Good news for those yearning for the ultimate roller-rink triple bill of yesteryear: Styx, REO Speedwagon and Def Leppard are playing Coors—oops, Cricket Wireless—Amphitheatre this week. And, in the spirit of competition, we crunched the stats to help you determine which of these back-in-the-day bands sucks the least:
These corporate-rock monoliths formed in 1961, peaked in the '70s and '80s and are best known for radio anthems like “Come Sail Away,” “Babe” and “Lady.” The band was as edgy as a tetherball even during its salad days. Then vocalist Dennis DeYoung sought to break new ground with the 1983 concept album Kilroy Was Here, which featured a single (“Mr. Roboto”) that has never been made fun of by anyone. Styx broke up soon after a theatrical Kilroy tour before re-forming in the '90s with an ever-rotating lineup. The current version features guitarists Tommy Shaw and James “J.Y.” Young—and three other dudes.
No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart: “Babe.” (+1 point)
Original Members Still in the Band: Two out of four, if you're counting members who've been around for at least half of the group's 47 years. (+2)
Career High: Released four consecutive multi-platinum albums. (+4)
Career Low: Kilroy Was Here, which included characters with names such as “Dr. Everett Righteous,” “Jonathan Chance” and, worst of all, “Robert Orin Charles Kilroy—get it, R.O.C.K.? (-1,000)
Currently: Touring after releasing an album in 2003 that featured a cover of The Beatles' “I Am the Walrus.” It didn't quite top the original. (-400)
Way Back to the Top: Bring back DeYoung and get Ridley Scott and Michael Mann to co-direct the live musical extravaganza “Alien vs. Predator vs. R.O.C.K. (as in Kilroy) vs. The Rock (as in the wrestler) vs. The Rock (as in Alcatraz).” (+700 possible points)
Total Possible Points: -693.
Named after a truck manufactured by Ransom Eli Olds (the founder of Oldsmobile), REO Speedwagon (the band) formed back in 1967. Their 1971 self-titled debut was followed by R.E.O./T.W.O. in 1972 before 1978's You Can Tune a Piano But You Can't Tuna Fish became, perhaps obviously, the band's first major misstep. Then the Wagon veered toward radio-friendly power ballads like “Keep on Loving You” and recorded a string of successful albums before running out of gas with 1990's The Earth, A Small Man, His Dog and A Chicken.
No. 1 singles: “Keep on Loving You” and “Can't Fight This Feeling” (+2)
Original Members: One (out of five) from the first album and three from the “hit” years. But nobody really cares who played on the first album. (+3)
High: Having the balls to name an album The Earth, A Small Man, His Dog and A Chicken (+72)Low: Being left with only a globe, a dwarf, a Pomeranian and a bucket of KFC when the aforementioned album peaked at No. 129 on the charts. (-720)
Currently: The single (“I Needed to Fall”) off their latest album, Find Your Own Way Home, peaked at No. 25 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. Uhhhhh—did somebody say “adult contemporary”? (-20,572)Way Back: Solicit endorsement from Nabisco and become OREO Speedwagon. Release an album titled The Earth, A Small Cookie, A Glass of Milk—Are You Chicken? featuring the power ballad “Keep on Dunking You.” (+1,230 possible points)
Total Possible Points: -19,985.
The young guns on this bill (they formed in 1977) enjoyed huge success in the U.S. after Pyromania sold 6 million copies in 1983, driven by ridiculous singles like f-f-f- “Foolin'” and “Photograph” (OK, “Photograph” isn't that bad).
After drummer Rick Allen lost an arm in a car accident (but still cowboyed up with a custom drum kit), the band's next two albums (Hysteria and Adrenalize) both topped the album charts. Minus guitarist Steve Clark (overdose), Def Leppard managed to survive the grunge massacre with a bit more dignity then say, Britny Fox, only to see 1996's Slang flop. Ventures into return-to-form rock (1999's Euphoria) and straightforward pop (2002's X) didn't fare much better, so the band put out an album of covers (2006's Yeah).
No. 1 singles: “Love Bites.” (0 points—because this song bites)
Original Members: Three out of five. Allen joined a year after the band formed but, c'mon, that's close enough. (+3)
Number of Drummers With Less Than Two Arms: One. (+5,000)
High: Hysteria reportedly moved 18 million copies worldwide while charting seven singles on the Hot 100. (+6) Oh yeah, they also had a killer Behind the Music episode on VH1. (+29,473)
Low: The group was the subject of a terrible made-for-TV movie—Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story (which aired on VH1 in 2001)—that was essentially a crime against basic cable. (-45,275) The band was one of the inaugural VH1 Rock Honors inductees in 2006, but they also let The All-American Rejects cover “Photograph” on said broadcast. Oh, the horror. (-89,209)
Currently: Set to release the all-new Songs From the Sparkle Lounge (+1 for persistence).
Way Back: Cut the VH1 umbilical cord!!! (+100,000 possible points)
Total Possible Points: -1. Your winner, by default. Def Leppard, Styx and REO Speedwagon play at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre in Chula Vista. 619-671-3500. www.defleppard.com, www.styxworld.com, www.speedwagon.com.