July 1977: Styx Hits the Big Time with "The Grand Illusion"

Styx, group portrait, New York, 1978, L-R John Panazzo, James Young, Tommy Shaw, Dennis De Young, Chuck Panazzo. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
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(Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Tommy Shaw was working on only his second album as a member of Styx, The Grand Illusion, when the growing discord between him and singer Dennis DeYoung showed up on record. Shaw, who penned "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)," just felt that the words had to be said at the time.

RELATED: Dennis DeYoung Wants Styx to Reunite for One Last Tour

"In a way that song was from me to Dennis," Shaw said (via Songfacts). "The seeds of discontent had started to take over on the road. The rest of us were all really happy at the time, but Dennis wasn't getting quite the same joy. I was trying to tell him there was all this great stuff going on, and to enjoy it more. It was frustrating to see someone so talented and loved, but not getting more out of the experience. Whether or not he understood, I don't know. It was fairly subtle."

While DeYoung may or may not have had the best attitude about the group's burgeoning success, he certainly had a vision when it came to Styx's seventh studio effort. The title track, in particular, came with a very specific message.

"'The Grand Illusion' was more about, 'Look at us up here on this stage in these good lights. You kids there in the audience in the 14th row, you think we know stuff? We may know a little bit, but deep inside, we're all the same. And what we're doing and what people that advertise to you on the radio, TV, and magazines, by creating illusions and images about how your life should be, those are just their fantasies, because nobody's life is like it," DeYoung revealed. "So, in 1977, I decided I would tell the fans, 'You know what we're selling? We're selling music, baby! We're selling T-shirts and concert tickets. So, take it for what it is. If you think we know something you don't, maybe we do, maybe we don't.'

"What other rock band did that? Especially in that era," DeYoung added. "A lot of bands from that era – Foreigner, Queen, Journey, Styx – they kind of get lumped. I say, 'No.' At times, we were like Dr. Seuss. We were trying to think the big think. Take a step back and go, 'What's going on in our country?' That's what we did and I don't think we get any credit for it. Because? The style of music was big and dramatic... and dare I say, pompous. You're damn right it is!"

Led by first single, "Come Sail Away," Styx released The Grand Illusion album on July 7, 1977, and never looked back. The album enjoyed an impressive 127-week chart run, peaking on the Billboard 200 at #6 for the week of February 26, 1978. The #1 album in America that week: the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

"Come Sail Away" had its own chart ride, rocking up the Hot 100 to reach the #8 spot on the Hot 100 for the week of January 28, 1978. The #1 tune in the USA that week: Player's "Baby Come Back."

The second and final single from The Grand Illusion, the aforementioned "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" was a bigger hit on rock radio than the pop charts, although the tune did crash the top 40 to peak at #29 on the Hot 100.

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