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Flashback: Styx Perform a Soaring ‘Come Sail Away’ in 1996

Three years after this performance, Styx threw Dennis DeYoung out of the band and have since ignored all his pleas to be let back in

Two weeks ago, Styx founder Dennis DeYoung posted a solo rendition of the band’s 1981 hit “Best of Times” onto YouTube that he recorded in his house. Much to his amazement, it quickly racked up 847,000 views and inspired him to post another song (the band’s 1990 tune “Show Me the Way”) and start his own YouTube channel. “Thank you for everything you’ve done with the ‘Best of Times’ video,” he said. “I can’t believe it. I’ve read all the comments.” (There’s 6,015 of those and climbing.)

The success of the video proves that there’s still a lot love out in the world for DeYoung even though his own band kicked him out 21 years ago and have refused all of his pleas to let him back in. They point to personality clashes on their reunion tours in 1996 and 1997 along with lingering bitterness over the group’s 1983 concept album Kilroy Was Here. “It cut our album sales in half because the male audience was absolutely alienated by ‘Mr. Roboto,’” Styx guitarist J.Y. Young said in 2019. “Not all of them but a large chunk.”

They’ve toured heavily these past two decades with replacement vocalist-keyboardist Lawrence Gowan while DeYoung has played the band’s music at solo shows. “I’m not even in the band I made famous,” he told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “I don’t want to sound like a whiner. I have moved on.”

Many fans have not moved on and continue to hope the group will let him back in at some point. To see what that might look like, here’s video of the band playing “Come Sail Away” on the 1996 Return to Paradise reunion tour. This is before South Park and Freaks and Geeks brought the song back into the public consciousness, but it still gets the entire amphitheater joyfully swaying and singing along.

With all due respect to Lawrence Gowan, who is a fine singer, it’s just not the same when they play it these days. Like so many Styx classics, DeYoung wrote the song and sang it on the record. Not letting him back for one more tour feels almost cruel at this point. They haven’t spoken in 20 years, but when we recently asked DeYoung what he’d like to say to them. “‘Let’s get together and give the fans one more run at this thing and then I’ll ride off into the sunset,’” he said. “‘You’ll keep doing your Styx thing and using the name. I don’t care. I want it one more time for our fans.’”

Gentlemen of Styx, Dennis has put the ball firmly in your court here. What do you say? Will you try the best that you can to carry on as you are? Or will you think of childhood friends and the dreams you had and let him back in? Together you can once again search for tomorrow on every shore.