Ahead of their time with pioneering live shows and productions, Journey is one of the most influential bands of all time. One of the first bands to successfully play ‘arena rock,’ Journey’s pioneering live shows are still seen as the standard to be met by international rock bands today.
Formed in 1973 in San Francisco, the band has gone through various lineup changes over the years. With over 20 albums released, they gave us plenty of material to draw from when creating our list of the best Journey songs.
Originally, Journey consisted of Neal Schon on lead guitar (also in Santana’s band), Gregg Rolie on keyboards and lead vocals, Ross Valory on bass guitar, George Tickner on rhythm guitar, and Prairie Prince as the drummer.
Originally called the Golden Gate Rhythm Section, the band’s sole intention was to be a backup band for other established Bay area artists. However, this backup band concept was abandoned soon after as they began writing jazz-fusion music and changed their name to Journey.
In 1974, Aynsley Dunbar joined the band on drums after recently working with one of the biggest stars on the planet, David Bowie. 1975 saw the departure of rhythm guitarist George Tickner with Neal Schon taking over the full duties of the guitar.
After poor sales of their first album, fortunes changed in October 1977 as Steve Perry was hired as the new lead singer.
Working with the producer Roy Thomas Baker, Journey began recording with a layered sound approach, something that has become ingrained in the recording industry to this very day.
Over the next 10 or so years, Journey enjoyed their biggest commercial success and recorded some of the best selling and most beloved rock songs in history such as Don’t Stop Believing, the top-selling track in iTunes history back in 2009.
It’s not been plain sailing for Journey as with any band as their recording and live show processes have come in for some criticism over the years. But, as it should be with any artist, it is their music that matters most.
Their iconic blend of hard rock guitar-driven music with powerful vocals has endured over the last 40 years with generation after generation finding a new admiration for the band.
From their early mix of progressive and rock fusion to their shift into a more commercial direction, Journey has recorded songs that will appeal to everyone.
There’s no doubt that the band’s level of instrumentation and Perry’s incredible vocal range and ability were ahead of most bands of the time and arguably ever since.
To really understand Journey’s impact on music, we need to delve into their musical archive. And that is exactly what we are doing today. Below, we will be guiding you through our choice of the top 10 Journey songs that you must check out if you didn’t know already.
From unforgettable rock anthems to some of the biggest choruses in popular music, join us as we take a glimpse into Journey’s back catalog of incredibly well-written and performed songs.
We begin with a song that was originally going to be included on their 1983 album Frontiers. However, Only The Young was then sold to another band, Scandal. After Journey ended up recording and releasing their own version, Scandal received a large payment much to their delight.
As the name of the song suggests, Only The Young is about the freedom and promise of youth.
Rather than sing about younger generations in derogatory terms, as so many older generations have done throughout history, the band suggests that the youth are arguably smarter than any generation before them.
By seeing all the lies in the past, it’s an opportunity for the young to build a better and brighter future.
Although this song is full of positive connotations, there is some sadness behind it. It was played to a 16-year-old fan who suffered from cystic fibrosis on behalf of the Make a Wish Foundation. The band found out about this and were deeply moved.
However, they were devastated to find out that the young fan passed away the day after listening to the track. Given what the song is about, it is believed that the band members realized how unimportant any tension between them was in the grand scheme of life.
The song eventually opened up their shows on their Raised on radio Tour in tribute to the young teen.
As for the song itself, Only The Young has everything you would come to expect from 1980s Journey. A powerful and catchy chorus and, of course, a mind-blowing epic guitar solo from Neil Schon.
Although the solo is short in comparison to most of Schon’s work, it is full of intricate ideas. Somehow, the solo has some symbolism of freedom but is tinged with some sadness.
Not only is Only The Young a timeless classic and beautifully written song, its emotional backstory just gives it more meaning than it ever would have had otherwise.
Going back to 1979, we have Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’, from the band’s Evolution album. This is an important track for the band as it was the first to break into the Billboard top twenty eventually peaking at number 16.
