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Watch Journey and Herbie Hancock elevate Junior Walker’s Road Runner into the funkosphere

Journey get their funk on with Herbie Hancock as The Midnight Special continues to mine its rich seam of classic rock gold



Most Journey fans think of the band as the one with Steve Perry out front, with their enormo-hits and their glistening, super-slick, radio-friendly power ballads. Open Arms. Who’s Cryin’ Now. Don’t Stop Believin’. All of that. 

But there’s always been the other Journey. The band Before Perry. The Journey of the first three albums, the one with all those jazzy, progressive rock sounds. The one that favoured lengthy instrumental workouts over three-and-a-half minutes singles. And it’s that Journey who are the subject of the latest video to be uploaded to The Midnight Special‘s increasingly unmissable YouTube archive.

The broadcast actually comes from May 1979, two years after Perry had joined the band, and two months after their release of fifth alum Evolution. Hosting the show, Journey were able to open up the broadcast with five songs from the new album – Loving You Is Easy, Just the Same Way, Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin, City of the Angels and Too Late – before taking it old-school for the show’s closer. 

The action kicks off with a huge-haired Neal Schon introducing a “jam” for the audience. He welcomes jazz fusion pioneer Herbie Hancock to the stage, and the band play a tight-but-loose version of (I’m a) Road Runner, the Holland-Dozier-Holland song that was a hit for Junior Walker and the Allstars in 1966. 

The two musicians – who had both appeared on the self-titled debut album by all-star Latin fusion outfit Giants the previous year – trade licks (as they used to say) as the jam evolves, Perry shows he can “do” funk as well as the next man, and there’s both choreographed and unchoreographed dancing. It’s extremely fluid, and, quite frankly, way more fun than it ought to be. 

Quite how the rest of the show panned out is unclear. Hancock followed Journey’s first set, with further dance-friendly material from The Jacksons and Anita Ward, plus an unlikely showing from barely-remembered UK rockabilly crew Levi and the Rockats. Sounds like a good night.