RE: Maybe We Need Tommy Shaw Side Of This Story
Posted by: Stacy ()
Date: April 26, 2000 09:08AM

Todd, Jan, all you other "tommy haters" et al.. why don't you let the facts speak for themselves. I hardly believe that Tommy orchestrated this little coup that you are so sure happened.

The Best Of Times

Gowan brings new energy to Styx as it begins to climb back

By: Craig McKee

It’s one of the best kept secrets in music.

Two acts that credit Montreal with helping them get their shot at
stardom are now one – although few people, particularly in Canada, seem
to have notice.

Lawrence Gowan, the Canadian solo star who’s been churning out hit songs
since the mid 1980s, is now the keyboard player and vocalist for Styx,
once the top rock act in the world.

The result is a rebirth for the band and a dynamic live show that many
fans are describing as the best Styx has ever done.

“You hate to sound cocky, but we know it’s strong,” Gowan said backstage
before a recent solo gig in Kitchener, Ont., during a break in Styx’s
tour. Since it started last July, the tour has racked up more than 100
shows and plans are to continue at least through the end of the year. No
date for Montreal has been set, but the group assures fans they’ll make
it here.

“I know those guys love Montreal,” Gowan says. “We both have this
amazing fondness for the place, because it’s where both of our musics
were first embraced.”

And Gowan seems to fit into the band’s new dynamic as if he was always
meant to be there. He says his concern in replacing longtime band
frontman Dennis DeYoung is that he do the songs justice, while bringing
his own interpretation to Styx’s classic hits.

“I feel that the musical values of Styx are very much intact with me
being part of it,” he says. “I’m walking that tightrope every night,
and it’s a tightrope I love being up on. I don’t feel off balance even
for a second doing it with those guys.”

And it’s clear the rest of the group sees Gowan as a key part of the
group’s future, both for his stage presence and the musical
contributions he can make on future albums. Guitarist Tommy Shaw, who
has emerged as the new creative leader of the band since DeYoung’s
controversial departure, says Gowan was “born for this job.”

“He brings his criminal mind [to the band] in more ways than one,” jokes
Shaw in an interview from his Los Angeles home. There’s something wrong
with that man, and I hope he never changes.

“He’s very serious, but he has a child-like curiosity and enthusiasm
that’s perfect for what we’re doing.”

And Gowan’s entry into the group has a strong Quebec connection.
Blainville resident Kim Ouellette, who operates Tommy Shaw’s official
web site, was the one who suggested to Shaw that Gowan would make a
great replacement. Shaw remembered the tremendous response Gowan had
received when he opened for Styx in 1997 in Montreal and Quebec City,
and gave him a call. In less than an hour after the suggestion was
made, Gowan had agreed to fly to California to meet the band.

Lawrence Gowan first emerged on the music scene in the early ‘80s at
just about the time Styx’s hugely successful period was about to end in
bitterness following the Kilroy Was Here album and tour.

Gowan’s first big hit was Criminal Mind, a haunting piano number that
sounded eerily perfect for the Styx progressive rock style even then.
And the song may end up on the next Styx album, offering Gowan the
chance he never really had to have his music exposed to American fans.

“We might end up recording the song because it’s such a great song, and
with Styx playing it, it’s like brand new,” Shaw says.

After that first success, Gowan continued to produce hits in Canada like
You’re A Strange Animal, Moonlight Desires, All The Lovers In The World,
When There’s Time For Love, and Dancing On My Own Ground.

“Our fans absolutely love the guy, and they don’t know half of what he’s
capable of.”

Shaw says when he and Gowan sit down to work on new material they tend
to gravitate to songs in the art rock style that made Styx huge in the
late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Gowan says he’s very comfortable with this

“I can’t help but think there’s a darker undercurrent that I would
probably contribute to the band – and hopefully that would be a
progression from what they’ve done, and hopefully that would stake out
my own territory.”

The opening for Gowan to join Styx came with the news that group founder
and keyboard player Dennis DeYoung would not be part of the latest tour,
which started last July following the release of the band’s first studio
album in nine years, Brave New World. DeYoung is responsible for a
majority of the group’s best-known songs, including Babe, Come Sail
Away, Suite Madame Blue, The Best Of Times, The Grand Illusion, and the
often-maligned Mr. Roboto.

What at first appeared to be a temporary replacement while DeYoung
recovered from a mysterious illness that left him fatigued and unable to
stand too much light or heat, has turned into a permanent change in the
face of the group. The result is a happy fivesome of current Stygians
and a very unhappy DeYoung. The bitterness now involves lawyers on both

While the illness was given as the reason DeYoung skipped the tour, it
is now clear the roots of the split go much deeper. And the remaining
members have used this development to go for a harder rock edge that
they feel is truer to their original sound.

“Dennis just got through doing a show in Chicago, and he sold it out,
and it’s 180 degrees from what we’re doing, and we’re happy for him,”
Shaw says.

Shaw, who is the dynamic force behind Styx classics like Fooling
Yourself, Crystal Ball, Blue Collar Man, Renegade, and Too Much Time On
My Hands, says it’s better to have Styx exist in some form than not at

“It’s like going through a divorce, you know, you just hold on and hold
on and you hold on and you think it’s going to be okay ‘cause you got
all this history with each other, says Shaw. “And then there comes a
day when you just say no, we’ve got to take this tough step, and this is
hard, and this stinks, but we’ve got to move on, otherwise we’re never
going to be happy.

“Now happiness prevails, and we wish happiness for everybody. Why not?
Life’s too short.”

