This Week In 1983: April 15th
It’s the last week in the #1 spot for Michael Jackson and “Billy Jean”. This week’s top ten songs looks like it could be a greatest hits of the 80’s all by itself. Several songs make big jumps up the chart this week. David Bowie and “Let’s Dance” jump fourteen spots to #15, “Flashdance…What a Feeling” by Irene Cara climbs fourteen spots as well to debut in the Top Forty at #38, and Def Leppard debuts in the Top Forty as well moving up fifteen spots to #32. Styx, however, makes the biggest move of the week. They’re new single, “Don’t Let It End”, debuts on the chart at #35 while their current hit, “Mr. Roboto”, hits it’s peak this week at #3 where it will stay for two weeks.
Song Story: “Mr. Roboto” by Styx
“Mr. Roboto” was written by Styx singer/keyboard player Dennis DeYoung. It’s the first single from the album Kilroy Was Here which was a concept album (spearheaded by DeYoung who wrote the album like a screenplay) that was a commentary on censorship. 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 name: In Greek mythology, the River Styx runs through Hades (hell). This got him 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 their 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.
This song and the album were very successful, but not everyone in the group was on board with the concept, especially guitarist Tommy Shaw. Every single from the album was a Dennis DeYoung composition (the others were “Don’t Let It End” and “High Time”), and Shaw was not thrilled with the musical direction the band was headed, or his role at the Kilroy concerts, where he had to do some acting. When the tour ended, the band split up. After the Kilroy Was Here tour ended in 1983, Styx went 35 years without playing this song in its entirety (they sometimes played bits of it in medleys).