Which band from the progressive-arena-rock era of the 70s came first, Styx or Queen?
Dennis DeYoung, lead singer and founding member of Styx, says they were first on the scene.
But we were not so sure. We had our suspicions and researched the archives.
Let’s find out what we unearthed!
The Story of Styx
Styx formed in Chicago in 1972. Though, twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo started playing music with their neighbor Dennis DeYoung in 1961. At ages 12 and 14, respectively, you could say they got an incredible head start!
Their first band was called The Tradewinds, followed by TW4. By 1970 they became a quintet and chose the name Styx in 1972. After that, the band took off with jet-like speed, releasing at least one album per year from 1972 – 1979.
Styx was the first band in history to release four consecutive multi-platinum albums. These classic releases are The Grand Illusion (1977,) Pieces of Eight (1978,) Cornerstone (1979,) and Paradise Theater (1981.)
Some turbulence hit the group in the mid-80s and 90s, causing brief disbandment and the eventual departure of lead singer Dennis DeYoung. Bassist Chuck Panozzo and guitarist James Young remained steady anchors, keeping the band touring and recording through 2021.
The Story of Queen
Queen was one of the most popular and uniquely creative bands of the 1970s. Founding members Brian May and Roger Taylor met in West London in the late 1960s. Initially, they played together in a local psych-rock band called Smile in 1968.
Freddy Mercury was a fan of Smile, and when their singer split in 1970, the band accepted Freddy’s offer to sing for them.
The first public performance of Queen was July 18, 1970. Or was it June 27, 1970? Either way, it seems Queen technically came before Styx.
Even the band members debate the date they officially came together. But historically, such is the case in the life of the rockin’ and rollin’. The official Queen website says Queen formed in 1971 when they added bassist, John Deacon.
Queen recorded 15 studio albums, hitting their peak in the mid-70s with platinum records like “A Night at the Opera” and “News Of The World.” A landmark performance at the 1985 Live Aid Charity concert helped reinvigorate interest in the 80s.
Freddy Mercury is one of the most iconic rock stars of all time. Fiery, fun, and blessed with perfect pitch, Mercury’s charisma knew no bounds. To some, he was too much. Too campy, too queer, and too nonconforming. But his talent left no room for the naysayers. Their legacy increases with time.
By 1988, rumors began to speculate that Freddy Mercury was ill and likely had AIDS. Freddy confirmed he had AIDS in a written statement issued November 23, 1991. He died the next day.
Queen’s last album, Made in Heaven, was constructed from final recordings and demos left off the prior record. The band still tours under a different lineup.
How Many Members Are In Queen vs Styx?
Through the decades, almost every member of Styx played multiple instruments. This multi-musicianship style is what sets them apart from the rest.
The current members of Styx are Chuck Panozzo (bass,) James “J.Y.” Young (guitars/lead vocals,) Tommy Shaw (guitars/lead vocals,) Todd Sucherman(drums,) Lawrence Gowan (keyboards,) Ricky Phillips (bass) and Will Evankovich (guitar).
The classic lineup of Queen from 1971 to 1991 was Freddy Mercury (vocals,) Brian May (guitar,) Roger Taylor (drums,) and John Deacon (bass.)
Currently, the touring members, in addition to Brian May (guitar) and Roger Taylor (drums,) are Spike Edney (keyboards,) Neil Fairclough (bass,) Tyler Warren (percussion,) Adam Lambert (vocals.)
Was Styx or Queen First On the Scene?
So, who came first, Styx or Queen?
The origin date question remains unclear after crowd surfing the history of these dynamic, hard-rockin’, operatic bands. Neither Styx nor Queen had a simple start date. But one band played on stage first, Queen, in 1970. Styx hit the stage in 1972. Styx was just faster at getting the tunes recorded.
Who was playing music first together under different names is another bag of guitar picks.
Styx’s Best Known Songs
From romantic ballads to anthems and weird, chaotic keyboards to classical arrangements, Styx is constantly experimenting.
