I had lived in this apartment with these two clowns for only a couple of months. One was a computer junkie back in the days when it was definitely not cool; his boxes of floppy discs filled with porn downloaded at blazing 14.4 bps were only slightly more attractive to passing females than his predisposition for wearing sweatpants while going commando. The other guy was a miscreant of the highest order whose joys in life included “virgin smashing” — one person drives, the other hops out of the car with a baseball bat and clips the head from Virgin Mary lawn gnomes. There was a collection of them in the freezer for some reason. He often brought his little deviant friends over to visit, usually with bags full of items they had harvested from within a St. Vincent de Paul’s donation box.
On this particular day, I believe the sweatpants guy was off having sex with a minor or doing something equally repulsive. My other roommate was painting miniatures at our dining room table. I have no idea what I was doing, perhaps playing Minesweeper on our badass 386SX system. I just lived there and tried to remember why I moved there in the first place.
Suddenly, one of the many scroungy friends of the criminal came bounding into the apartment with glee. He comes up to me with his hands behind his back.
“In my hands,” he began excitedly, “is the worst song ever made. Can you guess what it is?”
I never wanted to get into these conversations with these people. There was always some in-joke that I didn’t want to understand, yet they would explain it to me regardless of my interest. They would tell a story that would usually make me an accessory to some kind of crime. Racist jokes, mock threats, whatever. However, today was a music-oriented game of trivia with one of these little pranksters, so I found it nearly impossible to resist his lure.
“Ummm, something by New Kids On The Block?” I ask, knowing full well there had to be more to this than something that simple, yet without any clue as to where this was going.
“WRONG!” he shouted and then walked over to his troublemaking buddy. “In my hands is the worst song ever made. Can you guess what it is?”
“DOMO ARIGATO, MISTER ROBOTO!” my roommate trumpets.
“YES!” screeches the kid as he whips an old cassette of Kilroy Was Here from behind his back, then runs to the stereo to throw on the glory of Styx in all of its grandeur and at full volume.
I couldn’t help but laugh uncontrollably as the song began and these two punk kids, in torn jeans and tattered leather jackets, began dancing like jackasses in my livingroom. Nothing else could lend to the realization of how much coke Tommy Shaw had to have been snorting when he allowed himself to record this piece of schlock with his overblown drama-queen bandmate, Captain Dennis DeYoung. It was all too much.
The song ended. “REWIND! PLAY IT AGAIN!” came the cries of the duo. And so I did.
And this time, I joined their jackass dancing. Again and again, we moshed, pranced, screamed along and proclaimed ourselves Kilroy. I couldn’t tell you how many times in a row we listened to that confounded song.
At some point, the porn king roommate came back home. I can’t remember if he just shook his head sadly and went into his room to cast spells, or if he made us shut it off so he could watch the episodes of Xena and Hercules that he had recorded the night before. It had to be one or the other, as he really didn’t ever do much else.
Needless to say, the joys of our Styx bonding didn’t last. Another month later when I moved back home, I managed to somehow end up with that copy of Kilroy Was Here in my possession. It had been smashed in transit and the reels wouldn’t spin. While it only seemed a fitting end for what was certainly a pile of steaming crap on the Styx catalog, I just couldn’t let the moment go. So I lovingly unscrewed and dismantled an old Memorex cassette and relaid the Kilroy spools within.
Testing my technical prowess, I threw it once again into the cassette player. It played. I didn’t dance. For “Mr. Roboto” remained the “worst song ever made” as proclaimed that earlier moment in time, and all that seemed fit from that point was to bury it forever. It was tossed aside and forgotten for a while; at one point, it was in the cassette deck of my car. Nothing. The magic was gone, and all that remained was badness.
Fast forward a couple years during my working days in fast food when one co-worker brought in a CD which happened to be Styx Greatest Hits, but I didn’t realize it when he put it in the player. On played some mighty excellent songs like “Renegade” and “Too Much (clap clap) Time On My Hands.” I was groovin’ right along all the way up until I heard that familiar fade-in swirly, keyboard laden intro, followed by the unmistakable robotic “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto” and subsequent bombast of choral Japanese. Suddenly, the magic was back. It was funny and bad all over again.
I couldn’t help but dance like a jackass among the dirty dishes and french fry grease.
Nowadays I might point a bigger schlock finger at “Come Sail Away” or laugh hysterically at the terrible lyrics of “Lorelei” before I start ripping on “Mr. Roboto.” At least the silly half-human, half-robot song never fails to put a smile on my face. It’s songs like these are the ones which you never forget and always seem have a story that comes to mind when you hear them.
We’ve all got these memories. If your skill at summarization is clearly better than mine, feel free to share your stories. It’s what being a fan — or non-fan, as it were — is all about.
Machine or mannequin,