Pop Life

I’ve never much liked the entire “Seventies Midwestern Arena Rock” genre. 

But among the bands in that genre, it’s Styx that’s always gone beneath and below the rest, the one whose impression to me swerves from apathy into active dislike.  

It’s not that they couldn’t play.   They certainly had live game. 

But unlike REO Speedwagon, or Head East or Trooper or April Wine (I know, they’re Canadian, but they fit the genre) or Michael Stanley Band or any of the others that were more or less like them, Styx’s Dennis DeYoung spent most of the late seventies and eighties whining about how awful being a pop star was, how degrading the machinery of the stardom industry was, and what mindless sheeple the fans were. 

To which I eventually responded “OK – then go to work in a meat processing plant and quit your whining”.

We’ll come back to that.


This is the Sinead O’Connor I suspect most of us remember:

This is the response I suspect most of us, even us Protestant goyim that found, nevertheless, much that was admirable about JPII, would have loved to have made:

Thirty years and change along, and it turns out it wasn’t (just) rabid anti-Catholicism. Turns out she really, really, really loathed being a pop star, and she also had some serious mother issues:

In the book, she details how her mother physically abused her throughout her childhood. “I won the prize in kindergarten for being able to curl up into the smallest ball, but my teacher never knew why I could do it so well,” she writes…O’Connor was 18 when her mother died, and on that day, she took down the one photograph on her mom’s bedroom wall: the image of the pope. O’Connor carefully saved the photo, waiting for the right moment to destroy it.

“Child abuse is an identity crisis and fame is an identity crisis, so I went straight from one identity crisis into another,” she said. And when she tried to call attention to child abuse through her fame, she was vilified. “People would say that she’s fragile,” Geldof said. “No, no, no. Many people would have collapsed under the weight of being Sinead O’Connor, had it not been Sinead.”

Of course, being an “artist” (I put the term in scare quotes not because O’Connor isn’t one – she was an exceptional singer – but because the term has been stretched far beyond meaning these days) means being able to pass the abuse on without ever having to adopt any sort of adult coping skills, which is one of the reasons people go into being one in the first place.

The piece is an interesting read, although kind of depressing by the time you get to the end and really digest it.

Oh, yeah – I said I’d come back to Styx and Dennis DeYoung. I have a habit of saying “we’ll come back to that”, and I don’t, always. I should go back through a few years of this blog’s history and finish some of those threads.

Anyway. DeYoung.


Actually, for all the whining about the pop star life he had (and still has), and how vocally I dislike most everything he has ever written, in or out of Styx, DeYoung would seem have avoided the most cliched pitfalls of stardom; he’s abstemious and rigorously healthy, as devoutly Catholic as O’Connor is, well, not, and he’s been married to the same woman for 50 years; he used to take his family on the road to avoid, y’know, all the problems that families get when Dad is on the road all the time. And as whiny as most of his music was, in interviews he’s always been one of the funniest, most genial, and seemingly audibly well-adjusted, grateful people in the music business.

That might be worth an article all by itself.

7 thoughts on “Pop Life

  1. Yeah, Styx definitely made a pretty fine career out of modest talent, but I like a couple of their songs.

    Add Kansas to the list as well, and don’t hack on me for this. Kansas’ first 3 albums, and half of Leftoverture, are great hard rock/progressive hard rock. After Leftoverture, they were definitely arena rock. Skip all that, get their album “Masque”, and enjoy. (which you will if you like great rock)

  2. Like a lot of high school dudes in that era, I loved Styx until they came out with the extremely cloying “Cornerstone” in late ’79, which coincided with the arrival of “New Wave” in my home town. Who had time for “Babe” when you could listen to “Life During Wartime” instead?

    Now that we’re 40+ years on from all that, Styx is still uneven at best, especially DeYoung’s songs, but it doesn’t seem to matter as much any more.

  3. Not my generation, but I’m pretty open in my musical tastes. Never liked Styx.

  4. Styx was OK; a bit more flash than substance. They were one of my first college concerts, mainly because a woman I was dating then wanted to go to the concert. It was very “concerty”, but she was pleased. I kind of liked their “Born for Adventure” song from Equinox because of the way the “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoas” at the end of the song bounced around my old quadraphonic stereo system.

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  6. Kinlaw – yes! loved some early Kansas especially ‘Masque’.

    As a teenager I really enjoyed Styx’s Crystal Ball, Equinox & Grand Illusion but kinda fizzled after that. As Mr D mentioned, once Cornerstone hit I was out the door. Not interested in the band personnel drama either but interesting to hear DeYoung was a good guy. (Had to look up “abstemious” – thanks for the new word Mitch!)

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