'Sopranos' Finale Puts Journey Back in the Spotlight

Tony's jukebox selection cements an iconic song's place in pop culture history.

June 14, 2007 — -- The television moment has already secured its place in pop culture lore.

The New Jersey mobster drops a quarter in the jukebox. The keyboard intro of a classic power ballad fills the air and the quintessentially American arena rock band Journey croons, "Don't stop believin', hold on to the feelin'…"

Since "The Sopranos" faded to black before nearly 12 million viewers last week, Steve Perry's phone has been ringing off the hook. The former lead singer for Journey told People magazine the congratulatory e-mails have been coming fast and furious.

"The end of the entire legacy of 'The Sopranos' ended with your song," wrote one friend to Perry. "What bigger honor is that?"

How about placing in the Top 10 of all iTune rock 'n' roll albums downloaded so far this week?

Wednesday's iTune Store Web site had the album "Journey's Greatest Hits" ranked No. 4 in the Top 10 rock songs requested for the day. That put the group ahead of John Mayer's "Continuum" (No. 5), rock icon Paul McCartney's "Memory Almost Full" (No. 7) and albums by current chart toppers the Fray and Maroon 5.

Earlier in the week both the song "Don't Stop Believin'" and the "Greatest Hits" album were in the Top 30 out of millions of downloaded iTunes -- a great performance by any industry measurement.

"I am pretty much dumbfounded by the band period: that we are still here kicking it hard and doing amazing business -- close to what we did in the '80s when we were at our height," said founding band member Neal Schon.

"We're selling 20,000 tickets a night," boasted the 53-year-old guitarist. "And we haven't had any other hit records beyond what we did in the '80s." Schon said he hasbeen bombarded with phone calls and hundreds of e-mails since Sunday's night Sopranos finale as well.

"For them to use our song at the end of it is probably the highest compliment ever for that song."

The "greenlight" from the song's writers -- Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain and Steve Perry -- came at the 11th hour: three days before the final episode was set to air on HBO.

"In order to feel good about me approving the song use, they had to tell me what happened," Perry told People magazine's Bryan Alexander. "I didn't want the song to be part of a bloodbath, if that was going to be the closing moment."

Show creator David Chase swore Perry to secrecy, then told him how he planned to end the wildly popular crime drama.

The 58-year-old singer with the signature high tenor thinks the song and Chase's ending were a perfect duet.

"I think he tried to grab the normalcy of family in the midst of any chaos or fears. I think that all families have fears and chaos," Perry told Entertainment Weekly. "The Sopranos have their share, but man, underneath it all is this, like, foundation of life. Life goes on and on and on."

"The song is such a timeless piece of Americana," observed rock music critic Paul Gargano. "Growing up, it might be the song you were drinking beer to in the parking lot at a concert, but 20 years later it is a song about hope and about life."

Schon recalled the time when he, Perry and guitarist and keyboard player Jonathan Cain gathered in an Oakland, Calif., rehearsal studio to work on songs for their successful 1981 album "Escape," the group's seventh record.

"It happened in an afternoon, within three hours," said Schon of that day.

"It's about hope and will," said Schon. "We wrote very positive songs. It was a brighter sound. Happier, upbeat, but still rock."

The group, formed in San Francisco in 1973, gets many requests for the use of their songs -- "Don't Stop Believin'" in particular -- but unless all the writers agree to the commercial use, the deal is off.

"We've been really picky about where our material is going to go," said Schon. "We have had monstrous offers, moneywise, like from giant burger chains and we've turned it all down for years now."

Journey did OK the song's use for one monster -- the Oscar-winning 2003 film "Monster" starring Charlize Theron.

After Theron approached Perry about using "Don't Stop Believin'" in the critically acclaimed movie, the group members gave her the thumbs up.

The song has also been featured in a wide range of television shows including "Scrubs," "Soul Food," MTV's "Laguna Beach" and "The Family Guy." And like on the "Sopranos" episode, when the soundtrack fueled the storylines on "Laguna Beach" and the "Don't Make Me Over" episode of Family Guy, there were reportedly dramatic increases in iTunes downloads.

Gargano said that each new placement of "Don't Stop Believin'" reinforces the staying power of this '80s classic. "It's the kind of timeless, brilliant songwriting that doesn't happen a lot anymore."

"The point of the song playing is that you just don't give up. Life goes on even if you're the Sopranos," reflected Perry.

And just like the song, Journey goes on and on and on…despite another reconfiguration of the group.

This week a publicist for the band announced that the recently named lead singer -- one of several attempting to fill the shoes of the inimitable Steve Perry -- was leaving the group. Jeff Scott Soto joined Journey last July, replacing Steve Augeri who had to leave the 2006 tour early because of illness.

But Neal Schon expects to see Journey releasing a new album and embarking on another tour in 2008.

Buoyed by the song's resurgence, Schon wishes they were touring now. "It ('The Sopranos') just solidifies the fact that whether you like us or not, we're not going anywhere," said Schon.

And if the high-profile "Soprano's" finale wasn't enough, one rock observer muses that the new year may bring what many fans have been wanting for nearly a decade: a Steve Perry and Journey reunion.

In fact, Perry told Entertainment Weekly his layoff from music may be over. "Actually, I am messing around with music again. I'm starting to write and enjoying the process. We'll see where that takes me."

Sounds like another cliffhanger.

Some will win, some will lose

Some were born to sing the blues

Oh, the movie never ends

It goes on and on and on and on…