STYX SINGER STILL CRANKING OUT THE HITS
Where's that rim shot when you need it? You know Dennis DeYoung for his voice as the former lead singer of Chicago rockers Styx, and you know Dennis De-Young as the writer of the chart-topping ballad Babe and such classic rock radio staples as Come Sail Away, Lady and Mr. Roboto, to name a few.
But who knew that Dennis DeYoung, 60, was a closet Borscht-belt comedian . . . at least in his own mind?
This trait of his personality reveals itself during a phone interview last week prior to DeYoung's appearance Sept. 27 at the Centre in the Square, where he promises to perform many of his big hits from the multi-million-selling Styx albums of yesteryear: Equinox, Crystal Ball, The Grand Illusion, Pieces Of Eight, Cornerstone, Paradise Theater, Kilroy Was Here...
If you were a child of the '70s or the '80s, both you and your parents bought those albums in droves and you couldn't turn to a Canadian or border FM radio station (CFNY excepted) without hearing Lady or The Best Of Times or Show Me The Way blaring through your radio speakers.
DeYoung is currently enjoying a comeback, as the title track of his decent new album One Hundred Years From Now -- a duet featuring Quebec singer Eric Lapointe -- is receiving significant national airplay.
"Let's be honest, I'm a middle-aged white guy who just had a number 1 song in Quebec," says DeYoung, turning serious for a moment. "I have a hit album and I've got a job.
"I've got to be the luckiest guy on the face of the Earth. I don't know the last time a 60-year-old guy had a number 1 single anywhere, including Albania, on a pop chart and a rock chart simultaneously.
"It's pretty amazing to me. So from here on out I've got to just count my lucky stars."
One Hundred Years From Now is currently only available in Canada -- it'll be released in the States in early 2008 -- but DeYoung harbours no illusions as to whether the album's platinum stature will translate south of the border. "Canada's a little bit like Vegas -- what happens in Canada stays in Canada," he laughs. "I've never known that the success of Canadian artists translates to the United States one-for-one. It doesn't happen that way. It goes from South to North rather than North to South."
Perhaps, in most cases, it does. But Canadians have always had a soft spot for DeYoung and the music of Styx, and Canada was the first territory back in the '70s to break the band internationally.
"You gave us our first platinum album (1976's Equinox)," DeYoung admits. "And really, Canadians convinced me that we were going to be something special when I had doubts that we were going to be able to break through and become a headliner.
"So I felt encouraged by the success we had in Canada. Plus I have a gold album for (solo album) Desert Moon and a platinum one for A Hundred Years From Now. I have nothing like that from my solo career in the States, so that's pretty cool."
As far as solo careers go, DeYoung has had an eclectic one. He's written a musical -- The Hunchback Of Notre Dame -- that opens in his native Chicago in May 2008; recorded an album of Broadway standards and toured as Pontius Pilate in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
He also suffered from post-viral symptoms after a bout of influenza that made him extremely sensitive to light -- a situation he says is now cured, but one that led to his eventual ouster from the band, who replaced him with Canada's Larry Gowan.
So if there's any talk of a full-fledged Styx reunion, DeYoung conveniently shtick-handles his way around the topic.
"Every Thursday we meet on the handball court at the YMCA in Kitchener, but nobody knows that," DeYoung jokes. "We throw the medicine ball around a bit, go for a swim and go out for a soda."
But he's more than happy to sing the songs that made him and the band famous, backed by a seven-piece band.
"People by and large are coming for nostalgia and memories," DeYoung says. "They want to rekindle those feelings they had when they were adolescents. And the songs that I have written have had some meaning to them in their life and they come fully expecting to want to, in some way, relive a period of life that they felt more innocent.
"I understand that and I'm happy to provide that. The idea is to make you close your eyes and think you're listening to those records -- that's the goal.
"And by those records, of course, I meant Exile On Main Street. How bad could it be? Styx and Stones..."
LIVE DENNIS DEYOUNG CENTRE IN THE SQUARE, KITCHENER, SEPT. 27, 8 P.M. $79, $59, $49, $39