Paradise Theater made history 35 years ago when it hit #1 on the album charts on April 4, 1981.

by Mike Mettler

photo courtesy of Jim Cahill

It was literally The Best of Times. Exactly 35 years ago today, Styx’s tenth studio album, Paradise Theater, hit #1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart on April 4, 1981.It was Styx’s first album to reach the summit, and it stayed there for a total of three nonconsecutive weeks. During that career-defining spring timeframe, Paradise traded that vaunted #1 slot with REO Speedwagon’s monster hit album Hi Infidelity. Paradise repeated at the top spot during the following week, April 11, 1981, gave way to Hi Infidelity for a few more weeks, and then returned to the pole position on May 9, 1981. Not only that, but Paradise Theater (or Theatre, depending on which part of the album sleeve you’re viewing) ultimately sold over 3 million copies, making it Styx’s fourth multiplatinum album in a row — the first time any rock band in history had ever achieved such a sales feat.

Making it to the ultimate chart pinnacle is an achievement not lost on the band itself. “We were the underdogs. We were up against the big, major labels,” recalls Styx guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw. “But A&M Records was a powerhouse little label with so many great artists. And they were all about the artists. If they believed in you and felt like you had longevity, then they let you grow, and they got behind you. They stayed out of your way, and out of the studio. You brought them the record when it was done, which was kind of unheard of at the time.”

Notes original Styx bassist Chuck Panozzo, “This was a glorious experience. It’s such a great compilation of songs. We all saw what this album was going to do for us. Paradise Theater is rich in history, rich in song, and rich in words. This was a huge album — as it should have been. The promoters did a great job with it. When we got to Chicago [to play at the Rosemont Horizon for three shows on March 19-21, 1981], we had pictures of Paradise Theater in our dressing rooms.”

“Up to that point in my career, it was the most satisfying thing that ever happened to me,” says Jim Cahill, the promotion guru/coordinator who helped Styx attain new milestones on radio, up the charts, and in arenas all across North America from 1977–83. “Getting the album to #1 was a thrill beyond pay and beyond recognition.”

If you’d like to learn more about the origins of Paradise Theater and what all six members of Styx think of it today, you can read about it in our current mega-multi-part series in our weekly Styxology column, which is available to all Styx Lounge Fan Club members. Find out how you can join here — and keep alive the memories of Paradise.