Sunday, July 29, 2018

Weekend Diversion: Kansas

Last week’s Weekend Diversion was about some random songs I ran across unexpectedly. Today’s post began the same way, when I was reading comments to a friend’s post on Facebook and someone said, “Carry on, son”, and that reminded me of the song by Kansas. And that, in turn, reminded me of the band, something I probably hadn’t thought about in years.

Kansas was an album-oriented rock band formed in Topeka, Kansas (hence the name). They were originally active from 1973 to 1984, then again from 1985 until now—with personnel changes, of course.

“Carry On Wayward Son” was from their fourth album, 1976’s Leftoverture. It was the first of their songs I’d ever noticed, and that was mainly because it was their first radio hit and had heavy airplay in Chicago. It reached Number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, Number 5 in Canada, and Number 51 on the UK singles chart. It was certified Gold in the USA.

The song was a last-minute addition to the album, and mainly because they needed a single to keep their contract, and they got one. The band was well known for their Christian orientation, something I knew about at the time as was fine with since I was also a Christian at the time. It’s about a spiritual sojourn, apparently.

Their next single, from their 1977 album Point of Know Return, included the hit single, “Dust in the Wind”. That song reached Number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, Number 3 in Canada, Number 36 in New Zealand, and Number 52 in Australia. The song was certified Gold in the USA, and in 2008 the song became the first of their songs to be certified Gold for digital downloads.

I have a personal anecdote about the song. When it was still on heavy airplay it came on the radio when I was with my long-time friend Jason. I said something like, “that’s a pretty song”. He said to me, “Have you actually listened to the lyrics?!” I hadn’t, so I did. And I apparently replied with something like, “Jeez, that’s depressing!” He’d remember that anecdote better than I would, but the lyrics are depressing.

The last time I paid any attention to Kansas was when they released their 1980 album Audio-Visions. I don’t remember if I bought it or not, but I’d gotten a dummy cover from a record store that was getting rid of them after their promotion of the album was over. That, and other album covers I got at the same time, became decorations for the last place I lived at University. I also liked the name for a record and video store idea I fantasised about at the time (retailers that now barely exist). Those memories make me think I might have bought the album, though it’s not something I would’ve bought. So, no idea.

Whether I bought the album or not, I was aware of the only charted song from that album, “Hold On”. The video below is an audio-only version, though there’s a video on YouTube of them performing an acoustic version, but it’s not well recorded, so that’s why uncharacteristically I’m sharing the audio-only version.

The song was the last song by the original line-up to make the Top 40—barely: It hit Number 40 in the USA only. The song was supposedly written by Kerry Livgren to try to convince his wife to convert to Christianity, as he’d apparently just done. I wasn’t aware of that at the time, and never would have gotten that by listening to it.

And all of that came back to me because of a stray comment on a friend’s Facebook post. But it also gave me the chance to share a couple bits from my young adult self. That’s reason enough to share on this blog, of course.


rogerogreen said...

I have a Kansas story too, specifically re Carry On, Wayward Son that I posted a year and a half ago: https://www.rogerogreen.com/2017/01/14/music-throwback-saturday-lonely-people/:

rogerogreen said...

Separately, I LOVE the hook on Carry On

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

For reason, I missed that post at the time (probably because it was around the time we were moving to our new house). But I love that story. Unfortunately, for some reason your link didn't work, so I had to find it myself. Here it is again: