Dennis DeYoung: The One Hundred Years From Now Interview
by Allan Hirt
Interview conducted on February 25, 2009 and April 13, 2009; posted April 14, 2009
This interview is ã 2009 Allan Hirt and should not be copied, altered, or reproduced without the permission of Allan Hirt.
DDY: Are we recording?
AH: Yeah, we’re recording.
talk about some things that are really important for me to talk about, see if I
can recall them in some sort of manageable order. Let’s talk about, first and foremost, Cornerstone. The first eight albums we made were all of a
certain kind; some better than others, but all in pretty much the same
style. So in 1978, we made our first
This was my reason for being: the English invasion and The Beatles and
all those early bands – The Who, The Animals, The Zombies, The Kinks, you name
it, they were instrumental in me choosing to be a musician, but primarily The
Beatles. When I went to
We were vilified and we were trashed as being dinosaurs because of the
kind of music we were making. Well,
hell, we had just had success with Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight;
we just finally broke through to become worldwide recording artists and were really
very successful in the
And we go to
AH: Hard to imagine. It’s 1978 and you just basically broke with Grand Illusion, somebody telling you you’re –
DDY: You’re finished.
AH: You’re done.
DDY: Music’s goin’ in another way. So, it was very sobering to me. I came back to the United States, and for several reasons, not just that experience, but the fact that my contributions, I felt, on Pieces of Eight, were not up to par. I was, in some ways, as a creative person and a writer, out of gas after having made eight albums in a row of a particular kind. You know what I mean?
DDY: I couldn’t think of another clever way to combine progressive rock with what would be called mainstream rock. You know what I mean? I had kind of run my course on how to do that, and I felt a change was coming, so I led a crusade for Cornerstone to change recording studios, to change engineers, and to make an album that was less dependent on that kind of hybrid between progressive rock and what I call mainstream rock, and to make a more pop album with acoustic instruments and focus on songs. And the reason for it was because I knew we weren’t gonna turn ourselves into a punk band, and I knew we couldn’t reinvent ourselves as some heavy metal band, because that’s not who the writers – the main writers in that band were Tommy and I, and that’s not who we were as writers. But I knew Tommy had a really strong sense of melody and pop music and acoustic music, and I felt I had the same thing, so that’s why I turned toward Cornerstone.
AH: Now, what I find interesting about what you just said is one thing that’s always struck me about Tommy Shaw, and obviously, I wasn’t there at the inception of when he came in [the band], is he’s always seemed just like such an amazing acoustic player, and he’s almost more at home on acoustic sometimes, other than, say, playing like blues and slide guitar. The rock thing – well, obviously, he does and it’s a good thing. He’s always, like you said, had a very strong sense of melody. I look at things like “Crystal Ball.” We talked a little about that yesterday where he brought – it seemed like he brought a lot to the table from the get-go and that songs like “Boat on the River,” people may think they’re a stretch, but I think it’s more of a natural extension of what he had than some other things.
DDY: Well, let me talk
about that for a second. Tommy came up
to my house in
We needed somebody who could sing in the harmonies. He proved that immediately, and then he played this tape of songs he had written. I listened to that tape, and I thought, “Thank god. This is exactly the guy that this band needs. This is exactly the guy that I need. I need a songwriter. That’s what I want. I want a guy in this band who can write music,” and Tommy could write music.
Tommy never even played the guitar that day, because I didn’t even care if he could play guitar [laughs] to be honest with ya. I felt we had JY for that. He could sing and write songs, and to me, as I’ve said to you over again, what’s the most important thing, Allan? The song.
DDY: They’re more
important than the band. All these years later the public still wants to hear
those songs we created. I heard “Crystal Ball,” and I heard, you know, snippets
of other little things, and I said, “Man, this is the guy.” So, the first thing we did was he came out on
the road with us immediately, and then I realized, “Oh, my god. This guy not only can sing and write songs,
he is a dynamic stage performer.” And I
thought, “This is good,” so when it came time to do “Crystal Ball,” when “Crystal
Ball” was first brought in, it was done completely in three-part harmony. I always go to the song “Helplessly Hoping” by
Tommy is really – I concur. His strength, to me, is about playing that acoustic guitar and writing songs based on it. This is what I think, makes him the most unique, not that he can’t do other things, but this, to me, was always his strength.
So, he played and we were listenin’ to “Crystal Ball,” it’s three-part harmonies, the whole song, and after seeing him perform, I said, “No, no, no, no. We have got to get this guy who’s standing way over here on the left-hand side of the stage, stage left, and we gotta get him at the center microphone,” because he’s gonna make this band better because he can stand in the middle of that stage and be a star. It’s only gonna benefit all of us. So, I suggested to Tommy that “Crystal Ball” be sung all by himself, because the lyric was so personal and so heartfelt that I thought it would be more effective with one voice, because my opinion has always been the greatest instrument ever created is the human voice, one single voice singing.
And so, “Crystal Ball” then became what it became because I decided – and when I say “I decided,” it became what it became – I don’t mean that I wrote the song. I mean, it became what everyone has known it as because I looked at it and thought, “This has gotta be about Tommy Shaw.” It’s not about JY and I – you know what I mean? It meant if all three of us are singing every line in that song, it’s about us. You follow me?
AH: Yeah, absolutely.
DDY: Yeah. This should be about him. It’s his story to tell, and so that’s how “Crystal
Ball” became what it is. Sure enough, I told Tommy – one day we were riding in
a rent-a-car, and I said, “Look, this is a great song, but we need to Styxify
it. We have to make it into a
AH: You mentioned it yesterday, but you also said that you felt that Tommy Shaw brought a lot to that, and you felt that “Mademoiselle” was the second best song on that album.
DDY: Yeah. Well, when you listen to Crystal Ball the album "Crystal Ball" is the best song. The reason that the album’s title is Crystal Ball is because I said, “Hey, guys, by the way,” you know – here he walks into this band. Equinox is my record, right? When you look at it, isn’t it? What I mean is I was involved in the writing of all songs except "Midnight Ride".
AH: I’d say it’s dominated, certainly.
DDY: Next thing you know, I’m singin’ all over Equinox – “Suite Madame Blue” and “Lorelei” and “Light Up” and “Lonely Child,” “Mother Dear.” So when I say “my record,” look at the writing credits. That’s basically, you know, an expression of what I think the band had become. But the minute Tommy comes in, I think, “Hey, I didn’t write any songs as good as “Crystal Ball” on this record. “Crystal Ball” is the best song. It should be the title of the album, and we gotta get Tommy Shaw out front, because he is going to be important to the future of the band.
AH: Let’s talk a little bit about the splitting of the fan base after you left in 1999. When I interviewed you for Ultimate Collection, it only seemed to fan the fires and threw me unknowingly into the middle of the fight.
DDY: If anyone was found trying to be fair in their assessment – I’m not even saying taking sides but presenting both sides – there was a very strong element that believed totally in that picture that had been painted of me was the gospel truth And I think if you were someone who said even casually, “Hey, wait a minute, Dennis says this, ” There were those who would kill the messenger.
AH: Yes, like I said, I was called your shill, and I took that personally. That actually soured me, believe it or not, on the music for awhile, because I couldn’t disassociate kinda people’s feelings towards just what was an interview. I didn’t have any agenda.
DDY: Allan, and we’re still – we’re still recording, aren’t we?
DDY: All right. How could – see, here’s the part that’s confusing to me. Before I was kicked out of the band and we can come to an agreement that, that’s what happened, right?
AH: Oh, absolutely. I don’t think there’s any question at this point. Well, and the thing, again, I find ironic is if – I don’t know if you remember the old Paradise Theater, the original Styx website – but they made it seem like, “Oh, you know, Dennis is just taking a break.” So, they tried to downplay it early on, which I think caused a big part of the problem. They made it seem, early on, that you may be back, whereas –
DDY: Listen, I think a lot of things were said, and I would just ask anyone to go back and look at the things that I have said in any interview or anywhere, and I don’t believe that I made any statements that could be construed as untruthful.
AH: And I think that’s, you know, an absolute fair assessment, and if you look at your interviews, they’ve been pretty consistent.
DDY: Yeah, because I don’t have another story to tell. [laughs]
AH: Yeah, it’s really hard to make up the same story, right?
DDY: This is what happened, and obviously, everything is gonna come from my point of view in some way, but these are the facts. I didn’t wanna leave the band. I was – you know, I was told if I didn’t commit to the tour I’d be replaced… and we don’t have to revisit all that.
AH: No. I wanna stay on the positive tip, and I’m not tryin’ to bring up ugliness, ‘cause I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone, including the fan base, at this point.
DDY: What we’re trying to clarify in some way in this interview is why a certain perception of me developed.
AH: You know, ironically, I just thought about it. I think the Behind the Music had a lot to do with it, too.
DDY: Oh, boy, did it! Do you think that prior to me being kicked out of the band and the Behind the Music show, prior to that, Allan, that Styx fans, especially the die-hards, really had any kind of bad, negative feelings about me? That has been the most painful part for me.
AH: Well, I think it’s the man-behind-the-mirror syndrome. We talked about that a little bit yesterday where to – let’s face it, when people come to see a concert, you know, they don’t wanna know that behind the scenes everybody’s pitching daggers. They just wanna know for that two hours that they’re there, they’re entertained. But, when the doors opened a little bit and you see kind of what goes on behind the scenes, I think for some fans – I’m not saying me, ‘cause I learned long ago that you guys are human.
But, I think for some fans it kind of ruins the, you know, pardon the pun, the grand illusion, that everything isn’t always as harmonious and you guys aren’t best friends and having dinner and calling each other up and going bowling, you know?
DDY: But I have to, from my point of view, correct the record a little bit. The portrayal of the relationship of the band members in the Behind the Music thing is a caricature.
AH: Well, they needed to tell a story in an hour, and you gotta have your villain.
DDY: It’s a caricature. We – the band wouldn’t have lasted that long if there was this kind of – you know constant animosity, the way it was portrayed was just flat wrong. I mean, we did hang out. We had a lot of good times together. We created wonderful things together.
We had disagreements. We had, you know – but, we continued. It’s like five people, any five people getting together to create anything, there’s going to be some disagreements and competitiveness. It’s only human nature, but you know, to paint the picture that somehow was painted of me was incorrect. Hell I would never have wanted to be in the band that BTM portrayed. Who would?
AH: If you look at the history of bands …
DDY: They’re all the same.
AH: Yeah. I mean, The Beatles – one of your favorites, most of their output, most of their popular years before they kind of have issues is somewhere between eight and ten years.
DDY: Yeah, and look, guys, it’s the history of human nature. Think of your family. I keep saying to people – here’s what you do, Allan. Go out and get your four best friends today, all right.
DDY: I want you to sit down and do the simple task of writing a short story together. Better yet for the woman get your mom and your aunts together in the kitchen to make a stew with you, that’s what it is. That’s all it is. It’s human nature. It’s not the history of rock bands it’s the history of groups of people.
It is absolutely a perfect example
of what happens to human beings when they get together and try to do something
collectively. That’s all. But, I don’t wanna talk about the grand
picture of philosophy and human nature. I wanna stick to this idea of
And it makes it harder, but ultimately, we weren’t always at our throats. We were on the road together all the time. There weren’t long periods where people didn’t speak to each other. There were short periods when we’d have little tiffs, but it wasn’t like the way BTM portrayed us. It just wasn’t like that.
