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KANSAS

© Dave Ling - June 2005
previously published in CLASSIC ROCK magazine


Dave Ling OnlineIn 1971 in the Kansas city of Topeka, the seeds of an exciting new band were sewn. Already high school friends, guitarist Kerry Livgren, bassist Dave Hope and drummer Phil Ehart named themselves after the group’s home state, switching to White Clover after adding classically trained violinist Robby Steinhardt. Vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh and guitarist Richard Williams completed a six-piece line-up in 1972, and they reverted to Kansas again – this time for good.

 

Visually, there was nothing out of the ordinary about these six hairy youths. None had anything like pin-up potential. Some were bulky, others skinny, some had enormous tumbleweed coiffure; one didn’t even bother to change out of his work overalls before taking the stage. But when they plugged in, Kansas had something truly remarkable. Musically, nobody sounded like them.

 

Over the next three decades they would sell millions of records, the band’s strong religious beliefs – one of their number became an ordained Anglican minister after leaving - sometimes tearing them apart and making such longevity seem utterly impossible.

 

Right from the start, Kansas set out to break the mould. “Three things made us unique,” believes Phil Ehart. “The songs that Kerry wrote, Steve’s vocals and Robby’s violin.”


A previous Livgren group having featured two woodwind players, he was used to composing rock songs for unusual instrumentation. Kerry believes the band’s agricultural backgrounds also contributed to the Kansas sound, a colourful, boogiefied twist upon themes formulated by the English art-rock brigade.


“We were isolated from both coasts, stuck in the middle of the United States, and somehow found ourselves making this incredible music,” he says. “We had no idea where it came from.”
“Esquire magazine once said Topeka was the Liverpool of the United States at that time,” agrees Phil Ehart. “There were so many bands, and only 60,000 people. Looking back, those were pretty brutal times although it didn’t seem like it because there was a lot of camaraderie involved in being in a band full-time.”

 

“What were our rejection letters like? We didn’t get any – the companies didn’t even bother replying”
Rich Williams

Although Jefferson Airplane’s Grunt Records had expressed an early interest, Kansas were nevertheless turned down flat by all the labels.
“What were our rejection letters like?” smiles Rich Williams. “We didn’t get any – the companies didn’t even bother replying. We could barely afford to keep sending out the tapes; it’s not like today when you can burn a thousand CDs for 10 bucks.”

 

Dave Ling OnlineFortunately, Kansas had a stubborn streak. “We were so persistent, and we steadfastly refused to compromise our style,” recalls Livgren. “We could easily have done so and maybe have achieved success a lot earlier, but we weren’t in it for the money, or the fame and music. We were into making music, and it had to be on our terms.”


Unperturbed, the band focussed on played hundreds of shows, including a notable opening spot for The Kinks in Arizona. After driving all the way there in a car they found the show was taking place on a revolving stage. “Rich Williams was disorientated and stepped off into the audience,” laughs Livgren. “We got to the dressing room, but Rich was still walking around in the crowd holding his guitar, with the house lights up.”


They also supported The Doors in what would be Jim Morrison’s final live appearance. “Not only was it their last ever concert, but Jim brought out a couple of our guys on stage to play their last number with them,” recalls Ehart enthusiastically. “The Doors didn’t have a bass player, so Dave [Hope] joined in with them for an old blues number. It turned out to be the last song that Morrison ever sang before he died. When we heard the news of his passing, that hit us like a truck.”

 

In 1973, Kansas’ luck changed. Don Kirschner, the entrepreneur responsible for The Monkees, liked their demo tape and was invited to see them at the local Opera House. Unknown to Kirshner, admission for the show was scrapped and the band advertised free beer, resulting in a huge, vociferous turnout.


“We had no idea who Don Kirschner was, but we were aware that he had a record label that was distributed by CBS,” admits Livgren. “He wanted to bring us to New York City to work at the famous Record Plant, which was about as good as it could get for a young band like us. Beers flowed that night, and everything flowed – it was the beginning of a lifelong dream.”

 

Snapped up on the strength of that gig and the song ‘Can I Tell You’, the still impoverished Kansas endured recording on mostly rented gear but would still have to wait seven months for the 1974 release of an enthralling self-titled debut album. It was to be the start of a tempestuous relationship between label and artistes.

 

Williams still regrets not examining the small print of the Kirschner deal, sighing: “We signed the contract without even reading it, and we sold our souls. It was one of the worst record deals of all time. It wasn’t till our fifth album that we could renegotiate. Till then we were getting 25 cents an album, which still had to be split eight ways with our management.”

