Too Much Time On My Hands
by Styx

Album: Paradise Theater (1981)
Charted: 9
Play Video


  • This Classic Rock staple was written by Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw, who also sang lead on the track. Shaw says he was asked to write one more song for the album, which followed the theme of a concert hall rising to prominence and then crumbling (based on a real venue: the Paradise Theatre in Chicago). Shaw liked the concept, but was having trouble writing songs that fit, which is why "Too Much Time On My Hands" doesn't follow the theme.

    He had a long drive to the recording studio, and on one trip, the bassline popped into his head: "dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun-dun-dun." When he arrived, he quickly had the band record what was in his head so he wouldn't lose it. He found himself calling out chord changes as they played, which laid the groundwork for the track.
  • The song is about a guy who spends his days at the local bar, blustering on about world events or whatever else pops into his head. He's got nothing better to do, and aided by alcohol, he gets a little crazy as he sees his life slipping away.

    Tommy Shaw drew inspiration from a real bar in Niles, Michigan, where he was living. He told Styxworld: "I think officially it was called Mark's Tavern, but everybody called it Mark's Bar. It was the local watering hole. The drinks were good, and the drinks were cheap. You could go in there with 20 bucks and be a hero, you know - buying rounds of drinks. And you'd always run into somebody you knew in there. That was the basis of the song."
  • Paradise Theater was Styx's only #1 album in the US (it peaked at #8 in the UK), but their fourth consecutive US triple-platinum album. Released in 1981, the album has a place in music history as being one of the albums which freaked out the religious right and Tipper Gore, in the thick of the 1980s moral panic. Styx was one of the bands explicitly forbidden from putting subliminal backmasking into their albums for the purpose of promoting Satanism or drug use. The Styx song from this album to draw this reaction is "Snowblind," ironically a song with a strong anti-drug message. The fallout from the Senate ruling (and Tipper's PMRC) is the reason we have "Parental Advisory" stickers on album labels today.
  • The video combines studio performance footage of the band with scenes from a bar where the guys engage in goofy antics. The bar scenes were shot at a gay bar called the Mother Lode in West Hollywood, California - the decor was changed for the shoot so it would resemble a local watering hole.
  • The song was released in the spring of 1981 and reached its US chart of #9 in May. In August, MTV went on the air, which gave the song new life, since the video was one of the few the network had available from an American rock band, and they played constantly.
  • "Too Much Time On My Hands" has one of the most memorable endings in rock, with Tommy Shaw whispering the title as a ticking clock comes in and an alarm sounds to end the track.
  • A live version of this song appears on Styx' album Caught in the Act.
  • On April 29, 2016, Jimmy Fallon and Paul Rudd did a shot-for-shot remake of the video on Fallon's program The Tonight Show. Fallon had been talking the song up all week, telling guest Adam Levine that it was the best song he's ever heard in his life. Fallon and Rudd led into the bit with a conversation about how they were both members of Styx.

Comments: 11

  • Doormanswift from Grant, MiDryattz, now give us the definition of pedantic.
  • Av from Fort Wayne, InFor those who might like really obscure references, this bass riff was borrowed by Sierra for their DOS adventure game Space Quest. When the player enters a bar midway through the game, there's sometimes an alien group playing a tune that very plainly takes the riff and just makes it a 12-bar blues.
  • Citizen from Arlington VaIt's pretty obvious that the song is from the viewpoint of a bar regular who wastes his days at the bar. That's kind of the point of the song. A look at a guy who is wasting his life doing nothing except watching TV and drinking beer at a bar, day after day. It's almost as if the Cliff Claven or Norm characters from the "Cheers" TV show were singing this, except that the character in this song is a little more aggressive (and rock 'n' roll than Cliff or Norm). We know the character in the song is an unremarkable person. Every single line in the song points this out.
  • David from NycThank you Dryattz. I was wondering when someone would point this out.
  • James from Fort WorthJimmy Fallon & Paul Rudd recreated the video for Jimmy's Late Show on April 29, 2016.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 15th 1981, "Too Much Time On My Hands" by Styx entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #60; nine weeks later on May 17th, 1981 it peaked at #9 {for 2 weeks} and spent 19 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #2 on Billboard's Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and #4 in Canada...
    Between 1972 and 1991 the Chicago-based quintet had twenty-three Top 100 records; eight made the Top 10 with one reaching #1, "Babe" for 2 weeks on December 2nd, 1979...
    They had three records peak at #3; "The Best of Times" in 1981, "Mr. Roboto" in 1983, and "Show Me the Way" in 1991.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhIs it any wonder I'm not the president? Sang at many a bar by many a drunk person. Fun song.
  • Jg from Joppa, MdTipper Gore is a complete moron.
  • Dryattz from Atlanta, GaShaw's guitar-playing clearly surpassed his lyrics-writing. He obviously didn't know what is meant by the phrase "is it any wonder?" Usually found in rhetorical questions, it essentially means "it isn't surprising. . ." So, "is it any wonder the bear poops in the woods" says the same as "it isn't surprising the bear poops in the woods."

    So, in this song, he's really saying:

    It isn't surprising that I'm not crazy.
    It isn't surprising that I'm sane at all.
    It isn't surprising that I'm not a criminal.
    It isn't surprising that I'm not in jail.
    It isn't surprising that I'm not the President.
    It isn't surprising that I'm null and void.

    Which really means that his life is pretty unremarkable. Silly lyrics. . . this is what happens when one makes up a song because he must "write one more," instead of creating the song out of real feeling.
  • Terry from Colchester, VtPaul, your backward politics aside, I too have loved Styx from their early days. But your remark about GWB is ridiculous. The nation may never recover from the damage he and his henchmen have done to it.
  • Paul from Kennewick, WaNothing would surprise me about Tipper Gore-she and her ilk very nearly wrecked music as we know it. I've always loved Styx, and this song in particular. Thank God Brother Al lost to Dubya, or God knows what kind of damage would've been wrought. Great job,Tommy!
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