AH: Tell me the story
of how Glen Burtnik came to join
DDY: Tommy Shaw joins the band, and once again, I was so thankful that Tommy Shaw walked into my house, and – ‘cause I knew he was the missing link for us to be really a special band. I knew it. So to replace him was going to be tough. In comes Burtnik in 1990, another guy, right? Talented but not Shaw. I just wanna clarify some things that I clarified wonderfully yesterday. I was officially producing the record, the Edge of the Century, and it was time to choose the first single. And it was my decision to do “Love Is the Ritual,” nobody else’s; mine.
I made this decision against the desires of A&M Records, which wanted “Show Me the Way” first. I did it for these reasons: One, I wanted to establish Glen as a new member and an important member, and I felt it was important for us to come out of the box with a rock and roll track, and that’s why it was picked. I actually preferred "Edge of the Century", but JY and Glen preferred "Ritual". A& M wanted “Show me the Way” and so the troubles began. The record company did not want anything but "Show Me the Way" so “Love Is the Ritual” never even got an opportunity at radio. It just didn’t.
Now, I could lay all the blame at
A&M’s feet, but in retrospect, I must agree, in some way, that I was asking
a lot of radio and the public, who had come to understand
AH: You know, I find it funny looking at kind of what you’ve gone through over the past ten years, at the time how much crap Glen got for replacing Tommy.
DDY: You know, I don’t remember it at this moment. When that tour happened and that record came out, I don’t remember any real animosity probably because there wasn’t an internet. Honest to god, I don’t. I do know this, that the reason I didn’t, between ’84 and ’90, try to replace Tommy Shaw, which by the way was something the other band members to a man wanted me to do from the get-go, was because in my heart I knew how important Tommy was to who we were, and to who the public had come to know.
AH: We were just talking about how you didn’t want to replace Tommy, and Tommy, in an interview a while back, had mentioned that – I think it was around ’87, ’88 – there had been an attempt at bringing Styx back together after Caught In The Act (Live). Everybody but you was into it. Boomchild impeded it and it became a problem of management. Everybody had their own managers, so it kind of became a little distasteful. I’m paraphrasing.
DDY: Yeah, it’s true. It’s true. I don’t know what he said specifically, but somewhere around like November, December of ’87, getting into ’88. I think that’s what he was referring to.
DDY: I had just recorded Boomchild, and MCA Records, Irving Azoff had signed me to that label, and they had just spent $250,000.00 on this video for Boomchild done by an Australian animation guy, right?
AH: Yeah, it’s the one with the View Master.
DDY: Okay, so they signed
me to a record deal. I won’t tell you
how much they signed me for, right, but it wasn’t chump change. And they invested in me, and they had this
video that they were working on that somebody spent just a – as we like to say
DDY: I had a responsibility to that record company to promote that record and give ‘em a shot. I just did. I didn’t know Tommy Shaw was gonna decide that he wanted to put the band back together when I started doing that project. Do you understand the timeline here?
AH: Oh, absolutely.
DDY: I didn’t know that! Had I known that, I probably would’ve just
not even made the record and just went back and tried to make a
I sat there with the record being finished, right, waiting for these guys to finish this video, which kept screwing everything up.
AH: You know, and I remember that, and here’s why – not the video part. I didn’t know about that, but I remember it being announced for release. It was like March or something of ’88.
DDY: Yeah, and then it got put back.
AH: But, ironically
enough, it came out in
DDY: Probably ‘cause they didn’t give a shit about the video.
AH: Yeah, and I
remember having to order the import from
DDY: That’s not my doing. And so Tommy called and we had conversation, which will remain between us.
AH: As it should.
DDY: I told him what was going on, and then he would call back. He called me a couple of times. “Hey, man, what’s goin’ on?”
I didn’t know what to say, ‘cause
I had people who had spent a lot of money on me, Allan, and I had committed to
do something. Listen to me now. Understand this. If I had said to MCA “Okay, I’m gonna go over
here and start makin’ a
DDY: How do you think MCA
would’ve felt about their investment in me, ‘cause they would’ve known
AH: Same time, and
what’s he gonna do? Is he gonna promote
DDY: And what do you think they’re gonna know?
AH: Yeah, they’re gonna
DDY: So, I’m in a bind. I’m in a bind. And Irving Azoff, the guy who signed me to that deal at MCA, you know who he was, don’t you?
AH: I know who he is.
DDY: He was the manager of
AH: You know, Azoff, his reputation certainly precedes him.
DDY: Look, we don’t wanna make this interview about him…
AH: Oh, no, no, no, no. I find his story fascinating.
DDY: I can tell you one thing about Irving Azoff. He’s smart.
AH: Oh, I don’t think there’s any question, to achieve the level of success he’s had in this industry. He’s running Ticketmaster now.
DDY: He’s smart. Okay, I have a great deal of respect for Irving Azoff’s business acumen, and always will, and Irving Azoff has always treated me with the utmost respect. But, there I am, I’ve given my word.
DDY: So, I would tell Tommy, “Tommy, I don’t know what the hell to do here.” And so, he said, “I got this opportunity to go meet with Ted Nugent and Jack Blades, and we’re gonna do some demos. What do you think?” I said, “I can’t stop ya.” Got it?
DDY: I told him I’m gonna
So, he went and made these demos, and he was happy. He got a good deal – I think it was [John] Kolodner – and off he went. I was not happy, but I certainly couldn’t blame him.
AH: Well, no. Yeah, I mean, obviously, if you were in the same situation, you know – but, then again –
DDY: No, I would’ve never
been in the same situation, because I would’ve never quit
AH: Well, I think to somewhat – to be a little fair to Tommy, I think he was under the, shall we say, influence of other things at the time, so he may not have been completely in the right frame of mind when, you know, in ’83, ’84. To his own words, I think he was “self-medicating,” which is unfortunate. [AH note: In my interview with Tommy, he said he was clean by ’87 and when he made Ambition, so I’m referring to the Kilroy era here in terms of TS’ substance abuse.]
DDY: I believe that all of us, you know, we just have to take responsibility for our actions. We just do, and you know, I have said that, you know, the idea of Kilroy [Was Here], the project, was a very worthy project and one that could’ve been brilliant. But, I used the sheer force of my personality to get the band to do it, and I shouldn’t have done that. I’ve said this before, haven’t I, Allan?
AH: Oh I know. And again, I think you’ve been relatively apologetic in the past little while.
DDY: I am not apologizing for it, because I believed at the time, and I still believe, it was a worthy and a possibly brilliant idea that didn’t reach its potential. And I’ve said this before, the most important thing that hurt Kilroy was not having a “Renegade” on it.
AH: With Kilroy, though, I think despite a lot of people, you know, kinda looking back and saying, “That’s what killed the band,” when in reality that isn’t – you know, there’s more to it, obviously, than that.
DDY: That is BULLSHIT! Put it in bold letters.
AH: Oh, absolutely, I
will. It takes more than a record to kill something. And to me, I look at that album, and I’ve
said this to you before, I think Side 2, songs like “Double Life” and “Haven’t
We Been Here Before” are some of my favorite
DDY: Well, “Roboto” was,
you know, it was a huge record, and maybe – no, not maybe, there was a part of
AH: Absolutely not.
DDY: No, it would’ve been another kind of record. So, in your imagination, Allan, what would the next record have been after that?
AH: I think it would
have been – you know, I don’t know, because I think it would’ve been
interesting to hear a
DDY: Well, it would’ve been sooner than that, ‘cause it was ’83. We probably would’ve had –
DDY: – another album out by ’85 maybe sooner.
AH: Well, I mean, I think, you know, maybe –
DDY: I did “Desert Moon” in six months after that, so “Desert Moon,” I know – listen, “Don’t Wait for Heroes,” “Desert Moon” and probably the song “Girls With Guns” would’ve probably have all been on that record.
AH: You know, the funny thing is, I’ve always, you know, kinda said to people privately –
DDY: Now, wait a minute. I want you to run over that in your mind. I wanna say those three things to you, okay?
DDY: And there would’ve been other songs, because we would’ve been sitting in the same room and talking about it. Listen, “Desert Moon” got to No. 10, right?
DDY: What do you think it
would’ve been if
AH: Probably top five, at least.
DDY: At least.
AH: You know, and then I’ve always said “Girls with Guns” is a song that I always heard you playing the synth part on, even though you’re not playing the synth part.
DDY: Well, I’m just saying, we would’ve made another good record. That’s what I believe, but the opportunity was not available. So many opportunities were lost to us during this time period. Videos for one with MTV, we missed the chance to be part of that revolution. The advent of the CD. So, we seem to be digressing here from the point of Kilroy, but – so, we do Kilroy, and in the beginning it’s a big success, the small theater tours sells out in the five cities it was scheduled in, and then we start to feel the softening of everything. And, of course, to compound everything, there’s the confusion over us playing small halls and then choosing to go into the big halls, and then Tommy hurts his hand, and we have to cancel the tour for four months in the middle of tour, you see what I’m sayin’? A lot of things conspired to really hurt that record’s chance. The small hall tour was my idea. I thought it would give our fans a chance to see us up close again rather then in the arena’s we had been playing. It was a mistake. It wrongly gave the impression that we couldn’t sell the big halls. And it was time consuming not allowing us to play in front ten times the fans in a shorter period, but understand the arena tour was always going to follow the small theater tour. Then there was the third single. A&M Records wanted “Haven’t We Been Here Before.”
I agree with you. Tommy wrote a great song there. That’s a great song, and –
AH: I think vocally, just personally, that’s my favorite moment on record between you and Tommy.
DDY: Hey, there it is! Two guys singin’ in counterpoint! Listen, it’s great, and A&M wanted it to be the third single. I think it should’ve been the third single. It’s just a great song. That’s why we made that video, but when it came time to release it, Tommy felt strongly that it shouldn’t be "Haven’t We Been Here Before" – I believe he wanted a live version of “Cold War” released, I think, at the time.
AH: Yeah, ‘cause it had the extra verse live.
DDY: Yeah, I don’t even remember that, but I know the live version of “Cold War” has a really long guitar solo.
DDY: Which is cool. He used to run out in the audience and play it. A&M did not want that as the single, and I mean, personally, I was – you know, I was – I really like “Haven’t We Been Here Before.” And then, they went and they picked “High Time,” because they didn’t want “Cold War”. Why High Time. I’ll never know, because “High Time” was not good as a single. It was a song written to –
AH: Further the story along more than anything else
DDY: Yeah, it was made to inform the story of Kilroy. It was never intended to be a single, and hardly – it’s way down – is it the worst song on Kilroy? Let me think about that a minute. Maybe.
I mean, I don’t hate it. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever done, but I think, you know, “Haven’t We Been Here Before” – I even like “Just Get Through This Night,” you know. So, there you go. So, “Haven’t We Been Here Before” should’ve been the single, because it was really a great song, still is a great song. We had a video, but, it was not to be. It was not to be.
AH: Yeah, the video is an interesting one, because it’s the only sort of non-Kilroy story one out of that bunch.
DDY: What people don’t understand is when we cut the deal with Brian Gibson to direct the 12-minute Kilroy film –
DDY: – he tossed in the deal those three videos, “Heavy Metal Poisoning,” “Don’t Let it End,” and “Mr. Roboto.” He tossed them in, okay, and I don’t want people to forget that Kilroy was conceived in ’81 and recorded, and our videos were made in ’82, and we had never even seen MTV at that point. Did you hear what I said to you?
DDY: I didn’t know MTV was
going to exist. Understand, my primary
motivation for doing Kilroy was to
get the band on film, because I believed this is how we go the next step to
become more important? The Beatles did
“A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” and “Yellow Submarine,” and Rolling Stones did
DDY: But, there was no
MTV, so I couldn’t think, “Well, I know what we’ll do. We’ll make some great videos,” right? There was no outlet to play videos in
DDY: They didn’t do it. So, I thought we had to get on film, so I came up with this story that would take the ideas of the Paradise Theater, take ‘em into the future and make this film – The Wall - right?
DDY: Tommy – I was trying to do something like that for us. That was my primary motivation, get us on film, not be on MTV, ‘cause once again, Allan, I didn’t know it was going to be invented.
AH: Yeah, it’s funny, you look back in hindsight and you go, “Had I known,” right?
DDY: Well, I wouldn’t have changed anything except made better videos. (Laughter) I look back in hindsight and say, “No, I was right.” Allan, I can say it. I was right. Film was, in my own naive way, film was the medium to get us in. You follow what I’m sayin’?
DDY: I just didn’t know it was gonna be MTV, so when you look at the 12-minute film that we did, that’s still pretty cool.
AH: Yeah, I mean, some of it’s very entertaining, like the scrotum bit people bring up.
DDY: Look, if people don’t understand that we were, in some ways, poking fun at the idea of censorship and rock and roll being the devil’s music. [chuckles] Then, shame on me, I failed. You know what I mean? If you went to the Kilroy show and watched “Heavy Metal Poisoning” on stage – are you with me…
DDY: And didn’t get it – it was Mel Brooks, The Producers, with “Springtime for Hitler”, then I failed. Because it was supposed to, you know, make people think but also get a concert and have a laugh.
AH: Interesting. It’s kinda funny. It’s – you look back at it and it makes perfect sense, but at the time, you know, it may not have.
DDY: Maybe people only tell me what I wanna hear, okay, but when people come up to talk to me about the Kilroy tour, that they saw the concert –
DDY: – they always say it was the greatest thing they ever saw, as an experience, sitting in the theater, right –
DDY: – watching the show, did you get a – did you see that tour?
AH: You know, I was supposed to, but you know how you mentioned Tommy Shaw broke his hand?
DDY: Allan, then you don’t know, because that film of Caught in the Act, that can’t capture what happens in the building.
AH: Absolutely, and I understand that.
DDY: You can’t, because
that’s like filming a Broadway musical. It doesn’t translate, because it’s designed for a 360 [degree] experience,
not for a two-dimensional film, and it wasn’t filmed that way. I don’t have to apologize for it. The truth of the matter is, people loved that
concert. You got a
AH: Yeah. What I find interesting looking at the Styx output, and again, we talked a little bit about it yesterday, which is why I want to recapture it today, is there’s been, overall, I would say a very economical approach to songwriting. You haven’t heard of a lot of songs not makin’ albums or – you know, like some bands are so prolific in B-sides they have box sets dedicated to outtakes. Styx is one of those bands, along with – and I put Rush in this category, where I think it seems like basically everything you got on the record is, for the most part, what was recorded. I’m not talking variations you’ll do in the studio on a tune, but just, you know, you might record “Come Sail Away” ten ways, but in the end, you’re getting “Come Sail Away” on the record. You’re not gonna, you know, do different things.
The only songs, and again, you can verify it or not, that I know are true outtakes were “Chain Me Down,” which appeared later on one of James Young’s solo albums, was supposedly originally at least demoed – I’m not sure if it was fully recorded and multi-tracked for Grand Illusion, which I think “Miss America” replaced. And there a song of yours kinda like “Come Sail Away” called “Lighthouse” or had that in the lyrics. I’m not sure what the exact title of it was.
DDY: Yes, and “Chain Me Down” was written – and we did some multi-track recording, as I recall, of it, and then JY came up with “Miss America,” which was, you know, I think in everybody’s opinion, just, you know – it’s his best song. That’s his best solo song that he ever wrote. It’s a hell of a tune, and it replaced “Chain Me Down.” As far as “Lighthouse,” it was never, to my knowledge, as I can recall, and I’m getting old, I don’t think we ever multi-tracked it. I think I did a piano vocal version of it, and I deemed it – I think it was during probably – I can’t – was it Pieces of Eight?
AH: From what I’m told, it’s around Pieces of Eight.
DDY: Yeah, I just didn’t – I didn’t think it was good enough. I didn’t think it fit in with the spirit of Pieces of Eight as an album, and I didn’t think it was good enough.
AH: Are there any other tunes like that, or were those two it? They are the only two I actively know about?
DDY: No, I learned early
on from my experience with Wooden
Nickel Records that you cannot give control – and it was always my decision –
you cannot give control of your output to a record company to do with it as
they wish into the future. So, if you do
not think it’s gonna get on your album, don’t ever record it and send it to
them, because then they will have power to control that. And that experience was amplified by RCA re-releasing
AH: Another one which is in question is one called “Worshipping Heroes” which was reportedly demoed or recorded for Cornerstone. Is this true? If so, do you recall anything about that one?
DDY: I'm getting old but I don't remember that song. Tommy brought another song in for Paradise Theater [AH note: I know which song he's talking about but it escapes me at the moment; I want to say "Fading Away" or "Come In And Explain"] and we worked on it a bit in rehearsal but I can't recall the title. So as Quasimodo once said "that don't ring a bell".
AH: Well, I also remember the first time I interviewed you was around the time of A&M leaking out “While There’s Still Time,” which ultimately came out on Brave New World, and you were angry about that.
DDY: Well, because – listen, I was angry at A&M at the time because we made them a lot of money –for them, a lot of money. When we got back together in 1990, the way we were treated by the record company, in my opinion, was reprehensible. New leadership had come in, and we were – I mean, how – what can I say? We were basically treated as though we had never done anything for the record company and they couldn’t wait to be rid of us, until they heard “Show Me the Way.” [chuckles] And then, they suddenly changed their minds. So it’s a long story that I don’t want to get into, because some mistakes were made during that time. But, most of those mistakes that were made were made because of the way – we were treated , we didn’t feel A&M really had any real commitment to us and would’ve been glad to get rid of us.
And “While There’s Still Time,” we brought that song to them, and we brought ‘em a Glen’s song “It Takes Love to Make Love.” We played it for them, and you know, they could have cared less– you know, I thought, “God, it takes love to make love – God, that’s – ” I still – are you listenin’ to me, buddy?
DDY: I loved that song.
AH: It’s that sort of ‘50s thing, which you revisit quite often.
DDY: I love that – forget that it’s Glen’s song. I didn’t have a thing to do with it, except I sang on it.
AH: For the one that shows up on Greatest Hits, Pt. 2, Tommy’s vocals replaced Glen’s, correct?
DDY: That’s right. The original one was just Glen and – but, I just love the song, I’m sorry. I still love it. I think it’s a hit record in some universe, but anyway – and I don’t care if it doesn't have a power cord on it or a synthesizer or playing really fast or jumpin’ up and down. What do I care about that stuff, Allan?
You know what I mean? I want great songs, and that’s a great song, but anyway, “While There’s Still Time,” off they went and they did their thing, which is my point. If you give record companies things that they can control, they will do what they want with ‘em.
of control, we did talk about that a little bit yesterday, but we did talk
about how currently, outside of
DDY: I’m never amazed by the Japanese. They always do a good job.
AH: And actually, all but two of the albums are remastered.
DDY: Which ones aren’t?
AH: They took old masters of Paradise Theater and Cornerstone.
AH: But, you know, outside the attention detail on the packaging, I mean, they reproduced the Cornerstone gatefold. You know how it opens up and the split down the back and, I mean –
DDY: No kidding?
AH: To the Nth degree, the – like the Kilroy and Paradise Theater – Paradise Theater has a laser etching on the CD.
DDY: [laughs] How about that!
AH: The Caught In The Act (Live) has
the silver-embossed cover like it was in the
AH: They put little replicas of the stickers in there, like the MMM sticker in Kilroy.
DDY: I’ll be damned. It’s a little-known fact, though, back in ’81, to celebrate the Paradise Theater, I actually had my ass laser etched.
AH: But, to that point,
and I mentioned it yesterday,
DDY: If it does?
AH: I mean, first of all, it’s really a two-part question.
DDY: Listen, if it really – if something like that would increase sales, I’d let you record “Come Sail Away” and see how that works. Listen, here’s what I’ll say about all that. I think I know where you’re goin’ with –
DDY: A&M miserably botched any attempt for Styx to have a greatest hits package that should’ve sold seven or eight million by releasing it while the band was broken up during the ‘80s with the beginning of the CD era by releasing this ridiculous package called A&M’s 25th Anniversary, whatever it was called [AH note: this is the Classics Volume 15 release], featuring Styx, which was our greatest hits package. So the confusion of the title and the, I would say, the near complete botching of a marketing campaign hurt that record. Then, they went and they changed the name and the packaging called Styx Classics, and they never really marketed and went forward with that.
AH: And in
DDY: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, so there you go. So, then they wanted to do a greatest hits package in ’95 with “Lady ’95.” They wanted to release – in fact, they wanted to call that greatest hits package The Best of Times, and I said, “Guys, please, you’ve confused the public long enough. Do not do that. Just call it Styx’s Greatest Hits,” and that’s what they did. Now, I just decided, as flattering as it is to have my – one of my songs as the title of a greatest hits package, I said, “That’s not going to benefit the band in the long run. Let’s call it what it is. Let’s not confuse them anymore, and let’s see what happens.”
AH: Now, is the band, whether it’s you or JY and Tommy, have no control over what A&M does, and if they wanted to rerelease the entire Styx catalog remastered with stuff you didn’t even want, you couldn’t say “no”?
DDY: I don’t think so, because once you give them like the Greatest Hits 2 package –
DDY: –which I was against, once again, for the same reason. Once you give them control of releasing something, outside of the purview of the original intent – you follow me?
DDY: They have control to do whatever they want in the future. They can package it any way they choose – any way they choose. Now, you have extended versions, right?
AH: Different record company, actually. That’s the BMG stuff. That’s all the Return to Paradise stuff.
DDY: Not extended versions, the 20th Century blah, blah, blah, blah.
AH: Masters, yeah, yeah, yeah, 20th – you have Rockers. You have 20th Century Masters. You had the – what’s now called Gold but is –
AH: – what started off as the Come Sail Away collection.
DDY: Yes, they have the right to do that.
AH: Because, you know, for years, people have thought that it’s the band blocking reissues of the albums.
DDY: See, people don’t
know what they’re talkin’ about, Allan. Let me clarify a few things. First of all, there is no
DDY: That’s the law. If you wanna take a recorded song and bring it to a new medium, which would be film –
DDY: – TV, or any new medium that’s invented, then you need the author, not the band, but the author of the song’s approval. That’s how it works. That’s the law.
AH: And I would assume
that’s why some of your songs don’t appear on some of the later
DDY: The live records?
DDY: No, the live records, they can put anything they want on them.
AH: See, again, I’m just trying to dispel the rumors and myths, because you know, people have been saying that, “Oh – ” for example, “‘Come Sail Away’ isn’t on – ”
DDY: What people, Allan? Listen, let’s qualify this. What people?
AH: People on the Internet.
