Come Sail Away ~ 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.

Come Sail Away

Come Sail Away” is a song by American progressive rock group Styx, featured on the band’s seventh album The Grand Illusion (1977)

Musically, “Come Sail Away” combines a plaintive, ballad-like opening section (including piano and synthesizer interludes) with a bombastic, guitar-heavy second half. In the middle of the second half of the album version is a minute-long synthesizer instrumental.

Styx member Dennis DeYoung revealed on In the Studio with Redbeard (which devoted an entire episode to the making of The Grand Illusion), that he was depressed when he wrote the track after Styx’s first two A&M offerings, Equinox and Crystal Ball, sold fewer units than expected after the success of the single “Lady”.

The track became the regular closing track during the band’s live set before the encore, and DeYoung now closes nearly all of his live concert performances with a rendition.

I’m sailing away set an open course for the virgin sea
I’ve got to be free free to face the life that’s ahead of me
On board I’m the captain so climb aboard
We’ll search for tomorrow on every shore
And I’ll try oh Lord I’ll try to carry on

I look to the sea reflections in the waves spark my memory
Some happy some sad
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had
We live happily forever so the story goes
But somehow we missed out on that pot of gold
But we’ll try best that we can to carry on

A gathering of angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope and this is what they said
They said come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me

I thought that they were angels but to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies
Singing come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me

  •  Audio from the 1977 album, The Grand Illusion:

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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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