Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto


I love a good story.  Not that I don’t like to write about news in the pop culture arena, but secretly, my passion is recounting stories from yesteryear that maybe someone missed, remembers but had forgotten or was just too young to have heard about.  It probably stems from my father, who can do a five-minute synopsis of 1957’s The Bridge on the River Kwai, complete with voices and the famous whistling scene.  To this day, I still prefer his version over the actual film, but I digress.

Now, in a recent post, I referenced an album from 1983, and realized that many of our younger readers wouldn’t haven’t been born for the monumental release of the 800 lb. gorilla in the music room, Kilroy Was Here.  More importantly, the most famous single release from that album, Mr. Roboto.  What?  You haven’t heard the story behind the song?  Welllll, pull up and ice block, and lend an ear!

Back in the early 80’s, music didn’t just jump the shark.  It threw a compressed gas canister in the shark’s mouth, took aim and went all  Roy Scheider on it while saying “smile, you sonofabitch”.  It had all just been done to death.  Political statements of the 60’s, funkadelic disco of the 70’s, and the 80’s showed up and nobody knew what to do.  Save for one lonely band of forward thinkers.  Styx.

You see, while all the rest of the so-called music visionaries predicted the 1980’s would be filled something called “Metal”, Styx thought outside the box and went in the direction of the true creative spirit.  They wrote a rock opera.  And I mean, a really, really bad rock opera.  So bad is this auditory mess that if I were to interview all the original band members, I’m not sure that even they could explain it.

Mr. Roboto was to be only part of the story to a larger and more epic stage play, but nobody showed up cooler heads prevailed, and the project was tabled because the general music going public didn’t frigging get it were not refined enough to understand the true musical genius the band had presented us with. It was the story of a man convicted of a crime, who escapes and goes into hiding.  Just think The Fugitive, with less Tommy Lee Jones and more Japanese robots.

The actual opera was the story of Robert Orin Charles Kilroy (R.O.C.K., how quaint) and his imprisonment in a jail for rock and roll deviants.  In the future, the Majority for Musical Morality (think PMRC, with less Tipper Gore) has outlawed rock and roll.  All offenders are thrown in a futuristic prison ran by “robotos”, which basically staff the place.  Kilroy hijacks a roboto, guts it (ick) and wears it’s shell as an escape disguise, which is a good thing, since Kilroy seems to have an affinity for periwinkle jumpsuits.

Now, here’s where things get murky.  I know, I know…just try and keep up, I didn’t write the pile of garbage.  A young musician known as Jonathan Chance tries to revive rock and roll, and for some unexplained reason, isn’t imprisoned like the rest of the rowdies.  Kilroy leaves several messages for Chance to meet up with him around the city, with the graffiti stating, “Kilroy Was Here”.

Finally, Chance meets Kilroy in some sort of museum of rock, which if it’s been outlawed as a bad influence on society, I’m not exactly sure why it also doubles as a tourist attraction.  Anyway, the two meet, and Kilroy removes his robot mask and proclaims “I’m Kilroy!”.  Apparently, Kilroy was famous at one time and knew Chance, and wanted to tell the young musician his story of the night he was framed for murder. Because apparently, being imprisoned for just being a rock and roll rebel didn’t sound harsh enough, Kilroy was also blamed for a murder he didn’t commit.  Kilroy is eventually killed by the MMM, and Chance is left to spread the word of the uprising and return us all to rock and roll glory.  At least, that’s the best I can make of it from several conflicting sources.  Look, if it all made sense, it would have been more popular.

The main problem with the opera is that the members of Styx kicked out lead singer and writer of the garbage bomb play Dennis DeYoung, and then refused to play any of the music from the 1983 album and disowned the entire project altogether.  All the public is left with is a catch phrase and questions.

Hey, I said it was a story, I didn’t say it was a good one.  Anyway, here’s the original music video, don’t try to make sense of it.  Just sit back and be thankful music Darwined this load of crap.


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Filed under Mishmosh Ranting, Music

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