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Twenty Minutes Into the Future, Moral Guardians outlaw rock and roll. Enforcing the new law, a riot breaks out at a concert by the famous "Kilroy" at the Paradise Theatre, someone dies, and Kilroy is framed as a murderer. He is imprisoned, guarded by Mr. Robotos, mass-produced menial-labor robots. Kilroy breaks out, disguising himself in the body of a Roboto he has overpowered. Using a "rock code" graffiti, he leads a protegé, Jonathan Chance, to meet him in the Paradise Theater, now a museum to rock-and-roll depravity. And then it ends.
Following on the success of the Concept Album Paradise Theater (and three multi-platinum albums before that), the Kilroy album and tour were far more ambitious, with a pre-concert mini-film that set up the story, scripted dialogue and choreography in concert, and specific roles for each of the band members. But instead of taking it to the next level, the band jumped the shark, breaking up and never going multi-platinum again. Tommy Shaw, on an episode of Behind The Music tells of performing the rock opera in Houston, Texas at the Astrodome, while on a double bill tour with Ted Nugent. Shaw recalled how Nugent (the opener on the tour) did a wild stage show with flaming arrows, and general mayhem we've come to expect from him and his group. And how "I've (Shaw) got to go out there in front of that rowdy-ass crowd and say 'But Kilroy, what about, the young people in the world?' I thought "I'M GONNA DIE! I'M GONNA GET KILLED IN TEXAS!"
The story has many similarities to Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage: both feature robot-filled futures with moral overlords who hate rock-and-roll and throw the rocker protagonist in prison. Zappa's work is distinguished by having trickier time signatures, as well as much more gay sex with robots. You could almost mistake Joe's Garage for a parody of Kilroy Was Here, but for the fact that Joe's came out four years earlier.
Kilroy Was Here has examples of:
- All There in the Manual: The premise and the entire plot is described in the liner notes to the album. Between the opening "Mr. Roboto" (in which Kilroy reveals himself to Jonathan), and "Don't Let It End (Reprise)" (in which Kilroy and Jonathan vow to revive rock and roll), nothing happens: the other songs just describe the world of Kilroy from the point of view of the three main characters. Except for "Don't Let It End", a love ballad that has nothing to do with the story at all.
- Church Militant: Dr. Righteous' ambiguously-Protestant organization.
- Fun with Acronyms: Add up Kilroy's initials.
- Gratuitous Japanese: Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto, Mata au hi made. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, himitsu wo shiritai...
- Moral Guardians: Dr. Righteous and the "Majority for Musical Morality"
- The Power of Rock
- Preacher Man: Dr. Righteous
- Rock Opera: Though given the total non-advancement of the story through the songs, it might just be a very detailed Concept Album.
- Star-Derailing Album: Occasionally refered to as "The Album That Killed Styx", Kilroy Was Here was, according to band members, a high-water mark for Dennis de Young's Control Freakery, and his insistence on turning the tour into a Rock Opera -- and the implosion of ticket sales -- all contributed to the band's breakup shortly afterward.
- Straw Evangelist: Dr. Everett Righteous.
- Subliminal Seduction: Subverted. Right before "Heavy Metal Poisoning", there's an obvious backmasked message. Played backwards, it's the Latin phrase Annuit cœptis, Novus ordo seclorum, part of the Seal of the United States on a $1 bill, and roughly translated as "God approves of our undertakings/ a new order of the ages." This is likely in response to accusations that "Snowblind", a song from Paradise Theatre, had "backwards Satanic messages" on it.
- There is another backmasked message, considerably less clear, in the middle of "Heavy Metal Poisoning".
- Theme Naming: Robert Orrin Charles Kilroy, Jonathan Chance, Dr. Righteous, Lt. Vanish and Col. Hyde
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future
- Villain Song: "Heavy Metal Poisoning", "Double Life"
- Yellow Peril: The slant-eyed, Japanese-built "Mr. Robotos" are an obvious racial caricature, and probably more than a little racist. At the time of the album's release, they were likely meant as a commentary on Japanese car-makers putting Americans out of work.