Photo by Rebecca D'Angelo/courtesy Robert Fleischman
As the lead singer for arena rock band Journey in 1977, Robert Fleischman performed for crowds of more than 90,000 and helped write one of the band's first charting songs, "Wheel in the Sky." The singer-songwriter, who is now in his late 50s, lives on three acres in Chesterfield and plays with local "retro modern British rock and roll" band The Sky. He plans to release Majestic, his second album with the band, at the end April.
RM: What lasting contribution did you leave with Journey?
RF: They were going to be dropped [from CBS Records], and that was why I was brought in.
I introduced having a lead singer. They were a jazz-rock-fusion band. They played 15-minute songs. They weren't used to playing pop rock songs, and I was a pop rock songwriter and singer. I went there and basically rearranged the furniture and eventually it grew on them.
RM: What was it like to perform in front of such huge crowds?
RF: I felt really natural in the setting, but at the same time, it was a new frontier. I would walk up to the stage, and I would be thinking "I don't even remember the first words to the song," and then [I'd] grab the microphone and everything seemed to be in automatic pilot. You just go in this trance.
RM: Why did you leave the band? RF: I was starting to get pressured by Journey's manager, Herbie Herbert. He wanted me to leave my manager, and I couldn't stab him in the back. It got a little on the heavy side, and eventually I left, and they brought in Steve Perry. Before I left, I introduced the band to Roy Thomas Baker, who was the producer of Queen. That's how they got Roy to produce their first big album, Infinity. RM: Do you miss it? RF: For a long time, I didn't. I had my royalties, so I wasn't in any hurry to join the circus again. Then I was asked to join Journey in the Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremonies [in 2005]. That night, they played at the House of Blues, and they asked me to come up on stage and sing "Wheel in the Sky." I hadn't done that in a long time. Right then and there I said, "I want to do this again." Quick Takes
- In addition to his work on "Wheel in the Sky," Fleischman is also credited with co-writing the early Journey songs "Anytime" and "Winds of March," which feature the vocals of Steve Perry and keyboardist Greg Rolie.
- The British rock group Asia briefly flirted with the idea of Fleischman as its frontman, but he bowed out graciously, suggesting that the original singer's vocals were better suited to the band's sound.