 

The upside of the deal was a TV show of the era called Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert.

 

Syndicated across the United States, Kansas appeared on the programme at least twice. One of their vintage performances was documented on last year’s 30th anniversary boxed set ‘Sail On’. After all this time the footage is incredible – some of the band look like they went straight from bailing hay to the studio – but the music is magnificent.


“You’re 100 per cent correct about our stage presentation,” affirms Ehart with a chuckle. “The Mid-West of America is the farm belt. We didn’t have any other bands to emulate. It was almost like living on an island. In a way, that was the charm of Kansas. We were often accused to ripping off British bands like Genesis and Yes, but living in a vacuum like Topeka our reply to that was, ‘Who?’ We didn’t discover them till a lot later.”

 

“We signed the contract without even reading it, and we sold our souls. It was one of the worst record deals of all time.”
Rich Williams on hooking up with Kirschner Records

Boosted by an admittedly incompatible support spot with Mott The Hoople, ‘Kansas’ sold a credible 100,000 copies in its first few months, dipping into the Billboard chart’s lower reaches. Radio still ignored them, but 250 concerts each year helped. Celebrating “Virgin land of forest green/Dark and stormy planes”, Livgren wrote ‘Song For America’, the second album’s title track, on a jet gazing down upon his homeland.


“The sun was setting, and I began musing how young and unique this nation of ours was,” he relates. “The song was completed at a rehearsal hall in New York. I just sat down and it flowed out of me.”


Also including the eight-minute ‘Lamplight Symphony’, ‘Song For America’ represented a huge artistic growth for Kansas, shifting more than twice as many copies as its predecessor and even cracking the Top 60. Producer Jeff Glixman had established himself as a valuable member of the team, and with him the group continued at an absurd pace with their second album of 1975 (and third overall), ‘Masque’. Kirschner’s pressure for a hit single resulted in the flop 45 ‘It Takes A Woman’s Love’, the usual hectic touring, slightly increased radio profile, static sales figures, and a whole lot of confusion.


“The pressure was mounting,” acknowledges Livgren now. “I’ve always had an ear for melody, but my arrangements tended to be very complex and I had no idea how to intentionally write a hit. Consequently, ‘Masque’ turned out to be a very schizophrenic album.
“Suddenly, many of the bands we’d been opening for didn’t want to play with us anymore,” continues Kerry. “Fleetwood Mac was one. Mick Fleetwood recently admitted how hard an act we were to follow. So things were improving, but we still believed we were nowhere near becoming a household name.”

 

The entire band continued to share a house together, travelling to shows in a converted school bus crammed with equipment. They continued to open for the likes of Queen, Bad Company and Jefferson Airplane and morale remained strong, but gradually Livgren’s grip on the composition process was starting to strengthen. With Steve Walsh suffering writers’ block, and the group having been warned that unless they broke through this time it was all over, everything came to a head on the fourth album.

 

Dave Ling Online‘Leftoverture’ was recorded in the New Orleans swamps, alligators snapping at their ankles as they went to work. Livgren wrote five of the record’s tracks, also contributing to another three. From artist Dave McMacken’s imaginative sleeve illustration of a bearded, robed intellectual poring over a set of scrolls, to the contents of the (then) vinyl, the album was almost perfect. Glixman’s exquisitely slick production effortlessly disguised the weightiness of ‘The Wall’ and the six-part ‘Magnum Opus’.

 

Almost three decades later, the album’s provocative, soaring arrangements capture a time of supreme self-confidence. Kansas had virtually completed the recording process when Livgren walked in with a final song and insisted the group delay their flight home and add it to the record. Articulating the guitarist’s growing spiritualism, ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ began with an irresistible acapella chorus and stirring guitar motif. It became their sought-after hit, its No. 11 status helping Kansas to sell four million copies of ‘Leftoverture’. “It was an autobiographical song,” confirms Kerry. “I was telling myself to keep on looking and I’d find what I was seeking.”

 

Headlining arenas, for the time being all of Kansas remained on the same fixed income. While everyone insists today that no hostility was caused by Livgren’s domination of the creative process, Kerry confirms that it eventually became a thorny issue. “Suddenly we started to make some money, and we were all caught up in the excitement that it brought,” he states. “I was still so nïave it didn’t even occur to me that Steve might resent the success we received for an album he hadn’t written anything for.”


