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Music / Styx

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L-to-R: Tommy Shaw, John Panozzo, James Young, Dennis DeYoung, Chuck Panozzo
I thought that they were angels but to my surprise
We climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies!
— "Come Sail Away"

Although they began as an artsy prog-rock band, Styx would eventually transform into the virtual arena rock prototype by the late 1970s and early 1980s, due to a fondness for bombastic rockers and soaring power ballads. The seeds for the band were planted in another Chicago band during the late 1960s, the Tradewinds, which featured brothers Chuck and John Panozzo (who played bass and drums, respectively), as well as acquaintance Dennis DeYoung (vocals, keyboards). By the dawn of the 1970s, the group had changed its name to TW4, and welcomed aboard a pair of guitarists/vocalists, James "JY" Young and John Curulewski—securing a recording contract in 1972 with Wooden Nickel Records (a subsidiary of RCA). Soon after, the group opted to change its name once more, this time to Styx, named after a river from Classical Mythology that ran through "the land of the dead" in the underworld.

The band had a string of top 40 hits throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, including such mainstays as "Come Sail Away", "Renegade", and "Snowblind" (and in December 1975, they replaced Curulewski with Tommy Shaw, formerly of a local band called MS Funk). Internally, the group was wracked with tension. DeYoung, who had begun to take onto himself the role of "band leader", attempted to steer Styx into a dramatic, almost operatic direction. This brought him into direct conflict with most of the rest of the band, who were more interested in a harder, rocking sound than the soaring balladic style DeYoung envisioned. The tensions came to a head in the form of the tour for Kilroy Was Here, an early-80s concept album cast around a 20 Minutes into the Future scenario in which Moral Guardians had succeeded in outlawing Rock & Roll. DeYoung managed to turn the concert into a musical telling the story of the album; this pleased neither his bandmates (who felt profoundly uncomfortable trying to act in between songs) nor the fans (who felt they were being cheated). The tour failed miserably, and in its wake the band broke up. In 1990 the band reunited—minus Shaw (who was in Damn Yankees around that time)—and hired Glen Burtnik as his replacement. They recorded the album Edge of The Century.

In the mid-90s, the hard feelings had faded enough for Styx to reunite to tour and record again, but DeYoung's control freakery began to raise its head once more not long after (and it also didn't help that DeYoung had announced that he had developed chronic fatigue syndrome with light and heat sensitivity, meaning touring would be very hard for him). Unwilling to put up with it, the rest of Styx expelled him from the band. They recorded another album with Burtnik before he left the band to be close to his family. They now tour as Styx with a new lead vocalist/keyboardist—Lawrence Gowan, formerly a major Canadian solo act in his own right back in the 80s—while DeYoung tours with an orchestra performing Styx songs and new material more in keeping with his personal artistic vision.

Styx songs of note:


  • 1972 - Styx
  • 1973 - Styx II
  • 1973 - The Serpent Is Rising
  • 1974 - Man of Miracles
  • 1975 - Equinox
  • 1976 - Crystal Ball
  • 1977 - The Grand Illusion
  • 1978 - Pieces of Eight
  • 1979 - Cornerstone
  • 1981 - Paradise Theatre
  • 1983 - Kilroy Was Here
  • 1990 - Edge of the Century
  • 1999 - Brave New World
  • 2003 - Cyclorama
  • 2005 - Big Bang Theory
  • 2017 - The Mission
  • 2021 - Crash of the Crown

Principal members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):

  • Glen Burtnik – guitar, backing and lead vocals (1990–1991, 1999–2003, part-time 1999–2003); bass, backing and lead vocals (1999–2003)
  • John "J.C." Curulewski – guitar, backing and lead vocals, keyboards (1972–1975; died 1988)
  • Dennis DeYoung – keyboards, lead and backing vocals (1972–1984, 1990–1991, 1995–1999)
  • Will Evankovich – guitar, backing vocals (2021–present)
  • Lawrence Gowan – keyboards, lead and backing vocals, occasional acoustic guitar (1999–present)
  • Chuck Panozzo – bass, occasional backing vocals (1972–1984, 1990–1991, 1995–1999, part-time 1999–present)
  • John Panozzo – drums, percussion (1972–1984, 1990–1991; died 1996)
  • Ricky Phillips – bass, backing vocals, part-time guitar (2003–present)
  • Tommy Shaw – guitars, lead and backing vocals, occasional mandolin (1975–1984, 1995–present)
  • Todd Sucherman – drums, percussion, occasional backing vocals (1995–present)
  • James "J.Y." Young – guitars, lead and backing vocals, occasional keyboards (1972–1984, 1990–1991, 1995–present)

