Album: Infinity (1978)
Charted: 68
Play Video


  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Don - San Jose, CA
  • 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."
  • This was the third single from the Infinity album, the group's fourth, but their first with Steve Perry. Their first three albums had a prog-rock bent and didn't contain any chart hits; the three singles from Infinity reached the lower half of the Hot 100, and would have certainly gone higher if the band was established on pop radio:

    "Wheel In The Sky" - #57
    "Anytime" - #83
    "Lights" - #68

    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.

Comments: 24

  • Tobias from Walsrode , GermanyStill I am very impressed , even After decades of Years passing by, my JOURNEY-cds are Constantly in the Air, just Discovered several YouTube-Videos.... to Continue ROCKING ....
  • Terri from Long Beach, WaThis song was originally written by Steve Perry while he lived in Los Angeles. It wasn't quite right so he put it aside. When he joined Journey it came with him. Neal Schon helped to suggest some changes in the song that made it work. The rest is history.
  • Mary from Castle Rock, CoI love this song. I grew up listening to Journey in the 80's. When I graduated from High School we went for our Senior Trip to San Francisco and took a ride on of their bay area boats and OF COURSE they played this song...will never forget it. It brought me goosbumps. I can still remember who I danced this song with, that's how vivid my memories are of this song. Proud to be from the Bay Area!!! Love you Steve Perry!
  • Sandra from Gardnerville, NvHey James, San Jose, CA...Too funny! First, though...Steve Perry...What an incredible rock n' roll vocal! I love the song and the way he sang it! Anyway...While I heard the reference to this song/LA for the first time right here, I have to laugh about the SF Giants, thing. Although, I am a LA Dodgers Fan, I was in attendance to hear a friend of mine actually sing the National Anthem at Candlestick at an SF Giants game, (It was on the Fourth of July at a Giants/Dodger game. I don't remember what year for the life of me...details are sketchy...LOL), his elderly dad was there for it and it was a very special moment for all of us. Speaking of the SF Giants, I have a cute story about Will Clark and Mackey Sasser...
  • James from San Jose, Ca3. And finally, while it's personally disappointing to learn about the "L.A." thing, I had a great "Lights" moment in San Francisco.

    I was at a Giant's game back when they played at Candlestick Park. It was July 4, but San Francisco weather, it was actually rainy. By the end of the game, the rain had turned to a mist, and as they prepared for the July 4 fireworks, they played Lights as they dimmed the stadium lights. I know it was planned that way, but with the mist and everything, it was just a beautiful moment that I'll never forget.
  • James from San Jose, Ca2. lol Wish I could delete my last comment. Here is a 2nd Joe Benson interview with Steve Perry:

    The "L.A." claim is true, and it's about sunRISE on the Bay according to Perry.

    There you have it.
  • James from San Jose, Ca1. Here's the Joe Benson interview with Steve Perry:

    There is NOTHING about the song being written about L.A., so stop the rumors.
  • Jeff from Seal Beach, CaI also heard the interview with joe benson on the radio in los angeles where steve perry mentions the lyrics originally were l.A., not the bay. He also mentioned other lyrics about lights referring to los angeles that he had to change to fit the s.F. Image..I love the song but it was originally about los angeles, not San Francisco
  • Teri from Ca., CaIn an interview with Joe Benson, Steve Perry talked about this song. Originally, he wrote this song about Los Angeles. The original lyrics said "when the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on L.A.". (The person(s) that mentioned this fact before was correct) When Steve joined Journey he changed it, removing the L.A. reference and added references to the bay area/San Francisco after driving across one of the bridges.
  • Beau from San Francisco, CaSo Steve Perry longs for San Francisco while he's in LA, but the distance doesn't make him forget that the San Francisco looks EAST over the bay. I have enjoyed many a sunrise and Steve describes the feeling spectacularly.
  • Brandon from Peoria, IlActually if you think of the "lights going down" as the city's lights fading OFF. Then it makes sense. It would be refering to early morning in San Fransisco. BUT...since the sun rises in the EAST, the sun would not be coming up over the bay at the time...OKAY try this...Late evening, with the sun setting over the San Fransisco Bay and the city's lights coming ON just before dark...that sounds about right :)
  • Robert from San Francisco, CaWhen the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on the bay. Doesn't happen very often but wouldn't trade it. Journey had it right - right Tilton.
  • Casey from Pensacola, Flyep... he may have been in LA, but he says "I want to get back to my City by the bay" right in the lyrics. seems pretty clear to me...
  • Paul from Cincinnati, OhI love this song. It always makes me feel sentimental.
  • Matthew from East Brunswick, NjTerrific song, Excellent guitar riff. Journey rocks!
  • Becki from Hendersonville, TnThis song Is about San Francisco.I belong to a Steve Perry website and they have years of archives of interviews.Steve himself said it was about San Francisco.
  • Jennifer from San Antonoi, TxNote to Emo in San Jose, the lyrics actually say: "When the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on the BAY..." not LA
  • Aj from Cleveland, GaI also love the guitar solo.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScWell, I know the songs have different beats, but the beginning still sounds like something Hendricks would have done.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Scgreat song! It's one of my favorites by them! I love the guitar solo. The beginning of the song sounds similar to the beginning of 'little Wing' by Jimi hendricks. Does anyone agree with me?
  • Emo from San Jose, CaReportedly, Steve Perry did in fact originally write the song in L.A. and the lyrics were something like "When the lights go down in the city and the sun shine on L.A...."
  • Tony from San Francisco, CaThis song may have been partially written IN L.A., but last time I checked, San Francisco was the city by the bay.
  • Josh from C.p, Mnthe song was actually written about LA since steve wrote parts of it while he lived in LA
  • Chris from Aurora, IlSteve Perry has an amazing voice, and this is one of the songs that I listen to when I just get tired of bands who have talent, but still get airtime on the radio.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Lita Ford

Lita FordSongwriter Interviews

Lita talks about how they wrote songs in The Runaways, and how she feels about her biggest hit being written by somebody else.

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top Proverb

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top ProverbSong Writing

How a country weeper and a blues number made "rolling stone" the most popular phrase in rock.

Adam Young of Owl City

Adam Young of Owl CitySongwriter Interviews

Is Owl City on a quest for another hit like "Fireflies?" Adam answers that question and explains the influences behind many others.

Female Singers Of The 90s

Female Singers Of The 90sMusic Quiz

The ladies who ruled the '90s in this quiz.

In The Cards

In The CardsSong Writing

Songwriters have used cards and card games to make sense of heartache, togetherness, and even Gonorrhea.

Rush: Album by Album - A Conversation With Martin Popoff

Rush: Album by Album - A Conversation With Martin PopoffSong Writing

A talk with Martin Popoff about his latest book on Rush and how he assessed the thousands of albums he reviewed.