Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a big Journey fan. However, I do like some of their earlier music before Jonathan Cain joined and took Gregg Rolie’s place. That is when they turned into a giant radio commercial juggernaut with the album Escape.
This band was huge in my generation. I just never got into them like my school peers…but those earlier songs I liked.
Journey had songs such as Lovin, Touchin, Squeezing, Wheel in the Sky, Anytime, and this one that I really liked. Their first three albums had a prog-rock sound and didn’t contain any chart hits. The three singles from Infinity reached the lower half of the Hot 100.
This song peaked at #68 in the Billboard 100 in 1978.
This is about San Francisco, the “City by the bay.” Journey formed there and became popular in that area before hitting it big. If you haven’t seen a sunset in San Francisco you don’t know what you’re missing.
This was one of the first Journey songs featuring lead singer Steve Perry. He was accepted into the band after the group’s manager listened to his audition tape for only 15 seconds.
Even though this is about San Francisco, it was written in Los Angeles, where the band had relocated. Steve Perry explained in an interview with Joe Benson of Arrow 93.1 FM: “I had the song written in Los Angeles almost completely except for the bridge and it was written about Los Angeles. It was ‘when the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on LA.’ I didn’t like the way it sounded at the time. And so I just had it sitting back in the corner. Then life changed my plans once again, and I was now facing joining Journey. I love San Francisco, the bay and the whole thing. ‘The bay’ fit so nice, ‘When the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on the bay.’ It was one of those early morning going across the bridge things when the sun was coming up and the lights were going down. It was perfect.”
Perry finished writing the song with Journey guitarist Neal Schon, who says they “banged it out in about 20 minutes.”
All three songs grew in popularity over the years, with “Lights” and “Wheel In The Sky” played at just about every Journey concert.
Infinity was the last album with drummer Aynsley Dunbar, who was kicked out for “incompatibility” and replaced with Steve Smith.
In 2017, Neal Schon started dedicating this song to Steve Perry at Journey concerts, telling the story of how they wrote it together. This was an olive branch to Perry, who was furious when the band moved on without him in 1999 when he was unable to tour. A reunion seemed inevitable, but Perry never returned to the band.
When the lights go down in the city
And the sun shines on the bay
I want to be there in my city
So you think you’re lonely
Well my friend I’m lonely too
I want to go back to my city by the bay
It’s sad, oh there’s been mornings
Out on the road without you
Without your charms,
Ooh, my, my, my