Wonder-ful guitar work
Recently, on Facebook, a member of our group mentioned that the song "Wonder" by Natalie Merchant makes her cry every time she hears it.
It really is a beautiful song with a powerful lyric that provides an epigraph and title for RJ Palacio's masterful novel Wonder. (If you haven't read Wonder, you owe it to yourself to immerse yourself in it.)
But the truth is, for years, I never really listened to the words of "Wonder" because I would always get distracted by the elegant, tasty electric guitar licks.
So that had me wondering, who was that guitarist!?
Her name is Jennifer Turner.
Female lead guitarists aren't all that common in rock/pop music. There's Bonnie Raitt in the blues/slide tradition, but aside from some of Prince' proteges or St Vincent, there aren't that many women who shred. (I'm sure I'm missing plenty of guitarists here -- please let me know in the comments.)
That video is supposedly the second time Natalie Merchant's solo band played out, a three song set on the National Mall on Earth Day 1995. They start with "Carnival," "Wonder" starts at 7:08, and then they cover "Baby I Love You." Turner's guitar is pretty prominent in each of the songs; she's also featured quite a bit in the video footage.
A contemporary article in the Hartford Courant quotes Merchant about finding Turner as well as female sound techs in her post-10,000 Maniacs band.
Turner toured with Merchant but by the time Merchant recorded her sophomore album, "Ophelia," Turner was no longer with the band.
It's not clear why they parted ways, although the internet is full of bloggers who assert that Turner was drawing a lot of attention, to the resentment of Merchant. That works in a "jealous women" narrative, but it's quite possible that the exposure gave Turner new career opportunities to pursue.
Although when you start at the guitar solo for Carnival in this video, it looks like a Jennifer Turner showcase with Natalie Merchant trying to shimmy her way into some attention, like an overtired kid in pajamas trying to impress her parents' friends.
In 1998, the band Furslide released an album, featuring Turner as lead singer and guitarist, fronting a trio. Here's "Over My Head":
That song ended up on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television soundtrack, although some Buffy fan boards claim the song was never on the show itself..
The best summary of Turner's playing since then comes from the Felpin's Pond blog. It includes this paragraph:
"Around 2009 or 2010 she joined Here We Go Magic and was with them for their second and third albums. This was her blond period. With this group she played bass and keyboards. She produced their 2010 album, Pigeons (released June 2010) and was also with for them for their album, Different Ship in 2012. She left that band abruptly in a airport in a misunderstanding over sausages."
The blog also notes that Turner appears with Merchant in a documentary about the "Tigerlily" album.
Love Is a Beautiful Thing
Our own Andy Rogovin wrote another beautiful song, this one about parenting children with special needs.
The entire group loves this song and as part of our charity efforts to raise money for the Asperger’s Association of New England, and the Autism Alliance of MetroWest, we've found donors who will contribute a dollar to these charities for each "Like" we get on YouTube. That's a pretty easy way to give to charity. Thanks to Hinckley Allen and NESCA (Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children and Adolescents) for offering to give up to $4,000 to match those "Likes."
The video is embedded below, but to get more information on the charity efforts and to "Like" it, you need to go to the YouTube page here. Thanks!
Gone At Last featuring Phoebe Snow
I'm embarrassed to admit that a month ago, I had no idea who Phoebe Snow was.
After listening to Paul Simon's "Gone At Last," I was curious to learn more about his duet partner on that song (from the album Still Crazy After All These Years). She also sang back up on "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" from the same album.
The second episode of Saturday Night Live (the second ever, in their first season), featured Paul Simon singing solo, reuniting with Art Garfunkel for a few songs and presenting Phoebe Snow for a song.
The video and audio aren't great here (someone filmed their television) but here's Phoebe Snow, 7 months pregnant, introduced by Paul Simon on Saturday Night Live, October 18, 1975.
The always amusing AV Club section of The Onion actually reviewed this episode. Classic sentence:
"The episode opens with Simon, in his porn-mustache and the haircut of a man who doesn’t yet understand that letting his hair grow wild in those areas where it will still grow at all doesn’t make him look any less balding, alone onstage, singing the title song from his then-brand new album, Still Crazy After All These Years."
