WANT TO GO?
Dennis DeYoung: A founding member of Styx
WHERE: Clay Center
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
TICKETS: $33.50, $43.50 and $53.50 INFO:Call 304-561-3570 or visit www.theclaycenter.org
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dennis DeYoung said he had to be honest. He thinks the chances of he and his former bandmates in Styx somehow getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame aren't good.
The multi-platinum singer/songwriter and former front man of the band best known for hits like "Come Sail Away," "Lady" and "Babe" sounded resigned to Styx's fate of being excluded from the honor.
He said, "Obviously, everybody would like to be well thought of. Of course, you'd like to be in, but I just don't know. There are so many bands that are more deserving than Styx who are not in," said DeYoung, who performs Friday night at the Clay Center.
The problem comes down to who controls the nomination process, which DeYoung said is largely decided by Rolling Stone magazine. Its publisher Jann Wenner, co-founded the Hall of Fame and sits on the nominating committee.
DeYoung said Rolling Stone has never been a supporter of the kind of rock music Styx or other successful bands of that generation played. It's not just Styx that's been left out, but bands like Boston, Foreigner and Journey.
Record sales, fans and even continuing popularity don't seem to make much difference, and DeYoung said he's confused by what it takes to even get considered. Some of the performers that have been honored aren't really known for rock music.
Songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen, for example, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, which DeYoung said doesn't make a lot of sense.
"Leonard Cohen is a nice man and a fine songwriter, but ..."
The Canadian isn't exactly a rock star, and neither is Madonna, for that matter, who also was inducted in 2008.
"Madonna is a huge pop star," DeYoung said. "She's had a formidable career and a lot of great songs, but I don't know what that has to do with rock 'n' roll."
DeYoung said he isn't the only one perplexed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's judgment.
"I'd like to be in," DeYoung affirmed, "but I have my doubts."
What he doesn't doubt is his ability to perform. At 64, DeYoung's voice still sounds strong, and he's glad to be performing. He's scarcely stopped since he and Styx parted ways for good in 1999.
"For the first seven or eight years, I only sang my songs," he said, "but three or four years ago, I put a band together to put on stage the sound and spirit of Styx."
DeYoung and his band play Styx's greatest hits. Ironically, their set includes some songs that Styx -- which still tours, but without DeYoung -- no longer performs. Reportedly, Styx doesn't play any material from the album "Kilroy Was Here," which included the hits "Don't Let It End" and "Mr. Roboto."
"As it turns out, we do a show you can't hear anywhere else," DeYoung said. "We play everything the serious fan and the casual fan would want to hear."
And every now and then, they work in a deep cut for the hardcore Styx fan.
But there's not a lot of DeYoung's solo material, really just one or two songs: "Desert Moon," which was a hit for him in the mid-1980s and maybe something from "One Hundred Years From Now," his last record.
"One Hundred Years From Now" was DeYoung's attempt to recapture the sound of classic Styx without the rest of the band.
"At the time, it was clear to me I wasn't going to be in Styx again," he said, still sounding regretful about his departure from the band.
Styx broke up in the mid-'80s, reportedly over creative differences that came to a head with "Kilroy Was Here." The rock-operatic concept album about music censorship and rebellion was more theatrical than the band's usual progressive pop rock. It sold well, but the supporting tour was a financial failure, and the band acrimoniously dissolved.
DeYoung and guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw embarked on solo careers, although the group eventually returned for several years before DeYoung was shut out in 1999.
DeYoung doesn't think what broke up the band in the first place was really about creative differences.
"Bands have creative differences the moment they sit down together," he said. "What breaks up a band is poor judgment, essentially fueled by drugs and alcohol.
"It always kind of surprises me when a band stays together."
Aside from an unlikely induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which has temporarily brought together several other broken bands), a reunion with Styx doesn't seem to be in the cards. While DeYoung and Styx's original bassist, Chuck Panozzo, have been periodically hopeful about the band reuniting, guitarists Shaw and James Young, who currently lead Styx, have been completely against it.
Still, DeYoung seems to be trying to avoid burning bridges with his old bandmates. He doesn't believe it's good for them to publicly bicker and fight. It's bad for the fans.
"But the number-one thing you never do," he said, "you never denigrate the music. It's a death wish."
DeYoung doesn't. He's proud of what he did with Styx, and he believes that long after the members of Styx (past and present) are gone, the songs they made together will continue on.
"They were worthy of something," he said. "They were worthy of people's attention." Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.