to do.
“Everybody’s entitled to like and believe what they want but when we’ve had this discussion many many times it was always a no,” Schon tweeted. “Least a heads up since it is a band and one that I started. I think Managment (sic) could let me know.”
To hear publications like Spin and Variety tell it, the band were steps away from breaking up and going their separate ways — a believable notion, as the band had gone though a previous public row two months prior, with Schon claiming that keyboardist Jonathan Cain, the band’s walking ballad factory and a practicing Christian, wanted Journey to play gospel music.
But for music journalist Joel Selvin, who covered the band for years in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle, the members of Journey fighting with each other is nothing new. When the band was at the top of its game in the early ’80s, frontman Steve Perry exerted control over the group, leading to frequent battling. As detailed in the band’s episode of VH1’s Behind The Music, Perry was the first to eschew the band’s team dynamics, and Selvin says the band never recovered.
“They don’t like each other and they’re tied together financially. They don’t even like the band anymore,” Selvin says.
Selvin should know. One of his oldest friends is former Journey manager Walter “Herbie” Herbert, the band’s Bill Walsh, who guided them from playing jazzy prog-rock for a dedicated following to mainstream radio dominance. Before the band fired Herbert in 1993, he’d helped turn Journey into the hit factory everyone knows — pushing the band to focus on songwriting, finding Steve Perry, and setting up the business side so that their fortunes were equal to their fame. When the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame back in April, each member thanked Herbert for his work.
Now Herbert says he’s been watching the drama from afar, and is disappointed in the band’s quarreling.
“It’s a tragedy,” Herbert says. “It’s all rooted in financial issues, and it’s too bad because it could be the undoing of what is a great business.”
Herbert says the band’s problems stem from one source — Neal Schon. Herbert discovered Schon when he was 15 years old and, after bringing him into the Santana band, he helped the now-guitar hero found Journey in 1973. Herbert has stayed in touch with Schon since parting ways with the band; Schon even sent Herbert YouTube videos of singer Arnel Pineda before the Filipino phenom was brought in as vocalist in 2007. But now Herbert says Schon has taken over the “Steve Perry role” in the band, referencing the former lead singer’s divisive tenure.
“For years and years and years, I treated him like a son. Towards the end there, I would introduce him as, ‘This is Neal Schon, my son. He just didn’t turn out that well.’ It would always be good for a laugh,” Herbert says. “You know the old saying: half in jest and half serious. But then it was getting more and more serious.”
Journey has yet to reply to requests for comment. But looking at Schon’s social media posts, it appears that much of the fighting centers around Cain’s recent embrace of evangelical Christianity and his new wife Paula White, the televangelist who also serves as Trump’s spiritual adviser. Schon has posted videos and other statements critical of White, and has repeatedly stated that the band he founded “doesn’t need to be tagged with any one religion or politics.”
But Herbert says he’s welcomed Cain’s newfound evangelicalism with open arms. Herbert had issues with Cain from the moment he brought him into the group, and yet the “borderline atheist” says finding God has made the keyboardist “a better Jon Cain.”
“I’d love to be able to say the same for Neal and what he’s doing with his life,” Herbert says.
Along with bitter tweets about his feud with Cain, Schon has discussed going off to do other projects, such as a blues project with former Bad English singer John Waite. But if he breaks up Journey, Schon would lose his biggest moneymaking venture, which Herbert insists would be “stupid on steroids” considering Schon’s many financial obligations.
Currently married to his fifth wife Michaele Schon (formerly Salahi), Schon has paid millions in alimony for previous marriages. To at least one ex-wife, Amber Fazon, he confirmed payments totaling $1.3 million by 2013. Furthermore, according to Herbert, Schon’s divorce settlement with his first wife dictates that she receive half of his royalties from Journey’s best-selling greatest hits album. After getting together with Salahi in 2011, Schon settled a lawsuit by paying an undisclosed sum to his then-girlfriend, former Playmate Ava Fabian.
Selvin says he spoke with one of Schon’s accountants at a party a few years back, and was told that for every hour the guitarist works, 50 minutes of that work goes to paying his alimony. With stories like that going around, stunts like Schon’s decision to turn his 2013 wedding at the Palace of Fine Arts into a pay-per-view event start making sense. (A portion of the pay-per-view profits went to typhoon relief in the Philippines.)
“I’ve managed a dozen bands very successfully and one of the most common problems is a failure to understand commitment,” Herbert says. “That is a tough thing to manage, because they’re basically shitting the bed and wanting somebody to clean up the mess.”
Days after the articles about Journey’s impending breakup ran, Schon tweeted that he wasn’t mad anymore, and that he was merely concerned about “the band’s legacy.” But for Herbert, the public fighting is just as damaging — and if Schon really cares about the band, he says, he’ll stop quarreling with his bandmates.
“This is the mothership,” Herbert says. “Quit fucking around.”
CORRECTION: In the original version of this story, Michaele Schon’s name was styled incorrectly. It is Michaele Schon, not Michaele Salahi-Schon. We apologize for the error.