“Some of us found that situation tough,” acknowledges Rich Williams now. “The money that starts coming in is used to pay off the recording debt and although the band begin to see a return, suddenly the writers are receiving very large cheques indeed. ‘How come he gets this and I don’t? It bred some animosity. The other regrettable side was that certain people started saying, ‘I don’t wanna work as hard, or travel as much’. I’d say, ‘Well, that’s because you’ve got yours. Let me get mine’. Money changes everything.”


Ever the pragmatist, Ehart shrugs: “Kerry was just so prolific at that time, everyone just kept out of his way. We accepted everything he brought us because it was all so great.”

 

“Because I wrote the songs, when I quit Kansas it was like trying to leave the army. It got very ugly”
Kerry Livgren

 

The credits were more evenly distributed for 1977’s ‘Point Of Know Return’, a record that saw Kansas maintaining their incredibly high standards, even outselling its predecessor. However, once more Livgren scooped the record’s biggest and most important song. The acoustic-based ‘Dust In The Wind’ was an ode to the temporary nature of human life. It would spend an incredible 200 weeks on the American singles chart, peaking at No.6. Once again, however, the guitarist had played it to his colleagues at the eleventh hour.


“It was nothing but a finger-picking exercise till my wife walked by and suggested I make it into a song,” he reveals. “The title came from a book of American Indian poetry, but of course had Biblical connotations.”


During the recording of the album, Steve Walsh had informed his stunned band-mates of his intention to leave for a solo career. Fortunately, the singer saw sense and was dissuaded at the last minute.


“Lots of money was now coming in,” explains Ehart. “People were saying how great we were, and some of us started to believe those things. We’d come from very meagre backgrounds and some of us couldn’t even afford cars, and then boom – you can buy almost anything you want.”

 

“The presence of God came down onto me. I knew immediately that it was Him because I’d never felt such tenderness before. I’d been up all of the night before snorting coke and drinking, so I knew it wasn’t a drug high”
Dave Hope on his religious conversion

“When you’re in your early 20s and suddenly become famous, you’ve got women literally chasing after you, it’s almost impossible not to give into temptation,” adds Livgren. “What began to change us was success. It was all very satisfying, but left an inner void in us all. When your dream comes true, where do you go from there?”


Livgren had no time whatever for drugs and began to pursue a more spiritual path away from those who did. Dave Hope was one that dabbled in narcotics. So much so that Kansas feared they’d one morning find him dead. “There was a lot of unhappiness behind the scenes,” reveals Ehart sadly. “Kerry and Dave were off in their own little corner, others took drugs. There was a lot of stress and it definitely wasn’t a fun band to be in at that time.”

 

To the group’s credit, 1978’s million-selling ‘Two For The Show’, a double live album recorded over the previous three tours, showed no sign of inner turmoil. In fact, it was something of rarity in that it contained no overdubs whatsoever.


“Not mentioning any names, but two other rival, well-known bands put out their own live records, and they cheated by going back into the studio afterwards,” says Livgren proudly. “With ‘Two For The Show’ what you bought was an exact representation of a Kansas concert.”

 

Dave Ling OnlineThe following year’s ‘Monolith’ was self-produced and despite containing such moments of note as ‘On The Other Side’ and ‘People Of The South Wind’ was far less successful than ‘Point Of Know Return’. Worse still, Kansas failed to make America’s Top 20 with ‘Audio-Visions’ in 1980, though the single ‘Hold On’ was a hit. By this point, both Livgren and Walsh were pursuing parallel solo careers, the former issuing the ‘Seeds Of Change’ album (featuring Ronnie James Dio, Jethro Tull’s Barriemore Barlow and several Kansas colleagues), the latter with the less rapturously received ‘Schemer-Dreamer’ (which also co-starred various Kansas alumni and a certain guitarist called Steve Morse, more of whom later).

 

Kansas were in a mess, and Rich Williams sums up the situation by saying: “It’s like a baseball players. One year you’re at your peak, the next you’re going down the shitter.”


“The climb back down the mountain is nowhere near as much fun as ascending,” admits Livgren of Kansas’ diminishing fortunes. “The other problem with success is that you get used to it. At least we had established enough of a peak to ensure our band would survive. It didn’t seem like a crisis.”


The confidence that Livgren and Hope felt was derived from a Higher Place, both having fully converted to Christianity. The guitarist admits that his beliefs weren’t taken too seriously, and certainly not always treated as sensitively as he wished.

