Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, for giving us Music Monday just when I needed it!
I am not Mr. Roboto, nor Kilroy, but I am the provider of Music Monday. Whether or not that’s a job nobody else wants to do, I have no idea.
But hey, I’m here.
Many of us have jobs that no one else would want to do, or could imagine doing. That doesn’t diminish the importance any job. Someone else won’t want to do it, but there are people who will. I’ve been an Administrative Professional for, between two different jobs, 14 years. The former job, which I did for 4 years, was a retail/office hybrid job, but my current job, which I’ve been at for 10 years (we don’t count the four and a half days I worked at a different job) is straight up administrative support.
When I am working – I’m starting week three of furlough due to Coronavirus – I provide multi-department support to several supervisors, assisting with clerical tasks relating to Respite programs (taking signups), recreation (data entry of recreation programs, mailings), Special Olympics (data entry, pulling participant medicals, copies of participant medicals, entering valid dates for those medicals, and mailings), and Supportive Living (data entry, photocopying, filing, and mailings). I cover the phones for Reception, write receipts, batch payments for recreation, take minutes in meetings, and well, anything anyone needs.
When I am working, I am essential. I do all of the seemingly small, but very significant, jobs no one would want to do. I’m a problem solver, and have been told that merely calling my extension solves problems. I’m not exaggerating – I’ve gotten more than few “oh, nevermind, I got it!” phone calls from supervisors when they’ve called me for help.
I say all of this because the subject of today’s song is the type that involves a person – er, manufactured person – who does all the jobs that nobody wants to,” and proves his value, while hiding a secret (secret, I’ve got a secret!) under his skin.
“Mr. Roboto” is a 1983 single from Styx’s 1982 album Kilroy Was Here. It tells the story of one Robert Orin Charles Kilroy (“ROCK”) from the rock opera Kilroy Was Here, with the song’s story told from his point of view. Dennis DeYoung, keyboardist and founding member of Styx, sings his vocals.
The story is about Kilroy being placed in a futuristic prison, a rock ‘n roll performer among other “rock misfits.” The prison is run by Majority for Musical Morality, and its founder, Dr. Everett Righteous, is played by Styx guitarist James Young.
The Robot is a model that does the menial jobs in the prison, but he escapes by overpowering a prison guard and hiding inside its empty shell. When Kilroy encounters a young musician trying to bring back rock ‘n roll music, Jonathan Chance (played by guitarist Tommy Shaw) at the end of the song, he reveals himself by unmasking and yelling “I am Kilroy! Kilroy!” to close out the song. This vocal effect was accomplished with vocoder.
Initially not intended to be released as a single, it was released at the last minute instead of “Don’t Let It End” (which was eventually released after “Mr. Roboto”). The album from which both singles came from Kilroy Was Here, was a rock opera – all of the songs follow a common theme. The album’s intention was supposed to be a stage show that accompanied the album, and was made into a short film, Caught in the Act, that was played at the beginning of Styx concerts during the corresponding tour.
It runs ten minutes, and the end of the film segues into the group’s live performance of “Mr. Roboto.”
As for the song’s performance, “Mr. Roboto” charted at #28 for the year (1983) on Billboard’s US Top Pop Singles Chart, and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
It’s been played on TV shows such as Arrested Development, Futurama, Mr. Robot, and The Simpsons.
The song was featured in a Volkswagen commercial featuring actor Tony Hale, who would later re-create this on Arrested Development in his character, Buster Bluth.
I remember this commercial from when I was a teenager. The dramatic lip syncing always made me laugh.
I created a “music video” in 2016 for this song, using commercial clips from the 1001 Classic Commercials chapter on robot toys.
Featured prominently in my video is a promo video for “The Ding-A-Lings,” a line of toy service robots with all kinds of different jobs. The beginning of the song works so perfectly with the clip of all the robots moving about. Very eerie.
I love when that works out well.
And if you’ve never seen Kilroy Was Here (I never have), it is on YouTube. And it is soooo 80s cheese, but it is fun 80s cheese!
As for Styx, “Mr. Roboto” was their last Top 5 single for eight years. The album and single were finally successful, but alienated alot of older fans, but resonated well with younger listeners, making Styx, according to member James Young, a “part of pop culture.” The group went on hiatus in 1984, reuniting in 1990 until 1991, and again in 1995. They’re still together, minus Dennis DeYoung, who the group fired in 1999 due to creative differences and DeYoung’s health at the time. DeYoung still performs as part of his own band, and Styx is actually touring this year…hopefully.
Thank you very much, everyone important who does the jobs nobody wants to, from the people trying to social distance so we can find our way back to normalcy, whatever that is.
Have a great Monday (please try!), and enjoy the music!