July 1981: Journey Conquers America with "Escape" and "Don't Stop Believin'"

Jonathan Cain, Steve Perry and Neal Schon of Journey at the Poplar Creek Music Theater in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, September 3, 1981. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)
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(Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

By 1981, San Francisco rockers Journey were already bona fide rock stars. The band's most recent studio album, Departure, had crashed the top 10, peaking at #8. The arena tour in support of that record was chronicled in the group's first live album, Captured, released in January 1981.

RELATED: WATCH: Journey Performs "Don't Stop Believin'" with New Member Randy Jackson

Departure and Captured, however, would mark the end of the era. They were was the last Journey albums to feature original keyboard player and founding member, Gregg Rolie. So when it came time to record the band's seventh studio album, they added a new keyboard player and songwriter into the fold: Jonathan Cain.

With the Captured live record not even six months old, Journey returned to record stores with a brand new studio effort entitled Escape, released on July 17, 1981. The injection of Cain's pop sensibilities brought a new gloss to the music, and the response was immediate. The album flew off record store shelves, the new songs making for the summer soundtrack for suburban teenage America. The first single, "Who's Crying Now," exploded on radio and soared up the charts, peaking at #4 in September 1981.

The album's second single would go on to become the Journey's signature song, and the touchstone track for a generation: "Don't Stop Believin.'" Oddly enough, the tune, while a chart success, "only" peaked at #9 on the Hot 100. The track's enduring legacy and timeless appeal, however, have far outweighed its initial chart performance by now.

Journey came as close as they ever would to a #1 hit with the third single from Escape, "Open Arms." The power ballad peaked at #2 for the week of February 27, 1982. The song clung to the #2 spot for six weeks, but failed to make the leap to #1. Keeping Journey from the top spot: first it was J. Geils Band with "Centerfold," followed by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' "I Love Rock 'N Roll." The song also landed on the soundtrack for 1981 animated sci-fi movie, Heavy Metal.

"Still They Ride" climbed to the #19 spot for the week of July 17, 1982. The #1 song in America that week: The Human League's "Don't You Want Me."

Journey finally tasted #1 on the Billboard album charts for the first and only time with Escape for the week of September 12, 1981. The record was toppled from the top spot after just one week by the Rolling Stones' Tattoo You.

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