Who knows why “Sopranos” creator David Chase chose the Journey nugget “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” to end his show’s legendary run? Maybe it was to create an underlying sense that while our window into Tony’s world is closing, we should know that life goes on (and on and on and on) for the sanitation executive, his obliterated crew and troubled family.
Or maybe Chase was not so subtly telling us that despite the bloodbath of the last few episodes, AJ’s suicide attempt and Meadow’s career hopping and hookup with a potentially whack-worthy lawyer, there is justice for the righteous (OK, maybe not righteous, but the more righteous than some other guys).
Or maybe Chase was simply telling us that despite what you might think, Journey rocks.
After all, the lasting image of the show’s finale (see “How Will ‘Sopranos’ Meet Its End? Silvio And Bobby Aren’t Talkin’ “ ), not to mention the buzz that was likely in everyone’s brain when they woke Monday morning (June 11), was the refrain of the 1981 hit by the arena rockers as the screen abruptly clicked to black. But the fade to oblivion on the wings of Journey was just the latest in what has been a multimedia renaissance for the tune over the past few years.
“It’s heavy, very heavy,” said Journey’s founding guitarist, Neal Schon, who is a fan of the show but had not yet seen the finale. “It’s one of those feel-good songs that’s not going to go away.”
As to why he thinks Chase picked it, Schon chalks it up to the song’s moral core. “I think it’s just the basic message,” he said. “Don’t stop believin’ in yourself, don’t stop believin’ in the world, don’t stop believin’ in anything. It’s a positive message and a feel-good song with a great melody and I kind of like the guitar solo, which is one of the easiest solos ever to emulate because there’s not much to it.”
The “Sopranos” wasn’t the first to harness the power of “Believin’.” The nearly three-decade-old soft-rock-radio staple was the unofficial theme song of the 2005 Chicago White Sox during their World Series run. Reclusive ex-Journey singer Steve Perry even appeared at the team’s hometown celebration to belt it out for exuberant fans. St. Louis Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa also adopted the song as a call to arms during the team’s 2006 World Series run, according to Schon.
But it really got a huge bump in 2005, when it was featured in the “Laguna Beach” finale and the prime-time cartoon “Family Guy” during the same week, which propelled the power balled to #4 on the iTunes top 10 the next week.
The song was also in the trailer for Will Ferrell’s 2006 NASCAR comedy “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and prominently played in the 2003 Oscar-winning flick “Monster.” Around that time, it was also the subject of a bizarre, yet affecting 2003 tribute video, which, who knows, could have triggered the song’s rebirth.
And though none of the contestants have belted it yet, “Believin’ ” was also unspoiled during a musical montage charting the paths of finalists Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee during the season-five finale week of “American Idol.” And the hits keep coming: On the soon-to-be-released indie-rock tribute to guilty pleasures Guilt by Association, former That Dog member Petra Haden sings it a cappella.
As old-school classic rock as “Believin’ ” is, with its arena-ready wheedly-wheedly guitar solo, lyrics about big-hearted small-town boys and girls trying to make it and places that don’t exist (find South Detroit on the map, I dare ya), the choice of Journey fits perfectly with Tony’s love of meat-and-potatoes rock and the show’s eclectic musical tastes, which this season swung from the land of punk (X, Johnny Thunders) to moody rock (Daniel Lanois, Tindersticks) and classic tunes (Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry).
Chase even had a bit of fun in the end, having Tony skip past a few other tunes whose titles would have made for much easier tidying up (Heart’s “Who Will You Run To” and Tony Bennett’s “I’ve Gotta Be Me”/”A Lonely Place”).
That’s further proof that hitting just the right tone with just the right song in your season finale is a lot harder than it looks, according to music supervisor Tricia Halloran (“Men in Trees”). “You need a song that wraps up your season and helps define the idea of the show,” said Halloran, who ‘fessed up to being turned down once when she asked Journey for permission to use “Believin’ ” in a burger commercial.
“And even after the music supervisor has seen the script, which might have some suggestions from the writers, the first question is, ‘Does it fit the writer’s palette of music that has been used on the show?’ and then, ‘Can you get clearance?’ I’m sure Journey don’t approve all TV requests, but it’s a heritage song and they’d be crazy to turn down ‘The Sopranos.’ ”
One thing is for sure: Because rights requests routinely do get turned down, anyone working in TV or film has to have one, or more, backups just in case their ideal track doesn’t get cleared. “For ‘The Sopranos,’ it was perfect,” she said. “They tried to do something Tony would love, and it says, ‘We’re family, we’re here, and nothing will get us down.’ But I’m sure they had a few other songs just in case it didn’t work out.”
So just be glad Tony didn’t stop on one of the other choices, because you might be walking around singing Sawyer Brown’s “My Baby Drives a Truck” or T. Graham Brown’s “Rock It, Billy” for the next week.