The Serpent is Rising
Styx 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." They were the first band to have four consecutive multi-platinum albums.
The group originally formed in the Chicago, Illinois, area in 1961 as "The Tradewinds" and played local bars while attending Chicago State University. This earliest line-up of the group included brothers Chuck 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 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. 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 early 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. 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". Recently, on Dennis DeYoung's official Web site , he notes that "Suite Madame Blue" is the third most popular song in the province of Quebec, Canada (where Styx first became a headliner).
Following the move to A&M, Curulewski suddenly left the band to save his marriage, just 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 (the band performs the Shaw-penned title track to this day) 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)." "Come Sail Away" is often cited as the ultimate Styx song, mixing balladry with the theatrical flair of art rock and lyrics which take the listener on a journey that combines dreams, science fiction imagery, and religious undertones on a progressive level.
The album also includes its progressive-flavored title track, "The Grand Illusion," which received significant airplay, though it warns, "But don't be fooled by the radio, the TV, or the magazines. They'll show you photographs of how your life should be, but they're just someone else's fantasies. Finally, "Miss America" is also on the album and represents J.Y.'s only songwriting and singing contribution to receive significant radio airplay. In a streak of prophecy, this songs lyrics ("We love your body in that photograph; your home state sure must be proud. The queen of the United States; have you lost your crown")seemed to foreshadow the scandal that was to come over the Miss America Pagent in July of 1984, when Vanessa Williams resigned her crown.
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 hit singles "Renegade," and "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)." 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 Shaw's "Boat on the River" and DeYoung rockers "Why Me" and "Borrowed Time." Styx was nominated for the twenty-second Grammy Awards for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, along with winner The Eagles, and fellow nominees: The Cars, Dire Straits, The Blues Brothers, and The Knack.
Cornerstone's engineers Gary Loizzo and Rob Kingsland were nominated for a Grammy at the 22nd Grammy Awards for Best Engineered Recording.