Keep On Rockin’ In The Midwest

Recently, I showed some love for Foreigner and, over the time I’ve existed here, I’ve made no effort to conceal an even greater affection for Journey.

It’s time to complete the (some might say unholy) trinity with Styx.

The mention of those three bands likely makes the blood of some run cold, but, if you were in junior high in 1979 and discovering music through mostly radio in the Midwest, you knew the songs intimately.

I’ve told of how Styx’ was my first concert. Of course, that post was more of a concert shirt post as opposed to a Styx post.

It was spring, ’83, when Styx announced their Kilroy Was Here tour and a mere thirteen dollars secured me a ticket. I did have to allay the concerns of my mom who had read a newspaper article rehashing the controversy surrounding the band’s song Snowblind – backwards masking on the song had drawn Christian wing nuts out to declare the song and band Satanic.

My mom, while not overly religious, frowned on Satanism.

(more importantly, wrap your head around Styx, the band that brought us Babe, being thought by some to be in league with the devil)

In June, my pyromaniac friend Kurt and I climbed into his older brother’s Ford Fairlaine and headed to The City. As neither Kurt nor I had our licenses, we hitched a ride with his brother and two of his friends.

I seem to recall some tension heading to the show. I think the pyro’s brother got us lost. I feared missing the beginning of the show – no opening act but a fifteen-minute movie setting up the premise of the conceptual piece that was the Kilroy Was Here album.

(there simply would be no following the intricate plotline)

So, I was introduced to the magic of live music by Styx on their Kilroy Was Here tour, one of the most ridiculed musical spectacles of the ‘80s.

I was there and I did buy the shirt (and I wouldn’t be too surprised if I still have it buried somewhere). I don’t even truly remember it aside from the movie.

(I far better remember seeing Rush at my next concert)

Fifteen years later, Styx lead singer Dennis DeYoung was shopping in a record store where I worked. I told him the tale.

He was dressed like someone’s father. I had hair down to the middle of my back and several nose rings.

It was slightly surreal.

Here are some songs I’m sure I was hoping to hear at that show (and, aside from, Mr. Roboto, don’t remember for sure whether they played them or not)…

Styx – Miss America
from The Grand Illusion

The Grand Illusion was the first Styx album I remember listening to repeatedly. We had The Grand Illusion on eight-track in our locker room when I started playing football in junior high.

Guitarist James Young growling Miss America rocked suitably and had a message. At twelve or thirteen, it made me feel like an intellectual.

(it’s deep, man)

Styx – Renegade
from Pieces Of Eight

Renegade was more straightforward. The only meaning to the song was of a desperado on the lam which was exotic as we merely had older, high school guys smoking cigarettes and cruising in Camaros in my hometown.

I actually met Tommy Shaw, who sang lead on Renegade, backstage, after seeing Styx again when I was older. Like Dennis DeYoung, Shaw seemed like a gracious, affable fellow. I feel kind of bad because I interrupted our conversation. I noticed a girl with a broken foot. I knew her from hanging out at a coffee shop and thought her to be quite fetching.

Adios, Tommy. Hello fetching, broken-footed, coffee-shop girl.

(of course, I would have understood had he done the same)

Styx – Half-Penny, Two-Penny
from Paradise Theater

Paradise Theater was one of the first cassettes I ever owned (I pretty much skipped right past vinyl as a kid) and I played it to the breaking point. Sure, I bought it for the hits I’d heard – The Best Of Times and Too Much Time On My Hands – but I’d repeatedly listen start to finish.

Half-Penny, Two-Penny was near the end of side two and, though I was initially unfamiliar with it, it soon became a favorite.

Styx – Mr. Roboto
from Kilroy Was Here

I suppose Styx was never a hip listening choice and, at the time, Mr. Roboto puzzled even the fans (or perhaps it pained listeners to know that we would soon be under the thumbs of our Japanese overlords).

Then, the song’s use in some television commercials in recent years (and the realization that we would actually end up under the thumbs of Chinese overlords) gave the song a bit of cachet.

As for me, it was Mr. Roboto’s creepy plasticized countenance leered out from the front of the shirt I bought at the show.

3 Responses to Keep On Rockin’ In The Midwest

  1. A. FlockOfSeagulls says:

    On the somewhat frugal budget of a fifteen year old, the Styx album 'Kilroy Was Here' was a must have extravagance in 1983. I still think Dennis DeYoung has one of the purist voices in pop/rock, and Tommy Shaw was more than able support.

  2. […] I’ve noted that Styx – on their infamous Kilroy Was Here tour – was my first concert. […]

  3. […] me, Styx was my first concert experience and, though I quickly soured on the band with Kilroy Was Here, the punchy title track to guitarist […]

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