Some of the lyrics are in Japanese. The first few lines translate to "Thank you very much Mr. Roboto, until we meet again, thank you very much Mr. Roboto, I want to know your secret."
"Kilroy" is the main character of the album. He is a famous rock star who is sent to prison by a group called The Majority For Musical Morality. In jail, workers have been replaced by robots, and Kilroy escapes inside a robot costume (thus, Mr. Roboto). This song is about his escape from jail, and makes a statement about the dehumanizing of the working class. (thanks, Mike - Winnipeg, Canada)
The album title, Kilroy Was Here, is a phrase that was graffitied all over the place in the 1940s. It went along with a drawing of a creature with a big nose peering over a wall. No one is sure what the phrase means or where it originated, but it was seen in most of Europe and even in Japan during World War II. This slogan was painted in areas that the Allies occupied during the defeat of Germany and Japan. (thanks, Patrick - Conyers, GA)
Kilroy Was Here is a concept album that is a commentary on censorship. Styx 1983 tour was a stage production based on the album, in which the band members wore costumes and had dialogue. Tommy Shaw left the band when the tour was over, as tensions built up within the group.
Dennis DeYoung wrote this song and spearheaded the "Kilroy" concept. He wrote the album like a screenplay, telling the story of a kid who forms a band after seeing Elvis and The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. His fellow band members were far less enthusiastic about the idea.
Along with the director Brian Gibson, DeYoung wrote a short film called Kilroy Was Here that was shown at the beginning of shows on their tour. Footage from the film was used to make the "Mr. Roboto" video. If you watch the film, pay close attention to the guy who plays Jimi Hendrix - that's Michael Winslow, famous for his mouth-generated sound effects and role in the Police Academy movies.
Stan Winston, who became one of the most illustrious makeup artist/costume designers in Hollywood, designed the robot masks used in the video for this song. Winston went on to work on the James Cameron films Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Avatar.
The choreography for the robots was by Kenny Ortega, whose credits include Dirty Dancing and High School Musical movies.
This was featured in a Volkswagen commercial where a man is singing along to this in his car, but because the Volkswagen is soundproof, we do not hear him until he opens the door. The ad was for the 1999 Volkswagen Golf.
Pinnochio performs this song in the movie Shrek 2. (thanks, Andy - Apex, NC)