|First posted 8/7/2020.|
Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)
Writer(s): Tommy Shaw (see lyrics here)
First Charted: February 11, 1978
Peak: 29 US, 23 CB, 20 HR, 21 RR, 20 CN, 42 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 6.7 video, -- streaming
About the Song:
I missed “Fooling Yourself” upon its initial release. It wasn’t until the summer of 1983 that I fell in love with this song. I’d become a Styx fan largely because of Paradise Theater (1981) and Kilroy Was Here (1983). Then I decided to reach back and explore earlier stuff from their catalog. Already a fan of “Come Sail Away,” I grabbed up its parent album The Grand Illusion at a mall record store while my family was on vacation. While my brother and I rode in the back seat, I had my Walkman and headphones going non-stop for this new-to-me album. Six years after the album was released, “Fooling Yourself” ended up atop my personal song chart for 5 weeks.
It was the second single from The Grand Illusion, following the top-ten success of “Come Sail Away.” While Dennis DeYoung was the more dominant presence having been there from the start and singing lead on most of the band’s biggest hits (including “Come Sail Away”), Tommy Shaw emerged as a formidable force with “Fooling Yourself.” He joined the band on tour in 1975 and first recorded with them on the Crystal Ball album the next year. That album produced the top-40 hit “Mademoiselle,” a collaborative effort between Shaw and DeYoung.
With “Fooling Yourself,” however, Shaw stepped up front all by his lonesome. While the song appears to be an introspective musing, it was actually based on Shaw’s perception of DeYoung as “‘an angry young man’ who viewed the group’s successes with a wary eye and grew angry or depressed with every setback.” WK Shaw said, “The seeds of discontent had started to take over on the road. The rest of us were all really happy at the time, but Dennis wasn’t getting quite the same joy.” SF In later years, Shaw started to recognize the song could also be a commentary on his own cynism.
Musically, the song’s intro featured Dennis DeYoung on synthesizer and Shaw on acoustic guitar. It was “typical of the prog-rock that was popular at the time in bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.” SF While Styx definitely had a prog element to their sound, their “songs tended to be much tighter and more radio-friendly than the prog-rockers.” SF
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