DDY: Well, wait a minute. What do they know?
AH: Well, that’s why I’m asking you, because I’m trying to get –
DDY: They could just – they could look this up. It’s the law. It’s not like it’s our law.
AH: I understand copyright law ‘cause I’m a musician. No, I get it, but I’m just putting it out there that –
DDY: You can – anybody can record anything they want on a CD.
AH: Right. So, if they – if they’re releasing live albums, they could put it out or not. It’s up to them as long as –
AH: – you get your proper royalties and rights that go along with it?
DDY: Absolutely. It’s about the authorship of song, not about the band.
AH: So “First Time” – I know you talked about it in the interview on DDY Talk, but it’s sort of been kinda like “Babe,” it seems like it’s a lightning rod for fans where they go –
DDY: Not often.
AH: Yeah, well, some fans going, “Here’s DeYoung with this ballad thing again.”
DDY: What was the very
first song I ever wrote that gave
AH: That would be “Lady.”
DDY: If you listen to the first minute and ten seconds, what is that?
AH: It’s the
DDY: (Laughter) Oh, okay. Now, let’s move from there. So, the reason that we even exist, would you agree?
AH: Yeah, if “Lady” hadn’t hit the second time around, who knows where you guys would be right now.
DDY: The first minute and nine – whatever it is –
DDY: – when you hear the piano and the synth and you hear my voice, that pretty much defined who we are, yes or no?
AH: I would say it made your career.
DDY: The first two minutes or so of “Come Sail Away,” the thing that really made us worldwide megahits, megastars, whatever they call ‘em, right?
DDY: – big shots, is the first two and a half – I think it’s over two and a half minutes. What is that?
AH: Well –
DDY: It’s a ballad.
AH: Well, and I have to ask you this, because again, I’ve never had this. How does it feel, as somebody who’s written a song that pretty much you’ve recorded and then played live for nearly 30, 40 years now, and that moment when everybody sings, you know, like the “carry on” moments –
DDY: Hell, they sing every single word.
AH: But, I mean, that seems louder. I mean …
DDY: Well, that’s because – that happened because it’s something I started doing live in the set.
AH: And how does something like that feel on stage just as a response, ‘cause again, it’s not something I’ve experienced on that level.
DDY: What’s it like, are you asking me?
AH: Yeah, because you know, here’s a song you wrote that, you know, you take from, you know, cradle to birth, and all of a sudden, here it is, thousands of people singing it at you. Does it still overwhelm you?
DDY: I have to say that it’s the reason I do what I do for a living, not so much the fact that those people in that moment do that, but that I have the knowledge that given the opportunity they will. By which I mean the reason I do what I have always done is the chance to write a song that would somehow convey my point of view about the world in which I live. That I might have the good luck and good fortune to tell a story or to convey an emotion that means something to me that others will identify and make their own.
AH: And I think that could be said of a song like “First Time,” which seems very heartfelt.
DDY: Let’s talk about “First Time.” Okay, I said the whole point of – the whole point of Cornerstone was to try to make a more organic record, in my mind, which was to say horns, strings, acoustic instruments, right?
DDY: And because I knew we couldn’t change to become other things. We had to play to our strengths, and I believed Tommy Shaw’s writing skills and mine should be explored. So, here we got Cornerstone, and it really began because of my experiences in England and my experience in walking into a studio to do a demo as a birthday present for my wife with no other expectations other than trying to express to the woman I loved how hard I knew it was to be married to somebody like me who travelled all the time. “Babe” was a song about separation. And I walked into the recording studio. I remember – I can say this – I had a newsboy cap on.
And I was going through a period of melancholy in my life, so I went in there, it was just John and Chuck and myself. I said, “Guys, come on, give me – I wanna do this for Suzanne.” [They said, ]“Sure.” And the grand piano was out of tune, so sitting in the corner – I think Bobby Whiteside was the guy’s name on the case, was a Fender Rhodes, Suitcase Rhodes. They opened it up.
I never played one before, and I
did the demo on that ‘cause it was sitting there, and the grand piano was out
of tune…and the opening of “Babe” with all the, you know, little noodling
around that you hear on the keyboard at the beginning, that was just the tape
rolling. I’d never thought about it as a
record other than just trying to get the song down. So, I recorded the whole record, no guitars,
because there were no guitar players there. Tommy lived in
And I played it for the band. They said, “You know, the – ” there wasn’t a bad reaction to it. I think Tommy’s initial reaction – and I don’t wanna characterize it. I don’t remember negativity, but I think there was just, “Hey, that’s a good song,” but nobody said, “Hey, that’s the song for us.”
DDY: And then, A&M heard the record, and they said, “My god, we have to have that.” So, we went back in. I tried to re-sing it. I couldn’t – I don’t like the vocal on “Babe.” I can sing it better, but there was something about the vocal I did that people – that just felt real.
There was – I think there was a longing, I guess. I mentioned the melancholy, the hurt I felt that comes across, and people responded. So, I left the original vocal, and Tommy came in and played this wonderful guitar solo on it, but that’s it. JY doesn’t appear on the record. There are no power cords.
It’s just keyboards and that one guitar solo. And our manager at the time, Derek Sutton whose idea of the perfect rock band would’ve been Ten Years After. That’s who he really liked. That’s the kinda music he preferred. He was afraid of a song like Babe for the band, and I think his fears, I guess they permeated somewhat to band members.
So, but A&M was convinced it was going to be a hit record, so there you go. That’s the story of “Babe.” It got on the record. Now, as far as “First Time” goes, to me, “First Time” is much more the power ballad than “Babe.” “Babe,” to me, is, in fact, a straight ballad. “First Time” has the big chorus, the big power cords, the blistering guitar solos, those big power vocals, that great Styx – what we used to call “the kitchen sink ending,” where everybody’s singin’ and playin’, and there’s guitars goin’, and you know what I mean?
AH: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.
DDY: We’d call in a rooster from the street to cackle on it, everything we can get. “Go ahead, let’s put a – ” “Hey, you do – ” you know what I mean?
DDY: So, that’s how I view “First Time.” Now, I agree it is a completely romantic notion lyrically, but so what? (Laughter) So what? That’s what I wanted to write, you know? I mean, I could’ve written about other things, but that’s what I – it felt romantic to me. And really, I was thinking – you know, it says “For Paul” on there, right?
DDY: Which I – it was just like – to me, it was like “The Long and Winding Road.” Only not as good, I loved that song. You got it?
DDY: It has the strings on
it. Later – years later, I understand
that McCartney didn’t like the fact [chuckles] that Phil Spector put the
strings on it. Who knew? But, when I did
“First Time,” I thought, “Hey, we’ll put the strings on like ‘Long and
DDY: So, I look at “First Time” and I think, “Why would anyone think that’s like Barry Manilow. Barry Manilow never did anything like that. Did he?
AH: No. Were the strings real or was it the ARP [String Ensemble, a synthesizer]?
DDY: No, they were real – real strings we used on that. There’s real strings on the end of “Love in the Midnight.” See, I was going for real things: real horns, real strings, an accordion, a mandolin, a string bass. Chuck plays string bass on “Boat on the River.” He bows the string bass. There’s a tuba on “Boat on the River.”
AH: Yeah, I know. It’s audible. It’s very audible. You can hear it in the mix.
DDY: That’s what I was
shootin’ for! Because to go run back to the Oberheim one more time and line up
DDY: I thought, “We did that eight albums worth. Can we do anything different?” Okay, so reasonable people can disagree, because music is subjective, said the lady as she kissed the cow’s ass.
AH: Well, what I find funny, too, is you have, actually, the exact opposite of that. I think that album features the use of JY using a rudimentary guitar synth on songs like “Eddie.”
AH: So you have the organic, and you have the synthetic, you know, and I’ve always wondered if some of those, like, horn bits weren’t first guitar solos, or like the trading bits in “Why Me” was originally a guitar solo and then you –
DDY:t No, wait. What song – (Hums the lines in “Why Me”) Yeah, “Why Me,” you’re right.
DDY: That was created in the studio between Steve Eisen and JY on the spot. There they were. I said, “Get out there, boys! Come on, let’s see what happens.” And that happened.
AH: On earlier versions of it before you brought the horns in, was is just a guitar solo?
DDY: No. I said that was created there at the moment. Sax player came in. I said, “Hey – ” JY said, “What if I played this?” I said, “Go on out there, man. Fire it up. See what comes out.”
AH: There’s some good
moments on that record. I’ll be honest,
it’s not my favorite
DDY: And you know
what? It’s not mine, either. It’s not my favorite
We played 95 tour dates on Cornerstone. My wife was pregnant. She was with us the whole time.
AH: The tour split over two legs; I remember there was one leg with horns and one without horns, if I believe –
DDY: I think so, yeah.
DDY: And so, we did the last half, and my wife – she got off the road when she was eight months pregnant, and I asked for a couple of months off for the birth of my child. And while I was at home, I got a call from Derek Sutton that said that A&M wanted to release “First Time” as a single. And I thought, “Cool,” and then he told me what was going on with it, which was at least six Parallel One radio stations, which means the most – the biggest top 40 radio station in a major market was playing the record without it being released. And I’m telling you, Allan, that’s like a miracle, because you have to work hard, spend money, promote to get those kind of radio stations to play your music, even after it’s been officially released as a single.
So, A&M was convinced we had a shot at another No. 1 record and with no less than top three, and they wanted to go. And I said, “Cool.” And then, I got a call subsequent to that where the manager told me that Tommy was gonna quit the band if it was released, which shocked me, but you know, that’s what was said. And then, one thing led to another. It escalated, you know, and “First Time” wasn’t released as a single.
But, my contention has been, and I will say it again, if “First Time” had been released at that moment, at that very moment – the Eagles’ Long Run was No. 1, and Cornerstone was No. 2. And the Eagles came with their third single, ‘cause they were ahead of us by a single. They released “I Can’t Tell You Why” with Timothy B. Schmit, and Long Run kept goin’ and stayed at No. 1 and sold a shitload of records. And “First Time” would’ve sold us another three, four, who knows how many hundreds of thousands of records and would’ve allowed us to realize that “Boat on the River” was going to be a hit in Germany, giving us the opportunity to release “Boat on the River” third, which is really what should’ve happened with that record. But instead, “Why Me” was released.
AH: And it’s not a bad song. I actually like the song.
DDY: But, it’s not a hit record. Listen, I can say to you right now that “Why Me” had no business being released as the single. It didn’t, but you know, after you tell the record company that they can’t do something that they really wanna do, you’re gonna get in trouble.
AH: Yeah, they’re basically writing it off, saying, “Well, screw them.”
DDY: Yeah, “They’re morons.” So, that’s what should’ve happened, and we would’ve sold four million copies, I believe, on Cornerstone, which would’ve made it, at the time, maybe a bigger seller than Grand Illusion.
AH: And my argument to that has always been, again – you know, people who always say, “Well, Styx has to rock,” I point out songs, like for example, “She Cares” or even “I’m O.K.,” which are –
DDY: I’m not even gonna talk about “She Cares,” but let’s just stick to this idea of the chronological history. Okay, let’s assume for a minute – let’s take it one step. Let’s test that theory. The first song released from Paradise Theater, which went on to be one of our biggest albums and our biggest tour, was a song called –
AH: “The Best of Times.”
DDY: Oh, and what is that, Allan?
AH: It’d probably be a ballad.
