Song Spotlight: Haven’t We Been Here Before, By Styx

Styx’s 1983 concept album Kilroy Was Here accomplished a few things. It brought the band new found popularity with the highly successful music video for the song Mr. Roboto. At the same time it split the band’s fan base. To this day many Styx fans dislike the musical direction that the band took with Kilroy Was Here. And ultimately the album led to the demise of the band in 1984.

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I will go on record and state that I truly love this album. I even love the much maligned track Mr. Roboto. For me it’s a fun, yet dramatic song with a great vocal by Dennis DeYoung. On the plus side, Kilroy Was Here contains some of the best music that the band ever produced. On the negative side, the album is far too short and the concept is not fully fleshed out. The album’s storyline is not clear or easy to follow from song to song. Overall it is a very solid album, however the band missed a big opportunity to put out a great concept album.

The latter half of the album finds a batch of songs that are among my favorite from the band. Haven’t We Been Here Before is one of those songs. The song finds Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung elegantly harmonizing in a rare duet. Written by Tommy Shaw, it is one of the band’s most beautiful songs.

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I absolutely love Tommy Shaw’s vocals on this track. They are delicate, and filled with desperate emotion. During the chorus when he’s joined by Dennis DeYoung their harmonies are achingly beautiful. Styx as a band were known for exceptional vocal harmonies. This song really took things to a new and different level vocally.

Musically I can not say enough about the subtle brilliance on display throughout this song. Tommy holds the down the rhythm with his always steadily strummed acoustic guitar. Dennis DeYoung’s subtle keyboards add to the song’s dramatic feel. As the song progresses a slightly overdriven electric guitar enters and adds to the musical layers. The ever reliable Panozzo brothers hold down the foundation on bass and drums

The guitar solo contains the album’s most progressive rock moment. Tommy lays down a melodic and majestic sounding guitar solo. The rhythm section plays a musical figure that recalls the band’s best album, The Grand Illusion. This brief moment really elevates an already emotional and dramatic song.

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It’s such a shame that the band broke up after this album. Musically they tapped into something refreshing and different with Kilroy Was Here. As a fan I feel that the songs Just Get Through This Night, Double Life and Haven’t We Been Here Before are among the best written by the band. I would have loved it if Styx had recorded a whole album in the vein of these songs. I’ve always wondered what a follow up album would have sounded like. When this line up did reform in 1995, minus drummer John Panozzo, they had all moved on in other directions musically. Any hopes of more music akin to Kilroy Was Here seem to be long gone.

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Perhaps one day Dennis DeYoung and his band will play the whole Kilroy Was Here album live. I am sure that he has learned from the missteps of the Kilroy tour in 1983. No theatrics, no acting or prerecorded tracks. Just a fully live version of the album from start to finish. I feel that this album is too good to be left unplayed. I’m looking to Dennis DeYoung because there is no way that the current version of Styx will play it. Perhaps one day.

Troy T.

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8 thoughts on “Song Spotlight: Haven’t We Been Here Before, By Styx

      1. More than likely an overdub when it was put together as an album. I have a copy somewhere of the pre-produced set list and it is actually quite sloppy (not just this song but all of them).

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  1. You’re right, there is no info on who plays what on Kilroy. I am basing my info on who played the solo during the live shows (they played this song on the Kilroy tour and JY played the solo live so I am assuming he played it on the album). There is a rumor that Tom Dziallo (DDY’s solo album guitarist) played the solo in the studio for “Don’t Let It End” but I have never been able to confirm it. One of JY’s solo albums “Raised By Wolves” is excellent. It is out of print and hard to find these days but you may be able to find some of the tunes on YouTube. It was released as “The James Young Group” and it really isn’t a solo record because there are 3 vocalists on it and I think that helped make it better. See if you can find some of those tunes as I think you will like some of them like “Into The Fire” and “Love & Love Alone”. Even tho it isn’t Styx those songs have the Styx harmonies. I also enjoy “100 Years From Now” but I think I still enjoy “Desert Moon” the best of his solo releases but that could be because the album meant a lot to me at the time of it’s release and it’s impression on a 13 year old kid at the time. “GWG” is decent and has some good tunes, “What If” is a stinker and “Ambition” has its moments of greatness (Look for “No Such Thing” on YouTube). Tommy’s best is “7 Deadly Zens”. Some tracks are filler but those that rock are exceptional.

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  2. Nice, I also enjoy this album and have never disliked it in any way. I believe the solo on HWBHB is actually JY but it is an excellent solo. If they had a follow up to this record I believe it would’ve had “Desert Moon”, “Don’t Wait For Heroes”, “Girls With Guns” and “Lonely School”. Dennis has said those 2 songs (his) were intended for the next Styx album. GWG contains some songs that were rejected by Styx as does JY’s first solo album. I think you nailed it with the Panozzo brothers. By this time they rhythm section of the brothers were very tight and those guys are always overlooked. Definitely a shining moment for the Panozzo brothers. I recently picked up Kilroy on 180 gram vinyl and it sounds fantastic. Thanks for the blog entry, I enjoyed reading it.

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    1. Thanks for the reply. If the band had stayed together and recorded those songs they would have been better renditions. Styx are one of those bands who are fantastic together, but their solo material is extremely spotty. Dennis Deyoung’s most recent solo album is his best. Outside of Damn Yankees Tommy Shaw’s albums were lackluster. I remember buying one of James Young’s cassettes years ago and it was bland.

      Thanks for the correction on the guitar solo, I had trouble finding any information on who played it.

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