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Former Styx Singer Dennis DeYoung Says Decision to Play ‘Mr. Roboto’ Again Was Driven by Tour Promoters, Band Denies Claim

In a recent lengthy social media message, Dennis DeYoung made it known he was happy to hear Styx had returned to playing "Mr. Roboto" for the first time in 35 years. And the group's former singer…

In a recent lengthy social media message, Dennis DeYoung made it known he was happy to hear Styx had returned to playing “Mr. Roboto” for the first time in 35 years. And the group’s former singer, songwriter and keyboardist feels that any lingering controversy over the 1983 single is disingenuous.

“Listen, I play ‘Mr. Roboto’ at every show and people go mental,” DeYoung, who parted ways with Styx acrimoniously during 1999, tells Billboard. “They love it because it’s insinuated itself somehow into the culture, which is beyond my comprehension because when I wrote the thing it was never intended to be a single. But if I could write four more of those tomorrow, I’m doing it.”

Styx’s return to “Mr. Roboto” this year has made news because band members James “J.Y.” Young and Tommy Shaw have long been critical of the song and of the accompanying Kilroy Was Here concept album. Young told Billboard in June that “it was an ugly time” in the band and “none of the rest of us” liked the Kilroy project. “We gave [DeYoung] enough rope to hang himself, and us, collectively … and it’s clear that moment in time was a huge mistake,” Young said. “We killed the golden goose, at least for the time being, and it’s taken a long time to resurrect it.”


Those comments rankle DeYoung, who calls Kilroy an “experiment” that still went platinum and launched two top 10 Hot 100 singles in “Mr. Roboto” and “Don’t Let It End.” He counters that it was Shaw’s decision to depart for a solo career in 1984 that really brought that phase of Styx’s career to a close. “It really did catch us off guard and stunned the other four guys in the band,” recalls DeYoung, who says he fought against a move to immediately replace Shaw and continue on, including a planned stadium tour for 1984. “That’s what really killed the momentum or the golden goose in my opinion. At that very moment MTV was just beginning to take a foothold in this country then and the band Styx missed that whole first weave of the video revolution that was taking place.”

DeYoung adds that when Shaw returned to the band in 1995, they “had some very successful tours and we got it all together and the fans came running back end masse and no one said a word about ‘Mr. Roboto’ and Kilroy ’cause they didn’t really care. They were happy to have us back.”

Though Young said that Styx’s decision to play “Mr. Roboto” again was to “fulfill a yearning request form a lot of people over the years that we’d turned a deaf ear to,” DeYoung claims it was driven by tour promoters — which the Styx camp denies. “They had gotten so many complaints from the fans that the guys weren’t playing the hits because they leave out ‘Mr. Roboto,’ ‘Babe,’ ‘Don’t Let It End’ and ‘Show Me the Way’ and ‘The Best of Times,'” DeYoung says. “The fan base is not interested in parsing it down to who did what; They’re just digging the music and want to hear all the hits.”


Styx management denies DeYoung’s assertion, telling Billboard that “we have not had any promoters suggest that Styx play Mr Roboto at all and promoters had nothing to do with the band adding the song to the set. The band did know that some fans did want to hear Roboto and over the years they have added many songs to the Styx set that had not been being played.”

Despite continuing acrimony between the two sides, DeYoung holds out hope that things may one day be patched up — possibly if Styx ever makes it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Should that happen, I predict we will all be standing on that stage and we will all be performing together. I do believe that,” he says. In the meantime DeYoung continues to perform his The Music of Styx shows with his own band and he’s started working on songs for a new album — his first since 2007 — writing primarily with former Survivor and Ides of March member Jim Peterik. 

“He lives about a drive, a three wood and maybe a wedge from my house, so we’ve been going back and forth writing some songs together — and I’ve heard worse,” DeYoung says. “He’s like me; We’re just guys from the south side of the city of Chicago and we’re cut from the same cloth. So I’m encouraged and we’ll see what we come up with.”