He says he doesn’t want to be critical of DeYoung in the media: “I have
too much respect for Dennis to do anything to tarnish people’s image of

While Shaw has received heat in recent months from DeYoung fans, it is
clear that he isn’t alone in favouring this new direction for Styx.
Fellow guitarist James Young, who joined the group in 1970 when it was
still called TW4, makes it clear that this development was a long time

In a phone interview from his native Chicago, “the Godfather of Styx”
painted a picture of a group that has been dealing with internal
conflict over its musical direction – and even whether to do group
projects at all – for a very long time.

“I’ve been waiting for Dennis DeYoung, off and on, for the last 20
years, to decide to go to work or to decide to do something.”

Young says the lack of collaboration on Brave New World between DeYoung
and the rest of the group was not what he wanted.

“It’s not for a lack of trying on Tommy’s and my part that it wasn’t a
more collaborative process.”

The differences over the musical direction of Styx go back as far as
1980 when the group recorded Babe, their only number one hit. While the
other members of the group knew it would be a hit, there was concern
that the ballad could alienate the group’s core audience. And it
appears that it did just that – as did the group’s next biggest hit, Mr.
Roboto. (Interestingly, it was used in a Volkswagen commercial last
year, just one in a series of breaks for Styx. The biggest was the
appearance of three of their songs in the Adam Sandler film Big Daddy.)

In recent years, DeYoung has gravitated towards Broadway in a big way.
He released an album of standards called 10 on Broadway, and he wrote
and recorded a musical of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

“Dennis has gone very Paul McCartney on us, very musical theatre on us,”
Young says. What he’s doing now really resonates very little in my
judgment with the album Equinox, Crystal Ball, Grand Illusion and Pieces
Of Eight.

“Where Tommy and I are at is much more trying to take those four records
and spin that into the next millennium.”

With DeYoung at the musical helm, it seemed that the band’s live show
had stagnated, a fact that made their last tour in 1997 an unhappy
experience, according to Shaw.

“In some ways we were like an old play where everybody hits their marks,
says the same things with the same little dance routine,” Shaw explains.

“And once we changed that, it opened up the spontaneity, and the
personalities came through.”

And the results are dramatic. What fans see now is five guys who seem
to be having fun with each other. The old differences are gone, and the
enthusiasm is unrestrained.

DeYoung has been harshly critical of what Styx is doing without him,
including their desire to play smaller towns and smaller venues than
they used to. Shaw, Young and Gowan explain that this is an effort to
reintroduce the band on the grassroots level, winning fans through live

“When people connect with you live, they’re with you for good,” Gowan

So far, the enthusiasm of the fans for the show hasn’t translated into
record sales or radio airplay for Brave New World. The group has found
out in the 1990s that getting their sound on the radio is a major

“Until classic rock radio begins to look at some of the classic bands
that they’ve championed, and look at what they’re doing today, it won’t
be the common knowledge that Ricky Martin’s Shake Your Bon Bon is,”
Gowan laughs.

Commercially, the band was on top after the 1983 tour for Kilroy Was
Here. But, Shaw says, the internal politics had become “unbearable” and
he left to pursue a solo career. Kilroy, which was DeYoung’s baby all
the way, was the group’s most theatrical effort yet, complete with a
short film that preceded each concert. But, Young says, it was a
project that the rest of the group only took on after DeYoung insisted.

With Shaw leaving after the ill-fated tour, the group went on hiatus.
The three principal members released several solo albums, but none that
brought them as much success as the group had.

While Shaw and Young say they were desperately trying to get Styx back
together in the late ‘80s, it was DeYoung who was “dragging his heels.”
By the time he could be convinced, Shaw had already committed to joining
Ted Nugent and Damn Yankees.

“When you make a commitment to man with crossbows and loaded firearms
whose name is Ted Nugent, you better take it seriously,” Young laughs.

Glen Burtnik, the group’s current bassist, replaced Shaw on guitar when
Styx released Edge Of The Century in 1990, which yielded the hit Show Me
The Way.

Young explains that the Seattle “grunge” sound of the early 1990s took
the band, and the industry, by surprise. He says that Styx lost a
lucrative recording contract with A&M records through “over-confidence.”

He says A&M had made them an offer after Edge Of The Century, but they
thought they might do better elsewhere. When A&M found out they were
shopping around, they pulled the offer, which Young describes as
“handsome” by today’s standards.

“We wound up with no one interested,” he says.

“Oops, we f- -cked up – to put it bluntly – and it set us back.”

As a result, the group is now signed to CMC (a division of BMG), a label
that has not shown any interest in financing a Styx video, even thought
1997’s Return To Paradise, a double live album, is the only gold record
in CMC’s history.

“They don’t have a lot of bullets to fire, and they’ve chosen to fire
other ones,” Young says. He points out that because CMC doesn’t own the
band’s catalogue of hit albums, and doesn’t benefit when sales of those
albums are stimulated, promoting the group isn’t as profitable.

But the band is optimistic about the prospects that their progressive

style will come into vogue again. In fact, they think it’s already

“The whole pendulum that had swung towards Seattle has swung back to a
rock mainstream,” Young says. “It’s more song driven, and more harmony
and melody driven.

“If radio and MTV are not ready to jump at this, then we’ve got a bit of
convincing to do.

“If Aerosmith can do it, I don’t know why we can’t.”

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Dennis DeYoung 996 SC 04/24/2000 02:47AM
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Maybe We Need Tommy Shaw Side Of This Story 592 Susumu 04/25/2000 09:45AM
RE: Maybe We Need Tommy Shaw Side Of This Story 1053 Todd 04/26/2000 07:02AM
RE: Maybe We Need Tommy Shaw Side Of This Story 595 Jan 04/26/2000 08:12AM
RE: Maybe We Need Tommy Shaw Side Of This Story 564 Vicki 04/26/2000 09:06AM
RE: Maybe We Need Tommy Shaw Side Of This Story565 Stacy 04/26/2000 09:08AM

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