Styx released its seventh album on July 7th, 1977. The Grand Illusion was the breakthrough they had been waiting for. The group – consisting of Dennis DeYoung on keyboards and vocals; brothers Chuck and John Panozzo on bass and drums respectively; John Curulewski, acoustic and electric guitars; and James Young – guitar, keyboards, vocals – had toured hard for over five years. They had built up a fan base in the midwestern U.S., but still had not garnered national or international fame. Two things changed that: constant airplay of their ballad “Lady” and the release of The Grand Illusion.
When the now-classic “Lady” made its first appearance on Styx II, the band’s second album, it – along with the album – was met with much criticism. But several years later, a Chicago radio station put it into heavy rotation. “Lady” went Gold soon after. Curulewski,dropped out of the band and was replaced by Tommy Shaw. During this time, the band capitalized on the success of “Lady” and recorded and released the concept album The Grand Illusion. Like all concept albums, there was an underlying theme that tied the songs together.
The title track laid out the theme for the entire album. The theme of “Nothing is as it seems” is reflected in the lyrics: “So if you think your life is complete confusion / ’cause your neighbor’s got it made / just remember that it’s a grand illusion / and deep inside we’re all the same.” “[It] was my way of saying ‘don’t be fooled by all these things you see,’” the song’s writer and Styx vocalist Dennis DeYoung once said in a radio interview. “That’s not reality.’” The next song carries on the same theme. The singer in “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” admonishes the Angry Young Man that “How can you be such an angry young man / When your future looks quite bright to me?”
There is also what many consider to be Styx’ most popular song. “Come Sail Away”, also written by DeYoung. Thematically, it’s about growing up, facing past disappointments and hoping for a better future. Musically, starting out a quiet ballad and running into a blast of guitars and drums. “Come Sail Away” peaked at #8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and helped The Grand Illusion achieve triple platinum status. The album has sold well over a million copies.
Since then, Styx has churned out such hits as “Babe,” “Renegade,” “Too Much Time on My Hands,” and “Mr. Roboto” among others. John Panozzo passed away in 1996; three years later, Dennis DeYoung parted ways with the band. However, he still tours with a backing orchestra, performing the music of Styx. The band – now comprised of Chuck Panozzo, James “J.Y.” Young, Tommy Shaw, Todd Sucherman, Lawrence Gowan and Ricky Phillips – also continues to tour.
Copyright 2015 by Jim Marasco