Song Lyric Sunday — I’m Kilroy

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday theme words of Automated, Mechanical, Modern, and Robotic were suggested by Melanie B Cee of Sparks From a Combustible Mind. I have a feeling that I won’t be the only one this week going with the Styx song, “Mr. Roboto.”

“Mr.Roboto” was written by Dennis DeYoung of the band Styx, and recorded on the Styx album Kilroy Was Here. The song reached number 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in April 1983. The Japanese lyrics at the beginning of the song translate in English to Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto / Until the day we meet again / Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto / I want to know your secret.

Kilroy Was Here was a concept album that is a commentary on censorship. “Kilroy” is the main character of the album, a famous rock star who is sent to prison for “rock and roll misfits” by the anti-rock-and-roll group the Majority for Musical Morality. In prison, workers have been replaced by robots, called Robotos, who perform menial jobs. Kilroy escapes the prison by overpowering a Roboto prison guard and hiding inside its emptied-out metal shell. This song is about his escape from jail. The story makes a statement about the dehumanizing of the working class.

In the early ’80s, the First Assembly Church of God in Ankeny, Iowa, made news by burning albums with what they considered “Satanic influences.” Styx was one of their targets because of the band’s name, Styx, which in Greek mythology, is a river that runs through hell. This got DeYoung thinking about censorship, which formed the central concept of the song. Later, he saw a documentary on robots put to work in factories. DeYoung had been to Japan with the band and was intrigued by the Japanese culture. He merged these concepts of censorship, robotics, and Japan into “Mr. Roboto,” the story of a human/robot hybrid who is called upon to save the world.

For their 1983 tour based upon the album, a short Kilroy film was shown at the beginning of every concert. The film ends in a scene where DeYoung’s character takes off his robot helmet and reveals himself to the authorities, at which point the band continued the scene live on stage, with the song “Mr. Roboto” playing, rock opera style.

DeYoung said that he was surprised when it went over so well in concert. “The audience would yell ‘Kilroy,’ like they’re out of their minds at the end of the song when I play it, and I still don’t know why, because I guarantee you, 75% of them have no idea what Kilroy is doing in there,” he told Songfacts.

Here are the lyrics to Mr. Roboto

Domo arigato misuta Robotto
Mata au hi made
Domo arigato misuta Robotto
Himitsu wo shiritai

You’re wondering who I am-machine or mannequin
With parts made in Japan, I am the modern man

I’ve got a secret I’ve been hiding under my skin
My heart is human, my blood is boiling, my brain I.B.M.
So if you see me acting strangely, don’t be surprised
I’m just a man who needed someone, and somewhere to hide
To keep me alive, just keep me alive
Somewhere to hide to keep me alive

I’m not a robot without emotions, I’m not what you see
I’ve come to help you with your problems, so we can be free
I’m not a hero, I’m not a savior, forget what you know
I’m just a man whose circumstances went beyond his control
Beyond my control, we all need control
I need control, we all need control

I am the modern man, who hides behind a mask
So no one else can see my true identity

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, domo, domo
Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, domo, domo
Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto
Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto
Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto
Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto
For doing the jobs nobody wants to
And thank you very much, Mr. Roboto
For helping me escape to where I needed to
Thank you, thank you, thank you
I want to thank you, please, thank you, oh yeah

The problem’s plain to see, too much technology
Machines to save our lives. Machines dehumanize.

The time has come at last
To throw away this mask
Now everyone can see
My true identity
I’m Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy!

18 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — I’m Kilroy

  1. Bridgette February 20, 2022 / 7:37 am

    This remains one of my favorite songs, and I can’t even explain why I love it so much. Thank you for giving me some of the background.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Marleen February 21, 2022 / 9:42 am

        Good dad joke: … sticks with …

        Liked by 1 person

  2. newepicauthor February 20, 2022 / 7:44 am

    Styx started out as Tradewinds but they discovered that someone else was using that and they tried about 100 different names and at least one member hated something about it, so Styx won by default.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Marleen February 20, 2022 / 10:03 am

      Trader Vic’s (a restaurant named for the idea of traveling and being wise to or having a taste for the wide and exotic world) and similar concepts were popular at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango February 20, 2022 / 10:29 am

      And some far right church in America burned their albums and condemned their music because of the name they chose. And that was 30 years ago. Hmm. Not much has changed.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nope, Not Pam February 20, 2022 / 11:07 am

    I’ve not heard the track before but a very interesting concept to incorporate into a song

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Marleen February 20, 2022 / 11:42 am

    It’s a peculiar situation we are in where we humans, in a digital age, begin with a thought that we don’t want to be mechanized computers. We don’t want to be mindless and automatically supposed to do or supposed to cooperate with or bow to what is a knee-jerk or self-absorbed command or judgment from another entity or person. [Full disclosure: a son of mine works for, and leadership are largely dependent on him overall within, a joint American-Japanese division of a Japanese robotics company; the robots for factories are not in human form but could be.] Then we notice that, maybe, we modern humans already are in this situation to some degree. We come up with storylines involving human-look computers that appeal to our humanitarian empathy for people not to be subjugated. And, somehow, there are movements thereafter to emphasize empathizing with machines and not to doubt that they are or can be real humans (or that perhaps humans are [nothing but] computers… or might as well be). “Robot” is a Czech word for a slave. And there is modern-day slavery in prisons — plus forces lobbying to dehumanize the working class or people who find themselves in particular positions or anyone vulnerable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marleen February 20, 2022 / 11:48 am

      How fitting that this was written in the early eighties. Dennis DeYoung had a bright, forward-viewing and patern-recognizing, sense of understanding. Remember the tide that turned from the late seventies, seventy-nine, then the eighties and on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marleen February 21, 2022 / 9:46 am

        I meant, by “bright” above, smart — not happy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Marleen February 21, 2022 / 9:47 am

        … pattern-recognizing …

        Liked by 1 person

  5. aisasami March 6, 2022 / 8:04 am

    My father used to tease me with this song. The original was good, but I love the cover that my favorite Japanese electronica band about ten or twenty years ago ( I love the Polysics so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango March 6, 2022 / 11:26 am

      That’s a good cover!


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