Thursday, January 15, 2009

DEAF COMEDY JAMZ: "Don't Stop Believin'" is America's New National Anthem by Gregg Gethard

Journey’s smash hit “Don’t Stop Believin’” has once again become ubiquitous in American pop culture. The song is beloved and near-inescapable. It is played at sporting events around the world. It is sung at karaoke bars throughout the nation. And, shockingly, if Wikipedia is to be believed it is the most downloaded song of the 20th Century on iTunes.

So, how did “Don’t Stop Believin’” become America’s New National Anthem? Here’s a timeline of how this came to pass:

January 22, 1949
As told in the prophecies, Steve Perry is born. He is immediately drawn to the world of music, developing both his “pipes” and his “chops” from day one.

January 22, 1969
At his 20th birthday party, Steve Perry’s mom presents him with a chain adorned with a music note charm. Steve Perry holds the necklace up to the fluorescent light and poetically stares at it for several seconds, symbolically letting his fellow Ground Round patrons that one day he would be a prominent male vocalist.

March 3, 1972
Steve Perry thinks about giving up his dreams of becoming a prominent male vocalist in order to do what’s really important, and that’s put his family first. However, his mother, who grew up during the Dust Bowl, tells Steve that what’s really important is for him to chase his dreams. That what’s really important is that he “don’t stop believing” in what he was put here on earth to do. Immediately afterwards, his mom dies after her forehead explodes.

October 28, 1977
After several months of trying to incorporate himself into Journey, Steve Perry finds himself at a crossroads. Keyboardist Gregg Rollie is in full support of Perry becoming the band’s new singer. However, guitarist Neal Schon does not trust “the new guy.” But all is forgiven when Steve Perry makes his on-stage debut with Journey. Fans are impressed and Schon also is given a HJ by an adoring teenage runaway. He fully accepts Perry into the band and, the next day, hugs the lead singer and weeps forgiving tears on his shoulder.

June 14th, 1980
When in the recording studio, Steve Perry has a sit down meeting with his fellow band mates about the direction of a new song he’s been working on.

“You know, I think we’ve done some good work in the power ballad community,” Perry said. “But we need to do something else. We need to right an up-tempo, toe-tapping number. And it needs to have a positive message about sticking to your guns no matter what. About being true to who you are. And it should also be told through the prism of a relationship between a male resident of South Detroit and a small-town girl who decide to become hobos and ride midnight trains with no seeming destination in mind.”

The band agreed to write such a song.

“Also, guys, one more thing. I’d like for us to write a song about the dangers of advanced gum diseases. Thousands of people a year are affected by gum rot and other various gum-related ailments.”

The band did not agree to write such a song.

July 31, 1981
Journey’s E5C4P3 (pronounced “Escape”) album is released to an unsuspecting America. 7/31/81 would become the most infamous date in American history and nothing would ever, ever change that fact.

October 14th, 1981
“Don’t Stop Believin’” is released as a single. It quickly gains momentum and rises up the charts, peaking at #9 on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts.

November 17th, 1981
Fair Lawn, NJ teenagers Kyle Overbrook and Shawnette Stevenson make out in Kyle’s 1973 Buick Skylark. “Don’t Stop Believin’” plays on local rock station WDHA (“The New Jersey Rock Which Never Stops”) and Kyle begins to finger Shawnette. Initially she tells him to stop, but Kyle tells her that he is in love with her. She relents and enjoys digital penetration.

November 18th, 1981
Fair Lawn, NJ teenagers Kyle Overbrook and Shawnette Stevenson have a violent breakup in the south hallway of their high school. Their relationship ended after Kyle wrote “Shawnette’s a slut who let me finger her” on a bathroom wall. Shawnette’s half-brother informed her of the graffiti, which led her to tears. To this day, she still has trust issues.

December 14th, 1981
“Don’t Stop Believin’” is played for the first time at a sporting event. The 3,059 people at the Kansas City Kings/Atlanta Hawks game do not respond.

March 19th, 1982
Fair Lawn, NJ teenager Kyle Overbrook has felt awful for months on how he treated Shawnette Stevenson, who, up until this point, is the only girl he ever fingered. Right before the AP U.S. History I class they share, he hands her a mix tape along with an overly sappy, apologetic love letter. Both the mix tape AND the letter are entitled “Don’t Stop Believin’… IN US.”

March 20th, 1982
Fair Lawn, NJ teenagers Kyle Overbrook and Shawnette Stevenson once again have a heavy petting session in Kyle’s 1973 Buick Skylark. And, once again, “Don’t Stop Believin’” plays over WDHA’s airwaves. Just as Kyle is about to finger Shawnette again, she breaks down sopping and asks Kyle to stop. He doesn’t at first, but then recalls the serious lesson in his health class of how “no means no!”

May 12th, 1982
Weeks earlier, Fair Lawn, NJ teenager Kyle Overbrook asked Shawnette Stevenson to the prom, with the theme of “Don’t Stop Believin.” She said yes, despite their weeks of shared awkwardness. Before prom night, Kyle got drunk on Cisco wine with “Ricky J. and the boys.” Shawnette was upset with him, yet still made out with him post-prom. Just as Kyle was about to finally finger her for the second time, he vomited on her legs and passed out drunk. However, he still insisted on driving both he and Shawnette home.