"Too much tropes on my hands":

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "Lorelei, let's live together" (from "Lorelei").
  • Album Closure: Paradise Theater has an an outro called "A.D. 1958", a counterpart to the intro "A.D. 1928", both based on "The Best of Times" from the same album (with intro being a parody). There is, however, a track after the outro called "State Street Sadie", though it's just a light piano solo lasting less than 30 seconds.
  • Bad Future: The alternate future of Kilroy Was Here, in which rock 'n' roll music is outlawed, Big Brother Is Watching You and Japanese corporations control everything
  • The Band Minus the Face: After Dennis DeYoung's departure(s).
  • Broken Pedestal: "Fallen Angel". Also alluded to in "Show Me the Way".
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: One of the themes of The Grand Illusion.
  • Concept Album: Pieces of Eight, The Grand Illusion, Paradise Theater, Kilroy Was Here, and The Mission.
  • Control Freak: Dennis DeYoung. A nice enough one, but a control freak nonetheless. (It's outright confirmed in VH1's Behind the Music: Remastered special on Styx.)
  • Culture Police: Kilroy Was Here and its Majority for Musical Morality.
  • Determinator: "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)" is about an desperate unemployed man who is willing to work as long and as hard as he can to hold a steady job.
  • Drugs Are Bad:
    • "Snowblind" is about the ups and downs of cocaine addiction.
    • "Heavy Metal Poisoning", in which the singer (as Dr. Righteous) accuses the heavy metal-loving teens in his audience of being mindless drugheads: "Get the lead out, go for broke/Up your pills and drink and smoke/Shoot those chemicals in your veins/Anything to ease the pain".
  • Fun with Acronyms: The elder rocker of and namesake of the Kilroy Was Here album: Robert Orin Charles Kilroy.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: A well known example is from the beginning of their song "Mr. Roboto":
    どうもありがとう、ミスターロボット、(Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto)Translation 
    また会う日まで。 (Mata au hi made)Translation 
    どうもありがとう、ミスターロボット、(Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto)
    秘密を知りたい。(himitsu o shiri tai)Translation 
    • Especially in the mini-film of Kilroy breaking out from prison, from the poor Roboto he hits with a Groin Attack.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Two or three out there; the band does legitimately have many hits for them.
  • Heavy Mithril: A few songs fit—"The Grove of Eglantine", "Jonas Psalter", "The Serpent Is Rising", "Man of Miracles", "Born for Adventure", "Come Sail Away", "Castle Walls", and, of course, their Concept Album Kilroy Was Here.
  • Incredibly Long Note: DeYoung sometimes does this in live performances of "Suite Madame Blue", and all the time in "Rockin' the Paradise". Also done by Tommy Shaw during a cover of "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough" on the Styxworld: Live 2001 album.
  • Large Ham:
    • JY sinks his teeth into the role of Dr. Righteous with aplomb. Just check out the video for "Heavy Metal Poisoning". Then again, JY is always this whenever he Steps Up To The Microphone. This is best shown in the aforementioned "Heavy Metal Poisoning", but other good examples include "Miss America" and "Great White Hope".
    • Tommy Shaw's hilarious, crazy-eyed mugging in the "Too Much Time on My Hands" video could be diced up into an omelet.
  • Lead Singer Plays Lead Guitar: Tommy Shaw is the band's co-lead vocalist and lead guitarist.
  • Lonely at the Top: "Nothing Ever Goes as Planned"; "Babe". "Too Much Time on My Hands" has elements too.
  • Long-Distance Relationship: "Babe" and "Nothing Ever Goes as Planned" both talk about the loneliness of the road, staying faithful to someone who's waiting for you back at home.
  • Long Runner Lineup: Type 2 with their 2004–2021 lineup of classic members Chuck Panozzo (part-time due to health issues), Tommy Shaw, and JY plus "newcomers" Lawrence Gowan, Ricky Phillips, and Todd Sucherman.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Renegade".