 

“Steve Morse even offered to audition to join Kansas”
Phil Ehart

“I’d always been religious; the band joked that I’d joined a Religion Of The Month Club because I’d go from one doctrine to another,” he says. “But when I became a Christian, I was completely focussed.”


Now a full ordained Anglican minister, Dave Hope’s own conversion occurred “in the blink of an eye”, according to Livgren, and was all the more astonishing. “His mind was renewed; it was startling.”


“I’d been going through a heavy drug period,” Hope relates carefully, possibly aware that his parishioners might be reading. “My born again experience was huge. We were between Chicago and St Louis when I felt the presence of God came down onto me. I wasn’t seeking anything, it just happened and I couldn’t deny it. I was filled with an incredible love that dissolved my heart. I knew immediately that it was God because I’d never felt such tenderness before. I’d been up all of the night before snorting coke and drinking, so I knew it wasn’t a drug high.”

 

Hope agrees with Livgren’s assertion that the rest of Kansas had a heard time accommodating their newfound beliefs. “Nobody raises an eyebrow in rock’n’roll circles if you’re drugged out of your mind, gay or sleeping with 25 people a night, but mention Christianity and you’re treated like a pariah.” Ehart refutes such talk, stating: “The band comprised a Catholic, a Baptist, a part-Jew, an agnostic and an atheist. Kerry’s religion was fine, but he wanted to make Kansas a sounding board for his beliefs. That sort of pontificating just didn’t sit comfortably with us, especially Steve who had to sing with conviction.”

 

Dave Ling OnlineCiting the lyrics that Livgren had begun writing for ‘Audio-Visions’ among his concerns – ‘Hold On’ had sermonised: ‘Outside your door He is waiting/Waiting for you/Sooner or later you know/He’s got to get through’ - Walsh left to form the band Streets. Ehart says: “Steve wasn’t crazy about the idea of quitting, but Kerry left him no choice. It was close to a mortal blow for us to suffer, him being the first domino to have fallen.”

 

Walsh’s replacement was John Elefante, a young singer who sounds out of his depth on ‘Vinyl Confessions’, a merely above average 1982 album that peaks with the hard driving rock of ‘Play The Game Tonight’.


“Material-wise ‘Vinyl Confessions’ was fairly strong, but we weren’t sure who we wanted to be,” muses Livgren now. “With hindsight John Elefante was very inexperienced, and the endless search for the next single was taking over. We were departing more and more from what Kansas was originally about.”

 

As if proof of the above theory was necessary, Robby Steinhardt’s own substance abuse-inspired departure reduced the group to a quintet for 1983's Neil Kernon-produced ‘Drastic Measures’.

 

“We’d been trying for ages to persuade Robby to clean up,” confides Ehart. “In the end, we told him that he needed to go away for a while. In the end, though, we didn’t see him again for 16 years!”


For Livgren, Steinhardt’s departure robbed Kansas of their signature sound. It was the final straw. He sighs: “The violin was gone, so was Steve [Walsh], I wasn’t even sure what Kansas was anymore. I withdrew from the group and concentrated on my solo work.”


Hope, meanwhile, had also reached breaking point: “After the show people were still offering me drugs and girls were asking where the party was. I couldn’t be an alcoholic and work in a liquor store. Nobody’s that strong. I had a kid on the way and wanted to remain faithful to my wife. I have no regrets, what I miss most is the paycheques.”


So Livgren and Hope left together to form a group called A.D., pouring salt into the open wound of his former partners. The record company sued A.D. and made it as difficult as possible to release their work into the secular market. Touring opportunities consisted of churches and small clubs.


“Kansas had ceased to be an actual band, and was two or three corporations instead,” he reflects. “Because I wrote the songs, when I quit it was like trying to leave the army. It got very ugly.”


“We didn’t even consider trying to replace Kerry and Dave,” sighs Phil. “Elefante was also moving on, that left just myself and Rich. All the same, I still believed that there was life left in Kansas.”

 

“The old hits are still played every single day, but even with an automatic weapon we couldn’t get airplay for a new record.”
Billy Greer

Although there was never an official split, the band dropped off the radar. It was Ehart who invited Walsh and Williams to re-group in 1986, tapping bassist Billy Greer from Walsh’s band Streets, who’d imploded after two critically acclaimed but less than successful albums. But the catalyst that made it all possible was celebrated Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse, whom Ehart had met at a Robert Plant gig in Atlanta.


“Steve asked if anything would ever happen again with Kansas and even offered to audition,” guffaws Ehart at the memory. “Stylistically, his joining was a big departure, but it was great from day one. And of course having he along brought us a lot of credibility.”


