Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dating Myself With High Singing White Guys

Former Styx piano player and vocalist Dennis DeYoung believes that the success of the band's song "Babe" can be attributed to the fact that "People just like to hear white guys singing high." So he said in an interview on VH1 classic I saw Wednesday night. What exactly did he mean by "singing high?" I've been preoccupied with that question. The weather's bad so I've been wasting a bunch of time - first by watching the aforementioned interview and then by trawling YouTube for old Styx videos.

I thought that line about white guys was pretty funny, mostly because DeYoung delivered it without cracking a smile. He said he wrote "Babe" as a birthday gift for his wife, and when it became a hit single it earned him "a year of unlimited slap (I'm assuming to the ass) and tickle" privileges with her. Hunh. That bit of information was also delivered like a statement by an evening news anchor. It was a nice, dry kind of funny, very different from all the usual rock stars who take themselves so seriously. He's aged well - which in my mind means no hair dye and no toupee. He's still trim and I hope I can complete the graying process as gracefully as he has.

In retrospect I guess DeYoung was the most interesting member of Styx. In my middle school years, I was focused on Tommy Shaw because I loved the Paradise Theater album and he was the only marginally attractive member of the band. Just prior to the release of their next album, Mr. Roboto, my best friend Josephine and I went through this really weird trade - she was working herself up to be intensely fixated on Shaw, but I'd seen him first, so she wanted to swap fixation rights: Richard Gere for Shaw. Or Judson Scott for Shaw, since she knew I had interest in those two and could argue that she'd seen them first.

I didn't see what the big deal was, why we couldn't both lust after Shaw, but she insisted that she needed sole rights. I countered that I didn't feel a similar need for a monogamous fan relationship with Gere or Scott, so the trade to me didn't mean much to me. But she carried on and begged and pleaded and finally I agreed to this weird-ass arrangement, since Shaw had acne scars anyway. And other than "Renegade" and "Blue Collar Man," all my favorite Styx songs were DeYoung's.

Josephine was capable of a passionate fan dedication that I was not - a wall of her bedroom became a shrine to Tommy Shaw. It was covered in photos of him cut from magazines. And when she found a picture of Shaw with his arm around Plasmatics singer Wendy O'Williams, she threatened to beat O'Williams' ass. I'm glad that confrontation never had to take place.

Looking back on that time of our youth, I can see that we came of age at the cusp of a new era: MTV had just been born, but most of us country-ass kids didn't have access to it. You could still be not all that good-looking and make it as a rock band, and Styx is a good example of that. And when I look at my freshman high school yearbook, I can see we didn't have the same image consciousness that kids today have. We look younger and more awkward, with worse skin. It's easier to tell how young we were than it is to clock the ages of kids today. Cable TV changed a lot in this culture.

At the time, Josephine wanted me to get fixated on Dennis DeYoung even though he was married and plain, I guess so we could both plot how to lose our virginities to members of Styx. I wasn't interested because in my eyes Deyoung had zero sex appeal. But now if somebody held a gun to my head and said "You have to become sexually obsessed with one of the members of Styx circa 1985 or die" I'd pick Deyoung. He was pretty funny in that VH1 interview, and I respect a man who doesn't dye his hair.

I'm nostalgic for musicians who aren't model material. How likely is that to come back into fashion?

This entry is a re-post from my old Blogsboro site about a year ago.

No comments: