Part 1 – “That was the end, my friend…”

When I first asked Journey founder and longtime manager Herbie Herbert for an interview, I honestly did not expect that he would answer ‘yes.’ When he did, I knew what I was sitting on – the proverbial ‘holy grail’ of Journey history. I imagine he consented to the interview as a way of ensuring his side of the story was heard – since it was largely left on the cutting-room floor during production of the VH-1 behind the Music special on the band.
In the first section of the interview, Herbie discusses this project, among many other things – right down to the significance of the first time I ever saw Journey perform live.

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Herbie: Let me ask you a question.
Matt: Yeah, go ahead.
H: How old are you?
M: I’m 33.
H: So you never saw Journey in its original formation, in its original, you know – pre-’83?
M: ’83 was actually the first tour I saw. It was my first concert. I saw them with Bryan Adams out at Holleder Stadium in Rochester, N.Y.
H: Oh, your first show was Holleder Stadium in Rochester?
M: Yeah.
H: What an interesting way to go. I mean that was really the end. That was the end, my friend. And the big thing – did you ever see the movie, Frontiers and Beyond?
M: Absolutely.
H: At the end was Holleder Stadium, with everybody onstage waving and singing whatever “Na Na Na Na Na na” – and, Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance – and many many people in the industry that you wouldn’t know or recognize were up there on that stage at the end? And that’s where the movie I guess ended in a freeze frame of some sort?
M: Sure. How do you mean, “That was the end?”
H: That was the end of that fucking band, right then and there, that very day.
M: Really? What happened?
H: I don’t know (laughs)! But that turned out to be the end, yeah. (That) is really ironic, cause I said, ‘you know, here I am going to speak to somebody who has no freaking idea what was really going on, and let me tell you what was going on. Rochester. Holleder Stadium. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding? I mean, I think I had to bring in power, rebuild half the wooden seats – this stadium has been closed and unused for so long…
M: Yeah, they tore it down later that year.
H: …and I just said, let me spruce (the place) up for just one more hurrah. They (the promoters) said “We’re not putting in a penny.” I said “I don’t give a shit, I got the money – I’ll fix that place.” They said “what else can you do?” And I just remember that the available venues were just reeking and sucking around there.
M: Yeah, at that point there really weren’t any good venues.
H: And the band was so big, coast to coast and border to border, that, you know, I had to almost go out and design and find my places to play.
M: Right.
H: And you know, for anybody – any other act – Rochester wasn’t even part of the itinerary. Yeah, it’s just a prime example – whether it’s Pocatello, Idaho or Murfreesboro, Tennessee – Rochester, New York (we drew) close to 30,000 people. I don’t think so! You know, even the biggest acts today can’t do that kinda stuff.
M: I’m going to take you to the Behind the Music episode real quick. They really didn’t seem to fully credit you for the formation and the success of the band. What was your reaction to that?
H: I was surprised to be involved in the history at all. I mean, I can’t imagine – with Steve Perry having the editorial control that he had – what was said to keep me in there. I think this is your answer right here – because all the other guys signed agreements that were so onerous and egregious as to not only can they not ever make a disparaging comment towards Steve Perry, but they are prohibited from writing autobiographies, authorizing biographies, participating in any way in an unauthorized biography.
M: Wow.
H: All that control, I mean, geez – I wholly expected to be written out of the history when the camera crew showed up. I told the director – who really insulted my intelligence – “you have no editorial content credibility with Steve Perry having the final cut. How can you put your name in the credits as director?' He got all self-righteously indignant - he says 'I would never have gotten into a project like that!' And I said 'is this for the benefit of the other people here working? Is this for your camera guy; is this for your sound guy? You're talking to me - did I just fall off a turnip truck?' Because of the control that Steve had, plus prohibiting the members of Journey from ever re-recording any songs that were previously recorded with him.
