After weeks of uncertainty following a bitter separation with drummer Steve Smith and bassist Ross Valory, re-emerged over the weekend as part of UNICEF’s Won’t Stop streaming concert with a lockdown rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin’.” They used the occasion to announce the addition of bassist Randy Jackson and drummer Narada Michael Walden to their official lineup.
“Journey is an ever-changing unstoppable force,” guitarist Neal Schon tweeted. “This is a completely new chapter for us and can’t wait to get to it!”
For old-school Journey fans, this might set off a bit of déjà vu, as this is the second time that the band fired Ross Valory and replaced him with Randy Jackson. The first time took place during the Raised on Radio sessions in 1985 when frontman Steve Perry wanted to take the band in a different musical direction. Bass duties on the album were filled by Jackson and Bob Glaub, but it was Jackson who toured with Journey throughout 1986 and 1987. (Here’s video of the band playing “Girl Can’t Help It” on that tour.)
The tour wrapped when Perry decided he wanted to step away from public life, and when they re-formed in 1996, they brought Valory back into the fold. (Jackson, meanwhile, became one of the original judges on American Idol in 2002.) Valory stayed with the group as frontman duties rotated from Perry to Steve Augeri to Jeff Scott Soto to Arnel Pineda, but he was let go in March following a behind-the-scenes power struggle relating to the group’s trademark.
Jackson was an obvious pick to replace Valory since he’s the only other bassist on the planet who’s toured with Journey in the past. Narada Michael Walden may not have that same level of experience with the band, but he has played with everyone from Jeff Beck and Weather Report to Robert Fripp and Carlos Santana. He’s also collaborated with Schon on numerous non-Journey projects over the years.
The band now has a complete lineup once again, but it’s unclear when they’ll be able to play in public. The group had a massive co-headlining summer tour with the Pretenders on the books, but they had to cancel it because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Their lawyers, however, are being kept quite busy due to the ongoing legal dispute with Smith and Valory.)
This might seem like a lot of drama and intrigue for a single band, but that’s been the normal state of Journey affairs for decades by this point. It’s a band where the alliances shift all the time and members from years past can return with little warning, unless that member happens to be named “Steve Perry.” He’s stayed as far away from all of this as he possibly could over the past two decades and that’s unlikely to ever change.