15 Years Ago: How Journey’s ‘Generations’ Led to Steve Augeri’s Early Exit
No Journey studio project before Generations had featured vocal contributions by every member. This curious experiment in rock 'n' roll egalitarianism led to their worst-charting album ever and lead singer Steve Augeri's perhaps inevitable departure.
He'd already endured the pressures of following Steve Perry, only to suffer lingering throat problems. Then Augeri's role had been embarrassingly reduced. Yet he remained a team player as Generations arrived on Aug. 29, 2005.
"You know, this is about a band first and foremost," Augeri told Melodic Rock back then. "I joined a band. I walked into a situation where, frankly, they were tired of a lead singer. How should I put this, as diplomatically as possible? They were trying to resume being a band as opposed to a band with a lead singer. And I understood that when I joined the band, and I think the least they can expect of me is to be a little understanding."
Augeri said the idea to pass around the mic emerged following a tour with Styx. "We were impressed by the way entire band had shared the limelight, as opposed to just having a lead singer," he noted.
The truth was that he'd been struggling on the road for some time, the victim of a brutal touring schedule. "When I joined Journey, I had to jump from the amateur league to the pros," Augeri told the News and Record in 2016. "I had to train my voice very quickly, and I did. Keeping the voice in shape is much like an athlete. You need to respect it and take good care of it. Many years of touring just caught up to me, and my workload had exceeded my capabilities."
As Augeri's voice faltered during a string of 2004 dates, Deen Castronovo took on an increasingly central role in filling the onstage gaps. Journey's drummer tentatively sang a couple of early '80s songs at first – "After the Fall" and "Mother Father" – but ultimately Augeri began taking as long as 45 minutes off during their shows.
Listen to Journey's 'Faith in the Heartland'
Neal Schon revealed that they brought a vocal coach on tour. But Augeri kept pressing when his time in the spotlight returned, worsening his condition. Through it all, however, Augeri's support for the others never wavered.
"Initially, your ego takes a couple of short ones to the chin," he admitted to Melodic Rock, with a laugh. "Am I good guy? Yeah, maybe too good. I understand where you are coming from, but again, when you are surrounded by great musicians and great singers, it is a humbling thing, and you can bow and say you can say yes, the spotlight can be shared by everyone. So, that's what we are doing."
Then Generations pushed him to the side forever. The album was dotted with Augeri composing credits, but others ended up singing half a dozen songs. Most perplexing was "Gone Crazy," featuring Ross Valory. Journey's founding bassist had co-written more than a dozen Journey songs (including the radio favorites "Just the Same Way" and "Anytime") but had never been a lead vocalist.
"At first – again, having an ego, you take a step back and think about it," Augeri told Melodic Rock, "and when the tracks are cut and recorded, frankly, there were some songs I preferred to sing and there were some songs I didn't prefer to sing. Sometimes, it is as easy and simple as that. I think that's usually the best reason you should do something like that."
To be fair, Valory wasn't the only one who was miscast. Cain took over for "Every Generation," when Augeri could have better handled the lyric. Augeri is also featured, for some reason, on keyboards for "Believe."
Schon does a credible job on "In Self-Defense," updating an old Schon & Hammer track, and Castronovo is a reliable presence. But all that did was further diminish Augeri. Even his best moments, from the soaring 9/11-themed "Beyond the Clouds" to the Glenn Hughes-ish "Better Together," get lost in the merry-go-round of voices.
"You would think with a singer there would be, 'Screw this. I don't want to have him do this. This is my job,'" Castronovo told Melodic Rock in a separate 2005 interview. "But he did it – and this is a bad pun, but he did it with open arms. He said, 'Do what you need to do,' and that shows what kind of human being he is and what kind of man we are dealing with here – a true class act."
Listen to Journey's 'Beyond the Clouds'
Ironically, Augeri came into the project on a creative high. He'd recently gotten a new Apple computer, at Cain's suggestion, and it came pre-loaded with recording and looping technology. Musical ideas instantly started flowing, and Augeri and Schon felt like they had the makings for a new Journey album. Cain arrived later into the process and completed Generations with some additional songs and a number of co-writing tweaks.
But Augeri never made it through the tour in support of Generations: Journey dropped him, citing a chronic throat infection, while charges of lip-synching swirled. Any sense of goodwill seemed to quickly evaporate for the man who'd once helped to bring Journey back from the brink.
He'd sung "Remember Me" from the seven-times platinum soundtrack for 1998's Armageddon, then led Journey to their first adult-contemporary Top 25 hit (2001's "All the Way") since Perry's exit following 1996's Trial by Fire. "The crowds started coming," Augeri told the News and Record, "and we went from 1,500-seat theaters to 15,000 and beyond, which was very exciting."
In some ways, Generations showed that the Perry soundalike was starting to find his own voice too. But Augeri simply wasn't physically prepared for the marathon tours that followed. He'd walked away from his dreams of becoming a rock star by the time Journey found him, taking work as a maintenance manager for the Gap.
"I was out of gas. What can you say?" Augeri told the Daily Herald in 2018. "And ultimately, I had to tell myself: If they're able to go on without Steve Perry, one of the greatest voices that ever lived, then they can certainly go on without me. I had to be a realist."
Augeri was left to downshift, heal up and work on his technique. He'd ultimately limit the number of solo shows he agreed to do in any given week. Meanwhile, Journey briefly moved on with Jeff Scott Soto before settling into a lengthy era with Arnel Pineda. Journey then literally erased Perry's first replacement, re-recording the Augeri-sung songs "Faith in the Heartland" and "The Place in Your Heart" for 2008's Revelation.
In time, Augeri learned how to put everything in perspective. "A true realist would have to say, 'I'll give it a shot,' but when it actually comes true and you hit that rock 'n' roll lottery?" he told the News and Record. "It was a special moment in my life. To this day, I'm still in awe."
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