Title: “Kilroy Was Here”
Release date: 1983
Favorite track: “Don’t Let it End”
This past Christmas, I played a slew of music trivia games with my family. For every question I didn’t know the answer, I guessed Styx.
As I’ve mentioned before in my column, I own a stack of Styx albums. I never really listen to them, and everyone always tells me I’m missing out. I assumed Styx might fill in the gaps of music history I don’t know, but I never answered Styx correctly in trivia.
I’ve featured Styx’s 1976 album, “Crystal Ball,” — and I listened to it — and this week I wanted to feature the later album, “Kilroy Was Here.” Eventually, I will make it through Styx’s discography. Then, of course, I will have to listen to it all over again to figure out what I like.
The album starts with the only Styx song to which I can correctly identify, “Mr. Roboto.” Too bad that wasn’t a question in music trivia.
“Mr. Roboto” is one of the rock band’s most popular and signature songs. It also features the synthesizer-heavy sounds and melodramatic talk-vocals of the early 1980s.
Some call “Kilroy Was Here” a rock opera. The songs tell the story of Robert Orin Charles Kilroy (ROCK) — played by keyboardist Dennis DeYoung — a rock ‘n’ roll performer imprisoned by the anti-rock-and-roll group, the Majority for Musical Morality, and its founder Dr. Everett Righteous — played by guitarist James Young.
Kilroy escapes the prison in “Mr. Roboto” when he realizes Jonathan Chance — played by guitarist Tommy Shaw — wants to reinstate rock music.
“Mr. Roboto” is a catchy single. Many are familiar with the Japanese lyric “Dōmo arigatō, Mr. Roboto,” which translates to “Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto.” I can’t go to the Fort Walton Beach restaurant Domo Café without thinking of this song.
The other majorly popular song on the record is the ballad and second single, “Don’t Let it End,” written by DeYoung. I think this is a wonderful song, because of its slow, rhythmic verses and unexpectedly mid-pace tempo-chorus. It gives the sad theme an intriguing edge.
I might not listen to much Styx music, but this is a song I would add to one of my playlists. I like how the lyrics don’t rhyme.
What can I do, pictures of you still make me cry
Trying to live without your love, it’s so hard to do
Some nights I’ll wake up I’ll look at your pillow
Hoping that I’ll see you there
— “Don’t Let it End”
“Cold War” highlights the band’s fusion of pop and rock. The vocals sound classically trained, and the song sounds eerily similar to a show tune because of it. The title reveals some political undertones.
“High Time” was released as the third and final single from the record. I find it to be one of many consistently theatrical songs, but that’s not a bad thing.
“Heavy Metal Poisoning” definitely follows up on the storyline from “Mr. Roboto,” again referring to rock music being evil. “Just Get Through This Night” has a nearly two-minute intro before it settles into its rhythm, but I never really got into that one.
The album cover features the Roboto mask, which was designed by Stan Winston. He was a TV and film special make-up effects creator known for his work in the “Terminator” series, “Jurassic Park,” “Aliens,” “Predator” and “Edward Scissorhands.”