Styx is an American rock band from Chicago that formed in 1972 and became famous for its albums released in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Styx is best known for the hit songs “Lady”, “Come Sail Away”, “Babe”, “The Best of Times”, “Too Much Time on My Hands” and “Mr. Roboto”. Other major hits include “Show Me the Way”, “Don’t Let It End”, and “Renegade”. Styx has had 4 consecutive albums certified multi-platinum by the RIAA as well as 16 top 40 singles in the US, 8 of which hit the top 10.
At 12 years of age, twin brothers Chuck (bass) and John Panozzo (drums) first played music together with their 14-year-old neighbor Dennis DeYoung (vocals and keyboards) while living in the Roseland, Chicago area, eventually using the band name ‘The Tradewinds’.In 1965, the Tradewinds name was changed to TW4 (There Were 4) after another band, the Trade Winds, achieved fame nationally. By 1966, the Panozzo brothers had joined DeYoung at Chicago State College and kept the group together by performing at high schools and fraternity parties while studying to be teachers.
In 1969 they added a college friend, John Curulewski, on guitar after Tom Nardin departed. Guitarist James “J.Y.” Young came aboard in 1970, making TW4 a quintet. In 1972 the band members decided to choose a new name when they signed to Wooden Nickel Records after being spotted by a talent scout at a concert at St. John of the Cross Parish in Western Springs, Illinois. Several suggestions were made and, according to DeYoung, the name Styx was chosen because it was “the only one that none of us hated”.
While signed with Wooden Nickel REcords the band recorded “Styx” (1972), “Styx II” (1973), “The Serpent Is Rising” (1973) and “Man of Miracles” (1974). These albums showcase intricate and powerful organ, guitar, vocal and percussion solos as well. The band established a fan base in the Chicago area, but was unable to break into the mainstream, though the song “Best Thing” from Styx charted on September 16, 1972 and stayed on Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart for 6 weeks, peaking at #82. “Lady” began to earn some radio time, first on WLS in Chicago in 1974 and then nationwide. In the spring of 1975, nearly two years after the album had been released, “Lady” hit No. 6 in the US and Styx II went gold soon after. After the success of “Lady”, “Best Thing” was re-released.
After its belated hit single, Styx signed with A&M Records and released “Equinox” (1975), which sold well and yielded a minor hit in “Lorelei”, No. 27 in the US, but more importantly contained the rock anthem “Suite Madame Blue”, which gained the band considerable recognition and airplay on FM radio. Following the move to A&M, guitarist John Curulewski suddenly left the band as they were to embark on a nationwide tour in December 1975, due to his desire to spend time with his family. After a frantic last-minute search, the band brought in guitarist Tommy Shaw as Curulewski’s replacement. “Crystal Ball” (1976), the first album to feature Shaw, was moderately successful.
The album’s title track, written and sung by Shaw, quickly became another hit. Styx’s seventh album, “The Grand Illusion”, was released on July 7, 1977, and became their breakthrough album, reaching Triple Platinum certification. It had a top-ten hit with the DeYoung-written “Come Sail Away”, which reached #8 in 1978. Shaw’s “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” was a second radio hit and reached #29 the same year. The title track also received significant airplay.
Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, the band enjoyed its greatest success. Their 1978 album “Pieces of Eight” found the group moving in a more straight-ahead hard-rock direction and spawned three Shaw sung hit singles “Renegade” (#16 in the US) and “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” (#21 in the US), plus a minor hit “Sing for the Day” that stopped just short of the Top Forty at #41. Their 1979 album “Cornerstone” yielded their first #1 hit, the DeYoung ballad “Babe”. By early 1980, “Babe” had become the band’s biggest international hit and first million-selling single, reaching #6 in the United Kingdom.
The album also included the #26 DeYoung hit “Why Me” and “Borrowed Time”, which was co-written with Shaw, plus Shaw’s “Boat on the River”, which was a hit in much of Europe and Japan. The popularity of the album (#2 Billboard) helped win the band a People’s Choice Award for Best New Song in 1980. At the 22nd Grammy Awards, Styx was a nominee for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. On the success of “Babe”, DeYoung began pushing for a more theatrical direction, while Shaw and Young favored a harder-edged approach. This arguing over musical direction led to a bit of tension in early 1980 after Young and Shaw objected to the ballad “First Time” released as the second single from “Cornerstone” (1979) album. However, things were quickly smoothed over.
In January 1981, Styx released “Paradise Theatre”, a concept album that became their biggest hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard pop albums chart and yielding five singles, including the top ten hits “The Best of Times” by DeYoung (#3) and “Too Much Time on My Hands” by Shaw (#9). Paradise Theatre became the band’s fourth consecutive multi-platinum album. The band followed DeYoung’s lead with their next project, Kilroy Was Here (1983), another more fully realized concept album, embracing the rock opera form. It is set in a future where performing and playing rock music has been outlawed due to the efforts of a charismatic evangelist, Dr. Everett Righteous played by James Young.
Kilroy Was Here featured Dennis DeYoung in the part of Kilroy, an unjustly imprisoned rock star. Tommy Shaw played the part of Jonathan Chance, a younger rocker who fights for Kilroy’s freedom and the lifting of the ban on rock music. This future society is served by robots. Called Robotos, these automatons perform many jobs, and several serve as Kilroy’s prison guards.The album Kilroy Was Here went Platinum in 1983, boasting two Top Ten hits, the synthesizer-based “Mr. Roboto” (#3 US) and power ballad “Don’t Let It End” (#6 US). The album earned a nomination as Best Engineered Recording.
In 1983, the band mounted an ambitious stage show in support of “Kilroy Was Here” featuring theatrical presentations of three songs utilizing instrumental backing tracks. The elaborate show was expensive to produce and was not as profitable as previous tours.
“Kilroy Was Here” brought the creative and competitive tensions within the band beyond the breaking point. Guitarist Tommy Shaw departed the band for a solo career at the conclusion of the tour. In 1984, the band released its first live album, “Caught in the Act”. The concert was also filmed and released on VHS under the same title. By the time of the album’s release, the band had already parted ways.
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