Saturday, December 8, 1979

Styx hit #1 with “Babe”

First posted 3/13/2020.


Dennis DeYoung

Writer(s): Dennis DeYoung (see lyrics here)

First Charted: September 28, 1979

Peak: 12 US, 13 CB, 12 HR, 13 RR, 9 AC, 1 CL, 6 UK, 16 CN, 3 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.25 UK, 1.25 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 20.0 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, arguably the four pillars of what has become known as “arena rock” or “corporate rock” found themselves in similar positions. Foreigner, Journey, REO Speedwagon, and Styx all emerged in the 1970s as staples on album rock radio. The four also shared another commonality – their greatest commercial successes came because of power ballads. These slower love songs evoked eye-rolling amongst some die-hard fans who considered such fare schmaltzy and selling out, but gave the bands even greater followings. Styx singer and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung said, “According to some people, you’re either a rock and roll band, or you’re not. And anybody who plays ballads was looked down upon by the radio establishment.” BR1

REO Speedwagon topped the Billboard Hot 100 with “Keep on Loving You” in 1981, Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You” spent a whopping 10 weeks in the runner-up slot in 1981 and ’82, and Journey nabbed six weeks at #2 in 1982. Before any of those three, however, Styx paved the way with their 1979 #1 hit “Babe.”

DeYoung wrote the song for his wife Suzanne as a birthday present. The couple met in 1964 and married in 1970. As he said, “Being on the road…puts a strain on a relationship…I wanted to tell her how much I missed her when I was gone.” BR1 In the 2014 concert video Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx Live in Los Angeles, he joked that he hoped it would get him out of buying her jewelry, but it didn’t work. It wasn’t intended as a Styx song; he recorded “Babe” as a demo with Styx drummer John Panozzo and bassist Chuck Panozzo, singing all the harmonies himself. When the band decided to put it on their Cornerstone album, they overdubbed a Tommy Shaw guitar solo in the middle section. WK

Suzanne herself said she thought the song was as good as, if not better, than “Lady,” the band’s first top-ten hit. BR1 When the record company heard the song, they echoed her feelings and pushed for releasing it as a single. SF Their instinct proved correct; not only was it the band’s only #1 in the U.S., but their only top 40 hit in the UK, where it reached #6. It was also a chart-topper in Canada and South Africa.

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