So who was Phoebe Snow? She was born Phoebe Ann Laub and took her stage name from a fictional character from an advertising campaign for a railway line.
Phoebe Snow is best-known for her song "Poetry Man" which got to #5 on Billboard's Top 100 and #1 on their adult contemporary chart:
From an interview with listen.com (via Songfacts):
"That was the second song I ever wrote in my whole life.... 'Poetry Man,' came about because I was really getting the hang of guitar picking and I had these open chords, not open tuning, open chords. And I was having a relationship with somebody. From the words you can probably deduce that the guy was married. It was a bad thing to do. But I got a lovely romantic sonnet out of it. As it turns out, he was not a particularly great guy either. I turned it into this ode to romance. It's funny looking back on it - I sat there and hunched over the guitar and said 'I'm gonna finish this.' I was in the throes of young romance."
For the record, although Jackson Browne was the rumored subject of this song -- she was 22 and opened for Browne to support her debut album -- Snow categorically denied the speculation.
So it's the mid-1970s and Paul Simon needs a duet partner for a song he wrote, "Gone At Last," so he and his producer, Phil Ramone, call to request -- and get -- the premier female singer in New York City: Bette Midler.
It didn't work out. Midler and Simon officially declared that they did not agree on the arrangement of the song, but a clash of personalities may have been involved. (As much as I admire Simon as a songwriter, I didn't have to delve deep into Paul Simon research to find people who hate him for various reasons; see: "Little" Steven Van Zandt, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.)
In any case, Midler was out and Ramone and Simon then chose Snow to sing on the track.
Here's Paul Simon with Phoebe Snow performing "Gone At Last" on Late Night with David Letterman ("You're gonna hurt someone with that voice," Dave tells Snow at the end of the song).
Would the song have been a top 25 hit with Midler instead of Snow? Well, I have no documentation, but YouTube comments suggest that this demo has Bette's vocals on it:
The arrangement is very different --a lot of percussion and no piano, as well as overly busy backing vocals towards the end -- but this vocal certainly lacks the passion of Snow's recorded track.
As the song says, Phoebe Snow had some bad luck. In 1975 she gave birth to a daughter, Valerie. Valerie suffered from severe brain damage, a result of hydrocephalus and, according to Snow, medical malpractice. Doctors did not expect her to live long and told her mother not to take her home from the hospital; they told her to put Valerie in an institution for a life that would be measured in months. "Never," Snow declared.
Phoebe chose to care for Valerie at home and, after divorcing Valerie's father, by herself. This meant stepping away from her musical career. Phoebe did such a good job caring for her daughter that Valerie confounded doctors by living for 31 years.
Phoebe's eulogy for her daughter is the only content on her website, phoebesnow.com.
Having chosen not to tour, Snow continued to support herself and Valerie by singing. She sang on numerous commercial jingles in the 1990s; I remember almost all of these commercials but had never realized it was the same voice on every one of them.
She sang, for instance, "Cotton, the fabric of our lives" although I couldn't find a copy on YouTube. (The song was so popular that Big Cotton remakes the commercial with new young singers and they have clogged up the search engines, but I did find a twenty year old version featuring Aaron Neville.)
Here are some more Phoebe snow jingle classics.
Phoebe Snow from a Stouffers Commercial (1995) "Nothing comes closer to home":
General Foods International Coffee, "Celebrate the moments of your life":
"Safeguard the ones you love":
Snow developed a cerebral hemorrhage in 2010 and died in 2011. CBS Sunday Morning ran a story about her in 2009, which functions well as a video obituary:
A bit more profane (yes with some 4 letter words so totally NSFW for people who actually work in the presence of others), but very sweet, is this radio remembrance from Howard Stern. Along with his stories of her, he also plays some tracks she recorded for his radio show. Snow was friends with Howard, sang at his wedding, and displays a great sense of humor. If you think of Howard as just a nasty mouth on the radio, or Snow as just a sainted mother, listening to this will show another side of both of these people.
