Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Too Much Time On My Hands

Mr. Roboto

Styx (pronounced "sticks") is an American rock band that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, with such hits as "Come Sail Away", "Babe", "Lady", "Suite Madame Blue", "Mr. Roboto", and "Renegade."

Early Years
The group originally formed in the Chicago, Illinois, area in 1961 as "The Tradewinds" and played local bars while attending Chicago State University. This early line-up of the group included brothers Chuck Panozzo and John Panozzo on guitar and drums, respectively; and vocalist, pianist, keyboardist, and accordion player Dennis DeYoung. Changing their name briefly to "TW4", Chuck switched to bass guitar and the band added guitarists/vocalists James "J.Y." Young and John Curulewski.

The band members decided to choose a new name when they signed to Wooden Nickel Records; several suggestions were made and, says DeYoung, Styx was chosen because it was "the only one that none of us hated."

The 1970s
Wooden nickel years
The band's Wooden Nickel recordings, Styx (1972), Styx II (1973), The Serpent Is Rising (also 1973) and Man of Miracles (1974), were a mixture of straight-ahead rock with some dramatic prog-rock flourishes and art-rock aspirations. The Serpent Is Rising would foreshadow later endeavors by the group—the so-called concept album would be a medium upon which Styx would rely heavily by the 1980s.

"Krakatoa", a mostly-spoken-word track from Serpent, served as the inspiration from which filmmaker George Lucas created the THX audio logo, Deep Note.

On the strength of these releases and constant playing in local clubs and schools, the band established a fan base in the Chicago area, but was unable to break into the mainstream until an earlier song, the power ballad "Lady" (from Styx II), began to earn some radio time, first on WLS in Chicago and then nationwide. In the spring of 1975, nearly two years after the album had been released, "Lady" hit the top ten, and Styx II went gold soon after.

Move to A&M
On the heels of its belated hit single, Styx signed with A&M Records and released Equinox (1975), which sold well and yielded minor hits in "Lorelei" and "Light Up". Following the move to A&M, Curulewski suddenly left the band to save his marriage before they were to embark on a nationwide tour, and was replaced by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Tommy Shaw after a frantic search to find a last-minute replacement. The first album with Shaw, Crystal Ball (1976), was moderately successful and also includes Shaw's "Mademoiselle" and DeYoung's "This Old Man".

Its follow-up, The Grand Illusion (1977) became the group's breakthrough album, reaching triple platinum certification and spawning a top-ten hit and AOR radio staple in the DeYoung-penned "Come Sail Away," as well as a second radio hit, Shaw's "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)".

Through the late 1970s the band enjoyed its greatest success. The album Pieces of Eight (1978) found the group moving in a more straight-ahead pop-rock direction and spawned the Shaw-penned hit singles "Renegade," and "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights), plus a minor hit in the release "Sing for the Day" that stopped just short of the Top Forty at #41.

Cornerstone (1979) yielded the group's first number one hit, the DeYoung ballad "Babe" (which hit number six in the United Kingdom, January 1980), as well as becoming their biggest international hit and first million-selling single. The album also included the DeYoung single "Why Me", and "Borrowed Time" which was co-written by Shaw, plus Shaw's "Boat on the River". Styx was nominated for the twenty-second Grammy Awards for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Cornerstone's engineers Gary Loizzo and Rob Kingsland were nominated for a Grammy at the 22nd Grammy Awards for Best Engineered Recording.
Tension among band members was beginning to escalate; the planned second single, the DeYoung ballad "First Time," was scrapped after Shaw threatened to leave the band if it was released.

Stardom in the 1980s
Paradise Theatre
By 1980, Styx had (over the course of several albums) established themselves with their lyrics, criticizing unemployment ("Blue Collar Man"), consumerism ("The Grand Illusion"), and materialism ("Pieces of Eight").

In January 1981, Styx released Paradise Theatre, a loose concept album that became their biggest hit, reaching number one 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 (#8).

The band was accused by a California religious group and later Tipper Gore's P.M.R.C of backmasking messages in their anti-cocaine anthem, "Snowblind." J.Y. has often gone on the record, refuting this charge during his concert introduction for "Snowblind," with Dennis saying on In the Studio with Redbeard which devoted an entire episode to the making of Paradise Theatre that "we had enough trouble to make the music sound right forward. It was the name Styx which is the river that runs through the underground. Can you imagine attacking the band that made Babe, I mean please!"

Owing to its accessibility and quality production, this album helped win the band a People's Choice Award in 1981, and became the band's fourth consecutive multi-platinum album.
Throughout the 1980s, the band would use the album's opening track, "Rockin' the Paradise," which hit number six on the rock charts in 1981, to open their shows. The album closes with J.Y.'s "Half-Penny, Two Penny" which segued into Dennis' "A.D. 1958" and ending properly with "State Street Sadie".

During this period of greatest success, the band, particularly DeYoung and Shaw, continued to be affected by interpersonal tensions. Tommy Shaw later went on record as saying "I was always the 'new guy' in Styx."

Kilroy was Here and breakup
On the successes of the ballad "Babe" and the Paradise Theatre album, Styx founder DeYoung began pushing for a more theatrical direction, while Shaw and Young favored a harder-edged approach. The band followed DeYoung's lead with their next project, Kilroy Was Here (1983), was another, more fully-realized concept album.

Set in a future where music itself has been outlawed, Dennis DeYoung portrayed Kilroy, an unjustly imprisoned rock star. Representing the "younger" rock generation, Tommy Shaw played Jonathan Chance, who fights for Kilroy's freedom.

Part of the impetus for the Kilroy story, were the false accusations of backwards satanic messages leveled at the band in 1981.

Critics said that the concept behind Kilroy Was Here was still very murky. Whilst band members themselves admitted to not really understanding the conceptit must be noted that guitarist/vocalist James Young relished playing the "heavy," starring as Dr. Everett Righteous in the 20-minute "Kilroy" feature. The Panozzo brothers played his henchmen, Col. Hyde and Lt. Vanish in the concert version (although John Panozzo also played one of the prisoners in the Kilroy Was Here film, which preceded the shows, and was the one who uttered the tag-line, "Hey, Roboto, your mother was a Toyota!")

Sailing high on the Styx name, Kilroy went platinum in 1983, boasting two Top Ten hits, the synthesizer-based "Mr. Roboto" and power ballad "Don't Let It End."

Straying away from the pop-rock vein, J.Y.'s "Heavy Metal Poisoning" takes the listener back to Styx's early funk-jazz style, taking a poke at religious critics. Its introduction included a backward message, the Latin phrase, "annuit coeptis novus ordo seclorum," from the Great Seal of the United States. It is translated to "God has favored our undertakings. A new order for the ages."

Although time would prove cynical for the members of Styx following Kilroy, at the time Kilroy earned a nominee as Best Engineered Recording for engineer and long-time friend Gary Loizzo, and fellow engineers on the album Will Rascati and Rob Kingslad, for the twenty-sixth Grammy Awards (1983) On the Kilroy Was Here tour of 1983 for half of the Kilroy tracks, the band used the instrumental backing tracks for Mr. Roboto (with Dennis singing live whilst disguised as a roboto and Tommy Shaw as Jonathan Chance), "Heavy Metal Poisoning" (with J.Y. singing live and the Panozzo brothers acting as his henchmen on stage) and lastly, the wistful "Haven't We Been Here Before," featuring a rare live duet between DeYoung and Shaw. The songs that the group played live were Dennis' "Don't Let it End", with an extended ending, Tommy Shaw's bluntly naive "Cold War," featuring an extended guitar solo and two extra verses. "Don't Let It End Reprise" began as a soliloquy by Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung, but ended with the full band on a positive rock and roll note.

Despite this ambitious stage show, Kilroy brought tensions within the band to a breaking point. In 1984, the band debuted its first live album, Caught in the Act (1984). Taken from both the "Paradise Theatre" and "Kilroy Was Here" tours, the project featured one studio track, "Music Time", which became a Top Forty hit. However, the band had already parted ways before the release of the album.

Edge of the Century
In 1990, with Shaw achieving some success with Damn Yankees, Styx reformed with Glen Burtnik taking Shaw's vacated position.

The new line-up released one album, Edge of the Century, featuring the Dennis DeYoung ballad "Show Me the Way", which received an additional boost just prior to the first Persian Gulf War. Some radio stations edited the Top Three smash to include the voices of children whose parents were deployed in Saudi Arabia between 1990 and 1991.

Burtnik's songwriting also helped buoy Edge of the Century to gold album status, contributing to the hits "Love At First Sight" (#25 Billboard Pop Charts) and "Love Is the Ritual" (#80 Billboard Hot 100, #8 Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks). On the strength of the singles, particularly "Show Me The Way", Edge of the Century peaked at number sixty-three on the Billboard album chart and was certified gold.

Styx toured across the U.S. before once again disbanding. Despite the success of the album with two Top Forty singles and gold album certification, A&M Records dropped the band after the company was purchased by PolyGram Records.

In 1994, DeYoung recorded 10 on Broadway, an album of showtunes.

Reunion with classic lineup
The band reunited in 1995 to re-record "Lady" for Styx Greatest Hits (1995) and a 1996 tour, but John Panozzo was unable to participate due to declining health caused by problems with alcohol that killed him soon after.

Continuing with Todd Sucherman replacing Panozzo, Styx's 1996 Return to Paradise tour was also a success. They documented the reunion tour with a two-disc live set, 1997's Return to Paradise, which featured three new studio tracks: "On My Way," "Paradise" (a soft rock hit that also appears in another version on Dennis DeYoung's Hunchback of Notre Dame album) and "Dear John," a tribute to the late Styx drummer John Panozzo that has become a cult favorite among Styx fans. Return to Paradise was a surprise hit in 1997, achieving gold status, with the single "Paradise" peaking at number twenty-seven on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Return to Paradise was the first gold album for Styx's new record company, CMC.

