Journey guitarist Neal Schon wanted Arrival, the group’s first album in five years and its first since 1978 without frontman Steve Perry, to rock harder and shed some of the San Francisco band’s reputation for ballads. It does, Schon says, thanks to Napster.
Apparently the first finished version of Arrival was leaked in its entirety to the controversial file-sharing service; Schon says it was traced back to copies a Sony executive in Europe made for some friends. “That was kind of freaky,” says the guitarist, who co-founded the band during 1973 after a short tenure in Santana. “Here we were, three months after being done with the project, and there [Napster] comes with the whole record.”
The situation played into Schon’s hands, however. He had locked horns with A& R man John Kalodner and producer Kevin Shirley over that version of the album, feeling that it had again emphasized ballads at the expense of rock songs. And as fans began to hear the Napster version of Arrival, they seconded his emotion.
“The fans loved it,” Schon recalls. “They said it’s a great record, but it would be an even greater record with a couple of rockers. It was not like we were hurting for rock; we had tons of great rock songs we had written. But I felt like they had picked too many ballads once again. What it finally boiled down to was, ‘Look, we need to change up this record in order to have one over Napster and everyone who’s got our record.’ We twisted everyone’s arm and went back into the studio at the 11th hour and recorded two new songs.” And both of those tracks, “Nothing Comes Close” and “World Gone Wild,” gave Arrival the stronger rock muscle that Schon was looking for.
“It’s what I initially wanted to go on the record,” he says. “I don’t want to sound like a brat, but it was great to feel like I was right all the time when the fans came and said all the things I was feeling, and then it was really great to get my way.”
Arrival, released Tuesday, marks Journey’s first album with new singer Steve Augeri, who replaced Perry three years ago after Perry opted not to tour in order to have and recover from hip surgery. Journey will tour this summer with Peter Frampton and John Waite – the latter of whom played with Schon and bandmate Jonathan Cain in the group Bad English.