And now she's gone.
Here's Snow performing Etta James' signature song "At Last" with Donald Fagen's New York Rock and Roll Revue:
Here's cleaner audio of Snow's take on "Piece of My Heart":
I can't believe I've only gotten to know Phoebe Snow. I certainly won't forget her, the example she set with her life, or her music.
Do you have a favorite Snow performance, or know of a jingle she sang on? Let us know in the comments.
Paul Simon's album There Goes Rhymin' Simon was his third solo album, although most people think of it as his second.
His first, The Paul Simon Songbook, was released in the UK in 1965, early in his career; it featured songs like "I Am a Rock" and "The Sound of Silence" that would later be rerecorded for Simon and Garfunkel albums.
After his success with Garfunkel and the subsequent dissolution of their partnership, Simon released Paul Simon featuring "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard" among other songs.
So, for most Americans, There Goes Rhymin' Simon was the second solo album.
Since Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints, Simon has been known as a bit of a musical explorer, finding rhythms and textures from other cultures and incorporating them into his own musical stew, already filled with 50s Doo-wop, the Everly Brothers, and Greenwich Village coffeehouse folk. There Goes Rhymin' Simon shows how this sort of musical borrowing and recombining has always been part of Simon's songwriting method.
The first song he recorded for the album ended up being the opening of the side 2, "American Tune," a State of the Union type address set to a melody by Bach:
JS Bach, St Matthew's Passion:
"American Tune" was recorded in England. For a few other tracks, including "Kodachrome" and "Loves Me Like a Rock," Simon headed for Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Reportedly, he wanted to play with the same black players who backed the Staples Singers' on "I'll Take You There":
How great is that track? Feel free to play it again, we'll wait.
Anyway, Al Bell at Stax told Paul that he could get him the same musicians that the Staples family used, but that the guys were "mighty pale."
Here's a trailer for a documentary about Muscle Shoals:
Those backing players were known as the "Swampers"; besides their own contributions to pop music, the Swampers were memorialized in the 4th verse of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama":
Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers;
They've been known to pick a song or two.
Lord they get me off so much.
They pick me up when I'm feeling blue
Now how about you?
Admit it, you always wondered what they heck that was about. You're welcome.
Anyway, those were the side players who backed Simon on "Kodachrome" and "Love Me Like a Rock."
"Love Me Like a Rock" also had some help from the Dixie Hummingbirds. Who?
The Dixie Hummingbirds have been singing together since... 1928. Holy cow! That's like having the Newton Family Singers in 2090.
"Kodachrome" and "Love Me Like a Rock" were both released as singles and both got to #2 on the charts.
"Kodachrome" was kept from the top spot by Billy Preston:
and "Love Me Like a Rock" was blocked by Cher:
Cher at her prime! I had forgotten after all those auto-tuned 80s singles.
Anyway, the point is, Paul Simon has always been searching. Just as Bob Dylan adapted Woody Guthrie, Simon has always been exploring different musical genres and writing songs in different "voices."
Album Study: Graceland
aul Simon's Graceland was written in a very odd way. (The Talking Heads are going to appear by the end of this blogpost.)
Instead of finding a pattern of chord changes and singing a melody over it, Simon and his longtime engineer Roy Hallee traveled to South Africa and met local musicians there. Simon would jam with the musicians and Hallee had set up the studio they rented so that individual instruments were recorded to individual tracks.
Later, they returned to the United States and could manipulate the jams into compositions, adding an instrument or harmonic line here, and taking it out from somewhere else. This is why the music is not that hard to learn instrumentally: the same chord changes continue throughout songs like "You Can Call Me Al" or "Under African Skies" -- although the arrangements change to signal a chorus or verse.
This track by track recording process also explains why the album sounds simultaneously like an exuberant jam session and highly produced. Listen carefully and you'll hear lots of backwards guitar lines (they start long and quiet and then get loud before cutting off sharply):
Listen at 0:32 of "Under African Skies":
And, perhaps the most famous instrumental part on the album is a crazy bass line played by Bakithi Kumalo:
Kumalo played the first half of this solo, but then Hallee and Simon reversed it and produced the second half of the solo; it's a musical (and audio) palindrome!