Brave New World and split
Two years later, the band released its first new studio album in almost a decade, Brave New World (1999). The album received a lukewarm reception, and the single, "Everything Is Cool", failed to chart.

Once again, during work on the album, personality conflicts drove the band members apart. While Tommy Shaw and James Young's material followed a hard rock vein, Dennis DeYoung's penchant for Broadway styles infuriated his bandmates, and the dramatic differences in styles were evident on Brave New World.

Arguments over which songs to release as singles, the album's artwork, the track sequencing, and the omission of DeYoung's vocals and keyboards from many of the Shaw/JY tracks fueled the fire that was now blazing. The band was further hindered by a viral illness contracted by DeYoung which temporarily made his eyes sensitive to light. DeYoung asked his bandmates to delay touring.

Chuck Panozzo left the band in 1998 after revealing to his bandmates that he was gay and battling HIV. His public explanation came in 2001 at the annual Human Rights Campaign banquet.

Later that year, DeYoung was permanently replaced by Lawrence Gowan, though no official statement regarding a firing or replacement had been made. As a result of the replacement, DeYoung filed a lawsuit, charging that the remaining members of the band were using the Styx name without his consent, and he in turn was countersued by Shaw & JY for using the billing of "Dennis DeYoung, the voice of Styx" in his solo concerts. The suit was eventually settled on the grounds that DeYoung could bill himself as "performing the music of Styx" or "formerly of Styx," but not as "the voice of Styx", and Styx continued on with Shaw & JY at the helm.

Cyclorama and beyond
With Chuck Panozzo focusing on his health concerns, Glen Burtnik returned to fill Chuck's bass duties, with Chuck participating on a part-time basis, sitting in as his health permits.
Styx's new lineup released several live albums and released the studio album Cyclorama in February, 2003, which reached #127 on the Billboard 200 album charts. Styx toured extensivley during this period and released additional live albums.

Burtnik left Styx in 2004 to spend "more quality time with my family"and to record a solo album, Welcome to Hollywood. He was replaced by Ricky Phillips, formerly of The Babys and Bad English.

DeYoung continued his solo career by re-arranging and performing his Styx hits with a symphony orchestra. In 2005, DeYoung released a CD of re-recorded Styx hits from a solo concert with a symphony orchestra (titled The Music of Styx - Live with Symphony Orchestra. The album also contained three new DeYoung songs. DeYoung's CD became a modest hit in Canada, selling 30,000 copies there.

Current line-up
James "J.Y." YoungVocals, guitar, keyboards (1970–present)
Tommy ShawVocals, guitar, mandolin, talkbox (1975–1983, 1995–present)
Todd SuchermanDrums, percussion (1996–present)
Lawrence GowanVocals, keyboards, guitar (1999–present)
Ricky PhillipsBass guitar, vocals (2004–present)
Chuck PanozzoBass guitar, bass pedals (1961–present;is currently a part-time member, appearing as a "guest musician" every so often)

Former members
Dennis DeYoungVocals, keyboards, accordion (1961–1999)
John PanozzoDrums, percussion (1961–1996)
John CurulewskiGuitar, vocals(1970–1975)
Glen BurtnikGuitar, vocals (1990–1991) / Bass guitar, vocals (1999–2004)

Studio albums
Styx (1971)
Styx II (1972)
The Serpent Is Rising (1973)
Man of Miracles (1974)
Equinox (1975)
Crystal Ball (1976)
The Grand Illusion (1977)
Pieces of Eight (1978)
Cornerstone (1979)
Paradise Theatre (1981)
Kilroy Was Here (1983)
Edge of the Century (1990)
Brave New World (1999)
Cyclorama (2003)
Big Bang Theory (2005)

Styx has had a total of eight Billboard Top Ten singles, seven written and sung by Dennis DeYoung and 1 written and sung by Tommy Shaw. One of those singles, "Babe", hit number one for two weeks.
They have had a total of sixteen Billboard Top Forty singles and twenty-three Billboard Top 100 singles.

"Best Thing"
"You Need Love"
"Crystal Ball"
"Come Sail Away"
"Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)"
"Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)"
"Sing for the Day"
"Why Me"
"Borrowed Time"
"The Best of Times"
"Too Much Time on My Hands"
"Nothing Ever Goes As Planned"
""A.D. 1928/Rockin' the Paradise"
"Mr. Roboto"
"Don't Let It End"
"High Time"
"Music Time"
"Love Is the Ritual"
"Show Me the Way"
"Love At First Sight"
"Everything Is Cool"
"Waiting for Our Time"
"I Am the Walrus"

External links - the Official Website

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