  • Meat-Sack Robot: Seems to be the case with Mr Roboto:
    "I've got a secret I've been hiding under my skin"
    "My heart is human, my blood is boiling, my brain I.B.M."
  • Power Ballad: "Come Sail Away", "Babe", "Lady", and many more.
  • The Power of Rock
  • Precision F-Strike: Dennis DeYoung's intro to "The Grand Illusion" on the Return to Paradise tour and CD.
    Dennis: You wanna know why your life ain't like what you see on TV and magazines and stuff like that? Because that's all bullshit!
  • Rock Opera: Kilroy Was Here.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Just Fell In".
  • Silly Love Songs: "Babe", "Lady", "Don't Let It End", etc.
  • Song Style Shift: "Suite Madame Blue", "Come Sail Away", and "Queen of Spades" are the most recognized examples. They start out as a soft ballads before dramatically transitioning into a full blown hard rock tunes partway through.
  • Stock Classical Snippet: In Dennis DeYoung's orchestra tour, "Lady" has a few bars of Ravel's "Bolero" just before the end. When the concert was broadcast on WTTW Chicago, he explained that he had always meant to include "Bolero" in the song.
  • Stay with the Aliens: Seems to be what the narrator is doing by the end of Come Sail Away.
  • Straight Gay: Chuck came out in 2001 along with the news that he was HIV-positive.
  • Subliminal Seduction: "Snowblind" allegedly contained backwards Satanic messages. Playing off the controversy, several songs on the Kilroy Was Here album deliberately contained backwards messages made up of Latin phrases read off of US currency, among other benign sources. Which made sense, considering the theme of the album involved a dictator who took over the world by banning rock and roll and brainwashing people.
  • Take That!:
    • Tommy Shaw has said that "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" is directed at Dennis DeYoung, who at the time was very insecure about the band's success.
    • "Miss America" is one directed at the Miss America Beauty Pagent.
    • Cyclorama, the first post-DeYoung Styx album, has songs titled "Bourgeois Pig" and "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye".
  • Textless Album Cover: Pieces of Eight.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: One is implied in the first verse of "Babe": "My train is going/I see it in your eyes/The love, the need, your tears..."
  • Triumphant Reprise: "Don't Let It End (Reprise)" bills itself as this, and has the energy, although it's from Kilroy Was Here. Oddly, while it's titled as a reprise of "Don't Let It End" and uses that as the refrain, the intro is more "Mr Roboto".
  • Twist Ending: The end of "Come Sail Away": "I thought that they were angels, but much to my surprise, we climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies".
  • Uncommon Time: In "Fooling Yourself (the Angry Young Man)", the keyboard solo after the first chorus is mostly in 7/4. Also, the reprise of the song's intro has two measures of 5/8 that are accentuated by the electric guitar.
    • "Red Storm" from The Mission has its verses in 5/4, its chorus in 6/8, and the solo has sections in 7/4.
    • Part of the instrumental break in "Great White Hope" is in 5/4.
  • Vetinari Job Security: When Dennis DeYoung was first fired, he was brought back because nobody could find someone to replace him. The second time, they did find someone.
  • Villain Song: "Heavy Metal Poisoning" from Kilroy Was Here.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are:
    • "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)":
      You're fooling yourself if you don't believe it
      You're kidding yourself if you don't believe it
      Get up, get back on your feet
      You're the one they can't beat and you know it
      Come on, let's see what you've got
      Just take your best shot and don't blow it
    • There's also "the Grand Illusion", which warns against comparing oneself to what the media says is normal or successful:
      So if you think your life is complete confusion
      Because you never win the game
      Just remember that it's a grand illusion
      'Cause deep inside we're all the same.\\