Styx: back on the road to success


May 24, 1991|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

A lot of things have changed in the eight years since Styx was last on tour, but band member Dennis DeYoung figured at least one thing would have remained the same: rock critics.

Although Styx was one of the most popular rock acts of the late '70s, the group never topped a single rock critic's poll. (Well, jokes DeYoung, "We would have if it was upside down.") Consequently, he had little reason to believe that his band's absence had made the reviewers' hearts grow fonder.

"I had said, on the first day or so [of the tour], 'Somebody want to check the paper for insults?' " he says over the phone from a tour stop in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "But the reviews have been glowing. For us, they have been remarkable." He laughs, and adds, "You know, I'm starting to get hives, because I'm not used to it."

It's hard to say what sparked this change of heart -- DeYoung, for one, is stumped -- but it's not the only piece of good luck the band has enjoyed lately. In fact, the group seems on something of a roll.

Start with the Tommy Shaw situation. Because he had already committed himself to the group Damn Yankees, Shaw refused to rejoin his old band even though the other original members were eager to have him. But instead of this hampering the group, it was a blessing in disguise: Styx hired guitarist Glenn Burtnik instead, and, says DeYoung, "Having a new guy in the band was definitely a benefit to us. I was convinced that we had to balance the old with the new, and I think it turned out OK."

It didn't seem that way at first, though. "Edge of the Century," the group's comeback album, mostly met with indifference upon release. "It was virtually ignored," admits DeYoung. But as the gulf war loomed on the horizon, a few radio programmers noticed the message of hope in a song called "Show Me the Way," and slipped it onto their play lists. By March, the song was at No. 3 on the Billboard singles chart.

"Back where I come from, on the south side of Chicago, we sometimes refer to that as genius," laughs DeYoung, "but actually, it's dumb, stupid luck.

"Here's the funny thing," he adds. "Back in 1983, I had this idea about the coming mood of censorship toward music in America, and we spent a lot of money and time on an elaborate production called 'Kilroy Was Here,' to try to enlighten people."

Unfortunately, most missed the message, focusing instead on a song called "Mr. Roboto." As a result, he says, "people thought it was some sort of gimmick record. If they threw those [2 Live Crew] guys in jail three months after our record came out, people would have paid attention. But the timing was pathetically off.

"But you can't plan that stuff," he says. "Timing generally just happens to you, and I really think it's dumb, stupid luck a lot of times. I mean, you do what you do, and sometimes it turns out. And sometimes it doesn't."


When: Tonight, 7 p.m.

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion

Tickets: $16.50 pavilion seats, $12.50 lawn

Call: 481-6000 for tickets, 730-2424 for information

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