Often accompanied by a doodle that looks something like this:

         ___
        /o o\
__nnn__|__ __|__nnn__
  UUU     U     UUU

But a little less like ugly ascii art and more like a man sticking his nose and fingers over a wall.

Rock Album by Styx (1983)

Rock fans were scared in the 1980s. Jerry Falwell and the so-called Moral Majority inflamed true believers across the United States with the terror of wicked rock bands, satanic lyrics, and secret evil messages embedded in the songs. Meanwhile, the (more-reasonable but still quite reactionary) PMRC, headed by Tipper Gore pushed for legislation to label albums containing objectionable words, images, or themes. Songs and videos began to feature themes inspired by the likes of George Orwell and Ray Bradbury.

Enter the eclectic art rock band Styx and their ambitious rock opera Kilroy Was Here. Whether it was a successful artistic effort or not largely depends on whom you ask.

Kilroy Was Here is a dystopian futuristic story in the manner of Orwell's classic 1984 or (more appropriately, I think) Logan's Run. It is the take of a renegade rock star named Robert Orin Charles Kilroy (played by lead singer Dennis De Young—note the initials!). In this nightmarish future, rock music has been outlawed by the fiendish Majority for Musical Morality, led by the mad Dr. Everett Righteous (portrayed by James Young). Kilroy has been arrested and confined to a sort of rock gulag or prison, attended by Japanese-made mechanical guards called Mr. Roboto's*. In this prison, Kilroy is subjected to constant mind-control courtesy of Dr. Righteous' cable network.

Of course, we Americans were also afraid of Japan. With their strong work ethic and excellent educational system, the Japanese became one of the superpowers of technology and manufacturing in the 80s. American businesses could not keep up and people envisioned a future dominated by Japanese business (some science fiction even envisioned the yen as the world currency in the near future).

The Robotos exist on every level of society; in addition to their role as prison guards, the Robotos act as butlers and majordomos for people of the dystopia, simplifying life to the point where people become soft, dependant and complacent. Well, I presume my readers can see where this is leading!

An underground sect of rebel rockers, led by the boyishly handsome Jonathan Chance (portrayed by boyishly handsome guitarist Tommy Shaw) comes to Kilroy's rescue. Like the Death Star in Star Wars, or the Greek hero Achilles, the Robotos have a major weakness. In the case of these robots, their vulnerability is a karate chop to the back of the neck. After Chance relays the info to Kilroy, it is not difficult for him to disguise himself in a roboto's metal exoskeleton and slip away.

On the outside, Kilroy and Chance begin plans for the ultimate coup: a rock concert to bring down the mad Dr. Righteous and his minions once and for all. Meanwhile, they play a deadly game of cat and mouse with the sinister Lt. Vanish (Chuck Panozzo) and Colonel Hyde (John Panozzo).

As I recall it, and it has been a few years since I've seen the stage show, the ending is kind of ambiguous, with Shaw singing the song Haven't We Been Here Before and then a finale that involves the entire cast doing a reprise of the song Don't Let it End.

Track listing for the album:
Mr. Roboto
Cold War
Don't Let it End
High Time
Heavy Metal Poisoning
Just Get Through This Night
Double Life
Haven't We Been Here Before
Don't Let it End (reprise)

The songs are solid, but the lyrics are often silly. The plot is a bit hard to work out from just the album (although the band has helpfully included the plot to this rock opera in the liner notes), so some of the songs just don't stand alone. Haven't We Been Here Before is a gorgeous piece (reminiscent of Crystal Ball) which is wonderful on its its own merit. Heavy Metal Poisoning, on the other hand, is goofy enough to make every fan cringe, featuring classic lines such as "First we'll spank your big behinds/then we'll blow your little minds." No, I did not make that up.

Styx seems to have had a long internal battle between campy, stagy theatrical work and hard rocking machismo. On albums such as Paradise Theatre (1981) and Pieces of Eight (1978), they struck a careful balance, like a television drama cautiously treading the line between light-hearted moments and bleak tragedy. With Kilroy, it seemed that lead man Dennis de Young's love of musical theatre had pushed the sound of Styx too far over the top.

With its campy, Broadway-inspired flair, a lot of fans saw Kilroy as a kind of a nadir for the boys from Chicago. I have it on good authority that the Kilroy was Here tour, particularly in the context of a many-act rock festival, was a bit of a weird show-stopper, complete with stilted dialogue and often silly lyrics. Add to that the fact that none of the members of Styx were particularly good actors, and this piece had the effect of leaving the fans scratching their heads and praying for the next act to hurry up and take the stage.

* The Robotos are kind of buck-toothed, slanty-eyed affairs. A Japanese acquaintance (very hard to offend guy) confirms to me that yes, they actually are offensive! Good, I wasn't just being overly sensitive.

Reworked: November, 2009

History of Kilroy


My username is based on this so I just have to clear this up. Kilroy and the "Kilroy was Here" originated in WWII. It was a fad for a few soldiers to run ahead to the next destination and quickly scrawl the Kilroy signa in the dirt or paint it on a wall (as so beautifully depicted above if you are viewing all the nodes under this topic) along with the words "Kilroy was Here". Thus Kilroy became a legendary Super Soldier that was anywhere, everywhere, all the time, everytime. It's been reported that Kilroy's mark has been made under the Arc de Triomphe, in the dust on the moon, and on the bottom of the ocean.


Lots more to see here:www.kilroywashere.org

The Origin and Significance of the Famous Graffito

Kilroy's bug-eyed face became a very common sight during the period of World War II. His strange peeping visage has since exploded into popular culture in literally thousands of places. No one knows for certain where the popular caricature came from, but there are a few things that are known for sure—and a few more that have appeared thanks to people with too much time on their hands.

It seems that Kilroy's appearance is based on an earlier graphic, popular in Britain. This character, called Mr. Chad, looks a lot like the peeping Kilroy figure, and his popularity spread to Australia, where he was called Foo, and often tagged "Foo Was Here" (Foo was popular by World War I, if not earlier). In Chile, a similar character was called sapo ('frog') because of his big frog-like eyes.

As to where Kilroy got his name, the most likely theory tells of a certain James J. Kilroy, an American shipyard inspector as the source. It seems the careful Mr. Kilroy marked the equipment he inspected with "Kilroy was here" in yellow crayon (chalk could be erased by unscrupulous builders), and, since the ships were often put into service before being painted, many American soldiers may have seen the mysterious bright yellow letters. It isn't hard to imagine how that could catch on as a sort of humourous tag.

At some later point, the graffiti and slogan must have merged. It seems likely that the US servicemen grabbed the idea and ran with it (we Yanks have this habit of grabbing up things from other cultures and sort of incorporating them—many of us hope that our foreign friends see it as endearing more than annoying!). During the war, servicemen tagged Kilroy's comical face all around captured fortifications and towns as a way of letting everyone know that the Yanks have arrived.

There are many wacky legends about the significance of this distinctive graffito. One source links it to ancient Irish ownership marks. My own favourite explanation, however, is psychoanalytical take on Kilroy and his peeping visage. Supposedly, you see, Kilroy was (perhaps subconsciously) "Kill Roi" from the English word kill (meaning 'kill') and French roi (meaning 'king'). This goes back to the Oedipal complex, wherein the boy wishes to kill his father and take his place. The big phallic nose on the Kilroy figure just gives further ammunition to this theory. This is probably not the silliest thing the Freudians ever said, but a sounds a bit loony to modern ears.

Sometimes a graffito is just a graffito, after all.


References:
Kilroy Was Here at AllExperts.com http://en.allexperts.com/e/k/ki/kilroy_was_here.htm
The Straight Dope The Origins of Kilroy Was Here http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mkilroy.html
Kilroywashere.org http://www.kilroywashere.org/001-Pages/01-0KilroyLegends.html
Digger History online: http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-help/faq6.htm#foo


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