Styx is one of the most successful rock bands of the '70s and '80s, with hits like "Come Sail Away," "Babe," and "Renegade." But their last album of the '80s, 1983's ‘Kilroy Was Here,’ was also their most divisive and controversial, leading to their breakup for six years.
The album was a concept album that told the story of a futuristic dystopia where rock music was banned by a totalitarian regime. The protagonist, Robert Orin Charles Kilroy, was a rock star who was imprisoned for his music and escaped with the help of a robot named Mr. Roboto.
The first single from the album, "Mr. Roboto," was a catchy synth-pop song that featured the chorus "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto," which means "Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto" in Japanese. The song was a huge hit, reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Billboard Top Rock Tracks chart.
However, not everyone was happy with the song or the album. Some fans and critics felt that Styx had abandoned their rock roots and sold out to the pop trends of the time. Some band members also had creative differences and personal conflicts over the direction and execution of the album. The main source of tension was Dennis DeYoung, the singer and keyboardist who wrote and produced most of the songs on Kilroy Was Here, including "Mr. Roboto." He was also the one who came up with the concept and the storyline of the album, which he wanted to turn into a theatrical show.
DeYoung's vision clashed with that of Tommy Shaw, the guitarist and singer who wrote and sang some of Styx's biggest hits, such as "Blue Collar Man" and "Too Much Time on My Hands." Shaw felt that DeYoung's concept was too ambitious and too cheesy, and that it alienated their core fan base.
Shaw also disliked performing in costumes and acting out scenes from the album on stage, which he felt took away from the music. He later said, "It was like being in a bad high school play."
The tension between DeYoung and Shaw reached a breaking point during the Kilroy Was Here tour in 1983, which resulted in Shaw quitting the band to pursue a solo career. The other band members, James Young, Chuck Panozzo, and John Panozzo, wanted to replace Shaw and continue as Styx, but DeYoung refused, saying that Shaw was irreplaceable.
DeYoung later wrote on Facebook, "The biggest problem was Tommy quit to pursue a solo career right after the tour. And when I refused against JY and Chuck and John Panozzo’s wishes to replace him, 'Roboto' lingered for six years as the last song remembered [until we reunited in 1990]. Would it have been better if I had replaced Tommy in '84? You tell me. I still don’t think so."
DeYoung also defended his decision to make Kilroy Was Here and "Mr. Roboto," saying that he wanted to try something different and innovative. He said, "Of course, it was fun and catchy and if you didn’t have a political agenda why not. If you had an ingrained belief system regarding our music and you were protective of it I understand why you could find it not to your taste. But by 1983 if you hadn’t realized that Styx music was never just one thing I’m shocked..."
He added, "My old pals still play 'Ro' nightly and rightly so. Watching the videos of the live audiences proves they love it."
Styx reunited in 1990 with Shaw back in the lineup, but without DeYoung, who was fired from the band in 1999 due to health issues that prevented him from touring. The band has continued to perform and record with new members ever since.
"Mr. Roboto" remains one of Styx's most popular and recognizable songs, despite its controversial history. It has been featured in many movies, TV shows, commercials, and video games over the years. It has also become a cultural icon, inspiring memes, parodies, and tributes.
[Source: Classic Hits Today]