Suite Madame Blue – Styx

Styx  is an American rock band that became famous for its albums from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Chicago band is known for melding the style of prog-rock with the power of hard rock guitar, strong ballads, and elements of American musical theater.

Twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo first got together with their neighbor Dennis DeYoung in 1961 in the Roseland section of the south side of Chicago, eventually taking the band name “The Tradewinds”. Chuck Panozzo left to attend seminary school for a year but returned to the group by 1964. Tom Nardini had been brought in to replace Chuck on guitar and Chuck decided to play bass guitar when he returned to the band. John Panozzo was the drummer, while Dennis DeYoung had switched from accordion to organ and piano. In 1965, the name “Tradewinds” was changed to TW4 after another band called The Trade Winds broke through nationally. By 1966, the Panozzo brothers had joined DeYoung at Chicago State University and kept the group together doing gigs at high schools and frat parties while studying to be teachers. In 1969 they added a college buddy, John Curulewski, on guitar after Tom Nardini departed. Guitarist James “J.Y.” Young came aboard in 1970 making TW4 a quintet.

In 1972 the band members decided to choose a new name when they signed to Wooden Nickel Records. Several suggestions were made, and according to DeYoung, the name Styx (the river in Greek mythology between Earth and the Underworld) was chosen because it was “the only one that none of us hated”

The band’s Wooden Nickel recordings Styx (1972), Styx II (1973), The Serpent Is Rising (1973), and Man of Miracles (1974) were a mixture of straight-ahead rock with some dramatic prog-rock flourishes and art-rock aspirations. These albums showcase intricate and powerful organ, guitar, vocal, and percussion solos as well. The Serpent Is Rising would foreshadow later endeavors by the group – the so-called concept album is an idiom upon which Styx would rely heavily by the 1980s.

On the strength of these releases and constant playing in local clubs and schools, the band established a fan base in the Chicago area, but was unable to break into the mainstream until an earlier song, the power ballad “Lady” (from Styx II), began to earn some radio time, first on WLS in Chicago and then nationwide. In the spring of 1975, nearly two years after the album had been released, “Lady” hit #6 in the U.S., and Styx II went gold soon after.

Styx’ seventh Album, The Grand Illusion was released on July 7, 1977 (7/7/77) and became Styx’ breakthrough album, reaching Triple Platinum certification. It spawned a top-ten hit and AOR radio staple in the DeYoung-written “Come Sail Away,” which reached #8 in 1978. Shaw’s “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” was a second radio hit, and reached #29 the same year. The title track also received significant airplay.

Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, the band enjoyed its greatest success. Their 1978 album Pieces of Eight found the group moving in a more straight-ahead pop-rock direction and spawned the singles “Renegade” (#16 in the U.S.) and “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” (#21 in the U.S.), plus a minor hit “Sing for the Day” that stopped just short of the Top Forty at #41.

Suite Madame Blue

Dennis DeYoung wrote this in 1975 to honor the American Bi-Centennial celebration.

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Time after time
I sit and I wait for your call
I know I’m a fool
But what can I say
Whatever the price I’ll pay
For you Madame Blue

Once long ago
A word from your lips and the world turned around
But somehow you’ve changed
You’re so far away
I long for the past and dream of the day
With you Madame Blue

Sweet Madame Blue
Gaze in your looking glass
You’re not a child anymore
Sweet Madame Blue
The future is all but past
Dressed in your jewels
You made your own rules
You conquered the world and more
… Heaven’s door

America, America…
America, America…
America, America…
America, America…

America, America…
America, America…

Red, white and blue
Gaze in your looking glass
You’re not a child anymore
Red, white and blue
The future is all but past
So lift up your heart
And make a new start
And lead us away from here
Suite Madame Blue

  • Audio from the 1975 album, Equinox:
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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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