Why Styx is not good, funny or ironic.
It was hell.
I’m talking about what it was like in high school at the end of the 70s, when the music on the radio was just awful. It was bland and overproduced and you were faced with trying very hard to convince yourself that you liked “Hotel California” or what you would do with the four copies of the Foreigner album you got at your birthday party (hint: march them down to Discount Records, where manager Greg used to let me have the run of the returns bin in exchange for updating the fiddly catalog with the tissue-thin pages that was supposed to be a listing of every record ever made).
I wanted to talk about the Clash and the Ramones and Patti Smith and instead everyone around me talked about going to see Kansas and Foreigner and ZZ Top (who I don’t have much problem with, but back then they were considered music for rednecks and stoners) and you would buy a Yes record just to see if you could find something redeeming there.
Instead, I would just fall asleep somewhere in the middle of side one and have to pretend the next morning that I knew all about what it was like to use Yessongs to clean my pot, while trying to find someone who would buy me a copy of Rock Scene or the Village Voice the next time they went into the city.
(HELLO. DAD. ALTHOUGH THIS IS A PERSONAL ESSAY I NEVER LIKED SMOKING POT AND DIDN’T DO IT VERY MUCH AND DEFINITELY NOT AT HOME. TALK TO YOU SOON. XO)
The music was stifling, there was no other word for it. It was oppressive and soul-crushing and the polar opposite of the stuff that I loved. Sophomore year, I went to a journalism conference at Columbia and on the way in, defiantly pinned a Clash button onto my purse amongst the pins of the Who and the Stones (which were safe enough, although I wasn’t brave enough to put Springsteen on there, because I got shoved into the lockers enough over that to last a lifetime), and when I got to Columbia, met city kids! Who wanted to talk about the Clash with me! And didn’t think I was gay or a drug addict or weird because I liked them! They read CREEM and Rock Scene and could talk about Lester Bangs and Lisa Robinson, and rolled their eyes, hard, the way I would have liked to when someone mentioned seeing ELO with the spaceship at the Garden. They didn’t want to talk about Styx or Skynyrd or Pink Floyd or all of the other stuff I had to pretend very very hard that I liked (even though I knew more about any of them than the people who really liked them did).
So when I read that an indie band has covered Styx, and then watch Twitter explode with excitement over this cover, I want to stand there and scream. This is not a good thing, this is a dumb, pointless, useless thing. Styx was bad – Styx is bad. Covering Styx in any kind of scenario is embracing mediocrity and a time when music was bland and oppressing and in the hands of the record companies. Styx represents embracing bombast and excess. It’s not cool. It’s not retro. It’s not ironic.
It’s just dumb.
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