Synopsis of Pop Music

“Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto…”

As rock and roll became an important part of popular culture, the music moved out of small clubs and into bigger venues. This trend led to the rise of ‘arena rock,’ a style of music where everything, from the songs to the sound to the presentation, was as big as possible to live up to the size of the new setting. Among the most successful of these new 'arena rock' groups was Styx, a quintet of Chicago rockers who managed to score four consecutive double-platinum albums during the late 1970’s and early 80’s.

The Styx story began in 1960 when Dennis DeYoung teamed up with next-door neighbors Chuck and John Panozzo. They formed a group called the Tradewinds, developing a style of music that blended classical-influenced artsiness with rock and roll muscle. They landed a record contract in 1972 after changing their name to Styx (the name of the river running through Hades in Greek mythology) and began to put their unique theatrical sound on vinyl. Their second album, Styx II, contained a song called “Lady,” which mixed pretty, keyboard-led ballad verses with a surging, guitar-fueled chorus. Though it didn’t become an immediate hit, it would play an important part in their future.

In 1975, Styx was on the verge of disbanding when the two year-old “Lady” became a radio hit in Chicago. Other stations around the country caught on, helping “Lady” and its parent album Styx II to become big hits. Styx also released the album Equinox that year. It contained everything from good-time pop (“Light Up”) to hard rock (“Suite Madame Blue”) and became another hit album. Despite this success, long-time guitarist John Curelewski left near the end of that year. The band quickly found a replacement in the Southern-born Tommy Shaw, whose guitar and songwriting skills would help shape Styx's sound on future albums.

In 1976, Styx released Crystal Ball, refining their mixture of theatrics and rock on songs like the swinging rocker “Mademoiselle.” The album also led to a successful tour that allowed the group to sharpen up their arena-rocking skills. All that hard work paid off in 1977 when they became superstars with their next album, The Grand Illusion. This arena-rock classic evenly balanced guitar thunder with keyboard lushness to create arena-rock epics like “Come Sail Away.” That song became a Top-10 hit in early 1978 and pushed The Grand Illusion to platinum status.

Styx continued their arena-rock success story in 1978 with Pieces of Eight, an album that played up their hard-rocking edge on Top-30 hits like the desperado saga “Renegade” and the city-life drama “Blue Collar Man.” Like The Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight was a platinum hit. The next year, Styx explored a more mellow sound on Cornerstone. This album also produced a classic ballad in “Babe,” a sweet song in the “Lady” mode. It became a #1 hit and helped Cornerstone become Styx’s third straight platinum album. Meanwhile, the group toured without a break as they became the kings of arena-rock. In fact, a 1979 poll showed Styx to be the most popular concert attraction among 19-year-old males.

The platinum level of success continued for Styx in 1980 with Paradise Theater, a concept album that used the life and death of a popular theater as a metaphor for the decline of the human condition. Despite this sobering concept, the album boasted a string of lively and exciting songs like the driving techno-rocker “Too Much Time On My Hands” and the harmony-drenched power ballad “The Best Of Times.” Both of these songs went on to become Top-10 hits in 1981 as the group embarked on yet another successful tour. Near the end of 1981, the group returned the studio to embark on their most theatrical venture yet…

In 1983, Styx returned to the record charts with Kilroy Was Here. The most ambitious of the band's concept albums, Kilroy focused on a renegade leading a rebellion in a totalitarian future by bringing rock and roll to the people. “Mr. Roboto” was a techno-rocker of the first order and had a uniquely catchy hook in its synthesized chant of “domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.” The album also boasted a trademark power-ballad in “Don’t Let It End.” Both of these songs became Top-10 hits as Kilroy Was Here sailed up the charts. Meanwhile, the group backed up their hit album with a spectacular stage show that involved elaborate costume changes and scripted dialogue, as well as a 14-minute short film to explain the album’s story.

Styx disbanded after releasing the live album Caught In The Act in 1984. Since then, they have periodically reunited. In 1989, a reunited Styx minus Tommy Shaw scored a hit with “Show Me The Way,” a song that became a popular dedication song between Gulf War soldiers and their families. The group returned once more in 1996 to re-record “Lady” for a new greatest hits album. This led to a successful reunion tour and live album. Currently, Dennis DeYoung tours as a solo attraction while Tommy Shaw and James Young carry on under the Styx banner. They all meet with consistent success, proving that the big sounds of arena rock can still thrill audiences in this post-alternative era.

Artist Release History

09/72 - Styx
07/73 - Styx II
02/74 - The Serpent Is Rising
11/74 - Man Of Miracles
12/75 - Equinox
10/76 - Crystal Ball
7/7/77 - The Grand Illusion
09/78 - Pieces Of Eight
10/79 - Cornerstone
01/81 - Paradise Theater
02/83 - Kilroy Was Here
04/84 - Caught In The Act
1987 - Classics, Vol. 15: Styx
10/90 - Edge Of The Century
08/95 - Greatest Hits
07/96 - Greatest Hits, Part 2
05/97 - Return To Paradise
06/99 - Brave New World

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

The Grand Illusion (A&M)

Band Members

Dennis DeYoung vocals, keyboards
James Young guitar
Tommy Shaw guitar
Chuck Panozzo bass
John Panozzo drums

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