Just about every classic rock band split has its so-called Yoko — that is, the outside figure some fans claim got between the principals and “broke up the band.” In the case of Journey, could that “Yoko” turn out to be… Donald Trump?
Journey hasn’t broken up yet, but a steady stream of social-media commentary from guitarist and co-founder Neal Schon has brought to light a deep schism within the veteran group, brought to a head when three other members of the group visited the White House and posed for pictures with the president. Schon has devoted dozens of tweets to his fury over not getting a heads-up about the visit, which resulted in headlines erroneously suggesting that the entire band had made a friendly stop in the Oval Office.
Schon claims that he’s neutral toward Trump and that the apparent feud is more about band politics than Washington, hinting that the rest of the group has talked about going on tour without him. For fans, it’s a startling revelation that, behind the scenes of the group’s seemingly triumphant shows at the Classic West and Classic East festivals in July, and even at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in the spring, harmony did not prevail.
“How would you feel if u found out that the rest of the band wanted to tour without me?” Schon asked on Twitter. “They will not tour with Journey name. Trust me. I’ve spent way too long building to give up the brand… F-ing insane. It is a serious try at hijacking JRNY… It’s now time for the truth (about) all I have endured this year, enough is enough. Exposing any abusive, malicious behavior.”
For Schon, that behavior includes buddying up to Trump, after, he says, they’d previously had internal meetings, and even discussed publicly, agreeing not to bring politics or religion into the band. Both of those are touchy subjects, since keyboard player Jonathan Cain has stated publicly that he brings Jesus onto the stage with him at Journey shows, while Schon has declared that the band as an entity shouldn’t appear to favor any deity in particular. Cain’s entrée into the White House at any given time is an easy one: his wife, Paula White, is the pastor of a Pentecostal megachurch in Florida who became a household name even in secular circles over the last year as the president’s primary spiritual advisor.
It’s not surprising that Schon didn’t receive an invitation to tag along to the White House, but he was enraged when he apparently found out about it by seeing an NBC story singer Arnel Pineda posted in his Facebook feed with a headline indicating the entire band had attended. “Everybody’s entitled to like and believe what they want but when we’ve had this discussion many, many times it was always a no WH. All know,” Schon wrote. “Arranged photo op against what we’ve all stood for up until 2 years ago (when) Jon changed radically… And then on top of it the stories that have stemmed from their visit say JOURNEY was there. Like I don’t exist. I brought all these guys in.”
In response to a fan’s tweet asking, “Is this going to affect the band lineup?,” Schon replied, “I’m not sure. The last two years have not been easy. Was fine till then.” Answering a tweet saying it was “time to ditch the toxic people in your life,” Schon got religious for a moment, posting emoji of praying hands and writing, “Amen to that. I don’t deserve this bs. I will cut it all out like cancer. Too f-ing toxic to live in.”
Schon turned down a request from Variety for an interview, responding, “I’d love to but it this time I’d rather wait a bit. I’m being approached by many mainstream people. In due time.” Representatives for the band could not immediately be reached for comment.
Other band members have been circumspect in reacting to Schon’s grievances, but Pineda did respond to a fan who wrote “I’m starting to lose my respect for Arnel,” responding, “Reminder: I don’t belong to any political group nor inclined to any religious sect.” On Twitter, Schon knocked down a suggestion that the Filipino-American singer was “naïve” about the visit, saying the fill-in for Steve Perry was full aware what he was doing, and suggesting he was ungrateful for being brought in a decade ago by Schon.
Just in case there was any doubt about where Schon’s loyalties lie, he’s posted photos of himself with original singer Perry, writing on Instagram: “Steve Perry & Neal Schon are the true heart & soul of JRNY from 1972 Infinity and beyond.” Asked by fans on Twitter about the possibility of the two reuniting, Schon admitted he hadn’t been in contact with Perry since the Rock Hall reunion, but feels intuitively that a lasting reunion is in the cards anyway: “It’s mutual we will reconnect. I know without talking to him.”
Pineda seemed to take the hint. “Just so you know,” the singer wrote in a hashtag-filled post, “I have no problem being an #expendable #entity. Nothing’s #permanent in this world. Constant change’s our #bestfriend.”
Sunday night, as word of the dispute grew among fans, Pineda addressed it more directly on social media, tweeting: “mayB nobody deserves to go through THIS bt maybe dis s what needs 2 happen 4 us 2 know wat kind of HOUSE we all helped build through d years.” The singer left it open as to just how strong a group foundation he thinks will be revealed after all this inspection. But when a fan responded with a request that the band members not “let a tweet war replace real discussion,” Pineda co-signed with a hopeful “Agree.”
The biggest winner so far in this fracas, if any? Seth Meyers, who’s gotten a lot of viral-video play out of the feud. Although Schon has not specifically taken digs at Cain’s televangelist wife in his tweets, he’s repeatedly posted a video of a segment the late-night comic did roasting White’s mixture of prosperity gospel and and politics, in which Meyers had fun with clips of the pastor/advisor adopting black dialect in front of an African-American audience.
Cain hasn’t addressed the controversy in his Twitter feed, which continues to be filled with Bible verses and family photos, now that the band’s tour is over. But he did acknowledge adversity: “God protect me from ANYTHING that wasn’t sent by you,” Cain tweeted, adding, “He is my shield and my sword.” Scripture as the ultimate subtweet?