“I was a huge Kansas fan, and Steve Walsh actually sang on a Dregs album, though he’d asked for anonymity,” reveals Morse, adding with a smile: “Believe me, there’s nothing more anonymous than appearing on a Dregs album!”


Not known for playing in two-guitar bands, Morse had no hesitation in joining Kansas despite Rich Williams’ presence. “I always felt comfortable with Rich, because all he cares about is getting the song right,” he explains. “Rich doesn’t talk much, but he’s a bit like Ian Paice [Deep Purple drummer] in that when he does say something, it’s always worth listening to.”

 

From the outside, Livgren had mixed feelings about the reunion. Though pleased to see the band working again, he felt they should have used a different name. “The personnel and the music were so different [from before] that they should’ve started with a clean slate, like the guys from Yes did with Asia,” he maintains.

 

Dave Ling OnlineLater voted the world’s best guitarist by Guitar Player magazine for five consecutive years and now a member of Deep Purple, Steve played on two albums of superlative melodic hard rock, ‘Power’ and ‘In The Spirit Of Things’. The latter was a conceptual piece produced by Bob Ezrin of Pink Floyd/Kiss fame that told the story of the ghost town of Neosho Falls, Kansas, which was almost completely destroyed by a flood in 1952.

 

Unfortunately, like the rest of Kansas, Morse was growing frustrated by boardroom interference from MCA Records, a label sometimes sarcastically nicknamed the Music Cemetery Of America.

“They also managed to drop the ball with a new Elton John album, and another by Glenn Frey [of The Eagles],” fumes Ehart quietly now. “Our album sold 100,000 copies, if that,” agrees Billy Greer sadly. “I remember going into the MCA office one day and they were far more interested in Tiffany [of five-minute ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ fame] was doing. The guys that signed us had long since left the company.”


“I came from a group where I had almost total musical control, and MCA were making us record ballads,” recalls Morse. “I really respected the way that Phil [Ehart, as manager] juggled things to keep everyone happy. But it was a tough call because things like ‘Musicatto’ [a progressive-flavoured instrumental from ‘Power’] were how I thought Kansas should’ve gone.


“I really enjoyed my time in Kansas, but eventually it had to come to an end,” he adds. “Fortunately, we had met as friends and we parted the same way.”


Kansas’ next studio album, ‘Freaks Of Nature’, didn’t surface for another seven years. Issued by the small independent label Intersound in the middle of the grunge explosion, the record and the group’s new violinist David Ragsdale went almost unnoticed.


“The Intersound deal was about all we could get at the time,” reflects Ehart now. “Any band from the 1970s – Styx, Genesis, Boston or Foreigner – was a dinosaur band, and we were all suffering. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that being a classic rock band started to be credible again.


“Thinking about it now, people just thought of us all as ‘old guys’. We weren’t classic, legendary or anything… just old,” the drummer adds. “I remember Mick Fleetwood calling me in despair… even Fleetwood Mac couldn’t get bookings.”

 

At such all-time low, did the band actually consider calling it a day?


Ehart: “No, because we could still go out and play 150-200 shows a year all over America and Europe. It was a tough time, but we hung on in there and now tracks like ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and ‘Dust In The Wind’ are bigger than they’ve ever been.”


In fact, while Kansas happily toured the mainland of Europe, they haven’t been here officially since 1979. The key word of that statement is ‘officially’.


“In around 1988 did come in to play some UK gigs on military bases,” reveals Ehart. “They were low-key gigs for American servicemen in England, and we just came in and went straight out again.”


Back at our story and three more years down the line, 1998’s ‘Always Never The Same’ album saw Kansas teaming up with the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios to re-record many of their own best songs, plus three new tracks and a cover of The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’. By this time Steinhardt had ended speculation regarding his death and rejoined Walsh, Ehart, Williams and Greer.

 

Dave Ling OnlineAstonishingly, Livgren also returned to Kansas after a 17-year absence at the millennium’s turn, albeit temporarily. Kerry had toured sporadically with the band, but this time he stepped up to the plate and composed all the material for ‘Somewhere To Elsewhere’, also co-producing and playing on the album.

 

Dave Hope also doubled up on the bass alongside Greer, with Steinhardt handling the odd lead vocal to give Walsh a break.

 

It probably sounds muddled, but ‘Icarus II’ was an obvious sequel to the ‘Masque’ album standard ‘Icarus (Borne On Wings Of Steel)’, and in excess of 100,000 fans worldwide enjoyed its classic feel.