And in case you were wondering, it is possible to play this line live:
At 3:34 (after Paul mistakenly introduces "Here comes the bass" and then has to repeat himself), the bass line comes in and the crowd goes wild. I should point out that this crowd is at the 25th Anniversary concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in other words, most of the people in the first 15 rows are professional musicians and they love that bassline.
So how did Simon think to create his album in this fashion? Well, we know he was inspired by a cassette tape of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, his collaborators on a number of tracks. According to Marc Eliot's Paul Simon: A Life, that cassette joined the Talking Heads' Remain in Light and David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in his regular rotation (p. 186-7). Eliot points out that those two albums share some of the African rhythms and arrangements that would influence Graceland, what he fails to mention is that Eno and Byrne had used the same jam session and tape splicing technique that Simon would use to create their tracks.
I would not have thought to put the Talking Heads in a category with Graceland, but it almost, sort of makes sense. Simon's stream of consciousness lyrics are even fairly similar to Byrne's -- and a departure from the highly constructed poetry that he strived for earlier in his career.
You know what happens when you Google "Paul Simon David Byrne"? You find some videos of encores from Simon's June 6, 2011 show in NYC's Webster Hall. Byrne with Simon's band doing Byrne's "Road to Nowhere":
And here they are on Simon's "You Can Call Me Al":
Suddenly it all makes sense!
Bonus: This page has videos of Byrne doing "Al" and "I Know What I Know" with his own band. For more of a downer, that page also has an interview with Los Lobos' Steve Berlin about "collaborating" with Simon; if you want to have warm glowing feelings about Simon, you'd better skip it.
Paul Simon! Paul Simon!
A great songwriter and performer, Paul Simon will be the focus of our attention this spring.
Paul Simon performing at a Sandy Hook funeral
He still sounds great, by the way, and is currently touring with Sting (!?$!).
In April 2011, he played a show in a Seattle, WA club and the audio was recorded. Not the highest fidelity, but it's nice to hear what someone sounds like live (especially as Simon's records are so meticulously engineered). MP3s from the Seattle show are available for free here from Burning Wood.
Wondering how we might sound at the Newton Highlands Congregational Church? Well, we sang there once before, in 2011. I think we sounded pretty good then and we've only gotten better (The laughing about a minute in is the audience reacting to the super cute baby in the Baby Bjorn.):
Some random facts about the songs we're singing for the upcoming concert:
"Shiny Happy People"
was going to be the theme song to the television show "Friends," back when it was called "Friends Like Us."
The title and chorus are based on a Chinese propaganda poster. The slogan "Shiny happy people holding hands" is used ironically - the song was released in 1991, 2 years after the Tiananmen Square uprising when the Chinese government clamped down on student demonstrators, killing hundreds of them.
"(Nothing But) Flowers"
From How Music Works (2012), David Byrne p. 168:
I remember coming up with the words for the song "(Nothing But) Flowers" while driving around suburban Minneapolis.... [T]he only gear I needed to write lyrics was a cassette player to play the tracks for inspiration, another small one to record my lyric ideas, and a pad of paper to write them down on....
It wasn't surprising that while driving around the suburbs, not all that far from the Mall of America, I began to imagine a scenario in which all the economy had changed and the malls and housing developments had all begun to crumble and devolve to a prior state. The twist was that this scenario allowed me to also frame the song as a nostalgic look at vanishing sprawl, a phenomena I hadn't thought that I was terribly sentimental about. It was obviously ironic in intent, but it also allowed me to express a love and affection for aspects of my culture that I had previously professed to loathe.
The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr played on this track: "When I got there they put down some bass and drum tracks. '(Nothing But) Flowers' sounded almost like a Reggae dub track. I wasn't trying to play in an African style - although some people pointed out that I sometimes sound like that anyway! I knew all about King Sunny Ade (performer of Nigerian juju music) and I love Fela Kuti (Nigerian multi-instrumentalist) but really I just played melodies that sounded good in a high range. The intro to 'Flowers' was me playing without knowing the tape machine was on - that's how little attention I paid to any kind of remit! I built that track from the ground up. I was impressed with what David (Byrne) did on it. He worked super quickly on it."
