Essential Listening: `Renegade’ a Pittsburgh staple, but album brings other Styx hits


Ralph Arvesen via Wikimedia Commons

Styx performing at the HEB Center in Cedar Park, Texas on July 31, 2017.

Evelyn Esek, Multimedia Editor

Tired of your Spotify playlists? The Purbalite is here to help, with our Essential Listening series.

Steelers fans know the feeling of the team needing a defensive stop in the third quarter, and then hearing the lyrics, “Oh mama, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law.” 

Instantly, the morale of the entire stadium increases and fans start screaming and waving their Terrible Towels along to the music. The long-standing tradition of playing “Renegade” by Styx started in January 2002 during a playoff game against Cleveland, and has stayed in place ever since. 

But not many fans know the album the song comes from: Pieces of Eight, which came out in 1978. The band at that time consisted of Dennis DeYoung on keyboards, James “JY” Young on electric guitar, Tommy Shaw playing electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, and autoharp, Chuck Panozzo on bass guitar, and John Panozzo playing drums and percussion. DeYoung, Young, and Shaw also handle the vocals for the band. 

The seventh song on the album, “Queen of Spades,” is a great listen. The song starts with the seemingly positive, loving lines “How sweet is her warm embrace / Safe in the scent of jasmine.” But then it morphs into a shocking “Oh run though I may / She’s there, there, there, there, there.” The song also has a great guitar solo, and parts with a rhythmic driving bass. There are so many different parts to the song, but they complement each other well. 

“Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” is the best-selling single on the album. Tommy Shaw wrote the song after witnessing the struggles of his unemployed friend, and Shaw’s passionate lead vocals and driving beat make the song a great listen. 

Pieces of Eight is considered a concept album, and this is seen in the last song on the album, “Aku-Aku.” It is mostly instrumental, with piano and guitar, and mirrors the riff in “Queen of Spades.” It is a calm and slow way to end the album, and it helps the tracks flow together well.

The album is three-time Platinum certified, with over 3 million copies sold. Some copies were also produced with a translucent gold vinyl color.

Overall, Styx is a great classic rock band and “Renegade” has earned its place in Pittsburgh’s hearts, but Pieces of Eight as a whole should also receive recognition.