Believiní one songís Journey
It took Journey 30 minutes to write one of the most enduring songs in rock history. ìDonít Stop Believiníî is, in many ways, more popular now than when the band first released it in 1981. It turned up in the ìThe Sopranosî finale, got a huge boost when it was featured on the first season of ìGleeî and is the go-to song for wedding parties and bar crawlers looking to end a night of revelry with a bang.
The song is the best-selling catalog track on iTunes (more than 2 million downloads), and in January it charted twice in the UKís Top 10: the original at No. 6, the ìGleeî cover at No. 5.
The song was written by keyboardist Jonathan Cain, guitarist Neal Schon and singer Steve Perry while the band was writing and rehearsing new material for the album ìEscapeî in an Oakland warehouse Schon had bought from a member of Sly and the Family Stone. One day, Cain came in with a chorus melody and the lyric, ìDonít stop believin.í î
ìThe phrase came from my father,î Cain says. ìI had a tough time trying to get down the road in the music business, and he used to tell me that stuff, ëDonít stop believingí and, ëStick to your guns.í î
From there, Perry mostly dictated the structure.
ìHe worked backwards,î Cain says. ìHe said, ëYou need to start this thing like itís going somewhere. Give me some rolling piano.í So I started playing. Then I think Neal came up with the bass line. Steve scat on that.î
Schon then added his urgent, 16th-note arpeggiated guitar riff, played on a Les Paul, after Perry suggested he needed to sound like ìa train.î
The next day, Cain went over to Perryís house, and the two wrote the full lyrics about a ìsmall-town girlî and a ìcity boy.î The line about taking a ìmidnight train going anywhereî was a reference to Gladys Knightís ìMidnight Train to Georgia,î while the lyric, ìStrangers waiting/Up and down the boulevardî was pulled from Cainís time living in LA in the early 1970s.
ìMy brother and I used go down Sunset Boulevard on a Friday night, and it was like a zoo, all those people cruising,î he says. ìI never knew where they all came from or what they wanted.î
The songís structure is unconventional, in that it builds slowly and has the chorus at the end of the song.
ìTo this day, even my [current] producer Kevin Shirley says itís the oddest arrangement ever,î Schon says. ìSo I think, maybe thatís why itís so big. Itís a bit unpredictable.î
Odd as the song may have been, the record company had no power to demand changes. Journeyís contract gave the band complete creative control. The entire ìEscapeî album was made for just $80,000, because the band was so well rehearsed and Perry, whose mantra was, ìTime is money,î rarely did more than two takes of a song.
Schon guesses that today, ìDonít Stop Believiní î earns the band ìdouble or three timesî the amount of any other song. Royalties are complicated to estimate, but Jay Cooper, an LA-based entertainment attorney, says songwriters are paid 9.1 cents per download and an additional percentage for performing the song, as well. From iTunes sales of ìDonít Stop Believiní î alone, Journey has probably earned more than $462,000.
And thatís not counting the income the song generates from being spun more than 5 million times on TV and radio, according to Broadcast Music Inc. Another revenue stream comes from the advertisers and filmmakers who are clamoring to license the song. (Schon, Cain and Perry must unanimously sanction each usage.)
ìI get so many e-mails a day requesting our approval, I just leave it up to management,î Schon says. ìI thought with ëGlee,í when you get exposure like that, itís hard to say no.î
Believiní one songís Journey