How an unused Jimi Hendrix album art led to Journey’s Scarab

Towards the end of the video for Journey’s new single “The Way We Used to Be”, an animated proxy from guitarist Neal Schon seems to turn into a dung beetle. It would be an odd visual choice were it not for the importance of the insect in Journey’s lore, appearing – in various fantastic forms – on multiple album covers.

But why a beetle to begin with? The answer involves another rock giant.

“We got the job to do a Jimi Hendrix album cover art,” visual artist Stanley Mouse told NBC Bay Area in 2017, referring to his creative partner Alton Kelley. “And just when we finished it, [Hendrix] died, so the album cover never came out.

“But it was a beetle with wings – very art nouveau, ready-made, airbrushed,” he added of the image, prints of which are currently available for sale under the title “Power of Soul “. “And when we got back to San Francisco… I knew the bassist from Journey, and he came over and said, ‘Hey, can you make us an album cover?’ So we turned the Jimi Hendrix Beetle into the Journey Emblem, and that’s where the Journey Beetle was born. “

It might be an unusual choice for a cover centerpiece, but the Scarab immediately stood out on the front of Journey’s sixth LP from the 1980s. Departure, like a rainbow-colored winged creature flies among the planets. Journey obviously created the mood: Two projects from the following year, the live LP Capture and blockbuster Escape, reworked the bug in new contexts.

The meaning of these images did not need to be decoded: they are just striking as works of abstract art. But Mouse, a regular contributor to the psychedelic scene (including the Grateful Dead), offered his own trippy explanation for the iconography.

“I did the Capture album in 1981, and it’s a beetle carrying its eggs in a manure jar, “Mouse told the Washington post in 2015. “When the eggs hatch, the babies feed on the feces and become beetles. It is the regeneration of life. Escape is the beetle coming out of a planet, which was the dung ball it was pushing around. “

When asked if the group was aware of this meaning, he replied, “I was not even aware. Japanese journalists came to interview me about it. So I had to do some research. . I entered ancient Egyptian mythology and learned it myself. “

By this point, Mouse had been a Journey regular for years, having previously co-created cover art with Kelley for the 1978s. Infinite and the years 1979 Evolution. But the dung era that followed might be the most distinctive: bold enough to warrant removing records from the shelves, odd enough to keep fans intrigued years later.

The Scarab has also become an iconic reference in Journey, even spilling over into other forms of media. A 1982 Escape Travel The Atari game tasked users with guiding the group to the scarab spacecraft amid “hordes of madly loving groupies, devious photographers and shifting-eyed promoters,” according to the manual.

Other artists prepared modified scarabs that appeared on subsequent Journey album covers – including those from 2001 Arrival, years 2005 Generations and 2011 Eclipse – but the image was still crucial for Mouse on a personal level.

“I was working with [Kelley] for many years and which ended just before Escape“, he recalls in Neil Daniels’ book in 2012, Don’t Stop Believing: The Untold Story of Travel. “We did a few covers of Journey together. I did the Escape art by myself and, come to think of it, the album is aptly named after my escape.

“I had escaped a lot of things by then when I look back on it,” Mouse continued. “I had an agent who was also Journey’s marketing agent Jim Welch. My wife was pregnant with my daughter at the time (maybe something to read on that). My influence was from an artist. German that made a burst, a similar rupture- a shattering explosion. I don’t remember his name, but it left a big impression in my mind.… You could say Capture and Escape was a “revolutionary” art for me. “

Journey solo albums ranked

If we were to rely solely on Steve Perry’s studio projects, this list would be remarkably short. Fortunately, other guys have been busy.

See Neal Schon among rock’s forgotten supergroups

About Elizabeth J. Swartz

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