Kilroy Was Here

Kilroy was here tits

Date Aired
December 13, 2017
Running Time
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Todd: The concept album...

(The Beatles' music video of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is shown)

Paul McCartney: It was twenty years ago today...

Todd (v.o.): It's the height of artistic ambition for a rock band, a statement of intent that you are to be taken...

Todd (v.o.): ...seriously.

(Clip of "Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the Wall")

Roger Waters: We don't need no education

Todd (v.o.): Lesser bands would just write a bunch of songs and try to put them in a decent order. (Clip of Green Day - "American Idiot") But you have bigger dreams. You're not just some snot-nosed punk bashing out three chords, warbling out drivel about girls and dancing. (Clip of "David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust") No, you are a storyteller. You're a dramatist, you're a composer, you're a cultural commentator, you're a world-builder.

Todd: You're all of those things and more. You're an artist! Or, if you're an act who the critics never liked to begin with, you're gonna look like a pretentious bore who has disappeared up his own ass. But who knows?

(Clip of Styx performing during the "Kilroy Was Here" tour)

Todd (v.o.): Maybe this is the project where everyone will finally recognize your genius. But only if you truly find that amazing mind-expanding concept that becomes beloved for decades to come and is certainly not horribly cheesy and dated.

Todd: Which brings us to the band Styx.

(Clip of Styx performance)

Todd (v.o.): Yes, Styx. Rock group from Chicago, led by keyboardist Dennis DeYoung. Super popular in the late 70's and early 80's.

(Clip of "The Best of Times")

Tommy Shaw: The best of times

Todd (v.o.): In 1983, they were on top of the world, coming off a string of hits and multi-platinum albums with their specific blend of midwestern arena rock, prog rock, and soft rock. But the 80's were really kicking into gear. Could they survive as new wave and hair metal began to crowd out classic rock?

Todd: The answer was yes. Yes they could...

(Clip of "Mr. Roboto")

Todd (v.o.): But only for a brief, strange moment in time. And only by making one of the weirdest, most puzzling songs in rock history, accompanied by a confused, half-baked record that made it no less baffling. A record called "Kilroy Was Here."

Dennis DeYoung: Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, mata au-oo hima de

Todd: This is Trainwreckords.

(Trainwreckords intro, followed by album cover for Kilroy Was Here)

Todd: Look, I don't like Styx. Obviously, I don't like Styx. I'm a music critic. It's part of the licensing exam. Can't be a music critic if you like Styx. My little brother likes Styx. He's a huge fan. He's seen them in concert, like twice, has the T-shirts. I failed him.

(Clip of Styx performance)

Todd (v.o.): But yeah, they're just a band that I have never been able to get into. I think they're tedious. Critics described them as "pompous to the point of flatulence," they were like Queen without the fun or Yes without the complexity. Yeah, I agree with all that, but mostly I just don't like Dennis DeYoung's voice.

(Clip of "Lady")

Dennis DeYoung: Lady, when you're with me I'm smiling

Todd (v.o.): For me, his singing is just like the death of music. And the other two vocalists, Tommy Shaw and James Young, I'm not exactly a fan of their voices either. I dunno, they got a couple of good songs I guess, if that's what you're into.

Todd: But then there's "Kilroy Was Here"

(Clip of "Caught in the Act")

James Young as Dr. Righteous: Moms and dads, I see the future. I see a future without rock 'n roll music.

Todd (v.o.): When I started this project, I had one basic idea...

Todd: ...albums that flopped so hard, that they ended careers. But how do you measure a flop album? By critical success? Critics didn't like Styx to begin with, so it wasn't like a drop in form or anything. By commercial failure? "Kilroy Was Here" sold pretty well. Granted, a bad reception doesn't manifest right away. Sometimes, you can't see it in solid numbers until the follow-up. But we can't look at how the follow-up did because there wasn't one. No, the album killed Styx in the most direct way possible. It broke up the band.

(Clip of "Caught in the Act")

Tommy Shaw: Kilroy

Todd (v.o.): I honestly have no idea if there was any backlash from Styx fans. The only backlash that mattered came from just four people. (picture of the band with every member except Dennis circled) These guys, who never understood the project and got burned out trying to help Dennis DeYoung realize his stupid, stupid vision.

Todd: By the time the band reunited in 1990, their moment was officially over.

(Clip of "Caught in the Act")

Todd (v.o.): But whether or not there was any fan backlash at the time, "Kilroy Was Here" has gone down in rock history not as a classic album, but as a bizarre, confused, half-remembered curiosity. Now I'm approaching this album as a non-fan and somebody who wasn't even born yet when it came out. It's kind of difficult to tell where "Kilroy Was Here" fits in Styx's legacy, because Styx has had such an odd afterlife.

Todd: The critics never turned around on them like they had for Journey...

(Clip of live performance)

Todd (v.o.): ...but Styx also kinda never went away or waned in popularity. They still tour. Their songs still get tons of play. Everyone knows at least a few of their songs, they can sing a few bars of "Come Sail Away."

Todd: But ranking up with "Come Sail Away" as their most famous tune is probably their least representative song. The lead single from this album, "Mr. Roboto."

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