In 1981, on a hot summer day, I heard the song that would begin a one sided, life long love affair, one that has defied explanation, suffered through ridicule and failures by others to understand. But I didn’t care. I was hopelessly in love. The song? That song, was this:
And he was, and is, the Man:
Steve Fricking Perry, my friends. Steve Fricking Perry.
I was ten years old, my two best friends and I were standing around the stereo in my bedroom, and I’d moments before pulled the plastic away from the new album, slid the vinyl from its cardboard sleeve, and set the needle to the record. I purposely set it down at a random point on the shiny black surface, and as it spun, a sound erupted from the speakers, and began the love that would span the next 33 years.
“Those crazy nights/ I do remember/in my youth/ I do recall those were the best times…”
To Neal Shon’s credit, those opening chords, those started it all, but it was all about Steve for me. I was done for. At ten, I know, it’s crazy. Ridiculous, even. Steve, with his long black hair and killer vocals was about 32 years old at that time, and me? Yah, I was 10. I was a weird kid, what can I say?! I loved Dan Haggerty from The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams , too, if you must know.
But- I digress. Back to my Steve Perry story. So, as I said, played the song ( the whole album, for that matter) and I was hooked. Played that damn thing over and over… and over. I needed to have everything I could find on Steve Perry, so I begged my mother to take me to the record store (yes, the record store) to find the previous Journey albums. Infinity and Evolution, as well as Escape, became by musical bibles. I knew every nuance of S.P.’s voice on every track, every word, every note.
Who could not love this:
Seriously, there would have to be something wrong with you, were you to not love this.
Anyhow. So as you maybe can imagine, I was mocked for my love of all things Perry. I was shameless in my open adoration, not caring that it was odd, and not the usual crush of a ten year old. And I’m sure I need not remind you how fricking mean kids are. From the moment I put in our 4th grade newsletter- in answer to the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up”- “I want to marry Steve Perry when I grow up.” – I was daily tormented with comments like, ” Hey, you heard the news? Steve Perry is dead.” Followed by laughter. Not kidding you, laughter. What kind of sick fuck thinks that’s a funny thing to say? Oh, I know, a 4th grade kid does. Yes, I still get pissed. Little assholes.
He’s saying, “Should’ve been gone…” yah, that’s right Steve, dem bitches should’ve been gone… out of my face with their nonsense.
Ok, ok. Deep breath, andddd… I’m calm. So let’s flash forward a bunch of year, skipping over the every single album I bought, the concert I missed because my uncle had the audacity to get married on the same damn day, and jump to Wednesday, June 29th, 1994. A day like no other. Comparable to nothing else. I’m being insanely, deliberately dramatic. Don’t take this quite so seriously ( even though it is. Serious as a heart attack, man).
Tuesday, mid-day. I get a phone call, it’s my brother, Rick. He was manager of an upscale downtown restaurant at the time.
Rick: “Hey Mal.” ( My family calls me Mala, not Melanie. I’ll explain another time. This is too important.)
Me: “Hey, Rick. What’s up?” We never call each other, unless it’s important.
R: Big sigh. “Ok, listen. I don’t know why I’m telling you this…but… ” Again, with the sigh, “…Steve Perry is coming in to the restaurant tomorrow. He’s doing a promotional tour for his new album. It’ll just be radio people here, so if you show up, I swear to God, you better not embarrass me.” At least, I think he said something like that, I was too busy screaming to really hear him. I’m going to guess that those were his words.
Me: “Oh, my God, Oh my God, Oh my God…” A bunch of thank you’s, I love you’s, and I know’s thrown in for good measure.
I hang up, call my Mom, and basically say that I don’t care what she’s doing, we are going to see Steve Fricking Perry at the restaurant tomorrow.
But what about Kayla, she asks? That is my three year old daughter, who, because I was a stay at home mom, would of course be with me. Being a weekday, there was no one to watch her for me. She too, would be meeting Mr. Perry as well.
Somehow, I get through all of Tuesday, and when Wednesday arrives, I’m out of my head. I pick out a super cute sundress, fix my hair a thousand times, somehow manage to be a mother to my child. And by be a mother, I mean make sure she knows the lyrics to at least one full Steve Perry song, so that when we meet him I can make her perform like a trained parrot. Stop judging me.
We arrive before Steve and his entourage do, and grab what is hopefully, the perfect perch to stare maniacally from. As we wait, my heart is racing, my palms are sweating, I’m planning things to say… I’m getting dirty looks from my brother. But then: Steve walks through the door. The world, I’m quite sure, stopped spinning, at least it did for me. As he walks in, he glances around, our eyes meet… he keeps going to the other section of the restaurant. Sorry, wish that part was more exciting. I’m actually not sure our eyes met, I may be embellishing.
We wait, for what feels like an eternity, for them to finish lunch and begin the interviews ( which will occur on the side of the restaurant that we are in) and my daughter finally falls asleep from sheer boredom. So, I do what any good mother does, I put her down on the leather couch by the door, where people usually wait for a table to become available. Again, stop judging me.
The moment comes, we hear the sounds of chairs scraping the floor, my brother rounds the corner and gives us the, “don’t fucking embarrass me” glare. And then… Steve Fricking Perry comes around the corner, in beautiful slow motion, looks down at my sleeping child, and says with a tender smile,
“Aww, she’s sleeping.”
My mother and I beam at each other as if he’s said some profound blessing over the child, guaranteeing her everlasting happiness and wealth.
To us, the grinning idiots, he gives a nod and smile, and goes to the corner of the room, where the interviews with radio personalities are being conducted. Finally, after about and hour, the interviews, handshakes and picture taking ends, and we, the only two people there who clearly have nothing to do with any of it, other than to gawk, get our chance to meet the Man.
Yes, yes I cropped my mother out of the picture so that I could have him to myself. His head leans toward her and that’s not ok with me. Not. O. K. I also admit that I was petting his hair, it went straight down the middle of his back and it was silky and beautiful and I freaking loved it. So, whatever.
He signed his new CD:
And seven months later we saw him in concert:
We were able to get up nice and close, and at one point Steve actually sang directly to me (At this point in the story, my mother likes to interject with, “I think he may have been singing to me, hahaha.” To which I find no humor. None. None, I say.)
Anyhow, here’s what he sang, and while this is not the concert he sang to me at, it’s from the same tour:
Yup, that’s how he looked then. The hair, oh my God! He was absolutely incredible: flawless performance, self depreciating humor, showman… everything that I expected him to be. All, ironically, while being sick. He cancelled his next show for the following evening due to illness. So we were crazy fortunate.
So, this was my somewhat silly, somewhat serious ode to Steve Perry, the man with the golden voice. Five days ago, he turned 66, so happy belated birthday to my all time favorite singer, ever. I’ll keep waiting for more music from him, not ready to give up hope. And Steve, if you read this: Sorry, I waited as long as I could for that proposal, but I’m off the market now. I imagine he’d be singing this when he gets the news…. (lol)