Wednesday, January 24, 2018

5 Reasons Its Impossible To Hate Kansas!

5. You really, really like bib-overalls.

Note to self: If one of the members of the band you're going to see wears bib overalls to a photo shoot (to say nothing of the eye patch), then so will a large contingent of that band's audience.

Growing up in a mitten-shaped flyover state with few entertainment options, you might be the only new wave kid at a prog rock concert in February. Rolling up to my first Kansas show in spiked hair and one of those spiffy shirts with the collar that zipped open for those special occasions when you want to go full-Duran Duran, I found myself surrounded by men, women and children of all ages modelling what I can only presume were their "concert overalls".

4. They always had the best opening acts.

Cheap Trick in '78, Billy Squier in '80, Loverboy in '82...or was that Red Rider?

You could always tell when Kansas came to town because the next day at school those who went to the show would invariably be wearing the opening act's concert t-shirt underneath their bib overalls.

Kansas didn't suck, by any stretch, but they always brought along these opening acts that went out their each night like it was a heavyweight prize fight and six months to a year later, they'd come through town as headliners and we'd all pile in our trucks and go see 'em again.

3. Can you even name another '70s American prog-rock band?
Well, can you?

2. Lead singer Steve Walsh is a lunatic.

I've seen Walsh a couple different times with Kansas and once as off-stage keyboardist for Cheap Trick. Each time, he was an absolute mad man. The above video catches Walsh in what we presume to be full coke mode circa 1986.

Fast forward to 1:03 for the legendary keyboard handstand followed by a visit from the guy with the eye patch and the bib overalls.

Sadly, Walsh and the band would soon part ways, leading to...

1. Yes, even Kansas went through a brief new wave period!

After Steve Walsh left the band in 1981, they replaced him with young California kid John Elefante. More accurately, Elefante and his brother Dino gradually replaced the rest of the band.

The first fruit of this union was the Top 20 hit "Play The Game Tonight", which had been produced by Ken Scott (Missing Persons and BOWIE!) and showed the band making a conscious effort to "play the game" with MTV, their label, and, hopefully, a hip, new audience.

For their next album, the Elefante brothers were handed almost complete control of the band and, with producer Neil Kernon, created a more muscular sound that was "raw" and "hip" and "now" but, at the end of the day, an odd, but storied footnote in the band's history.

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