He and his attorney just drafted this unbelievable thing, I told the guys never to sign it, and they did. Sixteen, seventeen years later, Rochester, New York, (they're like) 'Next year, let's do it again!' That was really the end, and that was really the last show. Now, its 2001, eighteen years after the fact, and now these guys got the bug to go do this, and so powerful is that bug that they gave away the store. I mean, how they'll ever explain this to their children I can't imagine. But anyway, they gave it away completely, and that left them in a pretty impossible position.
And, so Irving Azoff, god bless him, went to Perry, and talked Perry into letting them re-record and shoot the DVD that my company (Nocturne, which Herbie co-owns with Neal Schon) did in Vegas, as it turns out. The minute that was put in the books, I said 'oh my god, Irving made a deal!' I called Irving, and he says 'yup, yup, I made a deal. And, not only is he allowing that, but we're going to support it - the album and tour - with a VH-1 Behind the Music.' I said, 'He's going to cooperate and participate?' and he said 'yeah.' And I said 'Wow. Now don't ruin my night by telling me what you had to give - it will all come out in the wash. We're all gonna see what you had to give to get him to do that.' And it was that ultimate editorial control. And so, when all of these other guys have signed this agreement and all you can get out of them is this homogenized, pasteurized pulp - nothing with substance, all candy-coated - that is the worst thing you can get them to say. The most damning and incriminating thing is 'By agreement I am not allowed to speak to those issues, or speak about those matters.' And then, off camera, everybody - Neal Schon and Ross Valory are saying 'You really need to talk to Herbie, he didn't sign such an agreement.'
M: That's what gave me the idea to contact you. Neal had suggested it in a post on the band's website.
H: Of course, they did (talk to me). I said this to this guy - maybe 25 times, 'none of this is going to make it. I'm not going to give you anything that you can put in that VH-1 special.' I said, 'I'm going to tell the truth, and you haven't heard this yet. You know, you're not going to get much.' And, eight hours I was on camera - eight hours! Now, if you could add up all my segments to come to 30 seconds I'd be impressed. It probably was much more than that, but Perry went nuts. And, if you saw the very first promos for VH-1 that came out, it showed Steve Perry saying, 'I never really felt like I was a part of the band.' Then it washed to me, where I'm saying, 'Yeah, that's like the Pope saying he never really felt Catholic.'
Do you know how quick that was taken out? Perry launched like an MX missile when he saw that. He went crazy. That promo was eliminated and that little segment was taken out of VH-1. I mean, even ever so slightly disparaging - and that's not disparaging - that's just saying 'that's like the Pope's not really Catholic!' Here he is, the Joe Montana of this team, and he never really felt like he was a part of the team. I'm just commenting on the absurdity of his comment. And, of course, the VH-1 guys wanted it because it was the only thing that gave the viewer (the idea that) 'well maybe there's going to be some meat and potatoes here. Maybe there's going to be some meat on the bone.' False alarm
M: And there would've been had there been more of your interview.

H: More of mine, Pat Morrow (Journey's former tour manager) was on camera, god knows. Six hours. Not one piece of footage of Pat was used. Pat was a huge, huge bone of contention between Perry and I. Pat went on to become a captain of industry with Nocturne, and is now successfully retired. And a lot of the problems that Steve had with Pat Steve was right about. But, with a guy like Steve Perry, everything is a hang-up to him. This guy is the farthest thing from a hippie you could imagine. Zero love. Ya know, zero love.
M: Wow. There are a lot of fans that are going to react to that.
H: Oh, they are? You think that is the truth? Every fan - and this is what I thought I was going to have with you on the phone - another fan that might've even fallen in love with that band in an objective way. (They) fall in love with the songs, fell in love with the music and the passion of the performances that is undeniable, and just read into that that these guys are bigger, better, deeper people than they might really be.
M: So let me ask you, because, what very little did make it into Behind the Music, is that you were actually the one that insisted that Perry join the band. I put the band together, absolutely, man by man. Personally hand-picked each person and it was, you know, it was MY band - no doubt about it. It was my band and I had total authority, and total autonomy and total control, and nobody minded one fucking bit.