DDY: Yeah. I don’t think it’s any heavier than “First Time.” It’s still a ballad. Maybe it’s not quite as romantic. Maybe the picture – the lyric is better – it has a more universal idea. It’s not just about love. It’s not simply a love song. It’s maybe a little bit bigger than that, but it’s still a ballad. So, if that were true, the first release off of Paradise Theater should’ve been “Rockin’ the Paradise” or “Snowblind” or, I don’t know, you tell me, because that – or “Half-Penny, Two-Penny.” Those are the real rock songs on the record. “Too Much Time on My Hands” is not a rock song is “Too Much Time on My Hands” a rock record to you?
AH: Not really. It’s more of a pop song.
DDY: No, it’s a pop record.
AH: It’s a pop song.
DDY: Yeah, a good one. So, I say to you, for anyone who has the theory that if “First Time” was released it would’ve ruined the band, then how do you explain “The Best of Times”?
AH: I don’t have the answer for that. You know, it’s – chalk it up to the phenomenon of –
DDY: Well, I chalk it up to the phenomenon of ignorance, and by ignorance I mean unknowing.
AH: Well, do you think – obviously, the record label wasn’t scared. Do you think the band was –
DDY: You know what the record label wants to have, right? Although A&M was much better at it than others. They really were interested in the careers of bands. They wanted to have hit records. That’s their job, you see, is selling records. That’s what they do. They sell records, and they thought “First Time” would give them a chance to sell 3 or 400,000 more, and then, you know, they have accountants, and they can figure out how much that is.
AH: Yeah, it’s a lot of zeroes.
DDY: Well, that’s what they’re doin’, and for us, we had to be aware of our career, right?
DDY: And so, we can’t do things simply for the short term, which I agree with, but I didn’t believe. Here’s what I believed: you can’t release an average anything – ballad, rock song – and expect good things. But, if you’ve got something that’s exceptional that you think is really good, I think you’ll be okay, ‘cause people recognize things that are really good. So, let me take this one step further with “First Time” – and is your tape machine still running?
AH: Yes, it is.
DDY: I want to speak briefly about “Boat on the River.” Tommy brings in “Boat on the River,” right?
DDY: He said, “I’ve got a
bunch of songs.” – like he always did on his little cassette player “I wrote
this one song. It’s not for the
band.” And he just played it for me, and
I listened to “Boat on the River,” and I said – he said, “That’s not a
DDY: I said, “It’s a great
song. Why isn’t it a
DDY: So, I heard it, and I said, “Yeah, man, this is good.” Now, the manager at the time, Derek Sutton, he was against “Boat on the River,” didn’t want it on the record. And I said, “This is just a great song. It showcases what Tommy can really do in a very special way.” Did I know that it was gonna have a chance to be a hit, like it turned out to be a hit in Germany, in Belgium, in whatever else it was, right? No I didn’t.
AH: Yeah, and I remember ‘cause there is that video circulating around of the Paradise Theater tour from Japanese TV, and they go nuts for that song.
DDY: So, I didn’t know that I had – listen, I never think – I never did think globally, I’m sorry. I just thought about me, you know what I mean?
DDY: I listened to it, and
I said – and I went, “Man, that moves me,” because you know who I am,
Allan? I see people all the time that
say, “I’m your biggest fan. I’m your
AH: Yeah, well, you have to be.
DDY: You know what I
think? You know what I think? “No, you’re not. I am. No, you’re not. I am.” So, when I heard something like “Boat on the
River,” I said to myself, “I’m the audience for
AH: So, to diverge just
a second. You did the recent tour of the
Night of the Proms – Nokia Night of the Proms in
DDY: I did.
AH: Was that at the request of the promoters, or how did that come about? And was it odd singing it without Tommy being there?
DDY: It was not the
request of the promoter, but the promoter said to me – he came over and saw my
show at the
AH: It’s certainly not a very often used instrument. I mean, it’s, obviously, on the new album as well in places.
DDY: It’s a great instrument when used properly. It really is. You know, you hear it in Zydeco. You’ll hear it in a lot of rock – a lot of people use the accordion, but guess what? I can actually play it.
AH: Well, you grew up learning to play it. It’s not just –
DDY: That’s right, I can play the accordion.
AH: Yeah –
DDY: I don’t pretend to play it.
AH: Yeah, ‘cause there’s the people who just press the keys but they don’t do the whole –
DDY: No, they don’t play the buttons.
DDY: You always know a guy who doesn’t play accordion ‘cause he doesn’t push – he doesn’t – he isn’t puttin’ the buttons down.
AH: Even I know that. You know, you can kinda tell the difference.
DDY: Right. So, that’s why that was done, but once again, does that clarify about “Boat on the River” and Cornerstone and what it represented and – and you know what? Cornerstone allowed us to do Paradise Theater. It bridged Pieces of Eight. Are you with me?
AH: And the funny thing is, I’ve actually said that to people.
DDY: I need to say this so badly.
AH: Go ahead. Just say what you need to say.
DDY: All right, Cornerstone and “Babe” ruined the
band. How did Paradise Theater become the most successful tour and Paradise Theater album be the second
AH: Well, I’ve always said to people – and I’ve said it publicly, and I’ve said it privately. To me, Cornerstone has, kinda like just what you said, been a bridge album, because whatever difficulties the band was going through at the time, you couldn’t have Paradise Theater without having Cornerstone.
DDY: No, you can’t.
AH: There’s a logical progression that’s gotta happen. You don’t go from Pieces of Eight to Paradise Theater.
DDY: Remember, Allan, we’re making this shit up as we go along. You know, you can look back at the history and say – the problem is looking back so many times you already have the knowledge of what was to happen next. When you’re living it, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You’re just making it up as you go along and trying to do the best job you can.
AH: I think that’s all anybody can do. You know, hindsight is the best informer, but you can’t – as you’re going through something, you don’t know, necessarily, that six months something’s gonna be a hit or a failure or –
DDY: Can I say something else?
DDY: You know what “Babe” did?
AH: What did it do?
DDY: It gave freedom to Foreigner and Journey to record ballads.
AH: Well, I mean, if you look at 1981 – I mean, let’s pick a year. You have songs like “Best of Times.” You have “Open Arms.” You have “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” You have – and I’m missing a few – “Keep on Loving You,” REO. You know –
DDY: What rock band recorded the first great ballad and got away with it?
AH: I think people may argue what that is.
DDY: It was us, the band of our ilk.
AH: Would you consider it to be “Lady” or “Babe” or –
DDY: Oh, no, “Lady” is different. I’m talkin’ about who got away – listen, I understand that “Lady” starts like a ballad and ends like a rock song.
DDY: There’s a difference between “Lady” and “Babe,” and I don’t pretend not to know the difference, okay?
DDY: But, my point here with “Babe” is a band like us got away with recording a ballad, and it didn’t ruin our career. So, guess what others did, then?
AH: Everybody did the same thing.
DDY: Yeah, because we were
all watching each other. Does that sound
arrogant? Why don’t you look at the
history? I’m thinking of the bands like,
DDY: – Foreigner, Journey, our peers. We got away with it. The manager was convinced that it would end our career, and he said so to the other guys in the band and scared them, but it didn’t happen.
AH: Well, I think, you know, you have to, as band, which is a business entity as well as a musical entity, you have to keep tabs on your competition. I mean, I think that’s just the nature of the beast. To some degree, you need to be aware of what everybody else is doing.
DDY: But, I didn’t give a shit, because here’s what – you want me to tell you what would be told to me?
DDY: Do you see what
AH: With which album?
DDY: By going to ballads before – this is before Cornerstone and “Babe.”
DDY: You know, this once cool-horn, jazz-infested rock band became an AC ballad band, all the Peter Cetera songs, remember?
AH: If you listen to like CTA, which is their first album from ’67 to like –
DDY: You know, even Chicago II. Look –
DDY: So, that was always what was held up, “If you do this, this is what’ll happen to your credibility.” And I just said, “I don’t think so.” (Laughter) “I don’t think so.” I didn’t buy it.
AH: Well, I mean, I
think, you know, again, looking at history, Styx has sold, as you said, a
shitload of albums, and I think the numbers – you know, obviously, it’s not
Rolling Stones or Beatles numbers, but it’s far from, you know, two albums and
a footnote in history. You guys sold a
shitload of albums and still continue to this day to sell a shitload of albums,
and it’s because, I think,
DDY: That’s always what it
was. That’s what was magical about
it. It had – it was more than one
thing. That was our strength. It was more than one thing, and to go forward
by narrowly defining it (a) would, in some ways, ignore the obvious, that it
had always been somewhat diverse and that its diversity was, in fact, its
strength. And the people who really like
AH: Yeah, I would totally agree with that. Talking about diversity, you’re now doing a 101 Dalmatians score in songs for Disney, correct, the musical?
DDY: I’m not gonna talk about any of that just yet.
AH: Okay, all right.
DDY: Let’s sick to
AH: Okay. So, making the leap to a solo career, how difficult was that for you?
DDY: I only did it because Tommy quit the band, and I didn’t know what I was going to do, and we had an option in our contract that allowed me to make a solo album. So I went in and recorded Desert Moon. I had never had any ambition to make a solo record. In fact, after Pieces of Eight, I believe JY and Tommy had batted around the idea of them doing solo albums, and it was one of the times, I believe –Derek Sutton and I agreed though I could be wrong, I can’t be sure. My opinion was we shouldn’t do that. We had just established ourselves as an entity, right?
DDY: And we should try to take advantage of that and not splinter off into different directions.
AH: So, did you have a lot of the songs for Desert Moon already written in those six months, or did –
DDY: None of ‘em. I wrote ‘em all on the spot. I didn’t have any of them. You know, I didn’t really – I love being part of the team. You know, I have my wife on stage with me now.
AH: I know.
DDY: You wanna know why? Because she represents to me being a part of something, being a part of a group. She, in many ways, takes the place of my other colleagues, in my mind.
AH: Well, obviously, she’s been your partner for a long time, so how could you mistake that she’s not on your team, you know? It’s –
DDY: No, but I mean, I use her as – like if I was gonna look over and see one of my former colleagues standing there next to me –
DDY: – that’s what she represents to me.
DDY: Not a musician for hire, but someone I can always look over and know they have my back, and that’s why I put her behind me. Just kiddin’.
AH: Well, to that point, we talked a little bit about it yesterday, and we haven’t addressed it yet today is your solo shows, when they started in 2000, you’ve gone from the orchestra thing, which was the focus, to a rock band. Now, you’re gonna be doing the acoustic thing, and you’ve had the Lost Treasure shows, so you’ve done a very wide swath of projects. How did being in Styx influence that, because again – and we talked about it yesterday, and I kinda wanna get it back on tape of how you went from one guitar to two guitars and the acoustic thing is another new step. What other things could you possibly foresee doing live or as a different variation on things?
DDY: I’m gonna go to the
House of Blues in
AH: I would, ‘cause I just wanna see if you could stand up there for, you know, five hours on one foot.
DDY: Exactly. It could be worth the [price of admission]. When Tim Orchard came to me with the idea in the year 2000 after I had just been kicked out of the band and said he would put together – he would spend all the money necessary for – to allow me to put a show together for a symphony orchestra to play in Chicago, I thought he was out of his mind. but, he was offering me a lot of money to do it, and I had no confidence nor belief in my ability to have a solo career, as a touring artist or in any way, shape or form at that point in my life, which I think I was 50 some odd years. I don’t even know what – I was in my 50s for sure, and – but, he offered me the opportunity, so when I put the show together, I chose one guitar only, because when you have a 50-piece orchestra, you wanna keep to a minimum the amount of power cords that are flyin’ around the stage. So, I figured one guitar would be sufficent, because we would have a, you know, a guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and then 50 other musicians. Sounded like a lot to me.
And so I proceeded doing tours
where I was almost exclusively doing the symphony shows, and then it evolved
into getting work playing in a rock band, and I didn’t make the transition
quick enough to two guitars. I played, I
think, in my opinion, too long with just one guitar, ‘cause when you go to one
guitar playing those
AH: Yeah, ‘cause the thing that struck me, actually, when you played with Glen and did those two shows in Jersey was, you know, I had seen your solo act, the rock thing, a bunch of times at that point. And then, adding Glen in on guitar just had that extra “something”, you know, that intangible … it took it to another level.
DDY: I should’ve done that sooner, but I didn’t. I think people are deluded to think that I can do whatever I want whenever I want it. “Why doesn’t he come to my hometown to play?” Well, because no one’s asked me. I just can’t show up at your house and play for the – you know, throw a few shrimps on the barbie, I’ll crank up “Come Sail Away” for ya. I mean, let’s – you know, let’s try … here’s a thought. “Calling planet Earth!” – okay? A promoter has to think that I could sell tickets.
AH: Well, and what I also find funny is that a lot of people are denigrating what a lot of acts of these ‘70s and ‘80s and are doing now, which are playing things like what – you know, like rib fests and festivals that –
DDY: Yeah, yeah,
yeah. But, look, I – listen, I am not
AH: Oh, I know, but it’s funny how –
DDY: I might –
AH: – everybody’s doing it, but people are saying it’s beneath everyone.
DDY: Yeah. I don’t have to do that. I mean, I’m sorry, I don’t have to do that, what am I saying? I take the gigs pretty much that are offered. I pick and choose, and I turn some down that I think are not appropriate, but I don’t really have the luxury of having the brand name. I have to use my name, which I spent no time in my life ever developing as a touring act.
What has happened to me in the last eight years is a complete and total surprise to me. I never thought that I would have a platinum album, a triple-platinum DVD, have a No. 1 record, be able to sell as many records as I have and have an actual ability to play all these shows. I never thought … I was dragged into this by Tim Orchard and my wife. I had to be convinced to invest the money in the recording of the double live album. I said, “I don’t wanna do that. No one’s gonna buy this thing.”
That’s what happened, and I have, through some miracle, I have been able to, you know, carve out a niche for me,
AH: How did you choose Jeff Watson for the other guitar player for the acoustic shows?
DDY: Dave Radley our tour manager and house mixer is good friends with Jeff and recommended him. I listenned to Jeff's work and was greatly impressed with not only his electric work but more importantly his acoustic playing. It should be fun.
AH: And I would plant the bug in your ear that recording, at some point, one of the acoustic shows would sell just as well.
DDY: Well, I don’t know, but you know, I’ll go back and say, you know, “Allan’s crazy,” but maybe you’re right. We’re gonna do this acoustic show. I did it once with Jimmy Lahey and Glen Burtnik, and I played piano in Phoenix for a radio station – I believe it’s called The Peak – for – so, you know, a listener, probably, for 800 people, and it was fun to do and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So, we’re gonna try to put this together again in some way, but you know, I don’t think all the bands in the ‘70s and the ‘80s have to play those kinds of gigs, do they?
AH: A lot of them
are. I think there are some exceptions, but
for the most part, a lot of bands, including
DDY: All right, listen, and the last time I was in the band in 1997, that tour, we averaged around 8,000 people a night, and we headlined sheds and arenas. That’s what we did, didn’t we?
AH: Yeah, ‘cause that was the Grand Illusion tour that Pat Benatar opened.
DDY: Yeah, yeah. So [pauses] that was a nice thing.
AH: Yeah. Well, and you know, the thing now, too, is – you know, again, it’s been bandied around for years. This is nothing new, but people have been saying, “I don’t understand why acts have to double and triple up,” and you know – but that’s just the economics and the reality of touring these days, too.
DDY: They don’t understand? Here’s why. For whatever reasons, they can’t sell the tickets on their own. And the reasons are different. If you can be the headliner and sell out – sell enough tickets to make promoters happy, which means they make money, or enough money, to cover their costs and make profit, then you will continue to do that. And if you cannot, then you will do other things.
AH: Yeah, and again,
sort of the same thing, there’s always that speculation, you know, and again,
both sides of the divided
DDY: How many is that, 250 people or 300? I’m not sure.
AH: Maybe 301.
AH: But, that if some, by miracles, that everything smoothed itself out and the band got back together with the three principals, that things would be much different. You’d be selling out 20,000 seaters, and my take on that is, after 10 years of split camps and everything or more, whatever it would wind up being, I’m not sure it’d be a ton larger. It’d be bigger ‘cause you’d have a combined audience, but I don’t think it’d triple or quadruple.
DDY: Well, you think I’m gonna argue with you? When have I ever lied to you, Allan?
AH: Not that I’m looking for validation, but I just find it funny that people can’t step back a second and look at the realities of what things are.
DDY: Well, look, you know [chuckles], there’s the – you know the old adage “How can I miss ya if you never go away?”
DDY: My theory has always been there has to be – you know, I’ve always believed that it was about quality not quantity.
DDY: That was my philosophy when I was in the band. I remember having a discussion with the guys in ’97. I said something that I think was very unpopular at the time, but I believed, in 1997, that when we were talking about making a new record, and I said, “We should make a new record, and we should do the best job we can.” But, my philosophy is, “Guys, our future is our past.”
By and large, that’s what I believed, and it’s not inconsistent to accept that fact and try to do good work but be cognizant and be aware of the fact that people are going to – when you last this long, they are going to wanna hear, first and foremost, all those old songs.
AH: Right, ‘cause they’re paying. Whether it’s 30 bucks or 130 bucks, they wanna hear what they know.
DDY: Yeah. You do and I do, Allan. We’re no different. If I go hear – you know whoever, I would like to hear new music from an artist, because I am an artist and I encourage it, and I’m making new records. And I’m not gonna say you shouldn’t make new records, but you should have an awareness of what the realities are of music business and the culture at large – we want the hits.
AH: Well, yeah
DDY: – and accept it as such.
AH: Well, it’d be just like somebody coming to one of your shows and that night you decided, “You know, I’m not gonna play ‘Come Sail Away.’”
DDY: Nice going, asshole!
AH: Exactly. Like, what would the reaction be of people walking away? They’d be disappointed.
DDY: Listen, who am I? I sing for my supper. I mean, what? I’m an artist. When I hear that from some people who are in popular music, I wanna say, “The first thing you’ve done is sign a record deal that gives you a percentage of the profits from record royalites ” you see what I’m sayin’?
If you’re an artist, you’re a commercial artist, and as such you’re trying to sell tickets and you’re trying to sell records and you do that because – not just because you wanna support your family and pay your mortgage, but because you would like to have the opportunity to make more records and play more concerts.
AH: Yeah. It’s a pretty simple concept, and it always
boggles my mind that you’ll have bands that won’t play some of their biggest
hits, and I will, to some degree, point a finger at the current touring version
DDY: Well, I can’t speak for anybody else, and I dare not, but first and foremost, it is my job to please myself, and it pleases me to play the first few notes of “Babe” or “Lady” or “Suite Madame Blue” and have people ooh and aah. If I don’t like that or I’m tired of it, I may have made the wrong career choice.
AH: That’s not a bad way to think.
DDY: Like, you know, hey, people – even van Gogh, he wanted to sell his paintings, you know?
DDY: He wanted to sell his paintings. What’s wrong with that? It’s crazy.
AH: Yeah, you know, and I think some people struggle with art versus commerce, right?
DDY: Yeah. Look, you don’t know what commerce is ultimately gonna be. You just don’t, ‘cause it changes, Allan, right?
DDY: Okay. So, you sit down and please yourself and make the best art you can and hope for the best, because you can’t predict it.
AH: That’s true. Now, let’s talk about playing live a little bit. One question I’ve always wondered is the song “Grand Illusion” on album doesn’t have that double riff in the beginning.
DDY: [hums the riff]
AH: But, live – and it happened soon thereafter, because there was a radio show that you guys did in ’77 that, to me, is one of the best live documents of the band. It’s called Live at Mantra Studios. I don’t even know if you remember that.
DDY: No, I don’t.
AH: But, the riff is in there, and that was recorded, I think, right after Grand Illusion was released, so I’m wondering how that double riff came about, why it’s not on the record but it’s – it became just the live – the way you did it live?
DDY: I wish I could answer that clearly and specifically, but my recollection is it was just something that happened after it was recorded, just foolin’ around on stage. I don’t believe it was conceived during the recording. It just happened. You know, these things happen on stage sometimes.
AH: Yeah, the organic thing.
DDY: Like, for instance, you know the opening organ riff in “Blue Collar Man”?
DDY: Tommy played me “Blue Collar Man,” but the organ riff didn’t exist. We’re on stage – I’ll never forget it – we’re on stage at a sound check in a big hall on the Grand Illusion tour, and I just fuckin’ played it. That organ sound was like a big machine in a factory. You know what I mean?
AH: Yeah, and then it’s become the live staple ever since.
DDY: And then we started playin’ it that way, but you know, it – sometimes these things just happen, and that thing with “Grand Illusion,” it probably happened ‘cause the five guys were standin’ on the stage and fartin’ around.
AH: Yeah, it’s just one
of those things that I’ve always been curious how it developed, because I think
DDY: It’s kinda cool. It has like a – that stuff is based on like even the breakdown in “Lord of the Rings”.
DDY: That’s based on Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, all that stuff [hums part of 1812] You know, that bit in the 1812 Overture?
DDY: That’s what that’s ripped off from. [sings] “Welcome to the grand illusion” [sings riff]– see what I’m sayin’?
DDY: That’s where I ripped that from. Don’t tell Tchaikovsky the news, He’ll be pissed.
AH: Yeah, they’ll have to wake him, I think.
AH: One of the things that you’re known for, you know, is your keyboard playing, and especially the Oberheim stuff –
AH: – and that, again – and we talked about it yesterday. But, recapturing it, some of the criticism of your live show, or maybe some of the disappointment for some fans is that you don’t play keys as much as you used to. I mean, you have the [Yamaha] Motif on stage that you play occasionally, but you don’t – you have somebody playing for you.
DDY: Yeah, I don’t have the – two things. First of all, I think it’s important for me to be out front so I can carry a show for almost two hours by having real close contact to the audience. Keyboards, as you know, Allan, don’t allow that flexibility and movability. I’m not putting one of those stupid-ass things around my neck and walkin’ around the stage like it’s a guitar.
AH: Oh, come on! You don’t wanna walk around with a keytar? [laughs]
DDY: Have you ever seen me? Okay, so that’s No. 1. The keyboards are restricting. Having said that, I understand why people have a romantic notion about seeing me play the keyboards. I get it. I, unfortunately, do not have the luxury in my solo career to carry my own gear. Almost every time you see me perform, I am on rented gear, I would say, nine times out of ten. So, we walk in and we are really – because and this is – because I – it’s a financial consideration. I cannot afford to string together 75 shows on a tour – follow what I’m saying?
AH: Oh, absolutely.
DDY: – where there’s a truck and there’s roadies. Off we go, and we have our stuff. I don’t have that luxury. I don’t have that ability to get hired in that capacity, so the shows I do are more like one-offs, like the weekend warrior –
DDY: – which for me, I like. It allows me the flexibility, and it also allows me to keep a band together that doesn’t have to be on the road all the time.
AH: And for the most part, a lot of the members have stayed – the core members like Hank’s been with you since the beginning.
DDY: Yeah, because they can come home to their families and do other work, see what I’m saying?
DDY: – rather than committing to going out three or four months at a time. Those are different kind of players that you get in those kinds of bands, and then you have the expectations of an overhead that must be kept up – roadies, trucks, truck drivers, bus drivers, right? So, in order to do that, sometimes you might have to take more gigs than you would choose to get, you know what I’m saying?
DDY: – just to make it work financially. Now, for me, it’s not even a consideration, because I can’t string together tours like that. So, I am forced to walk on stage – not forced. That’s a stupid word, okay. I choose to walk on stage given the economics of the situation and play on rented gear. I will not stand in front of an audience and declare myself that Dennis DeYoung that you remember playing on anything but the real stuff,although, I’ve had the – you’ll notice on the DVD I had my Oberheim –
DDY: I played it at – I’ve
had it – once in a while, in and around
AH: I don’t think I’ve had a vocally disappointing show that I’ve seen from you.
DDY: Okay, and I don’t want it to be that way with keyboards, either. If I declare myself doing something, I really wanna do it the right way.
AH: Now, you had, you know, a handful of keyboardists over the years.
DDY: None of ‘em play like me.
AH: Well, no, no, no. But, my question wasn’t that they’re meaning to emulate you.
DDY: And, I mean, technically, they’re probably all better than me, but one thing I’ve realized over the years is guess what? I really have my own style.
AH: Yeah, I would
certainly say when you listen to a
DDY: Well, you – here’s what you can do. You can find somebody to play what I’ve already played. That you can do. There’s a lot of guys that can do that, but the way I play, in my humble opinion, is inherent to being an accordionist, okay? I looked at the Oberheim as the world’s biggest, loudest accordion, and that style that I play is really an accordion player’s style, so most of the keyboard players that you’re going to go out and search for and find are probably piano trained.
DDY: And what I do is very unique to me because of where I come from. You know, I’ve never said to you that I thought I was an exceptional keyboard player, cause I’m not but I have a unique style.
AH: And it works very well for what you do. My question was more because you have such a body of work, do you think it’s difficult for someone that they feel they need to fills your shoes? Technically better or not, I mean, some of those parts are so distinctive that somebody’s gonna say, “He really flubbed that! Dennis could do it better.”
DDY: Well, without the right gear, I would be flubbing it. (Laughter) Those solos and that approach were based on the instruments I was the playing, the Oberheim –
DDY: – the analog portamento, which was a very, very important part of my style. I played a very trilly style, which is very, on accordions – accordion players play trills. That’s why there’s the trill on – and the trill is gone, by the way. [I laugh – it’s a BB King reference if you don’t get it …] No, just kidding. There’s the trills on “Lady.” There’s the trills on “Come Sail Away,” right?
AH: There are, but I think, to me, the defining solo where you do a lot of the trilly kind of stuff is that outro at the end of “Fooling Yourself.”
DDY: That’s a pretty good solo. [pause] That’s a good solo.
AH: I mean, it’s so distinctively you. I mean, you couldn’t hear that and not say, “That’s Dennis DeYoung.” It’s very clear.
DDY: Well, the notes I choose to play in context have to do with me. I don’t have a really good ear, so I can’t copy other people’s playing, you know what I mean?
DDY: There are people who hear something and they can play it by listening, right? Not me. So, whatever comes out of me tends to be seen through the prism of my own, like I say, shortcomings.
AH: You can call them shortcomings, but I think it somehow allows you to be unique, because there are, for example, piano teachers or guitar teachers or bass teachers or drum teachers that will try and teach you the “right way of doing thing.” But, if you develop your own style, you’re always gonna sound like you.
DDY: Listen, my – here’s my contention. If David Byrne of the Talking Heads could’ve sung like Paul Rodgers, I think he would’ve. But, because he couldn’t, he ended up being unique. See what I’m sayin’?
AH: Oh, yeah.
DDY: Mick Jagger – I’ve said this over and over again. People’s shortcomings sometimes can be their greatest strengths because they’re forced to do something the unconventional way because they’re incapable of doing it the conventional way.
DDY: How about that?
AH: I think that’s fitting. The one thing I’ve noticed about your live act, which is not true of many of your peers, is that – unless I’m wrong, and you can correct me – I don’t notice any dropped keys of any song.
DDY: Not a one, my friend.
AH: So, everything you’re doing is still on the original key, which is amazing.
DDY: Well, there you go. It just – that is true. We have not changed the key signature. Gives everything, you know, a certain authentic sound, although you know, sometimes when I listen to the guys that I know who are dropping the key signatures –
DDY: – you know, sometimes I don’t mind it too much. It can – sometimes it gets so low they go, “Who the hell is that?” You know what I mean?
DDY: But, there are some singers that still can do it the right way, and so I – you know, I’m just not one of ‘em, and I feel lucky to have that happen for me.
AH: Now, would you drop a song before you lowered a key?
AH: You’d lower the key first?
DDY: You know me, I’m not an elitist when it comes to that, right? I just happen to be able to still do it. I’m not sayin’ that, you know, I deserve a medal. You know what I mean?
AH: No, I’m not claiming that. I just find it – again, to me, it’s another thing of what you bring to the tablet that – and it says a lot that, you know, at over 50, you can still keep everything in the same key and not struggle with it.
DDY: Allan, I’m 62.
DDY: Yeah. I’m way over 50. I wish I were 50!
AH: But you know what I mean, because many of your contemporaries just hit what I like to call a wall.
DDY: Yeah, and you know what? I’m sitting here right now, and I’m gonna knock wood, and I don’t wanna talk about this anymore, because the minute I will –
DDY: – I’ll hit the wall.
AH: Well, I don’t think it’ll ever happen.
DDY: Of course it will. Tony Bennett could sing great. In the last couple years I’ve seen him, he’s hit the wall. He’s – you know, he did things that were just beyond belief for so long, but he has actually hit the wall now. He can still be Tony Bennett, but he can’t really be Tony Bennett.
AH: Although you gotta cut him a little slack. I think he’s like 85 or something.
DDY: I said, I know, he could do it to almost to 80 years. I was like oh, my god.
AH: You know –
DDY: Yeah, yeah.
AH: I should be lucky to live so long and be in such good health, right?
DDY: I think so.
AH: While it has never been talked about, the speculation during the recording of Brave New World when tapes were flying back and forth between Chicago and LA is that studio musicians were used more than who is known already. Were any studio guys on your tracks? For example, it sounds like Hank playing bass on “Goodbye to Roseland” since there’s clearly a very low note that’s played and Chuck doesn’t play a 5-string bass to my knowledge. Did any other musicians ghost on any A&M-era Styx songs other than Todd Sucherman on “Lady ‘95”?
DDY: Allan, you and the damn bass! [AH note: this stems from an off topic conversation Dennis and I had at another point; Dennis has an excellent memory] Not counting BNW, no other musician ever played on a Styx record that wasn't a member unless it were strings, or horns.
AH: Tell me about why
JY early on had more “face time” on
DDY: In the very
beginning, Bill Traut signed us to a record deal at Wooden Nickel Records, and
he executive produced the first record and hired a fellow named John Ryan, who
was a DJ in
And so, my participation on the first album is – I think I sang a little bit of “Best Thing,” a little bit of “Mother Nature’s Matinee,” and the only full vocal I sang was “What Has Come Between Us,” which was not one of our songs. So, that was my experience. Then the second album came and there’s seven songs, and five of them were mine. It was really my record, which included “Lady.” By “my record,” I mean – you know what I mean when I say it.
DDY: I was the principal songwriter and the director of that record, not in any producing sense, because I didn’t have anything to do with the production. And the album was a terrible failure. It sold about, I think, less than half of what Styx I sold, and you know, I took it very personally being a young, impressionable, ambitious, insecure, naïve kid that, you know, what I did, people just didn’t dig. So, I spent the next two albums, you know, writing songs, quite frankly, that were not very good and trying to be someone other than I would’ve been normally and naturally. And we’ve talked about the Wooden Nickel years a little bit, and when I mention – when I look back at those records, I don’t have fond memories for most of them, primarily because of my contributions outside of Styx II.
But, if I was asked, and I think you asked me before, what were the songs in the Wooden Nickels years?
DDY: It would be “Lady” and “Best Thing,” and then in no particular order, “A Day,” “Father O.S.A,” “Young Man,” “A Song for Suzanne” and “Christopher, Mr. Christopher.” Then the rest of ‘em, I could take ‘em or leave ‘em.
I think even
on Serpent [Is Rising], Serpent had
some JC influences on there, certainly the title track. And Man
of Miracles, once again, it was spread between JC, JY, and myself. But, when “Lady” hit, something that I had
believed in from the moment I had recorded it, okay well, when it finally did
hit, it was clear to me just exactly what needed to be done musically. And so, Equinox is a seminal album in that it absolutely drew up the blueprint and defined
It was a seminal record and one of the most important records we ever recorded. If you listen to Man of Miracles and then put on Equinox, it sounds like the jump of about five years, and in some ways, it didn’t even sound like the same band to me. And they really were only about nine months apart in terms of the recording. But what had had happened was clearly I felt a moment of clarity and a reinforcement about what I was attempting to do on Styx II. Equinox does reflect that record. From that point forward, JY’s – I think he sings one song, right, on Equinox? Is that right?
AH: Yeah, which, to me, is a great tune.
DDY: Yeah, but Equinox was dominated by my songwriting and because I had just had the success of “Lady.” A&M said, “We’ll, follow that dog,” right?
DDY: And so, the next album, of course, was Crystal Ball when Tommy joined. And did your recorder lose all that stuff we talked about, Tommy Shaw?
AH: No, I have that.
DDY: Okay. Well, when Tommy came in, he was a formidable songwriter, so I think JY’s songwriting and singing of songs, since primarily but not always – the writer of the song sang it, then that was probably why his role diminished.
AH: Now, could you give me any other examples of songs that maybe somebody else maybe brought in as an idea or a germ that somebody else wound up singing?
DDY: I gave “You Need Love” to JY to sing, and I also gave “Lords of the Ring” to JY to sing. I sang “Ballerina.” Tommy had, on his first tape he had, he had bits and pieces of “Ballerina,” which was called something else, and I rewrote all the lyrics –
DDY: – to “Ballerina,” and I sang that. “Mademoiselle” Tommy and I wrote together, and Tommy sang it. “Lights” we had written together. Tommy sang that. Essentially, I think in round terms, in the big picture, he was responsible for the verses, and I was responsible for the chorus on “Lights.”
AH: Which jives with what you were saying is he seemed to be able to write the nice big lyric and the idea, but you somehow came up with the chorus, the hook, and the two together was, you know, “it”.
DDY: Yeah, it worked good, but you know, JY and I wrote “Lorelei” together early on. It was called something – it was called “Grande.”