Written by lead singer, Steve Perry, this song appears to be deeply personal to the songwriter. It is believed that it is about a real relationship Perry had where he found out his girlfriend was having an affair with someone. Of course, this left Perry in a broken, lonely, and dark place.
But, the song takes a twist as the girl gets a taste of her own medicine. The man who she cheated with is found to be cheating on her. Talk about karma! Although the song is heartbreaking, it allows Perry to get the last laugh in and come out of the experience with some relief.
Unlike many of the band’s upbeat, anthemic commercial successes, this song starts with a bass-driven drum beat with a blues vibe. Of course, Schon soon enters with some bluesy, rich guitar tones as well as some warm piano chords from Gregg Rolie.
The screeching guitar soon transforms into a distorted sound. Combined with the beautiful piano chords and Perry’s heartfelt vocals, Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ has a mix of joyful as well as painful emotions throughout.
The anguish behind Perry’s lyrics and voice is none more evident than in the catchy title hook of the track.
The song moves from heartfelt and deeply meaningful lyrics to an almost Hey Jude (The Beatles) inspired second half. Perry sings “Na na na” repeatedly which could be considered lazy songwriting on the band’s behalf. But, this is Journey! They know how to write a song.
With the “Na na nas” soaring about the chunky guitar runs, Journey manages to perform a very catchy and enjoyable track. The song builds and builds until we are met with a very catchy and beautiful harmonized outro.
While it may not be as catchy as some other anthemic Journey songs, Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ is certainly a perfect song to sing along to and enjoy. And, the fact it was instrumental in the band’s success means it may be one of their most important tracks.
From one of Journey’s most emotional and slower-paced songs to a hard rock track that is considered quite heavy for the band. Taken from Journey’s seventh studio album Escape, Stone In Love saw the introduction of newcomer Jonathan Cain’s songwriting talents.
Cain, who took over from Gregg Rolie on keyboards, wrote Stone In Love alongside Perry and Schon.
A combination of heavy rock riffs, mind-bending, storming guitar solos, and infectious melodies mean this song is an absolute classic. If you ever want to make a compilation CD for a road trip, you must add this!
Topped off with the world-class vocals of Steve Perry, Stone In Love quickly became a staple of rock radio and has remained so ever since.
This song was something that hardcore Journey fans had been waiting for. Although they had become famous for their anthems, some would argue that the band hadn’t explored their heavier side on many albums. But, this track changed all that.
The heavy riffs that any heavy metal band would be proud of thump you in the face and Perry’s vocals are more powerful than ever.
Stone In Love reminds us that Journey always had the melody of a song as their principal focus but could also rock out when they needed to as well.
And, it also reminds us that their album Escape was far more than a collection of power ballads. It was an example of Journey doing what they loved and doing it well.
Wheel In The Sky may not have been the hit Journey had hoped for when it was first released in 1978 but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of their best songs. Peaking at number 57 in the US charts, Wheel In The Sky’s impact has only been felt decades after its initial release.
Ask any bonafide Journey megafan and they will usually include Wheel In The Sky on their top 10 list.
Wheel In The Sky was recorded during a time when the band was changing their sound somewhat into a more edgy, hard rock direction. The guitar chords became more immediate and the rock beats had transitioned from intricate timings to more simple 4/4 timing signatures.
Beginning with an instrumental section, this track’s intro is more subdued than the rest of the song. But, as you come to expect from Journey, the guitar starts to growl, and the atmospheric sound kicks in, shadowing the song in an almost-ethereal essence.
Much like a wheel turning and turning, the guitar riffs churn over and over, as if to symbolize the ever-present movement of time. The wheel in the sky keeps turning like the seasons keep changing forever and ever.
Recorded in 1977, this song came at a time when the band had been touring continuously for some time. Wheel In The Sky references their time on the road and being away from home.
However, while being away can be tiring, the song ends on a more positive note where the hook changes from “turning” to “yearning.” It could be a sign that the band has found some hope and meaning through their endless touring and repetitive work cycle.