M: That was largely the impression that I got when I was growing up. When you read the statement that you "formed it around Neal Schon," that you really were picking and choosing the different people that you wanted to complement him.
H: Absolutely - handpicked, final authority on it. When I put Steve Perry in the band, Neal Schon was not even on speaking terms with me, cause that guy hated (Perry) so much. He flat out didn't want him. I flat out knew that he was the guy, and that everything that Perry brought as a vocalist and as a songwriter was exactly what we needed. I just knew I was right.
M: And that wound up being the case.
H: We had another singer in the band named Robert Fleischman, who the band loved. We were on tour with Emerson, Lake, and Palmer in '77, and it was a big stadium date along the way. He was doing well, but he was really a pompous little poodle, and really tough to deal with. He hadn't even made a record yet. That kind of thing just gets old and tired, and I was really getting tired of this guy.
Perry had been hovering around in my life for years. And, I knew that he was talented but I'd been told (about him) by people that knew him from Fresno - from childhood, from his cousin. His cousin and one of my best friends were big-time dealers in the city. And Perry would come up and 'shanghai' him for drugs - you know, 'you gotta give them to me, if you don't, then I'm going back home to Fresno, Larry, and tell your mom.' That's called 'shanghaiing'. (Meanwhile,) he's saying, "Give this tape to Herbie, give this tape to Herbie" to Larry and Jack Villanueva (Jack, along with his brother John, worked with Herbie throughout his years with Santana, and continued working with him on Journey). Jack would never give me the tape. And I said (to Jack), "Why, what about that guy?" He'd say 'you don't want him. Even that good, even if you were talking about Elvis Presley right there, he's just a jive mother-fucker.'
But I went in with my eyes wide open, you know, knew the possibilities myself but was such a young, idealist hippie that I thought that I would smother this guy with so much love and success that all that shit will wash away. Wrong! (Laughs)
M: I kind of anticipated that it would be personality conflicts that ultimately resulted in the band 'going their separate ways' so to speak. How early did that stuff start to happen?
H: There was no "personality conflict." (Perry wasn't) really communicating to anybody - he was isolating himself - but we're functioning and we're getting it done. And you think these guys broke up, or that Perry was ever honest about his intentions ever once? It's unbelievable what he did to these guys. I'm a manager. At the point that Journey stopped in '83 they'd sold maybe 22 - 25 million records. Nothing to sneeze at, but nothing compared to the 75 million they've sold now. What I was able to do for them in death was more fantastic than in life. That pisses Perry off because it reflects on me more than it does on them. And what a manager is able to do with a catalog. And of course I was able to go and get the band Europe, the band Roxette from Sweden, the Electric Boys from Sweden, Mr. Big, as you know…
M: One of my favorites
H: …and of course, Steve Miller. I turned him into a big workhorse and showed the way. I said 'you don't think Journey can't continue to do major business?' I'm going to drag Steve Miller out of retirement in 1988 at 300 pounds, and you watch me, Neal Schon. You'll be the opening act - whatever project you've got going down - and boy, did that go down exactly that way. I'm selling out sheds all across the country with Steve Miller and - Neal put together a band with Paul Rodgers. Very good, by the way, but didn't sell any records or tickets. The original Santana band, I continued to manage the catalog until I retired, and the Steve Miller catalog, all the first 14 records or whatever, and Journey's catalog, and all three of them were evergreens (Editor's note: Evergreen is an industry term for reissued material that consistently sells records.) What a coinkydink! (Laughs)
And how to work a label, how to work a catalog - that is an art form. Forget about it! You know, I take just as much pride in that as I do any of the touring innovations, anything Journey did while they were active because they aren't around there to say 'we did this, and this is us.' You know? Of course, they made the records, but hey, so did Boston and Foreigner and Styx and REO Speedwagon. They all made records too. Kansas made records, so why don't their catalogs sell? Hello.

M: I see your point.
H: And what is that? Either these guys must've been buried with a horseshoe up their ass, or they must've known somebody who knew how to get things done. So, the tsunami of money and revenue that I generated for those guys hides a multitude of my talent. It's all hidden behind their riches.
