In an interview with Andy Greene of Rolling Stone earlier this month, Styx singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw said it would be virtually impossible for him to imagine a reunion with Styx founding member and former front man Dennis DeYoung, whom the band replaced in 1999.
“Rather than having a positive effect on each other, we have a very negative effect on each other,” Shaw commented. “You only live once and you should be happy.”
In a new interview with Dennis DeYoung, Greene asked the seemingly baffled musician for his take on Shaw’s interview. “I don’t know what he’s talking about,” DeYoung said. “Look, nobody is a bigger fan of Tommy Shaw than me. The day I met him in 1975 I knew he was going to be a great guitar player, performer and songwriter. I was his biggest fan, and I’m Styx’s number one fan.”
Styx was one of the most successful arena rock bands of the 1970s and early 1980s, releasing a string of multi-platinum albums including The Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight, Cornerstone and Paradise Theatre. DeYoung and Shaw were the two primary vocalists and songwriters in the group, and their differing styles helped the band achieve much of its crossover success, but after DeYoung’s ballad “Babe” reached #1 in 1979, the commercial dominance of his songs like “The Best of Times” and “Mr. Roboto” became a sticking point with the rest of the group.
“After that we made a lot of money and had a lot of success, but this united force started to drift apart,” Shaw told Greene.
DeYoung said he and Shaw were not as far apart musically as some fans might perceive. “‘Renegade’ would arguably be Tommy’s biggest rock song,” he noted. “It wasn’t a rock song when he brought it in. It was my idea to make it into a rock song.
“The perception is wrong. Tommy’s a great songwriter. And his greatest strength is that acoustic guitar,” DeYoung continued. “He can write any kind of song. And my philosophy has always been if you got five songs, choose the one that’s great, regardless of style.”
Styx disbanded after 1983’s Kilroy Was Here, but reunited in 1996 for the very successful Return To Paradise tour. Shaw recalled that as an unhappy experience. “We tried it in 1996 and we realized what was true in 1983 was only more true in 1996,” he told Greene. “We’d just gone our separate ways.
“God, it was such an unhappy place. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We’re crazy, but we’re not insane.”
“I don’t remember it that way. At all,” DeYoung countered. “Nothing went wrong in ’96. We had a wildly successful tour. We were doing almost 10,000 people a night. I never thought I’d see that again.
“The division really began after I got sick and couldn’t work for a year,” DeYoung maintained. The keyboardist was sidelined with light sensitivity after a flu virus attacked his facial nerves, and during the recording of Styx’ ill-fated Brave New World album, which was slated to be the group’s comeback, he said he asked Shaw and Styx guitarist James “JY” Young for more time to recover before going on the road.
“I figured out if I kept out of the bright sunlight and wore my sunglasses, I would feel better, “DeYoung said. “They said they were going on tour, and if I wasn’t going, they would replace me. That’s what they did.”
Styx keeps a heavy schedule of more than 100 shows per year with its current lineup, while Dennis DeYoung performs a Styx greatest hits show that he bills as “The Music of Styx.” But even after all that’s happened, DeYoung has publically maintained all along that he would still be in Styx if it were up to him, and that he’d be open to the idea of a reunion.
“But what I’ve said since day one is the same thing I say today,” DeYoung told Andy Greene. “It hasn’t changed.
“I gave that band my life.”