Before a Styx concert three years ago,
band members were approached "by a couple of young women
dressed like they came out of 'Almost Famous' -- bare
midriffs and what have you," says founding guitarist
James "JY" Young.
With apologies to Young, forget about "Almost
Famous," that romantic but realistic portrayal of rock
'n' roll life in the early 1970s. Instead, Young found
himself in a moment that more resembled that cinematic
parody of an aging rock band, "This Is Spinal Tap."
Fellow Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw was signing one of
the women's bellies, "and they said, 'JY, JY -- can you
please sign our bare midriffs as well?' " Young recalls.
"Then the one young woman told me that I reminded her of
her father. Then she told me I was a legend.
"That legendary thing is a hard mantle to wear,"
Young adds wryly, with tongue firmly in cheek. "So I've
begun to refer to myself as a reluctant legend."
But the 54-year-old Young and his Styx mates aren't
reluctant about still pursuing their rock 'n' roll
dreams. Last year, the band released "Cyclorama," their
first new studio album since 1999. And they're hitting
the road again, with a new tour landing them at the
Broken Spoke Saloon in Ormond Beach on Thursday for a
free Bike Week concert.
Though recorded without founding keyboardist Dennis
DeYoung -- who acrimoniously parted ways with the band
-- "Cyclorama" revitalizes such Styx trademarks as
melodic songs, brash guitars and choruses packed with
vocal harmonies that rival a church choir.
"Many people say this is the best live incarnation of
Styx," Young says by phone from his Chicago home. "There
are people, some legendary radio personalities who shall
remain nameless, who think 'Cyclorama' is the best
record Styx has made."
That assessment may surprise casual fans of the band.
After all, Styx scored the late 1970s with
platinum-selling albums and such hits as "Lorelei,"
"Come Sail Away," "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)" and
The band went on hiatus in 1984, then most members
reformed in 1990 and scored a hit with the single "Show
Me the Way." But it wasn't until 1996 that the lineup
from the band's glory days finally reunited: Young,
Shaw, DeYoung and founding bassist Chuck Panozzo. After
recording the album "Brave New World" in 1999, the band
parted ways with DeYoung.
Young says it "doesn't surprise me" that some fans
may be surprised by the vitality evident on "Cyclorama."
"Dennis DeYoung, when he was part of the band, was
busy taking credit for everything that we all did,"
Young says with a chuckle. "So there would be some
lingering impression that that is historical fact as
opposed to fiction in his brain.
"The problem with this band is that there was always
too much talent in it, he said modestly," Young adds
with an impish clip in his voice. "Collectively it was a
battle to see what songs got on the records, and what
direction we would take the music. The reality is, in
the absence of -- the permanent absence of -- Mr.
DeYoung, this can really function more in the spirit of
Asked whether a so-called "classic rock" band can get
noticed in this MTV/"TRL"/rap/rap-metal age, Young says
matter-of-factly, "Certainly we're stigmatized because
of how old we are and how long we've had success."
Then he's off on a detailed, and insightful,
chronicle of the history of rock since Styx formed in
Chicago in 1970: from the birth of MTV in the early
'80s, to the rise of "the Journeys and the big-hair
bands of the late '80s," to the disillusionment
symbolized by lip-syncers Milli Vanilli, to grunge,
alternative and the "unplugged" trends of the '90s, to
such current bands as Creed and Evanescence. Those
latter two bands Young dubs "very Styx-like" due to
their use of melody, "hard-edged guitars, big harmony
choruses and great singing."
"I sense that once young women in the mid- to late
'90s got tired of wearing Doc Martens and no makeup and
fatigue clothing, there came the notion that melody
could come back in, and everything doesn't have to be
angrier and angrier," Young says. "Rock has to purge
itself from time to time. The whole thing has evolved
back around where suddenly there are melody and big
Young says Panozzo, a founding member of the band
along with his late brother, drummer John Panozzo, will
perform at the Bike Week concert despite battling a
"full-blown case of AIDS." Panozzo still performs select
dates, usually joining the band during the latter stages
"If there's an excuse to wear leather, he's there,"
Young says. "His heart is always here, his spirit is
here, and every now and then his physical form makes an
appearance as well."
For their Bike Week gig, Styx will perform some songs
from "Cyclorama" as well as their hits.
"Of course people want to hear the soundtrack to
their glorious misspent youth," Young says with a soft