M: That Greatest Hits album is on the catalog chart and is still outselling some brand new albums.
H: Yeah, but they really screwed that up. That Greatest Hits record that I put out, I think, in ’89 that was at the top of that catalog chart for nearly a decade. And when Journey – when Steve screwed us (was when) they made Trial by Fire. They spent more money making that record than all the prior Journey records to date at that point put together. They spent so much money making that record and it didn’t sound like a great Journey record. It was so monotonal, and Perry was a key toned down. It’s only speculation, but my speculation is that sometime around his 35th or 36th birthday, his voice changed. It happens. Everybody knows about how your voice changes at puberty. But all of a sudden, when you get to be about 36 or 37, even Wayne Newton who was that high high soprano, all of a sudden – a tenor now. You know, it’s not like he went to baritone, he’s just not up there in that range where he used to sing. And Perry got there, and decided ‘man, I’m going in the tank – I can’t do these songs in the original keys. I’m not going down alone; I want to take everybody with me. And somehow prove, through attrition or one way or another that I’m the key to Journey’s success, just because my non-participation will mean their failure. Or their inability to go forward.” And that’s a farce. I mean, everybody is ostensibly replaceable, myself included. And you, Steve Perry, are more imminently replaceable than even I.
M: Ok, so let me ask you. When did you first feel like power was shifting away from you as the driving force behind Journey, and more towards Steve?
H: Even on Frontiers. During that tour, he was really upset for the most part with this ongoing success, and me continually being right about all of these things. I had this grand plan that I presented before the Infinity album. I said, “Here’s the title of all our albums – Infinity, Evolution, Departure, Captured, Escape, Frontiers and Freedom. And here’s our artwork, fresh from Kelley/Mouse* and everything else. When we got to Frontiers, Steve really wanted to interrupt that. And he fought like hell to change the art and the imagery. And we did – to that Elmo space-guy – from what we originally had from Kelley and Mouse. I prevailed on the name, and he prevailed on changing the art. Which was still a merchandisable, space-alien kind of thing, but it was a real compromise from the quality of what our packaging had been. And it was our signature style. It was instantly recognizable. We had achieved that with Escape. Escape, the basic album package, shows up in stores, and you can’t read Journey, or the name Journey anywhere, but there wasn’t a soul that walked into a retail outlet that didn’t know immediately that that was Journey. You know what I’m talking about?
M: Absolutely.
H: And that’s what should’ve continued with Frontiers. That’s where he really started to do that. At which point the meetings degenerated into a pissing act between myself and Steve Perry and his attorney, with all of the other members of the band watching, like a tennis match. This is where I lost enormous amounts of respect for Neal Schon, Ross Valory, Jon Cain – who was never the mensch that Gregg Rolie was – he was just the only replacement that was viable that we could find. And, Gregg found him. Gregg pointed him out to me. I just said, “Gregg, how the fuck will I ever replace you? I want to shut this thing down.” He says, “This kid that’s in the opening band.” I said “the fucking Babys STINK!” (Laughs). He’s like, “No, man, watch him again, watch him again. That keyboard player’s got some talent.”
M: Well, he certainly brought some songwriting to the band.
H: Yes, he did. Yes, he did. But it’s so much more important to surround yourself with good people than great talent. Because the talent does not – and will not ever – overcome being a bad person. And the people that have such great talent firmly have the belief that their talent will overcome any of their bad actions.

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This last statement stuck with me throughout the interview, for one reason. It seems to me that so many of the reasons that Herbie’s ultimate goal for the band (which is discussed later) was not achieved were due to the egos and personalities of the people in the band. Is hindsight 20/20? Of course it is. Would the band have been as successful if Herbie had less talented but more “team-oriented” members? Who’s to say? But, Herbie did create the band to be successful, and on that level, he achieved greatly.
This success did not come without changes and hard decisions, however. In the next installment, Herbie discusses more of the personnel changes that were made through the years in Journey. Some of his reasons for the changes are different from the ones you’ve heard before.
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