Streets: A Rock Opera

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

I never wanted to know
Never wanted to see
I wasted my time
Till time wasted me
Never wanted to go
Always wanted to stay
'Cause the person I am
Are the parts that I play

Streets: A Rock Opera is a 1991 album by Savatage, the first of three Rock Operas, and the final album featuring Jon Oliva as lead vocals with his brother Criss on guitar. It is more commonly known as simply Streets.

The concept started as a play, Gutter Ballet, written by the band's producer Paul O'Neill. Intended for Broadway and forgotten about until Criss discovered it and suggested it be made into an album. As Gutter Ballet was already the title of their previous release they planned on the opera being called Ghost In the Ruins before settling on Streets. Originally also planned to be a Distinct Double Album had the record label not lost reels of the recording sessions, the lost tracks eventually re-written and included into future Savatage albums.

The story follows the life and career of "DT Jesus", short for both "de-tox" and "downtown", a lowlife New York City drug dealer. His real passion is music and DT has an incredible talent for it, and he starts playing guitar in local bars. He quickly develops a local cult fame which leads to a major recording contract and incredible world-wide fame. DT becomes a rock and roll god; his albums sell millions, his shows always sell out, and his face is plastered on every magazine. Unfortunately, like any good rock star, his fame and wealth leads to drug use and he hits it hard. He misses shows, cancels tours, and ends up being dropped from the label after abandoning recording commitments. His career dead and his fortune gone DT returns to the streets as a washed-up junkie.

Time passes. DT's life remains in the gutter. His friends and former-business partners have given up trying to help him. One day DT chances upon an idol of his, a blues guitarist that inspired him, now nothing more then a homeless wino wallowing in his own filth. This sight shakes DT to core as he despairs at his fallen hero and recognizes his future in the man. DT resolves to save himself and reclaim his career, quits his drugs cold-turkey and with his friend Tex starts booking club performances. The skeptics are silenced when his shows get good reviews and the crowds start pouring in again.

Unfortunately, a drug dealer and pimp named Sammy corners DT after a rehearsal. DT owes him quite a bit of money and Sammy doesn't believe the word of a former junkie especially his promises of post-comeback payments. He beats DT and is only stopped by Tex's timely arrival. Tex pulls Sammy off DT and pins the pimp against the wall but is fatally stabbed in the process. Sammy flees, Tex dies, and DT is absolutely devastated. He tried to do the right thing, his only friend paid with his life for it, and he doesn't even have the dubious comfort of drugs.

DT runs blindly into the night until he stumbles into St. Patrick's Cathedral. He begs God to explain why pain and suffering exist. Receiving no answer he returns to the streets and turns to its denizens for help; a homeless man, a pimp, a junkie, and a hooker give him advice but not the answer he needs. The more he searches for a way to ease his guilt the worse he feels. He considers disappearing forever, the world better off with out him, until he remembers a girlfriend his addiction had cost him. He tries to call her and fails, wandering through the city, desperation convincing him that drugs will ease his pain.

Ready to give in, he stumbles into a large crowd on the sidewalk. A filthy, foul-smelling bum is dying in the gutter and the crowd is content to watch him suffer, even the police are unwilling to help. DT forgets about his problems and kneels beside the old man and holds his hand until he dies. Another heartache to suffer, DT turns to leave when he sees a glowing child rise from the old man's body. DT realizes he's the only one who sees the child and follows him when he enters a nearby apartment and climbs to the roof. After reaching the roof, the child sings, pleading forgiveness for his wasted life and forgotten dreams, and asks to return home. The child finishes his song, gives DT a peaceful, heart-warming smile, and disappears into the night sky. DT realizes the apparition has given him a strange felling of peace, and he returns home to comforting sleep and beautiful dreams.

Tropes used in Streets: A Rock Opera include:
  • The Alcoholic: The lyrics imply that DT is a heavy drinker in addition to a junkie. An alcoholic mentor is also what drives DT to get clean and fix his life.
  • All There in the Manual: The CD booklet provides the basic story with many details not found in the lyrics. Details such as one of DT's nicknames, "the Savior on Avenue D" and the name of his band, DT Jesus and the Subway Messiahs.
  • Author Catchphrase: A pair of recurring verses "I never wanted to know, never wanted to see-" and "I am the way, I am the light-", both appear on Streets. They are shared between three songs on three-ish albums; "When the Crowds are Gone" (Gutter Ballet), "Believe", and "Alone You Breathe" (Handful of Rain). However, "When the Crowds Are Gone" was intended to have been part of Streets before being added to Gutter Ballet.
  • Biography: Subverted. It was not meant to be Jon Oliva's autobiography, especially given that O'Niell first wrote the play in 1979. It 'does have an uncanny resemblance to what Jon had struggled with in the past.
  • BSOD Song: "Agony and Ecstasy", the song partially represents the part of DT that's willing to give into despair to return to drugs to comfort himself.
  • Catch Phrase: "Jesus Saves!", used by both DT's junkie clients when buying a fix and by his music fans.
  • Cherubic Choir: "Streets" begins with a children's chorus singing from Mozart's The Magic Flute.
  • Concept Album
  • Drugs Are Bad: Drugs are the bane of DT's existence, they destroyed his career and cost him his friends. It's only incredible despair and misfortune that can lure DT back to them.
  • Executive Meddling: The subtitle "A Rock Opera" was forced onto the album by the label.
  • Going Cold Turkey: DT pulls it off in order to salvage his career.
  • Hope Spot: DT is attacked by Sammy, a pimp he owes money to. Fortunately his friend Tex comes to his rescue and has the upper hand on Sammy, until he gets stabbed to death. DT is alive but it cost him his only friend.
  • Jesus Saves: Title of both a song on the album and a catch phrase.
  • Known Only By Their Nickname: "DT Jesus".
  • Missing Episode: A number of tracks meant to be on the aborted double CD ended up being released on other albums or cannibalized into different songs. Among them:
    • "When the Crowds Are Gone", released on their preceeding album Gutter Ballet.
    • "DT Jesus", later released on the From The Gutter to the Stage compilation.
    • "Desiree", released on a later re-release of Streets.
    • "Stay", an accoustic version was released with The Wake of Magellan.
    • "Tonight I Would Be King" and "Sanctuary" were both dropped.
    • "Larry Elbows" and "Beyond Broadway" were both written into songs for Jon Olivas Pain.
  • Music Video: "Jesus Saves" received some MTV playtime and can be seen here. Their cover artist Gary Smith played DT. A video for "New York City Don't Mean Nothing" was also filmed but was lost and never aired.
  • Officially Shortened Title: The album is formally known by the band as Streets.
  • Rags to Riches: DT was a drug dealer turned smash rock and roll hit.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll: DT's downfall. The rock and roll and drugs are definite. With the fame and wealth DT is credited with the sex can safely be assumed.
  • Villain Song: "Agony And Ecstasy", the song partially represents the knowledge that drugs destroyed him once and cannot do anything to help him and he still longs for them.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: DT often didn't know where he was or what he had done during his junkie days.
  • Wretched Hive: The streets of New York City are a grim and miserable place.