Follow TV Tropes


Music / Kansas

Go To
The band's classic lineup. Top row (l-r): Phil Ehart, Steve Walsh. Middle row (l-r): Kerry Livgren, Dave Hope, Rich Williams. Bottom row: Robby Steinhardt.

"Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more."
Kansas, "Carry On Wayward Son"

Kansas is an American Progressive Rock band from Topeka, Kansas. The band formed in 1973 and still tours in North America and Europe, though the lineup has changed over the years. They debuted with a Self-Titled Album in 1974 and have since become quite popular, becoming a staple on classic rock radio and having their songs played in movies and TV shows.

Supernatural and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy fans most likely recognize them as the creators of "Carry On Wayward Son", which is easily one of their most popular songs along with "Point of Know Return" and "Dust in the Wind" (all three of which may be priced slightly higher on digital distribution channels). Other well-known songs from the band include "People of the South Wind", "Play the Game Tonight", "Fight Fire With Fire", and "All I Wanted".

Kansas provides examples of:

  • Award-Bait Song: "It Takes A Woman's Love (To Make A Man)" was an attempt at this. Emphasis on attempt. It actually came about as a result of Executive Meddling from the owner of their record label Don Kirshnernote , who kept pressuring the band for a number one hit. The problem is, they really didn't know what made a number one hit and tried to make something that sounded like what was popular at the time. Needless to say, it didn't even chart.
  • Badass Boast: "Lightning's Hand" is a very threatening one from the point of view of a lightning god.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Said word for word in the third verse of "Sparks of the Tempest".
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: "Mainstream" from Drastic Measures.
  • Canon Discontinuity:
    • Very few "Best Of" compilations acknowledge anything past Drastic Measures. Some don't acknowledge the Elefante era either. This is also reflected in their live shows. Aside from "Icarus II" and songs from the recent The Prelude Implicit, you'd be hard pressed to hear them play any song later than "Fight Fire with Fire". They do make exceptions, however. Device Voice Drum featured "The Preacher" from In the Spirit of Things with a choir accompanying the chorus, and There's Know Place Like Home featured a guest appearance by Steve Morse and had some songs from albums he played in.
    • The album Live At The Whisky. It was cheaply made and of very low quality (as the band funded it themselves and cut costs). On top of this, Steve Walsh was at his absolute worst vocally, being right in the middle of a whole bunch of substance abuse and being sick that night on top of it all. Walsh has stated that the entire band considers the entire album an embarrassment and that fans should consider themselves lucky if they have a copy, as the album will never be re-released.
      • The video made an already mediocre live album worse. As part of the means of cutting costs, the band used video to record as opposed to film, leading to poor quality visuals. In addition, the band had to use heavy amounts of lighting for the cameras to visually record the show which had the nasty side effect of making the band sweaty. While the majority of the band is pretty much playing rigidly and professionally, Steve Walsh got a little too enthusiastic with his stage movements and gyrations, not only appearing to be on some kind of "upper", but clashed strongly with the rest of the more subdued band.
  • Christian Rock: Some of the members became born-again Christians in the early '80s and the music from then on reflects it. Probably the most popular example is "Hold On", but there's also the far less ambiguous "Relentless". Even before then, however, there were some songs that had Christian themes. "Devil Game" is a good example.
  • Concept Album: In The Spirit Of Things is a loosely organized concept album telling the story of a flood hitting the real Kansas city of Neosho Falls in 1951.
  • Cover Version: "Bringing It Back"note  on Kansas, "Eleanor Rigby" on Always Never The Same. "Belexes" is an odd example. It was a song originally by Kerry Livgren's first band (also named Kansas, but the name was changed to Proto-Kaw when it was revived in the mid-naughties) and was featured on Kansas's first album. Both Kansas and Proto-Kaw play the song regularly nowadays, though the Proto-Kaw version has slightly different lyrics, and the Kansas version usually includes parts of "Lightning's Hand" when played live.
  • Darker and Edgier
    • Freaks of Nature. While the album does have a few songs that don't fit this trope, as a whole it's the darkest album that Kansas has ever produced. Special mention goes to the song "Black Fathom 4", which is the closest that the band has ever come to Progressive Metal, featuring a rather epic guitar/violin duet capped off with a Metal Scream by Steve Walsh. Even Kerry Livgren's contribution to the album, "Cold Grey Morning", is quite moody. Notably, this is the first studio album with a violin since Vinyl Confessions, and the violin adds to, rather than detracts from, the album's mood.
