June 12, 1982
By David Huff
Journey’s newest ‘baby’ finds a home
Journey's last album, Escape has become a multi-platinum success story for the San Francisco based melodic rock band. The dramatic turn of events can all be traced to a single source – Jonathan Cain. The musician’s presence in the band, from his songwriting skills down to his musicianship, introduced a truly dynamic element into the group that former keyboardist and founding member Gregg Rollie lacked.
And that’s not a snarky comment aimed at the former ‘journey’man either. It’s a statement of fact.
Cain first came to the attention of the Journey team two years ago when his former band was opening for the group, and Cheap Trick, on a nationwide tour. Every night the musician was on stage became was like a silent audition for a spot he didn’t even know was opening up. The invitation by the band took him totally by surprise when it came. The Babys was a band that was near and dear to his heart.
"Toward the end of Journey's tour last year," remarked Cain, "Gregg Rollie had decided to leave the band. The Babys were opening for them every night, and I was kicking ass on my piano. Apparently they started to really pay attention to what I was doing after Gregg informed management of his decision. They noticed I could sing, play the keys as well as rhythm guitar. They didn’t know much about my songwriting abilities other than the five songs I had co-written on our last album.
“Apparently they thought to themselves, ‘Hey, this guy is happening. He can sing, play piano and rhythm guitar and he’s a songwriter. Let's ask him to join the band!' They called me up when we were halfway through our tour with an offer, and to be honest with you, I was shocked."
That call proved to be more than just a jolt. It was a blessing in disguise. The Babys had generated considerable hype in England when they formed in 1976. Unfortunately, their pop-rock style of music was overshadowed by the punk and New Wave movement that overtook England. The group consisted of vocalist/bassist John Waite, guitarist Wally Stocker, drummer Tony Brock, and keyboardist / guitarist Mike Corby, who was replaced by Jonathan Cain in 1978. Bassist Ricky Phillips joined soon afterwards. Unable to make any headway in their native country, the group concentrated on the American market. With the new line-up, the group released Union Jacks which had the monster hit single, “Back on My Feet Again” and “Midnight Rendezvous.” The group still couldn’t catch a break.
"What really happened with The Babys," explained Cain, "was we weren't getting anywhere sales wise. We had a hit single but we weren't selling any records. Loverboy had just come out and their one song, ‘Turn Me Loose’ had helped them get a platinum record. We hadn’t even gotten a gold record after releasing four records. We just thought there was something mighty funny about it. We played in front of a lot of great audiences, the Styx concerts, the Journey concerts. We spent plenty of years on the road, headlined shows and had credible singles. Still, The Babys could not generate any sales.”
It was during this period of uncertainty that Cain received a phone call that forced him to make the most crucial decision of his life.
"I loved The Babys," said Cain simply, "but things were starting to spiral out of my control. The day after John Lennon died, John Waite hurt his knee. It was like a football injury and he had to take off six months. That would have put the band into more debt. No records were selling, there was no new single to push really, and with Lennon dying the new stuff that was happening went down the drain. In lieu of that, we lost our record and we lost our band.
"John had decided that he wanted to go solo. I called him in New York and said I had an offer from Journey. I told John I didn't want to pass on the invitation because I felt I could really contribute to this band. I had already met with the guys and I strongly wanted to go with them. But, I wanted his blessing to move on. He said, 'You got it!’ That was the end of my involvement with The Babys. I told the rest of the band I was leaving after Christmas."
Cain relocated to San Francisco and immediately began work on Journey's next album, tentatively entitled, Escape. The musician jumped right in to the project helping write, produce and lay down all the studio tracks for a recording destined to be the best selling Journey album to date. A song that Cain co-wrote with Steve Perry, "Open Arms," may very well go down as one of the greatest love ballads ever recorded.
"The transition to Journey was hard," answered Cain. "You get sentimentally involved with one band, and then you make a decision to leave. It was like telling your brother that you are splitting and you aren’t going to see him for a long while. Seriously, leaving The Babys felt like I was abandoning my family to go out to become the member of another one. But, I was determined not to let my emotions get in the way. I went to San Francisco in January and tried my best to help produce the music and help create the Escape record. That is all I looked at. I knew that there was no turning back.”
The past is behind Cain, but not forgotten. John Waite went on to a solo career. Tony Brock and Wally stocker joined Rod Stewart’s band. The past has been left behind, but not forgotten.
"I feel comfortable now," said Cain, without even thinking about it. "I feel as though I am part of the cause. It is a very easy thing to do. The guys in Journey have made it easy for me to come in and feel relaxed. This is a real open situation. These guys are pros and they really want it. Neal (Schon), Ross (Valory) and Steve (Smith) are excellent musicians.
"I worked hard for the opportunity that has come before me. I have worked a lot of years. I have always been true to myself and I have always been true to the people that I have worked with. That is one of the reasons I am here today. You pay your dues, and I have to say, I have paid my dues. I feel now that this band has just started. I am excited about a Journey, because to me, it’s a new band now."