Thursday, December 4, 2014

Styx, The #36 Artist of the Seventies*

Twins Chuck (guitar) and John Panozzo (drums) and keyboardist and lead singer Dennis DeYoung first formed the group the Tradewinds in Chicago, Illinois in 1961.  Chuck briefly left to attend seminary school but returned in 1964.  Tom Nardini was hired to play guitar, so when Chuck got back, Nardini switched to bass.  The group changed their name to TW4, and they would perform at high schools and frat parties while studying to be teachers at Chicago State College. 

In 1969, the group hired guitarist John Curulewski when Nardini left, and in 1970, guitarist James "J.Y." Young joined. 

In 1972, the group signed a recording contract with Wooden Nickel Records after a talent scout saw their show in Western Springs, Illinois.  The band used the occasion to change their name to Styx, the river in Greek mythology between Earth and the Underworld.

At Inside The Rock Era, we have told you that the early Styx albums contain a lot of great songs, and we know this because Boise, Idaho was one of the first cities to go crazy over the group, and we became acutely aware of their early material.  Now, we have the occasion to spotlight it as we salute the group.

Styx released their self-titled album in 1972, followed by Styx II and The Serpent is Rising in 1973 and Man of Miracles in 1974.  All received airplay in Chicago, but little anywhere else.

Then, the power ballad "Lady" all of a sudden caught on nationwide in 1975, and nearly two years after its release, became a #6 smash.  Styx was on their way.

The next release stalled all the way back at #88, but it shouldn't have.  That makes the single "You Need Love" one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

With a smash hit and people discovering the album in droves, Styx II became a Gold album.  "Father O.S.A." is another gem on the album.

The success of Styx II propelled the group to securing a major contract with A&M Records, and they released the great album Equinox in 1975.  The single "Lorelei" started it off.

The unreleased "Lonely Child" is another of the great Underrated Songs* from Styx.
The group proved they could do it all--perform great ballads, then rock out on songs like "Midnight Ride".

Another song on the album began receiving significant airplay, especially on stations that made up the new Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format.  Since then, "Prelude 12/Suite Madame Blue" has become one of the favorite songs of Styx fans.

Equinox went Gold also.  Curulewski left the group prior to touring the United States, and after a frantic search, good fortune smiled on Styx as they were able to bring guitarist Tommy Shaw into the fold.

Shaw brought the group another talented songwriter and lead singer, and immediately contributed on the album Crystal Ball, delivering another underrated hit for Styx at #36 with "Mademoiselle". 

Shaw also wrote the great Top Track* "Crystal Ball".

And, Shaw collaborated with Young on this rocker, "Shooz".

With Styx on the verge of superstardom, Wooden Nickel Records released the Best of Styx compilation, which went Gold.

All this happened before most people discovered Styx, with that happening as a result of the group's seventh album, The Grand Illusion, in 1977.  The single "Come Sail Away" is the song that finally woke people up to this group, and even then it was underrated at #8 in the U.S. and #9 in Canada.

Shaw's "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" was hot on the heels of its predecessor, but a peak of #29 makes it another of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

These two singles helped the album go Triple Platinum.  But go beyond the hits and you find the Top Track* "The Grand Illusion".

In 1978, Styx released the album Pieces of Eight, which contained the hit single "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)".  It climbed to #9 in Canada and #21 in the United States.

Pieces of Eight has now gone over two million in sales.  "Sing For The Day" was next, perhaps a bit underrated at #41.

The follow-up single "Renegade" went to #16.

In 1979, Styx released the album Cornerstone.  The ballad "Babe" became the group's only #1 song (in both the U.S. and U.K.), reached #3 in Australia, and sold over one million copies. 

The band released "Why Me" as the next single, flying to #10 in Canada and #26 in the U.S.

Possibly a better release would have been this ballad from the album--"First Time".
Styx continued their mastery of both ballads (the preceding track) and rockers with this one--"Borrowed Time".
Styx was nominated for Best Rock Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards for their entire album Cornerstone, and they won a People's Choice Award for Best New Song for "Babe".

The group has endured for over thirty years, and continued to record new material up to 2005.  They are still touring today.

Officially, Styx had eleven hits in the Seventies, but this ranking takes into account all great album tracks of Styx and the other artists, and you heard a few of them above.  Styx sold over ten million albums in the decade.

With all that great music, why are they so low?  Hey, you're preaching to the choir here.  The ten million albums in sales is a lot, but not near that of most of the artists ahead.  And, as mentioned above, most of their early music is largely undiscovered by the masses.  Discovery of that early music, which would result in more sales and more airplay will get Styx higher. 

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