Former STYX vocalist Dennis DeYoung has commented on the band’s decision to perform the song “Mr. Roboto” live in its entirety for the first time in 35 years.
“Mr. Roboto” — which originally appeared on STYX‘s 1983 concept album “Kilroy Was Here” — was written by DeYoung, who left the group in 1999. The song reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the charts in Canada, but guitarist Tommy Shaw‘s reported dislike of the song and direction of the group’s concert performances — which, in keeping with the album’s concept, featured bandmembers acting out certain roles — led him to leave the band at the completion of the “Kilroy” tour. He eventually returned in 1996.
DeYoung took to his Facebook page to address “Mr. Roboto”‘s re-emergence, writing: “Vindication, redemption, exoneration … nah, I’ve already seen the current spin cycle. It’s just two guys [Shaw and James ‘JY’ Young] finally admitting the obvious. And, as always, following the money. Can’t imagine how many times the boys were asked the question, ‘Hey, how come you ain’t playing ‘Roboto’?’… But no, this song ruined the band. And so now, 35 years later nearly to the day, June 2, 1983, Tommy quit the band onstage in D.C. because of ‘Kilroy’ and ‘Mr. Roboto’ and now it’s resurrected. Hallelujah.
“A whole bunch of time has been spent over the last 18 years denigrating ‘Kilroy’ and ‘Roboto’ and yours truly,” he continued. “Why? Why? In light of this move ‘is a puzzlement to me.’ Like a bad penny or a wooden nickel or simply a damn catchy tune; your choice.
“I imagine it will become obvious to them when they perform it… what they have been missing,” he added. “It’s something I have known for 18 years. And that is… people will go bananas when it’s played, ’cause they like it, it’s fun. It’s that simple, and a whole bunch of STYX fans became so after hearing this song. They then went back and bought the catalogue. I know this because I have read it and heard it from fans countless times. Also, the song was placed in the most prestigious spot in their show, the encore, a spot reserved for the big ones. Wow, that’s a reversal of fortune from derision and ignominy to the encore.”
DeYoung went on to say: “Good for Ro — I wish I knew his secret … secret secret. Perhaps he’ll share it with me and one last reunion tour will happen. By playing this song after all the vitriol, it’s an admission, but of what? Kids, you tell me. I predict that ‘Roboto’ will ultimately become STYX‘s most popular song over time. Not because it’s one of our best songs, but because it is what it is. Go figure. I never thought it was a hit record when I wrote it and said so then.”
In 2016 interview with the Poughkeepsie, New York-based classic rock radio station 101.5 WPDH, current STYX keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan discussed why the band was not performing the song in concert. “First of all, I have no problem at all with doing ‘Mr. Roboto’,” he said. “I enjoy the song. The other guys in the band, though, who were there long before my inclusion, they want to put the spotlight more onto the rock side of STYX and the progressive rock side of it. For a couple of years there, we were doing a medley — like, an 18-song medley — and we did include the opening couple of minutes of ‘Mr. Roboto’. I thought was great, so perhaps we’ll bring that back at some point, because I really enjoyed doing it. But I don’t know — I think there’s such an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great song choices for STYX to play, and it really is a situation where I just leave the setlist up to them. When I look down every night, there’s about 18 or 19 songs that I’m very happy that we’re playing, and we rotate them quite a bit, so hopefully ‘Mr. Roboto’ will make a reappearance one of these days.”
In a 2009 interview, Shaw was asked about how “Mr. Roboto” came about. “That’s a good question,” he told Rockerrazzi.com. “I’m still not sure of the answer yet.”
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