AH: And you said that
dates back to even around the time of
AH: Now, early in your – those early years, I remember on the old Styx Paradise Theater site back in the late ‘90s, they posted up like a set list from the ‘70s, and there were songs on there like “In the Court of the Crimson King” and –
AH: – I can only imagine what you guys sounded like doing some of those tunes.
DDY: You know, “In the
Court of the Crimson King” was an inspiration for “Lady.” That’s what I was thinking about when I wrote
that, lords and ladies, and you know, I thought about how that, you know, the
elegance and grace applied to my wife, she was always very – oh shit, how can I
describe her? She was – you know, even
though she grew up on the south side of
AH: Yeah, yeah.
DDY: I had been listening to that record at the time, and it was an influence on me, although you wouldn’t – you probably don’t hear it in the song “Lady,” but it was.
AH: Well, it’s funny how people internalize certain bits and maybe twist them to be something else, but you know where it came from.
DDY: Well, I know what I was listening to, and you feel inspiration in very odd ways, and sometimes what ultimately comes out of you has no bearing on the influence, because by the time you process it, it comes out completely different.
AH: Well, yeah. I mean, you know, when I listen to songs – and we talked about “Renegade” yesterday, and I’m sure there are other examples where – and we talked about “Crystal Ball” earlier where it probably came in as either a more acoustic-y or something, and then some –
DDY: But, some of it was totally acoustic.
AH: And then, somebody makes a suggestion, and the song turns around and it just becomes – just something amazing.
DDY: Yeah, if you’re lucky, and you know, like I said before, Tommy was – for me, it was always about how do we take advantage of Tommy Shaw as a star in this band? And that’s why, you know, my suggestion for him singing “Crystal Ball” and put him in at the center mic, and “Renegade,” when he brought it in, once again, it was like – you know, it was like a Crosby, Stills and Nash song –, all acoustic. And my suggestion that, “Why don’t you sing it by yourself and, you know, rock it up a bit? What would you do, Tommy? How can we make this rock?”
That’s all I said to him. Went onstage, and he went, “Ba, dume, back, ume ba.” He started playin’ the electric guitar like that. John Panozzo started bangin’ on – and then we were gone. See what I’m sayin’?
AH: Yeah, and that’s one of the things – you know, probably my one biggest regret is – I was lucky I saw John in ’91. I would’ve loved to have seen the full reunion with John. I know circumstances couldn’t make that happen, but you know, seeing vintage live video that’s been circulated, you know, in his massive kit and all the roto toms and –
DDY: No, you know what people don’t know ‘cause it’s never been discussed and this is part – this is Derek Sutton’s fault. We had great disagreements, he and I, on many things, including the press. Sutton kept us from having a press agent because he distrusted them. He went out of his way to personally insult them by not allowing any free passes and free albums to them. But concerning video he believed that video and film trivialized rock bands. One of the final breaking points was that Tommy had the idea of wanting to record the Paradise Theater tour with video camera shooting 16-millimeter film. And Derek Sutton as I have said was against us doing anything on film – anything. He was dead set against it, okay. This was of course a mistake. And I regret – my biggest regret was that there – that no one ever captured John Panozzo’s drum solo that he did during “Renegade,” which I’ve always felt contributed greatly to the success of “Renegade” as a hit record.
He – in the middle of “Renegade,” John went into a 15-minute drum solo that was absolutely the most entertaining drum solo you could ever imagine, and it’s impossible for me to explain it to you.
AH: Well, actually, I’ve seen it.
DDY: You’ve seen the way they do the toga thing?
AH: Yeah. So, I’m not sure if you’re aware, the Capital
DDY: That whole toga thing is on there?
AH: It is.
DDY: Okay, then you saw it, where he played the rototoms and he’d tune ‘em and – (Mouth noises)
AH: Yeah, he does “Toga! Toga!”.
DDY: Oh, my god. He was – he really helped “Renegade” become a hit record, ‘cause we played that live, and it was so – not to take anything away from “Renegade.” It was a great song. It’s a great song, but that drum solo was so crowd pleasing and so impressive, you know, so there you go.
AH: Yeah, you know, and it’s a shame to me that none of this stuff that exists on video isn’t released, because I think it’d be a real celebration of the band at the time.
DDY: I don’t know who has the rights to that stuff, but I do know all things concerning the historical Styx are – you know, because I’ve given up my ability to have any say-so in terms of that name and logo – would be in the hands of others at this moment and not in my hands.
AH: Yeah. That’s kind of what I find a shame about all this.
DDY: My idea was always – and I alluded to it about our former manager stopping us from doing any kind of videotaping , I felt the opposite, which is why Kilroy was done. See what I said, full circle? We have to get this band on film. They’re really good. By the way Paramount Pictures attempted to option the rights to Kilroy in an effort to turn it into a science fiction musical, but the band rejected the idea. Ironically as I have said that was my prime motivation for the project.
AH: Well, you know, and believe it or not, much like the shows from – that one show from Paradise Theater, and then there’s, obviously, the Japanese TV thing – there are a couple of shows that I know of on video circulating from the Cornerstone tour, believe it or not.
DDY: It’s possible. Look, when I look at Caught in the Act, right?
DDY: – and the live performance stuff and I look at just the Capital Centre, which is not staged, because a lot of that Kilroy stuff was staged the next day for up-close shots of the band members.
DDY: Okay, the authenticity goes away when you do that. You’ve gotta be shooting it as it’s happening, and as a performer, you have to not be thinking or being aware of the camera being involved.
AH: And if you’re conscious of it, it comes through.
DDY: Well, of course. Well, no. Some of – some people are able to ignore it. But you know, there is a – you know, there’s awareness.
AH: Yeah, ‘cause what I find interesting is, at the same time, obviously, Westwood One did a radio show that came, essentially, from the same recordings.
AH: And how much more dynamic, to some degree, the Westwood One recordings are versus the actual released live album.
DDY: Well, there you go, because look – and we all have to bear some responsibility, especially me ‘cause the minute you get into the studio and start fiddling with it to try to make it sound better, right, and you can take some of the piss and vinegar out of it.
AH: Yeah, you know, and that’s, again, one of the saddest things to me that there’s no kinda definitive live document of what most people refer to as the classic era of Styx.
DDY: Well, I believe I’ve
told you who was responsible for that.
AH: There has been some recent debate as to whether in any Styx concert between 1976 and 1998, Styx played the version of “Crystal Ball” with the extra verse (the one that Tommy had in the song before it was recorded). Some say they vividly recall Styx doing it a few times. Do you recall ever playing “Crystal Ball” that way, or Tommy doing it that way acoustic during a Styx show?
DDY: I honestly don't know although once I think we all sang the song in Romanian, but I could be mistaken.
AH: You’ve played in many places across the globe and to arguably millions of people both with Styx and solo. Does one concert, venue, or experience stick out in your mind more than others?
DDY: The first time we played The Forum in Montreal. It was at this performance that I felt we were going to be headliners and have the opportunity to see our dreams fulfilled.
AH: You were recently interviewed on the biggest radio station in Chicago to promote One Hundred Years from Now. Tell me about that experience.
DDY: For the first time in my career I was interviewed on WXRT by Richard Milne. XRT began it's career coincidentally in '72 when Styx and no one from the band has ever been interviewed on air. It has always played music that reflects a wide range of tastes but tends to shy away from mainstream music focusing on the more adventurous artists. It was an honor.
AH: Which songs off of the US version of One Hundred Years from Now were remixed and how do you feel that has altered the sound of the album?
DDY: "100 Years From Now", "This Time Next Year", "Rain", and "I Don't Believe in Anything". I am very pleased with the changes. Whenever you change something that you have listened to and grown accustomed to for a period of time it can be tricky. You get what we call demo poisoning. Having said that I have taken the antidote.
AH: Was there a point where you had a duet partner lined up for the US version title track?
DDY: It never worked out the way I had hoped it would and I needed to make a decision or the record would still be in my basement.
AH: You’ve never shied away from politics or current events in your songs. Having now heard “Private Jones”, it seems like thematically it is linked to and may be the logical follow up to “Black Wall”. What was the specific inspiration for “Private Jones”?
DDY: Good observation about Black Wall. My brother in law Chuck whom I have know since we were teenagers is a disabled Marine Veteran. Our relationship has given me insight into the world of the combat soldier and helped me understand the sacrifices the men and woman of the armed services make in defense of democracy. The war in Iraq was of course the inspiration for me to try and honor those who have given so much while we here go on our merry way. I have learned from Chuck that these servicemen and woman are not extraordinary people rather they are regular people who do extraordinary things.
AH: Do you know what songs Rounder is planning to release for the One Hundred Years From Now as singles? Do you have any influence of what is chosen?
DDY: "This Time Next Year". I don't believe there is one track that is simply hands and feet above all others. My favorite track without question is "Rubicon" but it is unfortunately not single material. I did not try and write a song for this album that would be a single, rather I focused on telling the stories I needed to tell.
AH: “There Was a Time” seems both musically and thematically linked to your past. Tell me about this song.
DDY: Well, actually everything on this album was linked to my past, that was the point. I was encouraged by my record company and manager to revisit that period between Equinox and Paradise Theater and imagine that I were making the follow up. I gave myself permission to reach into my bag of tricks that I honed during that period and use them. This is something I never did in my solo career. I felt that I needed to carve out my own niche when I made my solo albums and leave the Styx to Styx. Not this time. I have read some rather positive reviews about this record that mention the fact that it sounds retro but in a good way. Mission accomplished. Clearly "There Was A Time" sounds like me. Remember wherever you go, there you are.
AH: How would you describe the sound you strive for in the studio?
DDY: Most of the time I want my records to sound like great performances captured on tape. There are exceptions like "Roboto" but heck this is the first time I've used the ubiquitous telephone filter gimmick on a vocal ("Rain"). I haven't done this in the past primarily because too many artists used this device as a crutch to proclaim how hip they are, kind of like wearing sunglasses and getting a tattoo. You gotta do more than that to be cool.
AH: If you record another album in the future, with physical media slowly dying and downloads becoming more of the norm, do you see yourself releasing a download-only project?
DDY: What choice would I have, demand everyone return to their turntables? The revolution in the way music is delivered at this point is a travesty. Here's hoping the sampling rates for downloads will get to at least 48k or 96. Fans deserve the chance to hear music as sonically perfect as it can be. MP3's and compressed files are garbage by comparison to the way musicians hear their music in the studio. Fans should have the same luxury.
AH: What words do you have for the parts of the fanbase which still remain divided after split with Styx in 1999?
DDY: I'm still waiting for the Beatles to get back together, so why don't we all get together at your place Allan and commiserate.
AH: Wrapping things up, as you look ahead, what else looms on the horizon for you?
DDY: I'm writing the music for 101 Dalmatians The Musical which will begin a tour later this year. I know, good grief, Dennis! Not Broadway! The list of those who have appeared on, or written for or are writing for the Great White Way are as follows: Paul Simon, Sting, U2, Cyndi Lauper, Elton John, Billy Joel, The Four Seasons, Beach Boys, John Lennon, Green Day, Jimmy Bufffet, Phil Collins, David Bowie, Joan Jett, Meatloaf, Abba, Styx, and Duncan Sheik to name a few. I am happy and honored to be in their company. In addition, I will be on the road doing my customary touring with some acoustic shows thrown in as well, check DennisDeYoung.com or America's Most Wanted for updates on my whereabouts. Go ahead Allan admit it, I was your favorite Beatle after Ringo.
AH: [Laughing] Absolutely. Thanks Dennis!