Kirsty MacColl contributed backing vocals to this song. Among her other credits are vocals on The Pogues "Fairytale Of New York"
"If I Had $1,000,000"
Recorded as as demo by the Barenaked Ladies, the independently released Yellow Tape that featured this song sold 500,000 copies! It was the first independent cassette to go platinum in their native Canada.
As one of the oldest songs in the BNL songbook, the band tends to play around with this song, messing with lyrics and incorporating other songs that are timely or local to their performance. For example from 1996 in Scotland:
And then in 2007 in Michigan (with accordion!):
In Boston, riffing on the Duck Boat tours, and then after the song, compiling a greatest hits medley from 2010:
"Road to Nowhere"
According to David Byrne, they had finished this song and it felt simplistic and monotonous and so they added the a capella choral introduction.
This video was directed by Stephen R. Johnson, who later used similar special effects for Peter Gabriel videos (like "Sledgehammer").
Sometimes you hear someone described as a "writer's writer" or a "musician's musician." The idea is that the subject might not be the most famous to the general public, but people who are in the industry have immense respect for him or her.
Well, Nick Lowe is a songwriter's songwriter. The people who love his songs -- and who perform his songs regularly -- include Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and Daryl Hall.
And he says that "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" was the first proper song he wrote, for his band Brinsley Schwarz.
Brinsley Schwarz, Nick Lowe's band since the late 1960s, playing "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" in 1974.
From an interview with The AVClub:
I always think of that song as being the first original idea I had. I can remember writing it quite clearly. I remember actually being really kind of shocked by the title. I came up with the title, and I couldn’t believe I’d actually made it up myself. I’d never heard it before. It wasn’t something I’d heard off another record and changed the words slightly to suit me, which was how I’d written songs up until then, while I was sort of learning. And then one day this title popped into my head: “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love, And Understanding” and I thought, “Great, great title, and I can’t believe you would come up with it.” [Laughs.] I always would ’fess up that there is one lick in the tune I did steal from Judee Sill. She had a song called “Jesus Was A Cross Maker” at about that time that I really thought was a super song. I haven’t heard that song for many years, but I always think I took a little lick in “Peace, Love, And Understanding” from Judy’s song. But apart from that, yes, that was my first original song.
Here's Judee Sill, "Jesus Was A Cross Maker" with the "oh-oh-oh" vocal hook (pay attention around 0:35).
Back to the interview:
AVC: Once you had the title, how long did it take you to write the rest?
NL: Oh, not very long at all. I think it really came very quickly. Because the original idea of it was that everything was changing. The old hippie thing was changing. I wrote the song in 1973, and the hippie thing was going out, and everyone was starting to take harder drugs and rediscover drink. Alcohol was coming back, and everyone sort of slipped out of the hippie dream and into a more cynical and more unpleasant frame of mind. And this song was supposed to be an old hippie, laughed at by the new thinking, saying to these new smarty-pants types, “Look, you think you got it all going on. You can laugh at me, but all I’m saying is ‘What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?’” And that was the idea of the song. But I think as I started writing it, something told me it was too good idea to make it into a joke. It was originally supposed to be a joke song, but something told me there was a little grain of wisdom in this thing, and not to mess it up. Just to keep it real simple, and don’t be too clever with it. Because I thought I was hot stuff back then, when I really, really wasn’t. I had a lot to learn. As I said, this was my first decent, proper, original idea I’d had, and something told me just to take it easy. And I’m glad I did, because otherwise that song would have died when Brinsley Schwarz died. Not the guy, the group. [Laughs.] Had it not been for Elvis Costello, who used to come and see us when he was a kid and really liked that song… well, he brought it to the world, so to speak. Because when he recorded it, he gave it that anthemic quality which everyone reacted really well to.
