The Music Blog: Come Sail Away

There are about a million things about music that I just love. When I was in college, I met people from all over the country, although for some quirky reason Illinois people and I seemed to gravitate towards each other. I was always sort of surprised to find that the music we each grew up with was different even though we all loved rock music primarily. In high school we were sort of homogenous in that regard, everyone mostly listening to the same bands so that if you got into someone’s car you could expect they were playing the same music you had in your car. Now that isn’t to say that there were not some small differences. I had a friend who loved Molly Hatchet something that still makes me scratch my head. Hey at least it wasn’t Zappa, right? My friends from Illinois listened to and loved bands that were bands I liked but not really bands that I just loved.  Back in the 70’s a band could be fairly successful, have gold albums without being huge nationally or internationally.  One band that they loved and that I loved was Styx.

          It took Styx a while to become a huge nationally famous band. Their first 3 or 4 albums sold well but not enough to really be a national hit. This really began to change to me when they added Tommy Shaw. Tommy Shaw was not an original member of Styx, but he grew so much in importance and prominence that it was hard to tell the difference. Styx finally hit it big with the album The Grand Illusion when I was in junior high. Up until that time, I had never heard of Styx and had you told me it was their first album I would not have questioned you. Oddly enough The Grand Illusion was their 7th release. I loved that album, still do although its really hard to sing along to Come Sail Away without slipping into an Eric Cartman voice. Maybe that’s just me.   The follow up album was Pieces of Eight. Friends loved that album and always wanted to play it when they would see that album at my house. I loved the song Blue Collar Man which is one of my favorite Styx songs all time.  I still am not too crazy about that album and  a lot of friends still love it. Some things don’t change.

As I moved into high school and later college Styx was one of those bands that just sort of faded for me, replaced by bands that I liked better. I was really upset that my high school senior class decided to make Best of Times our Senior song. Gag spew vomit hurl hurl hurl. That’s an industry term for gag spew vomit hurl hurl hurl.  I thought the song sappy, stupid and in hindsight probably perfect for any and all high school graduating classes.  While in college Styx broke up and it wasn’t hard to see why. Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung hated each other. Mostly the band was sick of DeYoung’s insistence on silly sappy ballads and concept albums. They wanted to rock. Both DeYoung and Shaw released solo albums within a very short time in almost the same week.  Tommy Shaw delivered a great album with Girls With Guns, a great 80’s rock album with his amazing vocals. DeYoung released an album that seemed to be an attempt to show that he could rock. It really failed to connect with younger audiences and other than the title track which was excellent, Desert Moon reflected the vast chasm between Dennis DeYoung and the rest of Styx.

That should have been the end, but bands like Styx always seem to find new life and usually it’s the same exact way by releasing a greatest hits album. That album was simply too good and soon the band was back together. For me, that album introduced me to songs I had never heard; songs like Suite Madame Blue, and Crystal Ball. I was soon collecting the rest of Styx’s catalogue of music. DeYoung proved that he had not changed and was soon dictating to the other members of Styx how they would move forward. Instead of breaking up the band simply fired him.

Today my feelings towards Styx is as enigmatic as the band. Some days I love them and some days I don’t and a lot of days I find myself a little indifferent. Right now though I feel warmly towards them as I get ready to start playing the music of this band. You can come along for the ride, just make sure to sing like Eric Cartman when Come Sail Away plays.

Mike out

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