Styx’s 1983 concept album Kilroy Was Here accomplished a few things. It brought the band new found popularity with the highly successful music video for the song Mr. Roboto. At the same time it split the band’s fan base. To this day many Styx fans dislike the musical direction that the band took with Kilroy Was Here. And ultimately the album led to the demise of the band in 1984.
I will go on record and state that I truly love this album. I even love the much maligned track Mr. Roboto. For me it’s a fun, yet dramatic song with a great vocal by Dennis DeYoung. On the plus side, Kilroy Was Here contains some of the best music that the band ever produced. On the negative side, the album is far too short and the concept is not fully fleshed out. The album’s storyline is not clear or easy to follow from song to song. Overall it is a very solid album, however the band missed a big opportunity to put out a great concept album.
The latter half of the album finds a batch of songs that are among my favorite from the band. Haven’t We Been Here Before is one of those songs. The song finds Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung elegantly harmonizing in a rare duet. Written by Tommy Shaw, it is one of the band’s most beautiful songs.
I absolutely love Tommy Shaw’s vocals on this track. They are delicate, and filled with desperate emotion. During the chorus when he’s joined by Dennis DeYoung their harmonies are achingly beautiful. Styx as a band were known for exceptional vocal harmonies. This song really took things to a new and different level vocally.
Musically I can not say enough about the subtle brilliance on display throughout this song. Tommy holds the down the rhythm with his always steadily strummed acoustic guitar. Dennis DeYoung’s subtle keyboards add to the song’s dramatic feel. As the song progresses a slightly overdriven electric guitar enters and adds to the musical layers. The ever reliable Panozzo brothers hold down the foundation on bass and drums
The guitar solo contains the album’s most progressive rock moment. Tommy lays down a melodic and majestic sounding guitar solo. The rhythm section plays a musical figure that recalls the band’s best album, The Grand Illusion. This brief moment really elevates an already emotional and dramatic song.
It’s such a shame that the band broke up after this album. Musically they tapped into something refreshing and different with Kilroy Was Here. As a fan I feel that the songs Just Get Through This Night, Double Life and Haven’t We Been Here Before are among the best written by the band. I would have loved it if Styx had recorded a whole album in the vein of these songs. I’ve always wondered what a follow up album would have sounded like. When this line up did reform in 1995, minus drummer John Panozzo, they had all moved on in other directions musically. Any hopes of more music akin to Kilroy Was Here seem to be long gone.
Perhaps one day Dennis DeYoung and his band will play the whole Kilroy Was Here album live. I am sure that he has learned from the missteps of the Kilroy tour in 1983. No theatrics, no acting or prerecorded tracks. Just a fully live version of the album from start to finish. I feel that this album is too good to be left unplayed. I’m looking to Dennis DeYoung because there is no way that the current version of Styx will play it. Perhaps one day.