    • "Lonely Street", a slow bluesy tune with some rather dark subject matter. This one's particularly notable in that was released on the Song For America album and was nothing like anything that Kansas had ever done before or since.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: "Child of Innocence"
    I will comfort you, take your hand and see you through, I will take you through the door
  • Downer Ending: "Point of Know Return" ends with the singer finding a letter from a friend on a sailing expedition. The friend "cried with fear" upon seeing the titular point of no return, and presumably disappeared into it.
  • Eagleland: The title "Song for America" suggests Flavor 1, but the lyrics are full-on Flavor 2 at times:
    Ravage, plunder, see no wonder, rape and kill and tear asunder/Chop the forests, plow it under...
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: Expect this at least Once An Album. An example is the organ solo at the beginning of "Away from You".
  • Epic Rocking: As expected from a prog-rock band. Examples include the fittingly titled "Magnum Opus," as well as "Song for America", "Journey from Mariabronn", and, last and longest, "Incomudro—Hymn To The Atman".
  • Eyepatch of Power: Rich Williams, who lost his right eye in a childhood fireworks accident, used to have a glass eye, but now wears an eyepatch. Behold.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Aperçu" segues into the "Death of Mother Nature Suite" on Kansas.
  • Fun with Homophones: "Point of Know Return", There's Know Place like Home. Also the song "Grand Fun Alley" (say it out loud quickly).
  • Funny Background Event: A coked off his gourd Steve Walsh repeatedly does handstands on top of his keyboard during Live at the Whisky.
    • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: the rest of the band's complete non-reaction to this and Walsh's other antics suggests that this was common behavior for this time period, the Whisky performance just happens to be the only one caught on film
  • Gigantic Moon: The man on the front of the cover of Monolith has an enormous moon in the sky behind him.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • The final verse of "Death of Mother Nature Suite"; pollution is the side effect of all of man's wondrous advances in technology. The last two lines (as sung by Robby) are "The ignorance of man will reach an end/And now she's gonna die", the last line being the same line that ends the first two verses. However, if the lyrics as printed in the album are Word of God, then Kerry Livgren originally ended the verse with "Cause now we're gonna die".
    • The song "Rainmaker" tells the story of a group of people living in a "one horse town" suffering from drought. They hire a rainmaker (actually a con man who planned to do his song and dance and leave town with the money) to bring rain. His rain dance summons a storm so powerful it floods the town.
  • Grief Song: The moody acoustic guitars and lyrics waxing about the inevitability of death certainly make "Dust in the Wind" this. Subverted by the fact that one of the guitarists had simply come up with a fingerpicking exercise on his guitar, his wife complimented him on the melody and asked what the lyrics were, and the guitarist wrote up some lyrics to fit the tune. Nobody's grandmother or puppy died in the making of this song.
    Kerry Livgren: I thank God that it became so popular, but it was just a fingerpicking exercise.
  • Hard Rock: When they aren't playing Progressive Rock or symphonic rock music.
  • Homesickness Hymn: "People of the South Wind", while crouched in some fantastic imagery, is another song about the emptiness of traveling the world without a place to call home, and wishing it were possible to return to one's youthful home.
  • Icarus Allusion: Used in "Carry On Wayward Son" when the lyrics talk about the singer flying too high.
  • Instrumentals: "The Spider" from Point of Know Return, "Musicatto" from Power, "T.O. Witcher" from In The Spirit Of Things, "Section 60" from The Prelude Implicit, "Propulsion 1" from The Absence of Presence.
  • Limited Lyrics Song: "Magnum Opus" is over 8 minutes, with just this one verse surrounded by instrumental work:
    This foolish game, is still the same
    The notes go flying off in the air
    And don't you believe it's true,
    The music is all for you
    It's really all we've got to share
    Cause rocking and rolling,
    It's only howling at the Moon.
    It's only howling at the Moon.
  • Long Runner: Hit the 40th anniversary of their first album in 2014, and they were still playing songs from it.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Carry On Wayward Son".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Point of Know Return" is a lively, up-tempo song about a sailor learning that the archaic belief that one can sail off the ends of the Earth is fact and evidently an extremely horrific thing to witness.
    "They say the point demons guard is an ocean grave for all the brave."
  • Mad Eye: Rich Williams. Sort of. He lost his eye as a child and wore a prosthetic eye early on in his career, which gives him a "lazy eye" look in some of the band's early photos. Eventually he got tired of fooling with the prosthetic eye and simply wore an eyepatch. See Eyepatch of Power above.
    • Also the guy on the back cover of Audio-Visions, who may well be Rich Williams.
  • Meaningful Name
    • Leftoverture, which featured many songs that had been left on the cutting room floor from previous albums. "Magnum Opus" is a song composed entirely of unused melodies, to the point that originally the song was to be named "Leftoverture."
    • "The Voyage of Eight Eighteen", which is eight minutes and eighteen seconds long.
  • Mood Whiplash: The second half of Point of Know Return goes from regal yet tragic ("Closet Chronicles") to dark and intimidating ("Lightning's Hand") to soft and philosophical ("Dust in the Wind") to serious and cynical ("Sparks of the Tempest") to light and heartbreaking ("Nobody's Home") to experiential and introspective ("Hopelessly Human").
  • Mythology Gag: The cover art of The Best of Kansas includes elements of all previous album covers. The man on the front is abolitionist John Brown, who was featured on the cover of Kansas. He's dressed like the bazooka player on the cover of Drastic Measures, his beard includes the outline of a fish in a style similar to the cover of Masque, and he wears a metallic glove shown on the back cover in the style of the hands on the cover of Audio-Visions. The boat tipping off the edge of the world shown on stage is a direct reference to Point of Know Return. On the back cover, the inkwell and scattered pages from Leftoverture and the interrogation chair from Vinyl Confessions can be seen, and background includes the giant moon and the silhouette of the native American from Monolith. Finally, the bird on the cover of Song For America is perched atop the track list.
  • New Sound Album: Vinyl Confessions was more arena rock oriented and lacked the violin and progressive elements from previous albums. It was also the band's first album without Steve Walsh.
    • Power and In The Spirit Of Things mix the classic Kansas sound with 80's pop-rock.
  • Noodle Incident: Robby Steinhardt's first departure from the band was on very bad terms, and to this day no one except those involved knows the exact reason. The story seems to vary depending on who you talk to, though Phil Ehart has suggested that addictions may have had a part in it. Notably, the breakup was so bad that it would be over a decade before Robby and Kerry Livgren spoke to each other again (Robby was notably absent from the 1990 European tour that brought the original members back together).
  • Orchestral Bombing: Present in every song on the symphonic rock albums Works in Progress and Always Never the Same. Very prevalent in "The Wall" on the former and "Miracles out of Nowhere" on the latter (not counting the non-rock sections, such as the preamble to "Song for America" or the orchestral, instrumental medley of Kansas songs), with both originally violin-heavy songs having even more violin usage plus other classical instruments.
  • Power Ballad: They have a lot of these. Notable examples include "Dust in the Wind", "Hold On", " Play the Game Tonight", "The Wall", and "All I Wanted".
  • Progressive Rock: Perhaps the most famous example to come from the United States.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Attempted no less than four times with varying degrees of success.
    • The first time happened in 1985 after the band dissolved following the release of Drastic Measures when Steve Walsh and Phil Ehart met and talked about reforming the band. The only original member they could get to join, however, was Rich Williams.
    • The second time happened in 1990, when a German promoter (who was actually drummer Phil Ehart) arranged for all the original members of Kansas to come together for a reunion tour. All of them except Robby Steinhardt came on for the tour, though Dave Hope left immediately following the tour and Kerry Livgren left soon after.
    • The third time happened in 2000 with the release of Somewhere to Elsewhere, which featured all of the original members of the band (and Billy Greer). Kerry Livgren and Dave Hope didn't stay with the band, however.
    • The fourth time was scheduled to happen on March 1st, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the band's 40th anniversary. All of the original band members were scheduled to perform and it would have been the first time in over thirty years that the original band would perform together on stage. However, Robby Steinhardt suffered a heart attack days before the concert and was unable to participate.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure / Royals Who Actually Do Something: The king in "Closet Chronicles" was one before becoming a recluse. Word of God says the song is about Howard Hughes.
    Once proud and full of passion, he fought the cause of man.
    Many people loved his courage, many followed his command.
    He changed the old into the new, and the course of things to come.
    And then one day they noticed, he was gone.
  • Revolving Door Band: An odd example where most of the band's members join, leave, rejoin, and releave. Most of the departures are amicable, as many former members contribute on some shows. The only two original members who have been with the band throughout its entire lifespan are drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams, though vocalist Steve Walsh has been with the band nearly as long, only having a brief departure from 1981-1986 and retiring in 2014. Bassist Billy Greer has also been with the band since 1986.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their debut album.
