I have just a few minutes to write briefly about my experience at the Styx Concert this summer at Interlochen. Those of you that are Facebook friends with me have a pretty good idea of the experience, but I thought I would just share a few other thoughts. I had the great pleasure of seeing Styx in concert at Interlochen on July 19 and then enjoyed backstage passes and a nice conversation with original band member, James Young, after the show.
Many of you don’t know that I loved Styx as a kid and from 1977 – 1983, simply wore the grooves off of my Styx records. My sister went on a few dates with a guy in 1977 that turned me on to the band. The Grand Illusion album had just come out and Come Sail Away was finding its way to the airwaves on WDVD in Pittsburgh. I bought the record at Indiana’s local Record Store (and head shop), took it home, and began memorizing words, guitar solos, bass lines, etc. from the very beginning. I remember my parents looking over the words on the slip cover and approving of the material, but pointing out the one use of the word “hell” and that they didn’t want that word creeping into my language. Soon after, I bought previous records, Crystal Ball and Equinox. I couldn’t get enough. I particularly liked the lyrical songwriting and guitar playing of Tommy Shaw and the heavy quality to James Young’s riffs. I wasn’t a big fan for Dennis DeYoung’s dramatic style, even then. I couldn’t wait for Pieces of Eight to come out in 1978. I bought the album the day it was released and even saved up to buy the “picture disc LP” that had the album cover art imprinted right on the vinyl. I had it framed and it lived on my bedroom wall until I went to college in 1983. I loved every tune on Pieces of Eight. Still the Tommy Shaw stuff, I realize now, was my favorite. Conerstone came out a year later and it was memorized in just the same way. By the time Paradise Theater was released, I was beginning to move on to other music, but I still knew every riff and word of that record. Like many kids in the 80’s, they lost me on “Mister Robato.” It just didn’t work for me.
I have been turning my kids on to Styx music all summer in preparation for the concert in July. I took the whole family. It has been a wonderful trip down memory lane to experience all of the great songs again, remembering my feelings about them as an adolescent and creating new memories and feeling about the songs as a 47 year old dad of three boys. I have definitely realized this in the past few weeks: Tommy Shaw is the reason I love this band. He has been an incredible influence on my musical life. He is the consummate rock star on stage. He is a tremendous musician and lyricist. Man in the Wilderness, Angry Young Man, Crystal Ball, Fooling Yourself. These are the tunes that still resonate for me in so many ways. They always will. I think that many of the melodies I write are directly influenced by his writing. I am indebted to him and Styx in so many ways.
I definitely want to thank Liza Grossman for hooking me and my son up with the backstage passes. It was a thrill to meet JY and I loved my conversation with him after the show. What a great guy. It was so much fun to hear his stories of the early days and their current work and lives. I was sorry that I didn't get to say thanks to Tommy. But, I totally understood, he had several shows coming up and needed to save his voice after the show. If we had met, I just would have said "thanks." So, I will say it here.
Styx helped me get through my adolescent years. Their music moved me. It shaped me. It has been a blast to revisit that in the past few weeks.