“Rockin’ the Paradise” is a concept song. A fan favorite, the song is about the rise and fall of a Chicago theater. On the album Paradise Theater, “A.D. 1928” (track 1) leads right into ‘Rockin’, which sounds completely different. The theater can be heard as a metaphor for life in America, its ups and downs.
Paradise Theater’s third track, “Too Much Time on My Hands,” might be our personal favorite. It’s a catchy, rockin’, up-tempo 80s classic, with sassy synths and a clap track. And the music video is fantastic.
“Blue Collar Man” plunges us back into heavy arena rock. You’ll be head bangin’ and fist pumpin’ to this one. Power chords, a crazy organ riff, and a straight-ahead guitar solo will bring out that 70s vibe in someone born yesterday.
“Lady” is a popular ballad that showcases Styx’s signature style. Lead singer DeYoung starts small, alongside his piano, pining away. The song builds, adding guitars and an overbearing triad of vocals. But hey, give the people what they want. This early top ten started it all.
“Renegade” is that song you think you don’t know. But you do. It is a staple on classic rock stations worldwide. The song is about an outlaw facing execution, and you can hear it in popular films and television such as “Freaks and Geeks.”
“Come Sail Away” is arguably the most well-known Styx track. It is epic. The song starts with DeYoung’s powerful yet soothing vocals over classical piano, eventually building to heavy guitar with a layered chorus. You probably know someone who walked down the aisle to this one. No wonder the band broke into superstardom with it.
Queen’s Best Known Songs
You may know more Queen songs than you realize. Compared to Styx, Queen’s songs seem to appear a bit more in pop-culture.
“We Are the Champions” is one of rock music’s most well-known anthems. It’s regularly sung at sporting events. It was voted the world’s favorite song in 2005 by the Sony Ericsson music poll. Sometimes, late at night, you can hear people singing the tune awkwardly together just outside the window of your favorite bar.
“We Will Rock You” is the flip side of ‘Champions.’ Both were on the album News of the World. Queen’s members wrote each piece to whip up the live audience into powerful excitement. Rock You’s layered acoustic recording of feet stomping and hands clapping is a signature Queen sound. They released the two singles as a 7 inch in 1977 and often played back to back on the radio.
“Another One Bites The Dust” and “Under Pressure” are the cooler, sexier hits. You won’t find these on the football field. But you’ll hear them in rock clubs and on dance floors until the end of time. Put on lipstick with a pocket mirror while either song is playing, and surrender to cool.
The top two most-streamed Queen tunes of 2021, according to officialcharts.com, are “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Both have interesting backstories. Queen had to fight hand and foot for “Bohemian Rhapsody” to be released. But the band’s insistence paid off, and ‘Rhapsody’ became an instant number one hit.
“Don’t Stop Me Now” initially did well in the UK but bombed the U.S. as a 1979 single.
It took decades for the world to get it. Some say the use of the song in the 2004 movie “Shaun Of The Dead” busted it up the ladder. Today, the kids can’t get enough of it!
How Did Styx Choose Their Name?
Styx took their name from a river in Greek mythology. The river Styx forms the boundary between Earth and the Underworld. This swampy land in Greek mythology is also known as the land of the dead.
According to a December 1979 interview in Circus Magazine, it’s not a name that carried great weight to anyone in the band. “It was one of the hundred names we tried, and it turned out to be the only one that none of us hated,” says singer Dennis De Young.
Unlike Styx, Queen’s name came from Freddie Mercury’s passionate request (some say demand.) Debate still goes on today as to whether the name meant gay, poser, or regal, or perhaps all three.
Who Was Freddie Mercury Engaged To?
Freddie Mercury met the vivacious Mary Austin in 1969. She was 19 and worked at Biba’s, one of London’s most fabulous boutiques. He was 24. Freddie and Mary’s connection was absolute. According to a 2013 interview with the Daily Mail, Mary and Freddie were blissfully happy. “We grew together,” said Mary. Freddy and Mary were engaged in 1973.
Although Freddy truly did want to get married, eventually, the couple faced the truth that this would never happen. Freddy came out as bisexual after Mary had sensed he was gay. The couple stayed close and tried to live an alternative lifestyle together. But it couldn’t work.
Mary and Freddy remained close until Freddy died in 1991.