Styx – “Kilroy Was Here”

The first time I can remember understanding the concept that there were “music charts” that ranked the most popular songs, and that these charts would strongly influence the playlists of some radio stations, was in 1983 as Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” was on its way to an eventual plateau at the #3 spot on the Billboard list. It was definitely one of the first few singles I ever bought, if not in fact the actual first.

It wasn’t until number of years later that I become familiar with the term “rock opera.” And it wasn’t until last week that I realized the Styx album that features “Mr. Roboto,” Kilroy Was Here, is actually a rock opera.

Now, mind you, I’ve never owned a copy of Kilroy Was Here, and in fact don’t think I’ve ever owned a single Styx album on any format after I bought the “Mr. Roboto” single. (♠) And I’m not a fan of rock operas. So my failure to make the connection is, I hope, excusable. That being said, the band also produced a 10 minute short film that provides the plot of the opera – a dystopian near-future police state that puts you in prison if you dare to rock. And there are Japanese robots (domo… domo…). And I think at the 7:47 none other than Robert Romanus, perhaps best known for his role as the ticket scalper Mike Damone in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, makes a brief speaking appearance. You can watch it in all its glory below.

I was surprised to see a copy of Kilroy Was Here in my buddy Andy’s record collection the other day, so when I saw a cheap, good condition copy a week or so later it felt like fate. And for three dollars I’m not one to argue with fate.

So how are the other eight songs on the album not called “Mr. Roboto”? Well… no song ever made the repeated use of the phrase “sex and drugs” sound less sexy or more sober than on “Heavy Metal Poisoning,” though probably the second best song on the album is the intriguing “Just Get Through the Night,” which musically incorporates a range of sounds and styles. And I don’t know if this means anything, but there’s a repeating part of “Cold War” that sounds an awful lot like the hook of Mike + The Mechanics’ 1985 hit single “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground),” like as in a surprising amount. The rest of it is pretty prog, which isn’t really my jam.

Kilroy Was Here was worth the pick up if for no other reason than it has the longer 5:28 version of “Mr. Roboto” with the full synth opening that was dropped from the single.

(♠) Though I did own two albums by a post-Styx Tommy Shaw band called Damn Yankees, aka “Ted Nugent, that guy from Styx, that dude from Night Ranger, and some drummer…”

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