The song, as Lowe says, could have just died off when his band did. Luckily, he was working in the studio producing his friend Elvis Costello (Lowe was kind of the house producer for Stiff Records, Costello's UK label). Costello and the Attractions recorded the song and it was released in the UK as the b-side to a Nick Lowe single. When the song caught on, it was added to the end of the US pressing of Costello's album Armed Forces.
Costello still performs this song, even though he's got a pretty deep catalog of songs he's written himself. That says something about the respect he has for the song. Here's Elvis Costello on Letterman from 2003.
Not the best sound, but here's jazz musician and singer Curtis Stigers performing the song live.
Stigers had recorded a version of the song for a solo album and Stigers' recording was also included on the soundtrack to The Bodyguard -- an album that sold 44 million copies worldwide. Lowe has never been a superstar and always seems to be fairly modest, so this was a great boon for him as a songwriter. He told the Telegraph, “It was a tremendous piece of good fortune. I made an astonishing amount of money from that." Reportedly, he had no idea that the money was coming until the check arrived in the mail.
From Wikipedia: "According to Will Birch's book on pub rock, No Sleep Till Canvey Island, the royalties from Curtis Stigers' version of the song, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding", made songwriter Nick Lowe independently wealthy."
I suppose a 5 cent royalty on each album would be 2.2 million dollars. This website suggests that a songwriting royalty might be as much as 8 cents a recording sold.
Lowe apparently spent the money paying a backing band for a tour. More recently, he's been performing solo, so that may not have worked out so well financially.
Here's a clip from a 2013 performance at MassMOCA as part of Solid Sound, the festival that Wilco curates. Wilco toured with Nick Lowe recently and frontman Jeff Tweedy expressed a lot of admiration for the elder songwriter. I think Tweedy's a pretty great songwriter himself, but again, his hat's off to ol' Nick.
Wilco's version is closer to the acoustic solo rendition Lowe has been giving more recently. For a 2011 appearance on the radio program Q in the CBC studios in Toronto, Lowe gives a beautiful performance, altering the melody slightly from recorded versions:
Okay, this doesn't have "Peace Love and Understanding" on it, but if you don't know about this web show, I need to introduce you to Live From Daryl's House (LFDH.com). Daryl is Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates and he has a beautiful house that seems to be on the west side of the Berkshires in upstate NY. He invites people to come over and they play some of his songs, and some of their songs and they eat a meal together. It's fun to watch; I especially appreciate watching great musicians figure out arrangements ("You want to take the second verse and I'll sing the harmony?") before they sing together.
So, in the 8th episode, LFDH makes a radical detour to film Daryl's visit to England where he sings with old friend Nick Lowe. There's such a great mutual respect between the two men, and the setlist leans heavily to the Lowe catalog. If you don't have time to see the whole show, I recommend "Shelley, My Love." The man can still sing.
Also, that third guy playing with them is T-Bone Wolk, a great musician and Daryl's best friend (sorry John Oates), who passed away a couple of years ago.
Lowe's catalog is deeper than "Peace Love" (and "Cruel To Be Kind"), of course. A recent live album, Untouched Takeaway, also plays like a greatest hits collection and is highly recommended.
Finally, Nick talks about writing "Peace Love and Understanding," about the many cover versions, the money that he made from it, and his feelings about the song now, starting around 10:15 in this public television interview:
Nick Lowe: Full Show from KLRU-TV on Vimeo.
His songs are undoubtedly great, but Nick Lowe just seems like such a decent fellow. Nothing funny about that.
Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" has sold, as of this writing (2013), more digital copies than any other song ever written by anyone on earth. To which I say, "What the what?!"
Okay, the Beatles catalog came to iTunes only in 2010 and iTunes is the biggest online retailer for music, so they have a lot of time to make up for.
But still. Journey?
First, here's the band in concert in Houston in 2005.
Although credited to singer Steve Perry and guitarist Neil Schon, the song was written with the other members of Journey through jams in the the band's rehearsal space. The structure of the song is odd with the actual "Don't Stop" section coming only at the very end of the song.
