IT seems to be the ultimate irony that the reformation and resurfacing of Styx was brought about by the only member of the band who is no longer in it.
When guitarist Tommy Shaw called keyboardist Dennis DeYoung three years ago to try to reunite one of the late '70s most popular rock bands, DeYoung agreed, but only after he completed his final solo album for MCA Records.
When DeYoung dragged his feet in production, Shaw was enlisted by rocker Ted Nugent to form a new band called Damn Yankees. Shaw phoned DeYoung once again in 1989 to inform him of his decision to leave Styx before the project even began.
"All I could say at that point was 'God speed,' " DeYoung said last week. "But in the meantime the other four of us had sat down and talked and when Tommy backed out we decided to go forward."
TC Welcome to 1991 and the new Styx, featuring original members DeYoung, drummer John Panozzo, bassist Chuck Panozzo, guitarist James Young and newcomer/guitarist Glen Burtnik. The band's new album, "Edge of the Century," has already produced a Top 10 ballad, "Show Me the Way," and the its current tour opens Merriweather Post Pavilion's summer season tomorrow night.
Eight years have passed since Styx was sitting on top of the record world with its fifth consecutive platinum album, "Kilroy Was Here." It was during the grueling theatrical tour for "Kilroy" that the band began to disintegrate.
"Tommy quit on us halfway through the tour," DeYoung said. "It is as simple as that. At that time, after the tour, I didn't want to bear the burden of the songwriting and the voice of the band on my shoulders so we decided to take a break."
The Panozzo brothers, who are fraternal twins, retired from the music business. Young did a pair of low-budget, independent albums. DeYoung -- who remains the unquestioned leader and main songwriter of Styx -- went on to produce one successful solo album ("Desert Moon") and several more that flopped. Meanwhile, Shaw's solo act basically flopped after decent sales for his first LP ("Girls With Guns").
Both DeYoung and Shaw have acknowledged that the reason for the split was "musical differences." Shaw said he wanted to dabble in more hard rock; DeYoung said Shaw got "caught up in the whole testosterone thing -- he wanted to be Ted Nugent or Sammy Hagar."
At any rate, DeYoung believes Burtnik has been a very positive addition to the new Styx.
"We sat down and wrote good songs without having a lot of time," DeYoung said. "There's not any question in my mind that Glen and I are going to write wonderful songs together in the future."
Burtnik joined the band through Young, who had worked with him on a Jan Hammer album during the mid-1980s. "He sent us a demo and we loved his songwriting so he was in," DeYoung said. "There wasn't even an audition."
As for the show, DeYoung said he knows people will come to Merriweather tomorrow expecting to hear old Styx songs that Shaw wrote and sang.
"We're trying to be as sensitive as possible to everyone's feelings," said DeYoung, who promised an almost complete greatest hits show. "We're doing 'Renegade,' 'Too Much Time on My Hands' and 'Blue Collar Man' and Glen is singing them. But wait until you hear them to judge. I swear if you close your eyes you'd never know the difference."
DeYoung said he hasn't talked to Shaw since the 1989 phone call that severed their working relationship once again.
"Tommy and I worked together for many years but we were not the best of friends," DeYoung said. "We weren't hangout friends. He had his life and I had mine. That is the story with many rock and roll bands. People always want to romanticize relationships within bands. Most of these relationships are based on music first. Our similarities were about music and that's it.
"But I felt that Tommy's contribution to Styx was very important," DeYoung said. "Like any relationship it had its ups and downs. But the testament to what really happened is the music we made together and I'm very proud of that."