Of course, the meaning behind this song is not set in stone. Like many Journey songs, it is open to interpretation. What is for sure is that Wheel In The Sky is a Journey hard rock classic.
Beginning with impactful piano chords by Jonathan Cain and a synthesized sounding bass guitar riff by Ross Valory, Who’s Crying Now soon grows with the help of Perry’s rich vocal tones.
The bass behind this song is not “in your face” but the riffs are very tasteful and act as the backbone to the whole track.
One of the most successful songs for Journey, Who’s Crying Now peaked at number four in the US. But, it was in the UK where this song shone brightest becoming the band’s highest-charting single in the country.
Compared to other Journey songs, this is one of their most soulful pieces of work. It is believed that the song’s chorus was written by Perry on his way to Jonathan Cain’s house where they both started working on it that afternoon.
Moody and atmospheric, the instrumental of this song is almost like a storm. The fact that Perry was traveling in a storm whilst coming up with its chorus line is certainly evident.
With no surprise, Schon’s epic high-pitched and searing guitar solo enters the song’s frame giving us the sense of the tragic, stormy relationship sang about in the song.
This was actually the band’s first song to feature Cain and it is a testament to how easily he gelled with the other members both performance and songwriting-wise.
This is perhaps why this song is so piano orientated with very little drumbeat appearing throughout. This more ‘naked’ sound allows Cain’s piano hook to take center stage and act as the song’s anchor alongside the chunky bass line.
Any Way You Want It was co-penned by Perry and Schon and released in 1980. When you listen to this track, it may not come as much of a shock to learn that it was inspired by Phil Lynott, the frontman of Thin Lizzy.
He was doing a rhyme scheme exercise with the two Journey members while waiting backstage when Thin Lizzy and Journey were on tour together.
Released on the band’s 1980 Departure album, the construction of Any Way You Want It and the interchanges between the instruments soon bear the influence of Thin Lizzy.
If Thin Lizzy released this song, it would have been different in terms of vocals but the overall sound would probably have been very similar.
The guitars seem to glide like Thin Lizzy’s iconic sound. Even Perry’s storytelling approach is similar to Lynott’s way of singing. But, it is undoubtedly a Journey song and an absolute classic.
The Departure album has a “live in the studio” sound to it and Any Way You Want It is a prime example. It is edgier than many previous Journey songs but it still contains Schon’s fast-fingered solos and the high notes and power of Perry’s vocals.
Lights was one of Journey’s first songs to feature Steve Perry on lead vocals. The beginning of something very special!
A soft rock ballad, Lights was initially a minor hit for the band, only peaking at number 68 on the US charts. However, it has become one of the band’s signature tunes and a favorite of Journey fans worldwide ever since.
Tune in to a whole host of classic rock radio stations or visit a sports event in San Francisco and you will probably hear Lights.
Its popularity in San Francisco is down to the fact that the song is an ode to the city which is where the band formed. Lights reference the beauty of the entire city including the bay.
However, Perry once stated that he originally wrote the song about Los Angeles but the lyrics didn’t suit LA so well. Therefore, Perry and Schon tweaked the track to help it become a San Francisco favorite.
Lights has not got that giant wall of sound to it like so many Journey songs. It is a subtle, soothing, and light ballad. With soft chords that verge on a little distortion, sweet piano chords, and beautiful harmonies, Lights is perfect to sway gently to wherever you are.
Relaxed and peaceful, Lights gives us an image of a serene and dreamy San Francisco.
Our number three spot belongs to the band’s third single off their 1981 album Escape. Another emotional power ballad, Open Arms is considered by many to be one of the best emotive songs from this sub-genre ever.
Before joining Journey, Jonathan Cain was a member of The Babys. It is believed that he started writing this song when in that band but the other members were not fans of the melody. However, Perry took an interest in the song immediately and soon finished writing it with Cain.
Again, the rest of the band were not that keen on the track but after playing it live, the audience’s reaction was warm and extremely positive. This led to Open Arms becoming a staple of the band’s live shows.