Perry told New York Magazine that the lyrics were written while looking out a hotel room window during a stay in Detroit. And of course, there is some Michiganer controversy over where "South Detroit" is (hint, the people there end their sentences with the interjection "eh?").
The song hit #9 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1981.
The band immediately realized the potential for marketing the song through other means. For instance, in the Journey Escape video game for the Atari home system (1982):
That was weird. (There was also a cabinet style arcade game.)
The big surge came once more people had MP3 players and the song was licensed for various movies and television shows.
For instance, it rode the 1980s nostalgia wagon in "The Wedding Singer" (1998) (bad quality on the link). But it's just an instrumental and frankly, I had no memory of the song in that movie.
It made more of a splash in 2003. At that point the song was two decades old and served as fantasy fodder in the dream sequence infused television comedy "Scrubs" in an episode called "My Journey" (Oct 2003). And yes, that's "Becky 2" (the second actress to play the character on Roseanne) on a train anticipating a meeting with Felicity's boyfriend swimming with a dolphin. It makes sense in context.
And then later that same year, in the movie where Charlize Theron looks ugly, "Monster" (released Dec 24, 2003):
The significance of "Monster" was that a) Steve Perry was asked for a song license by the director who had a small budget and he agreed, and even became a music consultant for the film and b) lots of people in Hollywood saw that film.
The funny thing is, the song is so earnest and emotional that whereas "Monster" used it unironically, "Don't Stop Believin'" was also ripe for the kind of winking irony that Family Guy wallows in. Here's Season 4, episode 4 "Don't Make Me Over" (June 2005)
(For the record, I love "Scrubs" and I think one reason the show worked so well for me is that it tread that line between irony and earnestness carefully. Was their use of the song a goof? Yeah. Was it also emotionally resonant and celebratory? Yeah.)
The Chicago White Sox started using the song the way the Red Sox use "Sweet Caroline" -- as a crowd pleaser in late innings. When the Chisox won the 2005 World Series, Steve Perry helped them celebrate.
The song was gaining momentum, and maybe hits its cultural peak with one of the most famous and talked about 5 minutes of television: "The Sopranos," final scene of the series finale (2007)
Mmm... onion rings. I never watched The Sopranos and I heard about that scene ad nauseum.
But wait! There's more! "Don't Stop Believin'" is the song that gave a big kick start to the television show "Glee." In the pilot (2009), when it seems like the Glee Club is not going to happen, the students get together and do this:
I have a distinct memory of walking down Beacon Street soon after that airing and hearing a pair of fourteen year old girls singing the song -- a song that was more than a decade old when they were born.
Each time the song is used, it just gets more popular and people feel a need to pay that $.99 to get it on their phone to listen to when they want it. I've only scratched the surface of the various television shows and movies that have used the song.
Okay, a couple of covers. Here's a performance from Sting's annual Rainforest Benefit from 2010 with Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Deborah Harry, Shirley Bassey, Lady Gaga (her shoes!):
For this last bit, I want to point out that Journey has always been a conglomeration of musicians, beginning with fusion jazz artists, including a drummer trained a Berklee. Steve Perry was not their first lead singer and is no longer the lead singer. Randy Jackson of American Idol fame played bass on some Journey tracks. Yo, Dawg!
Check out this chart for a band member timeline.
Okay, so this is a "cover" but it's Journey with new frontman Arnel Pineda, a Filipino whose Journey covers on YouTube were found by guitarist Neil Schon when looking for a new lead singer. A documentary about the new singer and first tour was called "Don't Stop Believin': An Everyman's Journey" and played film festivals in 2012, and on PBS this fall. The trailer:
There's a real backlash against Pineda; some of it is loyalty to Steve Perry (remember, Journey's 3rd lead singer, although the voice of their biggest successes) but there's also quite a bit of racism, which is a bit disturbing (Rolling Stone interview). So here's the Arnel fronted Journey playing a stadium in Manila:
Jack Cheng directs the Clemente Course in Dorchester, excavates in the Middle East, and writes in Waban, MA.