Friday, November 19, 2010

Styx - 1975 - Providence, RI KBFH

Providence, RI, KBFH
& Detroit, MI
FM Broadcast recording, very good quality
mp3 @ 192

OK, We're still in Chicago in the early '70's here at the 'Chronicles', and another act that was beginning to make it's mark was Styx (OK, before you start in ranting about Styx, remember this is only early, progressive-rock Styx I'm talking about). So, I wanted to post a show from what I still believe was their best period, 1972-1975, their ''Wooden Nickel' years, with original guitarist John 'JC' Curulewski, pre-Tommy Shaw, pre-mega-stardom, the good stuff. Well, I couldn't find a single live recording from that period, nothing at all. But first, let's go back to the beginning. The genesis of Styx actually started way back in the early sixties, when schoolmates Dennis DeYoung and the Panozza brothers (John and Chuck) formed a band called 'The Tradewinds'. By 1969, the group had changed its name to 'TW4', added guitarists John Curulewski (JC) and James Young (JY), and eventually landed a recording contract with local label Wooden Nickel records. In 1972, shortly before recording their first album, they changed their name to Styx, after the name of the legendary underworld river. So, this was the band that I came to know in 1972-73, when their first couple albums were released and became a sensation around Chicago. At that time, although they mixed in straight-forward hard rock, they were really more of a progressive rock band, and it was pretty cool having a local Chicago band that sounded like some British import. Sure, they could be somewhat pretentious and pompous (even then) with sometimes forced mixes of classical and rock tunes, but that was all part of the fun of it, right? Anyway, with their first album, Styx, in 1972, the track 'Best Thing' received alot of airplay (but only on progressive FM stations, like WXRT), and established the band as a local favorite. In 1973, with the release of Styx II, they seemed to have put it all together for their big breakthrough. In summer 1973, shortly after the release of Styx II, they appeared on the Chicago's Public Television music show 'Made in Chicago' and were the hottest band in town, with several songs from the album getting substantial airplay (including 'Lady, 'You Need Love', and 'I'm Gonna Make You Feel It'). As I've said before, I had at one time a tape from that show, but it is long gone now. I saw them live myself in either late '73 or early '74 (around the time of the release of The Serpent is Rising) in some high school gymnasium. They were great, with both DeYoung and Curulewski being commanding presences on stage. By 1975, the rest of the country was finally catching on to the band, as 'Lady' became a national hit (almost 2 years after it was a local hit on Chicago radio), and Styx moved on to a national record label (A&M) for their 5th album, Equinox, which became their most successful album to date and spawned multiple singles and AOR hits. However, just before embarking on their big tour in support of Equinox, guitarist JC suddenly quit the band to spend more time with his family. In a frantic last-minute search for a replacement, the band chose Tommy Shaw as their new guitarist, who immediately started out with them on the biggest tour of their career. And it is from that point that most fans know of Styx, the Tommy Shaw years and beyond. And yeah, they were quite successful after that, but I've never been a fan 'that' Styx. I never liked Shaw (as a guitarist, songwriter, singer, anything), so I pretty much stopped following them once JC was gone (OK, sure, they did put out some decent stuff on the Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight, and Paradise Theater albums, but they were a totally different band and not one I particularly liked). To me, they lost alot of what the band was all about when JC left, and were a totally different band moving in a drastically different direction. I would still say that Styx II and Equinox were their best albums. JC went on to become a highly respected guitar teacher in the Chicago area, and tutored and mentored many area guitar players and bands. Tragically, however, Curulewski died quite young, in 1988 at age 37, of a brain aneurysm. And, as I said, unfortunately, I could not find any recordings from those early days while JC was still with the band. So, I had to go with the earliest stuff I could find, from their Equinox tour. And although JC was not there, all of the songs were ones that he originally recorded with them. This is part of a King Biscuit Flower Hour Show, so it is a high quality recording, but unfortunately only consists of 4 songs. I have added to this some additional live songs from this period (Equinox and before) from a Detroit show from their next tour (1976, in support of Crystal Ball, their first album with Shaw). I was going to post the whole Detroit show, but opted instead for just adding selected songs to the KBFH show, because, frankly, some of the Crystal Ball songs (and Shaw's guitar-playing) were just too painful to listen to (and the rest of the songs were repeats of those already in the KBFH show). The final track included, '22 years', is fittingly, a John Curulewski song, and one of the only JC-penned tracks that the band continued to play after he left. Unfortunately, most people, even those that are big fans of Styx, have never heard of and know nothing about JC, since most of the band's success occurred after he left. So, this post is dedicated to the memory of John Curulewski, Styx's original (and best) guitarist and a unique personality, and someone that could never be replaced.

1. KBFH Intro
2. Born For Adventure
3. Suite Madame Blue
4. Lady
5. Midnight Ride
6. Lorelei
7. Mademoiselle
8. Light Up
9. 22 Years

tracks 1-5, 1975 KBFH, Providence RI
tracks 6-9, 1976-11-29, Ford Auditorium, Detroit, MI

New Link! (Updated 12/27/13)


Unknown said...

I saw Styx live on the North Shore of Chicago in 1973 (?) at a school gym also. I was in the 11th grade of high school and a friend helped put that show together. I moved to NC soon after. It could have been the same show. Thanks for the download link! J.S.

rocdoc said...

my first 'big-time' rock concert at the auditorium of my high school in oak park il, possibly in '72, my junior year i could swear. absolutely blown away by these guys - their 1st album's originals AND covers of zeppelin and hendrix, and this, seen live at serious volume made a big impression.
saw them again shortly after that at morton east high school in cicero and when deyoung's entire keyboard setup broke down at the beginning of styx' set, deyoung kept trying to help his techs fix his rig so young and curulewski just rocked out, pulling out what seemed like all the hendrix and zep (plus other stuff i can't remember)they knew just to fill time...i've also been hoping some wooden nickel-era live stuff would show up somewhere.
i also way preferred curulewski to tommy shaw.

gypsymuse said...

Well considering I'm a first 4 album styx fan!!! man I was wishing you had the Full Detroit show!!!

IT was over at HearRockCity but it's gone and I'm hoping that someone can repost it! Wooden Nickel is GREAT!


Anonymous said...

I started listening to Styx in 76 loved them ever since. But, when I delved into their first 5 albums I was totally amazed and wish they or Dennis played some or all of those songs besides" Lady" ,which is one of the Best songs ever. Dennis DeYoung is now performing "Born for Adventure" live, (God bless him).

TLR said...

I didn't get into Styx until 1981, but I've always loved their first five albums the best (though I do like Tommy Shaw's stuff as well). I'm amazed there are no live recordings of the JC lineup (other than a fuzzy video of "Best Thing" on YouTube).