June 28th, 1982
Fair Lawn High School stages its graduation. Kyle, unsure of his plans, stays at home with his parents and takes a job “sheetrocking” for his uncle’s construction firm. Shawnette decides to attend Ramapo State College. Their relationship, for all intents and purposes, is over.

October 11th, 1982
On the one year anniversary of its release as a single, rock station WDHA takes “Don’t Stop Believin’” out of heavy rotation.

July 19th, 1986
Journey embarks on their “Raised on Radio” tour. The tour begins at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, CA. They end their set with “Don’t Stop Believin’.” However, an indifferent crowd mostly leaves before the encore. Guitarist Neal Schon blames “Don’t Stop Believin’” as the reason. He successfully manages to convince his fellow band members to no longer play their one-time smash hit.

February 19th, 1990
Evergreen State College radio DJ Samantha Kay-Ricardo is struggling with the sound board as she plays an entire set of Beat Happening songs. The only single available to her is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” She plays it and, in the process, invents irony. Many Olympia-area hipsters respond well to the song and it is featured at several parties in the following weeks. However, it is soon once again forgotten.

May 19th, 1996
Bear, DE native Jason Kratkowowitz sings “Don’t Stop Believin’” at an area karaoke night. Two patrons say, out loud, “Hey, I fondly remember that song!” They join him. “Don’t Stop Believin’” quickly becomes a karaoke favorite in the Bear, DE metropolitan area, foreshadowing what was to become a nationwide sensation only years later.

June 12th, 1998
To commemorate their Stanley Cup victory, the Detroit Red Wings entitle their celebratory VHS release “Don’t Stop Believin’.” It features slo-mo clips of star Steve Yzerman poetically skating. A total of 1,095 people purchase the tape, which is promptly placed in dollar stores throughout North America.

Novermber 25th, 2001
Recent divorcee Shawnette Stevenson, now employed as a district manager for Acme food stores, attends her 20th high school reunion. Kyle Overbrook, single and still “sheetrockin’” for a living, can’t stomach attending this event.

September 9th, 2003
On a very special episode of The O.C., poor adoptee “Ryan” and rich indie-rock geek heartthrob “Seth” have a philosophical discussion about the impact of Journey in American pop culture. Seth enjoys the band in a smirking fashion. Ryan, with his blue collar shot’n’beer background, truly enjoys the song. This bonding moment between them is the first documented moment where “Don’t Stop Believin’” is used to bridge the gap caused by American class conflict.

July 19th, 2005
Chicago White Sox catcher/dickweed A.J. Pierzynski mentions in post-game remarks how much he loves “Don’t Stop Believin’” as a song. It becomes the rallying cry for the surprising White Sox team, who go on to win the World Series. This, unfortunately, results in manager Ozzie Guillen appearing on every episode of SportsCenter from this date until darkened eternity.

October 14th, 2006
Gregg Gethard and Ilana Heilweil exchange nuptials. During their reception, after Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” was played, the DJ moves into “Don’t Stop Believin’.” All in attendance dance to this song and shout every word. Comedian and pop culture maven Gregg Gethard would now refer to “Don’t Stop Believin’” as “The New National Anthem.” He would then go on to repeat this phrase every single time he hears this song, thus very much annoying his wife and friends alike.

August 4th, 2007
For a record 305th straight week, “Don’t Stop Beleivin’” is performed at a Bear, DE-area karaoke bar, proving the song has once again caught on with the masses.

June 12th, 2008
2-time divorcee Shawnette Stevenson quickly returns home to Fair Lawn after her autistic step-sister is hit by a motorcycle. Once she learns her sister will heal from her broken pelvis, Shawnette decides to head to a local bar. From across the venue, Kyle Overbrook stares at her with a mixture of longing and violence in his eyes. Finally, after encouragement from “Ricky J. and the boys,” Overbrook heads to the jukebox and plays “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Shawnette sees Kyle, and they strike up a conversation. One thing leads to another and then Kyle, finally, gets a second chance to finger Shawnette, this time behind the bar pool table.

Novermber 7th, 2008
Shawnette Stevenson and Kyle Overbrook get married. Their wedding song is “Oh Sherry.”

Listen to “Don't Stop Believin'” by Journey:

Gregg Gethard is a Philadelphia-based comedian, writer and host of the monthly comedy show BEDTIME STORIES.

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Jason Hazelwood said...

Osama Bin Laden just released another cassette tape. You know that's got to piss the news agencies off, like damn, now we have to find a cassette player... but anyway when Osama's message ends it fuzzes out and we hear the end of Steve Perry singing, "Don't Stop Believing"

Yep, Osama's taping his messages over old Journey cassettes. We always wondered why he hated the west so much.

Now we know!

Aaron Hertzog said...

this is great. true story, my friend and i had a theory, that if someone starts singing the first line of this song, someone else will join in or sing the second. we tested it in public, randomly belting out "just a small town girl" and strangers walking down the street could not stop themselves from singing back "living in a lonely world" some of them actually yelled "born and raised in south detroit" but we murdered them, it's how we got into our gang (ok that last part is false)

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