Styx, ‘Music Time’ – Hilariously Outdated Videos
Styx enjoyed an impressive run of hit records and best-selling albums during the ’70s and early ’80s, but by 1984, the group was in total disarray, with guitarist Tommy Shaw on the outs and the rest of the band chafing under the direction of frontman Dennis DeYoung. Somehow, they still managed to put on a happy face for their sole single that year, ‘Music Time.’
In fact, although the band had already split up by the time it was released, ‘Music Time’ was one of the more cheerfully uptempo cuts in the Styx catalog — a manic trifle whose good-time feel acted as a sort of palate cleanser for fans who’d been put off by the more ponderous elements of 1983’s ‘Kilroy Was Here’ concept album. In the context of the group’s increasingly serious music, the song stood out like a sore thumb, but as a new track tacked onto the ‘Caught in the Act’ live album, it did the trick, offering an appetizer between LPs while proving that Styx hadn’t lost their sense of humor.
When it came time to film the promotional clip for the song, however, the group took its slightly goofy overtones to ridiculous extremes, hamming it up for a painful exercise in early-MTV camp. With what seems to have been a fairly significant video budget at their disposal, the band members go through a series of costume and set changes, prancing around everywhere from the moon to Death Row while a cast of dozens overacts against an assortment of bright outfits, loud patterns and cheesy special effects. It’s been argued that DeYoung might have been attempting to satirize big ’80s culture by going overboard with it, but the ‘Music Time’ video doesn’t feel like a satire; really, it just looks like the misguided result of a band that had more money than direction, and was too creatively broken to care.
If there’s a member of Styx who emerges from the video largely unscathed, it’s Shaw, who’d already left the lineup but still consented to film a few brief clips in order to preserve appearances. In his book ‘The Grand Delusion: The Unauthorized True Story of Styx,’ Ultimate Classic Rock contributor Sterling Whitaker quotes an interview in which Shaw is asked about the video, and he revealed how he was dragooned into appearing, saying, “Talk about the angry young man. I did not like that song. I had already quit the band, and we really couldn’t be in a room with each other at that time. My solo career was on the same label, and that video shoot had been booked …They said, ‘You’ve got to be in this video, you’re really shooting yourself in the foot with the record company if you’re not in it … You can shoot your stuff and we’ll insert it.'”
Shaw balked, however, at a scene that depicted the band members’ heads singing on salad dishes. Forced to utter the immortal phrase “No, I’m not putting my head in the salad dish,” Shaw refused to join his former bandmates on the menu. “I must have come off as a real dope,” he conceded, “because they were saying, ‘Just let us shoot it, just so that we can say that we did, but we won’t use it’, and I was like, ‘Hello? I don’t think so.’ It was kind of childish, but that’s how it is in a band.”
But by the time the ‘Music Time’ single and video were released, Styx wasn’t a band anymore; Shaw, DeYoung, and guitarist James “JY” Young all splintered off into solo careers, and the group would remain on hiatus until 1990, when they reformed without Shaw for the ‘Edge of the Century’ album. ‘Music Time’ remains the final Top 40 single recorded by the classic Styx lineup — and its most embarrassing video.