by Mike Mettler
Styx's mega-triple-platinum smash success Pieces of Eight was released 38 years ago today by A&M Records on September 1, 1978. Featuring a stunning cover design by Hipgnosis — the British company known for creating album-package artwork for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, UFO, 10cc, and scores of other bands — Pieces of Eight become the second of four consecutive Styx albums to sell two million (or more) copies, the first time any band in rock history had ever done so.
Pieces of Eight features many key tracks in the Styx canon that remain staples in the band's current live set: the always hard-charging "Blue Collar Man" (the show's bring-it-on-home song, before which vocalist/guitarist Tommy Shaw often encourages the audience to "shake it — you don't have to break it!"), "Pieces of Eight" (which has keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan's furiously engaging original piano instrumental "Khedive" as its intro), "Sing for the Day" (an acoustic-driven Shaw treasure that also served as the title for his May 27 solo show with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra in Cleveland), and, of course, "Renegade," the set-ending barnburner that has gained additional life not only as a fourth-quarter rallying cry for the Pittsburgh Steelers but is currently serving as the theme for the upcoming Season 2 of the quite intense Netflix drama Narcos.
Me, I'm also partial to the Gowan-sung version of "Queen of Spades," which appears in 2011's two-disc Regeneration collection. (His unbridled cackle before the line, "You lose!" is priceless.) Styx performed Pieces (the first Styx album your humble Styxologist ever bought) in full alongside 1977's epic The Grand Illusion on tour for a few select dates in 2010, which can be found on the live CD, DVD, and/or Blu-ray set, The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live (Eagle).
Of "Renegade," possibly his most well-known and most enduring song, Shaw told me, "I wrote that song in my living room on my piano back when I lived in Michigan. Nobody else was around, and for it to become something that Steelers players and fans love, and is now a part of a show I enjoy watching, is so surreal to me! I'm so grateful for how much it means to our own fans, and how it endures to this day." Oh, Mama!