Early on, Styx's music reflected such then-current prog rockers as Emerson Lake & Palmer and the Moody Blues, as evidenced by such releases as 1972's self-titled debut, 73's 'Styx II,' 74's 'The Serpent is Rising,' and 75's 'Man of Miracles.' While the albums (as well as non-stop touring) helped the group build a substantial following locally, Styx failed to break through to the mainstream, until a track originally from their second album, "Lady," started to get substantial airplay in late '74 on the Chicago radio station WLS-FM. The song was soon issued as a single nationwide, and quickly shot to #6 on the singles chart, as 'Styx II' was certified gold. By this time however, the group had grown disenchanted with their record label, and opted to sign on with A&M for their fifth release overall, 1975's 'Equinox' (their former label would issue countless compilations over the years of, culled from tracks off their early releases). On the eve of the tour in support of the album, Curulewski abruptly left the band, and was replaced by Tommy Shaw (sadly, Curulewski would pass away from an aneurysm in 1988). Shaw proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle for Styx, as most of their subsequent releases throughout the late 70's earned at least platinum certification (1976's 'Crystal Ball,' 77's 'The Grand Illusion,' 78's 'Pieces of Eight,' and 79's 'Cornerstone'), and spawned such hit singles/classic rock radio standards as "Come Sail Away," "Renegade," "Blue Collar Man," "Fooling Yourself," and the power ballad "Babe."
Despite the enormous success of "Babe," it caused tension within the group - specifically between Shaw and DeYoung (the latter of which was the song's author), as the guitarist wanted Styx to continue in a more hard rock-based direction, while DeYoung sought to pursue more melodic and theatrically-based works. This led to DeYoung being briefly ousted from the group (although it was kept completely hush-hush at the time), before a reconciliation was met. The band decided that their first release of the 80's would be a concept album, 1981's 'Paradise Theater,' which was loosely based on the rise and fall of a once beautiful theater (which was supposedly used as a metaphor for the state of the U.S. at the time - the Iranian hostage situation, the Cold War, Reagan, etc.). 'Paradise Theater' became Styx's biggest hit of their career (selling over 3 million copies in a 3 year period), as they became one of the U.S.' top rock acts due to such big hit singles as "Too Much Time on my Hands" and "The Best of Times." But the behind-the-scenes bickering only intensified in the wake of the album's success, as DeYoung was now convinced that a more theatrical approach was the future direction for Styx. Shaw and the rest of the group begrudgingly went along, and while the resulting follow-up was another hit, 1983's sci-fi based 'Kilroy was Here' (which told the story of a future where rock n' roll was outlawed, almost a carbon copy of the storyline of Rush's '2112'), the album would eventually lead to the group's break-up - as the ensuing prop-heavy tour seemed to focus more on scripted dialogue and lengthy films than good old rock n' roll.
A forgettable live album, 'Caught in the Act,' was issued in 1984, before Styx went on hiatus, and the majority of its members pursued solo projects throughout the remainder of the decade. DeYoung issued 1984's 'Desert Moon' (which spawned a moderate hit single with its reflective title track), 86's 'Back to the World,' and 88's 'Boomchild,' Young released 1986's 'City Slicker,' while Shaw put forth several solo sets - 1984's 'Girls with Guns,' 85's 'What If,' 86's 'Live in Japan,' and 87's 'Ambition.' Shaw then formed Damn Yankees along with former Night Ranger bassist/singer Jack Blades, guitarist Ted Nugent, and drummer Michael Cartellone, a group which enjoyed commercial success right off the bat with their self-titled debut in 1990 (due to the hit power ballad "High Enough"), before issuing an unsuccessful sophomore effort 2 years later, 'Don't Tread.' During Shaw's tenure with Damn Yankees, Styx had reformed with newcomer Glen Burtnik taking the place of Shaw - issuing a new studio album in 1990, 'Edge of the Century,' which spawned yet another hit power ballad, "Show Me the Way." But the Styx reunion was a fleeting one, as its members went their separate ways shortly thereafter - with DeYoung going on to play Pontius Pilate in a revival of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' (and issuing an album of Broadway show tunes, 1994's '10 on Broadway'), while Young issued a pair of solo discs (94's 'Out on a Day Pass' and 95's 'Raised by Wolves'), and Shaw teamed up with Jack Blades for the short lived outfit, Shaw Blades (issuing a lone recording in '95, 'Hallucination').
A re-recording of their early hit, "Lady" (titled "Lady '95"), for a 'Greatest Hits' compilation, finally united Shaw with his former Styx bandmates, which led to a full-on reunion tour in 1996. But drummer John Panozzo fell seriously ill at the time (due to a long struggle with alcoholism), which prevented him from joining the proceedings - as he passed away in July of the same year. Although grief-stricken, Styx persevered with new drummer Todd Sucherman taking the place of Panozzo, as the Styx reunion tour became a surprise sold-out success, resulting in the release of a live album/video, 97's 'Return to Paradise,' while a whole new generation of rock fans were introduced to the grandiose sounds of Styx via a humorous car ad which used the track "Mr. Roboto," as well as songs used in such TV shows as 'South Park' and 'Freaks & Geeks.' The group even stuck around long enough to issue a new studio album, 99's 'Brave New World,' before friction between bandmembers set in once again. With the other Styx members wanting to soldier on with further albums and tours, DeYoung was forced to take a break when he developed an uncommon viral ailment, which made the singer extremely sensitive to light. DeYoung was able to eventually overcome his disorder, but not before Shaw and Young opted to enlist new singer Lawrence Gowan and issuing a pair of live releases in the early 21st century - 2000's 'Arch Allies: Live at Riverport' (split 50/50 between Styx and REO Speedwagon) and 2001's 'Styx World: Live 2001.' DeYoung began touring as a solo artist at the same time, and eventually attempted to sue Shaw and Young over the use of the name 'Styx' (the lawsuit was eventually settled in late 2001). Around the same time, Chuck Panozzo confirmed rumors that he had contracted AIDS (but was battling the virus successfully), while the turbulent career of Styx was told in an entertaining episode of VH1's 'Behind the Music.'
In the spring of 2003, a new studio album featuring Gowan arrived in stores. For Cyclorama, Styx consisted of Shaw, Young, Burtnik, Sucherman and Gowan. It also featured guest appearances from John Waite, Brian Wilson, and actor Billy Bob Thornton. ~ Grweg Prato, All Music Guide