How Styx broke through with ‘The Grand Illusion’

As Styx finally achieved a long-hoped-for success, they did one thing rare in rock music at the time: they looked inside. The great illusion, released on July 7, 1977, spoke with bold frankness about the attributes of fame, the uncertainty of their new position, and each member’s worries about how fame might change them.

These great themes were born from the title song, brought to Styx by Dennis DeYoung and appropriately placed as the album’s opening song.

“It spoke to us all and told us about what we were going through as members of the same group, as our popularity increased and we started to make money,” Tommy shaw said to Messenger of the day. “We were a very tight-knit band musically at the time, and it was all for one and one for all – this wonderful time in the life of any band. So we all started to put our hearts into it like a big ‘amen ! “”

Shaw called this era, which also included the 1978 follow-up LP Pieces of eight, “the first season of innocence.” He had joined the previous year, becoming a key creative part of the 1976 transition Crystal ball, But The great illusion – with his Top 30 hit “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” – this is where Shaw fully integrated into the larger group dynamic.

“We went on the road and turned, and it really took us that long to become a band with Tommy. We became writers together and The great illusion is the result, ”said DeYoung Classic rock revisited. “I was the theme guy from Styx and I came up with the theme. I got everyone together and I said, ‘Look, last year we made more money than we did. never thought of winning in our entire life. How did it affect us? I know how much it affected me. We set out to try and make a loosely thematic album based on success, failure and money. “

Even before DeYoung’s “Come Sail Away” became their second Top 10 single, there was a feeling that The great illusion represented a creative and commercial breakthrough. Album sales certainly confirmed the latter, as the project became the first of four consecutive multi-platinum releases for Styx.

Listen to “Come Sail Away” by Styx

“I think we all knew it was our best job at the time,” said James “JY” Young. DUKE. “There was something very cohesive about the title of the album. There was a resonance of a concept album or whatever, so I think we felt like we really captured something.”

The success-hungry alienation of “Fooing Yourself” and “Come Sail Away,” with its dark, underlying theme on never-before-found pots of gold, has given way to deeper, crisper cuts like “Man in. the Wilderness “. Composed on location by Shaw after Styx performed a revealing debut gig for Kansas in front of thousands of fans in Detroit, he described the range of emotions in this rapidly changing time.

“Going this far opened up all kinds of ideas for me, and the next time I was alone with my acoustics, the song more or less unfolded on its own. The lyrics were there in raw form everything. away, “Shaw told the Messenger of the day. “Think about it: to go from playing in a bowling alley to the kind of halls where we started playing regularly, and being away from home all the time, it was weird at first to stand out by getting that kind of. response from so many people who didn’t really know me or how I felt at the time. “

Elsewhere, the theme is complemented by “Miss America”, Young’s hard eyes, riffy charge of superficiality; and “Castle Walls,” an elliptical review of the barriers that surround us from DeYoung. Styx’s new ability to maintain the delicate balance between these competing musical impulses is what made The great illusion such a defining moment.

“The beauty of the creative team back then was that we were different,” Young told UCR. “We were all different individuals and so anything that came out creatively was really held to very high standards from a dozen different angles, as opposed to everyone playing the same thing. wise – and what is amazing is that the work really seems to have stood the test of time wonderfully. “

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