Bookended by Cats was named after Milo and Otis. They are the short, orange, and furry brothers who, upon entering our lives in 2003, often bookended us on our couch. And who are we? We're a geek couple living in PA. We love music, movies, TV, comics, books, and comic cons. And, from time to time, we'll share our thoughts on these nerdy things.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Friday 80s Flashback for February 24, 2023

[Where's Kilroy Now?] -- In 1982, the classic lineup of Styx – Dennis DeYoung (keyboards), Tommy Shaw (guitar), James Young (guitar), John Panozzo (drums), and Chuck Panozzo (bass) – probably had no idea they were recording their last album of original material together. There are plenty of stories out there about the creative tensions that arose during the recording of Kilroy Was Here, the band's 11th studio album. And the theatrical tour to support the record, as well as that tour's sheer expense, probably did not help. 

Still, this week is the 40th anniversary of Kilroy's release. And I'm celebrating it. 

Kilroy Was Here was released on February 22, 1983. It is a concept album built around a rock opera that imagines a dystopia in which rock music is outlawed. The minifilm that accompanied the tour, and the album's song lyrics, reveal a heavy-handed mocking of anti-rock activists (primarily of the Christian variety) who were protesting backmasking. Although the PMRC came later in 1983, there are similarities between them and Kilroy's primary antagonists: the theo-fascistic MMM (Majority for Musical Morality). 

Kilroy Was Here debuted at #10, and peaked at #3, on the Billboard 200. It sold somewhere between 1 and 2.5 million copies (depending on the source), and yielded two top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100: "Mr. Roboto" peaked at #3 and "Don't Let It End" peaked at #6. 

But Kilroy Was Here has divided critics and fans just as much as, if not more than, the band. And Kilroy broke the band's streak of consecutive multiplatinum albums. So, regarding the divide in the band, upon completing the Kilroy tour, Styx disbanded for a while. The band reformed without guitarist Tommy Shaw in 1990, but disbanded again in 1991. Shaw returned to the fold when Styx again reformed in 1995. But a few years later, in 1999, Shaw and Young pretty much forced DeYoung out of the band

You can easily find reviews that pan Kilroy Was Here [for example: Rolling Stone and AllMusic], or even the show. But maybe the record was ahead of its time. Along with the themes of anti-music and over-zealous religious control in government, there is a narrative that bemoans the overuse, and over dependence upon, technology. There is even the replacement of humans with machines: The Roboto units of "Mr. Roboto" are automatons that guard prisoners and carry out the MMM's orders, and yet Kilroy (as played by DeYoung) must disguise himself as a Roboto to enact his prison escape and connect with members of a resistance. 

OK, yes, the album is somewhat cheesy, and possibly even bloated. Of course, a few songs are just there to advance the narrative, but isn't that what always happens in a musical? And, if we're honest, filler tracks have always been a thing, so it's kind of weird to call out Styx for having a few of them. And even though this record uses more synths than prior outings, it's still a very enjoyable, and rocking, record. 

And as much as Tommy Shaw and James Young complained about "Mr. Roboto" (either back in the day, or in retrospect), they brought the song back to their live show setlist starting in 2018. That was a mere ten years after it appeared in a VW commercial. So, even if Shaw, Young, and DeYoung still don't see eye to eye, or even each other, at least both factions (DeYoung and Styx) agree that the song has fans. 

And, after all these years, I'm still one of those fans.

FlashbackKilroy Was Here (February 22, 1983)

And ... that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the Prophet or Madman archives or via Bookended's 80s Flashback tag. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

I'll see you in seven!

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