Yet again, Perry’s vocal prowess is awe-inspiring as he pleads with his lover to forgive his mistakes and rekindle their broken relationship. Unsurprisingly, Open Arms is full of vibrant piano chords, gritty guitar runs, and a thumping heartbeat drum pattern.
Produced with some wonderful orchestral instruments, this song is as emotional as Journey has made.
Reaching number two on the Billboard 100 chart, Open Arms is one of Journey’s most successful songs. Almost 20 years after its first release, the song reached new audiences as pop stars such as Britney Spears and Mariah Carey covered it for their respective albums.
And, it’s no surprise that this relatable and heartfelt song, as well as many other Journey tracks, have been used as first dances at so many weddings over the years.
If you wanted to find a sound that encapsulates the 1980s, Separate ways (Worlds Apart) may just be it. Recorded for the band’s 1983 album Frontiers, this song is a classic 80’s tune.
Reaching number eight on the chart for six consecutive weeks, Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) may not be one of the band’s biggest hits but it has all the ingredients of a timeless Journey track.
This is certainly one of Journey’s most dark and moody songs in their vast discography with atmospheric yet heavy guitar licks and those foreboding yet distinctly 80’s synth chords.
The song itself is about a couple who have broken up and headed their separate ways. However, they still share a deep connection from the time they were together. Again, this song was written from personal experiences.
Both Schon and Valery were going through pretty bitter divorces at the time they wrote this on tour. As a matter of fact, Journey debuted the song halfway through their tour meaning audiences heard Separate ways *Worlds Apart) live before ever hearing the recorded version.
As you can probably imagine, the song was greeted with positive reviews and love by Journey fans during and after the tour.
This song was released around the same time MTV came to prominence. Therefore, Journey had to come up with imaginative ideas for their music videos. Although the band would have thought long and hard about the video, it has gone down in history as one of the worst music videos of all time.
Click the link above and you will probably agree! Seeing these legendary musicians play air instruments alongside a wharf and looking at the camera with angst and some broodiness, the video is pretty damn ludicrous.
But, the song itself is a masterpiece that is probably best enjoyed on a record player without the music video in sight.
If this song wasn’t on the list yet, you must have been expecting it to be number one! Whether you love it or hate it, Don’t Stop Believing is one of the most popular and famous songs of all time, let alone by Journey.
It’s so popular, it came in at number 13 on the poll of Top 100 Classic Rock Songs and became the best-selling track of the digital era with over 5 million sales.
Recorded for the band’s 1981 album Escape, Don’t Stop Believing is undoubtedly one of the most catchy, anthemic rock songs that have ever been. Written by Perry, Cain, and Schon, this song has become a favorite across multiple generations.
Not only is its arrangement out of this world catchy, but it holds an inspirational message of always believing in yourself and your dreams. A song that appeals to fans, young and old, all over the world.
Beginning with that now iconic keyboard riff, Perry joins in with his upbeat, powerful vocals. Next, the guitar steps in with some sort of urgency before building up and fading off for Perry to take the reins again.
The song just grows and grows with a catchy pre-chorus and infectious instrumentals before climaxing with one of the most gigantic, almighty, energetic choruses of all time.
Although a legendary song now, Don’t Stop Believing wasn’t as big a hit as you would expect when it was released. Like many Journey songs, it made a decent climb in the charts.
But, thanks to various TV shows such as The X Factor and Glee in recent years, the song was introduced to new audiences and re-entered the charts on numerous occasions. In 2010, 29 years after its initial release, the song was the 25th best-selling track of the year in the UK.
With its endearing, feel-good lyrics and upbeat music, Don’t Stop believing has enduring popularity. It is ingrained in the structure of rock’s most iconic songs and has certainly been on one of the most extraordinary journeys since its first release.
We hope you have enjoyed our journey into Journey’s top 10 songs. The band has created a plethora of everlasting feel-good rock songs over the years. Not only has the band created catchy anthems for arenas to sing along to but they have become one of the most influential bands ever.
You can be sure that audiences and generations far from now will continue listening to Journey’s songs and won’t stop believing in the band’s impact on the world of music.