  • Sequel Song: "Carry On Wayward Son" was written as one to "The Pinnacle".
    • "Mysteries and Mayhem" and "The Pinnacle" were once one song before they were split apart, meaning that "Mysteries and Mayhem" leads to "The Pinnacle" leads to "Carry On Wayward Son"
      • This video does a good job of recombining "Mysteries and Mayhem" and "The Pinnacle" into one song.
    • Despite the name, "Icarus II" is not this. It's an entirely different song with a similar theme of flying, albeit in war rather than simply enjoying flight.
  • Single Stanza Song: "Can I Tell You", gutsily released as their first single and the first song on their first album.
  • Start My Own: After his first departure from Kansas, Steve Walsh formed the band Streets. When he reformed Kansas with Phil Ehart, he took Billy Greer from Streets over with him.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Billy Greer on "Look at the Time" on Somewhere to Elsewhere and "Summer" on The Prelude Implicit, his only lead vocals in studio note  (see Vocal Tag Team). Robby Steinhardt has stepped away from the band on a full time basis, but does show up to sing and play violin on a couple of shows per tour. More recently, keyboardist Tom Brislin sang vocals on "The Song the River Sang".
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Not many people know that Steve Walsh actually briefly quit the band during the production of Point of Know Return on account of the immense amount of stress that came from trying to follow up the highly successful Leftoverture and that, by his own admission, he had become something of a prima donna at this time. It didn't help that Steve had a creative slump during the production of Leftoverture and he was determined not to let it happen again. While his retirement lasted only a few days, it would plant the seeds of his much longer departure in 1981.
  • Trans Tribulations: "Andi" from Drastic Measures is about a transgender girl who has problems coming out to her community, but is given motivation to be proud of her identity by the end of the song. Considering it was written in 1983 during the peak of the band's born-again Christian period, the song was well ahead of its time in terms of gender and sexuality positivity.
  • Uncommon Time: Many of their songs, and they can get ridiculous at times. "The Spider", for example, begins in 11/16 and goes just about everywhere from there.
    • There's also "Miracles out of Nowhere", which follows a seemingly random pattern consisting of 4/4, 7/8, 9/8, 11/8, and 13/8 in the intro. There's also an instrumental break halfway through the song that is in 7/8 before a reprise of the intro.
    • "Point of Know Return" changes time signatures liberally. Verses have 4+4+4+3/4 while choruses have 7+7+4+4/4. There are some measures of straight 4/4 before the choruses.
  • Updated Re-release: Some of their albums have been remastered over the years. Although The Best of Kansas cut "Perfect Lover", later releases added a bit more in return.
    • Rereleases of their live album Two for the Show have added almost twice the songs to the album.
  • Vocal Evolution: Steve Walsh's voice deteriorated significantly somewhere between Power and In The Spirit Of Things, largely due to substance abuse and never having a vocal coach, to the point that many casual fans who listen to their newer work often question if it's the same vocalist. It only got worse over the years, too, and may have been a contributing factor to his retirement in 2014.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Happens on most of their albums. Steve Walsh has sung the majority of the band's output (including all of the hits when he was a member of the band), but Robby Steinhardt has had a role in many of their other well-known songs, such as "Down the Road" and "Miracles out of Nowhere". Vinyl Confessions was an Elefante/Steinhardt tag team as well. With Steve Walsh retiring and Robby Steinhardt amicably splitting from the band, the team is now carried by Walsh's replacement Ronnie Platt and bassist Billy Greer, usually singing Steve and Robby's parts respectively (except, of course, those concerts where Robby comes back for a couple of songs).
  • What Did You Expect When You Named It ____?: Very much played with in the Icarus duology: in the original song ("Icarus - Borne on Wings of Steel" from Masque) there is no suggestion that Icarus is a warplane, and even with lyrics such as "I won't come down no more" it appears the plane and its pilot are safe and sound. However, it is very clear that Icarus II (from the eponymous song in Somewhere to Elsewhere) is a warplane that gets shot down in combat—but it's also never implied the pilot is killed in action trying to land it, or that the plane is even totaled, and the song ends with the same opening theme from the original song. With the way the band often plays these two songs in reverse order in concert, it certainly seems that the pilot isn't deterred by his experience in combat.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The name of the song "Point of Know Return" and the album There's Know Place like Home intentionally misspell "no".


Video Example(s):


The Road So Far

Recap of Supernatural up to the Season 8 finale

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / PreviouslyOn

Media sources: