About That Styx Thing, A Re-Thinking

Had a busy day yesterday and then came to the stark understanding that a significant contributor to this blog had included a Styx Grand Illusion video in a post. I am hoping you can imagine my dismay! I still have not recovered.

I just….I cannot….even. Despite the ill video, the post was great and spot on. But, damn, that video. And placing that earwig junk in the minds of not just me, but countless others. Unforgivable.

Here is the real deal, from the time when Styx actually was more than bubblegum cheese. Midnight Ride. Currently WordPress is not allowing me to post it at the top where I want it, and normally would, but will do so at the bottom of this post.

There was a Styx period where they were okay, if not very decent. It was LONG before Grand Illusion, which is simply, and truly, horrible. The attached song Midnight Ride was from the James Young era, this is a live version off of the original on Equinox, before the pop rock crap of Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw took control of a decent band. That was a long time ago. And if you want some more off of Equinox, go UTube Lonely Child and Suite Madame Blue.

54 replies
  1. Peacerme says:

    Thank you Bmaz! My recollection as well…at some point their name became a self fulfilling phrophecy!! (And once they crossed over…we lost ‘em for good!!) Thanks for the memory!

  2. The One True Dave says:

    A few observations and well-reasoned insights:
    Growing up way back before the turn of the century — the ’70s to be clear — I used to think Styx™ were awesome. In early 1980 I saw them in concert. Totally hated it. Overproduced, soulless, bland pablum. The Babys, who opened for them, kicked their ass.
    Others may disagree. Others would be wrong.
    Fast forward to current times: I loath their earworm-y crap so much, I’ve walked out of the Safeway store while shopping when one of their so-called songs comes on — abandoning my cart and groceries — to stand outside for the 3-5 minutes necessary for the assault to end.
    Perhaps I need counseling? Regardless, when I’m eventually declared Benevolent Dictator of the World, you will never hear from Styx™ again.
    You’re welcome.
    Also, too, re: the video. Nice blouse.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes. In fairness, you saw them five years after their real apex, to the extent there was one. The James Young centric early stuff, which basically ended with Equinox was it. The Babys were okay, but not great shakes.

  3. emptywheel says:

    Oh bmaz.

    Everything about the New Cold War™ is just rehashing the awfulness of the late 70s early 80s. I can’t be held responsible for how crappy the music was.

    Also if it’s available at Whole Paycheck what am I to do?

    • bmaz says:

      I just don’t even know. I almost couldn’t even put in a link to yer post because of that gawdawful video.

    • Worried says:

      Radio was dreadful then, but there was a lot of good music like Tom Petty, Graham Parker, Jim Carroll, The Clash, Ian Hunter, Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen, Warren Zevon, etc…

      On radio I can turn off a Styx song within 3 notes

      • SurfBot6 says:

        Music from the mid to late 60s is hard to beat.  But let’s not forget Queen (Night at the Opera 1975) or Pink Floyd who released:  Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon and Another Brick in the Wall in the 1970s.  I saw Pink Floyd two times at the Tucson Convention Center.   Full disclosure, or a confession of sorts;  I took LSD both times that I saw Pink Floyd and they were amazing.   Somehow, I managed to survive growing up in Tucson, AZ and never needed to call bmaz to keep me out of Florence State Prison.  I moved to San Francisco in 1979 and never looked back.  The music scene here in San Francisco is fantastic.

        • bmaz says:

          You left out Wish You Were Here. I saw every Floyd show that ever came to Phoenix. Every one surreal and unreal. First was at a stupid outdoor place called “Big Surf” and it was windy and the acoustics sucked, in 1972. Then after Dark Side, but as Wish You Were here was being released in 1975. But a lot of Meddle was played in the second half of the show, mostly One of These Days. I am going to bet that the 1975 one I described is exactly the show you saw at TCC.

          • bmaz says:

            Also, did the plane coming down the zip cord freak you out as much as it did me? Cause I almost had a coronary the first time.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I have no excuse for the awful noise Whole Paycheck broadcasts over its loudspeakers.  Do they think we’re shopping for tank tops, bell bottoms and padded shoulder jackets in pastel colors?

      But I digress.  I agree with Brian Wilson that there’s a reason Why God Made the Radio.  Too bad he didn’t publish it until 2012.  But it does seem like a lot of bands gave up around 1970.

  4. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    Styx??!!! Seriously?! EW said it all: “…rehashing the awfulness of the late 70’s early 80’s. I can’t be held responsible for how crappy the music was.” Even in their earliest stuff they were just tryin’ to ride the wave and spent too much time in the sun waitin’ for it.

  5. Steve Kerns says:

    Screw you people… Styx had some of the most insightful writing ever expressed. If you’re too stupid to see the depth of songs like Man in the wilderness, Crystal ball, Pieces Of Eight, the Grand Illusion, Fooling yourself, you were too wasted banging your head to understand the depth of life going on around you. The entire album of Kilroy was here , was in response to judgemental persecution by tyrannical religious zealots . Though it was mocked for it’s lack of being a rock concert. Its brilliance is that it called-out the religious attempt to suppress music listening by vilifying certain bands as devil worshipping sects. But it goes over the head of simple-minded Headbangers

  6. Pete says:

    It occurs to me that maybe EW put that song there as sort of “disinformation” or mind f*cking.  I mean, if it as truly horrible as it seems to be (hint – it is) then just think how horrible the Trumpian Gran Illusion we are living in is.

    Damn – I even ended that last sentence with is.  There – I did it again.


  7. Michael says:

    Now that everyone’s gag reflex is spent – or should be – how ’bout a taste of “Stranglehold”.

    My three best uni mates used that … puke … to mark the official end to each study session. (Hey, it was their flat.) Ah-h-h-h … memories…

  8. John Forde says:

    Styx got a slight bump up in my opinion a few years ago when ‘Mr Roboto’ played in a VW commercial. I had never heard it and thought it was Queen.

  9. Kent Fossgreen says:

    Tommy Shaw paid handsomely for his sins by doing time in Damn Yankees with Our Hero Ted Nugent.

  10. Kick the darkness says:

    So did Butina actually take Gordon up on the Styx invitation? Or, as a child of the 90′ and 00’s would that have been an assignment deemed beyond the call of duty, even for our intrepid Maria? Now, if it had been a 38 Special concert, on the other hand.

    • Kick the darkness says:

      In case there is ever a 2016 election edition of Trivial Pursuit, as far as can tell media accounts just speak of an invitation to the concert.  So unclear if she went.  Perhaps by late October Gordon was an angle that no longer needed to be played.

      • Kick the darkness says:

        In the Russian panoply of spooks, Butina and Mifsud are an interesting compare and contrast.  Butina, even after the jig was up and the news was out, she had to know she was under investigation, she kept out there like the apple of the public eye, cutting the ribbon at the local mall.  It might have been smarter to search for tomorrow back in Mother Russia, but when you’re young you have a tendency to feel you’re the one they can’t beat and you know it.  Mifud, on the other hand, once his cover was blown, poof, gone, a wanted man in the wilderness, worried someone would finally find him and he’d be retrieved for a bounty.  At this point maybe he has indeed sailed away.
        Don’t know if anyone else saw it, few days ago, Margot Cleveland at the Federalist was suggesting that Mifsud was actually an FBI informant behind the Page FISA applications.  Now that is probably a grand illusion. 


  11. Fran of the North says:


    Thanks for the blast from the past.

    Midnight Ride comes out of my formative era for music, and I recognized it after listening to your Winterland link. But haven’t heard it for 30 years or more. Never knew it was Styx, and at that time I moved to the front range and immersed myself in the 60’s British invasion, so left for new musical destinations.


  12. holdingsteady says:

    I Did listen to Styx growing up, have had the ear worm syndrome all day but , sea of love came to mind just now, Tom waits version is nice, it seems to be an antidote

  13. Rusharuse says:

    Beware! O’l Rock devil, he work in mysterious ways . .

    Said Plant: “I was holding a pencil and paper, and for some reason I was in a very bad mood. Then all of a sudden my hand was writing out the words, ‘There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold/And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.’ I just sat there and looked at the words and then I almost leapt out of my seat.”

    Plant’s implication that something else was moving his pencil for him led to speculation that it was Satan who was dictating the words, and along with the backward messages and Page’s Aleister Crowley connection, there was enough evidence for many listeners that the devil had some role in creating this song.

  14. Wes Norton says:

    Now that everyone had ragged on Styx, consider this. Most people won’t admit to liking the band Styx. All the while, they sit quietly by themselves listening to them on vinyl, the way music was meant to be heard. And the reality that most of you will have with this, is that Styx did something that no other band in the history of Rick has ever done, or will ever do again. They strung together FOUR triple platinum albums in a row. Not the Beatles, not the Stones not Led Zeppelin. Just Styx. SUCK IT Asswipes.

  15. Sam Wallace says:

    Wow! There’s a lot of in-depth analysis of a simple rock band playing simple rock songs. Don’t make them more than they were and try enjoying their music for what it us: simple and approachable. They had hits and clunkers both, so figure out which is which and move on. If you want music you have to think about, try prog rock.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, thanks for the advice, but we will discuss whatever we want. Also, Styx is considered to be “prog rock”, but whatever.

      • Trip says:

        I’m really kinda agnostic about Styx (not passionate one way or the other). But to (white) 20-somethings, classic rock is Led Zeppelin, AC DC, and Queen, et al others in that realm, more 70s, I think, if they are into retro stuff at all. I haven’t heard any confess to loving Styx. (This is how this conversation started at all). But that idea is also within the context of the apparent aggressive political social climbing only with older GOP men, the expert gun training (to attach to the NRA), the older live-in sex partner doing university work, the drunken confessions of working with the Kremlin, on top of the radical age difference in all of the parties, including (and especially) Torshin, a mentor (money launderer and Kremlin friend). It’s not just one thing; Styx making or breaking an argument. Plus, you know…jokes. Because the rest of this shit is serious as a heart attack, it’s nice to laugh at times.

        I think some people are taking the Styx conversation entirely too seriously, thinking it’s “in-depth analysis” and whatnot.

        If you like something, then just like it, FFS. Someone else not liking it shouldn’t ruin the experience for you.

        Steely Dan, the band whose work (Black Cow) has been sampled in rap. Discuss. (kidding)


  16. JohnJ says:

    Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, ELP, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, BeBop Deluxe (Bill Nelson;you posted some of that once!), Supertramp, David Bowie, Nils Lofgren (I sold him tires for his Ferrari once). I never liked Styx that much, but if you didn’t listen to the radio, the 70’s had a rich selection of quality music that lasts today. “New Wave” was somewhat cutting edge for the time with Blondie and the Pretenders bringing us back to simpler music.

    I grew up in the DC suburbs with an unmatched radio station WHFS. They refused to play any top 40. The DJ’s would bring their own records in. I met 2 different DJ ‘s at the cut-out bins of my favorite RecordStore/HeadShop. They are making a Documentary about them.

    My High School had at least 12 active bands playing sock hops etc.. This was a music head area.

    I NEVER listened to Top 40 in the 70’s.

  17. Grannyj says:

    First time post here. First started following dailyKos, then Fifedoglake, moved on to read Billmon. In other words i am old. Have no idea what music you are talking about but glad to find emptywheel blog again. Let me know when we travel back to Elvis or John Denver or…nevermind. Appreciate the
    Insights here. Carry on…

  18. Skilly says:

    Since this appears to be a nostalgia permitted post, I just relate this nugget. In my Junior year of High School My state fair hosted Kansas in concert “at the fair grounds.” Although the football team was still in two-a days at that time, the coach got news that several of us were planning on attending in the evening. He decided to hold a night practice on the night of the show. Apparently, in his mind, any thing other than Pat Boone had potential for debauchery, thus would be unfit for his on the field authorized mayhem.

    Although I was unhinged at the time, upon reflection, he did me a great favor, and I was out the $5 for grandstand seats. Senior year, when Styx was scheduled, I knew there was no way he would let us go, and he did the same thing again, but I got to keep my $5 this time.

    I do not share your feelings about the music scene as a wasteland during that time. I was and still am a fan of the music of Steely Dan. Funk Bands were the thing for many, Heatwave, was innovative. The Meters, Parliament, The Allman brothers, Marvin Gaye, and Little Feat got me through the early 70’s. In the later 70’s it was Elvis Costello and The police, The Cars and Roxy Music. So, in my humble opinion,while it was a period was one of transition, but there were many goods artists to be found.

  19. SurfBot6 says:

    bmaz: Yes, we saw the same 1975 Pink Floyd show with the airplane. I almost died when the plane came out of nowhere seemingly on fire screaming towards the stage. The quadraphonic sound system with the synthesizer chords bouncing around the arena and the light show -WOW! The 1972 Pink Floyd show at TCC was equally impressive, especially when they played Echoes during the second set. The light show was unreal. Here’s a link to the setlist for 1972 TCC show: https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/pink-floyd/1972/tucson-convention-center-tucson-az-63d77e9f.html

    Out of curiosity, did you see David Bowie in 1974 at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum? I did. What a great show! My biggest regret: I missed Led Zepplin twice at TCC.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, I was at that Bowie show at the Coliseum. Mind blowingly good. Remember that giant disco ball he came out of?? Truly one of the best concerts ever, and I went to a LOT of them back in the day.

    • Desider says:

      I saw Zeppelin later, about ’78 – to tell you the truth, felt like a quick rehash of their Madison Square Gardens show – good, but nowhere near as energetic as Aerosmith (twice) or King Crimson. But as for Styx and Kansas and Toto and other horrors, there was a reason I tuned into King Biscuit Flower Hour every Sunday to get a taste of London.

      • bmaz says:

        Oh man, King Biscuit Flower Hour!! We are old it seems. Remember Dr. Demento? Often tailed the King Biscuit here.

        • Desider says:

          Yes, essential for forming adolescent humor, along w Muffin Man @ armadillo world hq, as well as those lines like “he smiled meekly as he inserted his mutated member into her quivering quim”, a poetical chanson for the girls, I tells ya. For TV, In Concert and Don Kirshners Rock Concert were essential, but the best stuff was always someone’s older brother come back from college/boarding school.

  20. orionATL says:

    “Had a busy day yesterday and then came to the stark understanding that a significant contributor to this blog had included a Styx Grand Illusion video in a post. I am hoping you can imagine my dismay! I still have not recovered…”

    great opening paragraph to a fun post. :)

    only bmaz could have pulled this off.

  21. Thomasa says:

    Left New York City 29 January 1971 bound for Seattle with only a small handful of 8-track tapes and an AM radio. Two drivers, two stops, Chicago and Spearfish, SD. WNEW and WABC faded out somewhere along the Pennsy pike. Cousin Brucie never to be heard from again. By Chicago we were sick of Bloomfield et al Super Session, in heavy rotation since Ohio. First stop Chgo. Visit old Army buddy Marshall, who took us to some dangerous-looking Jazz club not fit for fresh faced ex soldiers, especially white ones. Quincy somebody was playing,”You know he started out in Seattle gigging underage with Ray Charles,” says Marshall.  Marshall, bless his heart, laid on us a handful of jazz 8-tracks he’d recorded. Said, “you know the difference between a rock musician and a jazz musician? A rock musician plays three chords in front of a thousand people and a jazz musician plays a thousand chords in front of three people.” Eventually got back to Seattle and have been playing in the Jazz scene ever since. Thanks to Marshall I have only the sketchiest notion of top-40 radio or rock after 1971. You guys are definitely upgrading my musical education but I’m still mystified as to why a twenty-something Russian spy would use Styx as a honey pot. 

  22. Beaker says:

    This discussion hits me on a few different levels. Being a teenager growing up in the midwest at just the right time, I am a Styx aficionado. “Born for Adventure” was playing when the acid kicked in on my first trip. Equinox was the pinnacle, but there is loads of good music on Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight too. Don’t discount excellent prog rock. Beyond that, later Styx music does not meet the same standard. I just assume that a Republican interested in Styx music is into their later work (Mr Roboto, etc).

  23. fastenbulbous says:

    At least you didn’t get “Too Much Time on my Hands” stuck in your head. That one bores in and won’t let go.
    My group of friends agreed that Styx was for people that couldn’t handle ProgRock or GlamRock so they went for the lite version of each with Styx. A Midwesterner couldn’t escape them at festival concerts without trying really hard. (I saw them twice that way, ugh). But I’ll give them this, they could do their harmonies live so they weren’t without talent like some bands from back then (cough, Bad Company, cough)…..

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