Music / Kilroy Was Here

The Rock Opera by Styx, not the World War II era Bathroom Stall Graffiti.

20 Minutes into the Future, Moral Guardians outlaw rock and roll. Enforcing the new law, a riot breaks out at a concert by the famous "Kilroy" at the Paradise Theatre, someone dies, and Kilroy is framed as a murderer. He is imprisoned, guarded by Mr. Robotos, mass-produced menial-labor robots. Kilroy breaks out, disguising himself in the body of a Roboto he has overpowered. Using a "rock code" graffiti, he leads a protegé, Jonathan Chance, to meet him in the Paradise Theater, now a museum to rock-and-roll depravity. And then it ends.

Following on the success of the Concept Album Paradise Theater (and three multi-platinum albums before that), the Kilroy album and tour were far more ambitious, with a pre-concert mini-film that set up the story, scripted dialogue and choreography in concert, and specific roles for each of the band members. But instead of taking it to the next level, the band jumped the shark, breaking up and never going multi-platinum again. Tommy Shaw, on an episode of Behind the Music tells of performing the rock opera in Houston, Texas at the Astrodome, while on a double bill tour with Ted Nugent. Shaw recalled how Nugent (the opener on the tour) did a wild stage show with flaming arrows, and general mayhem we've come to expect from him and his group. And how "I've (Shaw) got to go out there in front of that rowdy-ass crowd and say 'But Kilroy, what about, the young people in the world?' I thought "I'M GONNA DIE! I'M GONNA GET KILLED IN TEXAS!"

The story has many similarities to Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage: both feature robot-filled futures with moral overlords who hate rock-and-roll and throw the rocker protagonist in prison. Zappa's work is distinguished by having trickier time signatures, as well as much more gay sex with robots. You could almost mistake Joe's Garage for a parody of Kilroy Was Here, but for the fact that Joe's came out four years earlier.


Side One
  1. "Mr. Roboto" (5:28)
  2. "Cold War" (4:27)
  3. "Don't Let It End" (4:56)
  4. "High Time" (4:33)

Side Two
  1. "Heavy Metal Poisoning" (4:57)
  2. "Just Get Through This Night" (6:06)
  3. "Double Life" (3:46)
  4. "Haven't We Met Here Before?" (4:06)
  5. "Don't Let It End" (2:22)

"Tropes Were Here":

  • All There in the Manual: The premise and the entire plot is described in the liner notes to the album. Between the opening "Mr. Roboto" (in which Kilroy reveals himself to Jonathan), and "Don't Let It End (Reprise)" (in which Kilroy and Jonathan vow to revive rock and roll), nothing happens: the other songs just describe the world of Kilroy from the point of view of the three main characters. Except for "Don't Let It End", a love ballad that has nothing to do with the story at all.
  • Bland-Name Product: "Dr. Righteous' Fried Chicken." The boxes are done in a similar fashion to Kentucky Fried Chicken's boxes.
  • Book Burning: In the mini-film at the start, but with records and guitars. The concert from the 'Caught in the Act' video featured prop guitars being snapped over the Panozzos' knees, while JY fed his (prop) to an MMM 'Guitar Shredder'.
  • Cyberpunk: Technology, robots, lost of humanity, outlaws, rebellion, it's all here.
  • Face on the Cover: Not of the band, but of two Robotos with an angry book-burning mob in the background.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto, Mata au hi made. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, himitsu wo shiritai...
  • Groin Attack: "What NOT To Do To Your Roboto."
  • Japan Takes Over the World
  • Large Ham: James Young during 'Heavy Metal Poisoning' during the concerts. Might even qualify as Ham and Cheese.
  • Ludd Was Right: "Mr. Roboto":
    The problem's plain to see
    Too much technology
    Machines to save our lives
    Machines dehumanize
  • Moral Guardians: Dr. Righteous and the "Majority for Musical Morality"
  • One-Man Song: "Mr. Roboto".
  • Oppressive States of America: A theocratic America emerges that outlaws rock and roll.
  • Power Ballad: "Don't Let It End".
  • Questioning Title?: "Haven't We Met Here Before?"
  • Rock Opera: Though given the total non-advancement of the story through the songs, it might just be a very detailed Concept Album.
  • Slasher Smile: From certain angles, the Robotos are less "Yellow Peril caricature" and more "I'm going to kill you slowly and painfully."
  • Subliminal Seduction: Subverted. Right before "Heavy Metal Poisoning", there's an obvious backmasked message. Played backwards, it's the Latin phrase Annuit cúptis, Novus ordo seclorum, part of the Seal of the United States on a $1 bill, and roughly translated as "God approves of our undertakings/ a new order of the ages." This is likely in response to accusations that "Snowblind", a song from Paradise Theatre, had "backwards Satanic messages" on it.
  • Suck E. Cheese's: Righteous' museum (formerly the Paradise Theater) has shades of this, complete with an animatronic Kilroy band "murdering" an MMM protestor.
  • Theme Naming: Robert Orin Charles Kilroy (Fun with Acronyms), Jonathan Chance, Dr. Righteous
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The story takes place in the future, but not a very distant one.
  • Unrobotic Reveal: The main point of "Mr. Roboto".
  • Villain Song: "Heavy Metal Poisoning", "Double Life" are both from the antagonist's viewpoint. "Double Life" is a Villainous B.S.O.D. song where Righteous realizes what a terrible hypocrite he is, but feels he's too far in to dig his way out.
  • Yellow Peril: The slant-eyed, Japanese-built "Mr. Robotos" are an obvious racial caricature, and probably more than a little racist. At the time of the album's release, they were likely meant as a commentary on Japanese car-makers putting Americans out of work.
    • In the accompanying minifilm, one of the prisoners in the eating area mocks a Roboto that his "mother's a Toyota."