“I’d been telling Phil Ehart on the phone how my writing had come full circle, that I had 24 pieces of music that would suit Kansas perfectly,” explains Livgren, “it made complete sense to do a new Kansas album with the original members.”


Everyone except Walsh recorded their parts for Somewhere…’ at a studio at Livgren’s farm. These days agriculture and the teaching of theology accompany Kerry’s musical endeavours. He raises cattle and grows Soya beans and wheat. Ask if he envisages one day rejoining Kansas on a permanent basis and you’ll be politely rebuffed. “I’ve learned not to answer that question,” he chuckles. “However you reply, you open a whole can of worms.”


However, in 2005 the fact remains that Kansas find themselves in a scenario not too dissimilar that of Uriah Heep. Both have ground out a continued existence minus the composer of their biggest hits (keyboard player Ken Hensley in Heep’s case), but whilst Mick Box and company have continued to release new material – until recently, at least – Kansas play the clubs and America’s state fairs, limiting new output to live albums, the concert DVD Device-Voice-Drum and re-mastered re-issues of their most popular work.


“Does that sadden me?” muses Livgren. “Well, maybe a little. But I’m pleased that they’re still keeping this music alive. I hope they keen on doing it for as long as they can.”


Candidly, Phil Ehart reveals that no successor to ‘Somewhere To Elsewhere’ is planned unless Livgren or Steve Walsh decides to help out again.


“It’s nothing to do with the band’s popularity – or lack of it,” he stresses. “Without Kerry or Steve writing material, we can’t make a new record. So it’s highly probable that there will never be another Kansas [studio] record.”


“I’m tired of skirting around this issue,” agrees Williams. “So the ‘Two For The Show’ live record is now re-mastered… well, whoopy-doo. I want to make a new record. That would involve a change of attitude. Is the door closed? No. Is it likely at the moment? No. Is it possible in the future? Yes.”

 

Dave Ling OnlineSo, is Ehart comfortable with Kansas becoming a purely nostalgia-based entity?
“Of course not. The lifeblood of this band has always been its new material. I’m not happy with us becoming a jukebox, and no longer a band known for its originality. I have three or four record deals on the table, but there’s very little I can do about it. I’m not pointing the finger at anybody or being nasty, that’s just the way it is.”


Okay, a very serious question: Is what Kansas are now doing eroding the legacy of such an important group?
Phil: “Well, that’s a great question, and I understand why you ask. I just don’t know how to answer it! To me, what’s always made a Kansas record interesting is the dichotomy between Kerry and Steve’s writing. But I’ve had conversations with them both about this subject, and they’re just not interested. You can quote me on that, too.”

 

On June 12, after numerous rumours of impending UK visits, Kansas return to these shores with a one-off date at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire.


“We last played at Hammersmith Odeon in 1979, which was a great gig,” enthuses Phil Ehart. “I remember it because Brian [May] and Roger [Taylor] from Queen came backstage. Freddie [Mercury] wasn’t going out anywhere because he got mobbed, but they loved the show and we went out to eat with them.”

 

After so many false hopes, British fans owe their gratitude to a new, more aggressive booking agent now working on Kansas’ behalf. Half of their European gigs are with Styx, an appearance at the Sweden Rock Festival easing the risky financial burden. “What’s not generally known is that bands don’t tour anywhere internationally unless they’re invited,” points out Ehart. “We’re as excited as the fans about making the trip again after all this time.”


And when the time comes for Kansas to call it a day, what will their epitaph be?
Livgren: “We’ll leave behind an important musical legacy. Kansas had a distinctive style; no other band I’ve heard had our mixture of progressive and orchestral sound, together with the heavy rock influence.”


Williams: “That’s tough. We never made the Hall Of Fame, but we’re in awfully good company. We had some hairy moments along the way, but without them I doubt we’d have survived for 30 years. That’s an achievement in itself.”


Greer: “I was a fan for so long before joining, but they never received the acclaim they deserved. What’s sad about American fans is that Kansas were thrown aside when the hits dried up. We’ve had to work through the disco years and the Nirvana syndrome but I’m proud we’re still around. The old hits are still played every single day, but even with an automatic weapon we couldn’t get airplay for a new record. That’s terrible.”


Ehart: “I’m still proud of what we created. With ‘Dust In The Wind’ and ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ still being played on the friggin’ radio, I hope that sermon won’t be necessary just yet.”

 

http://www.kansasband.com/

The official Kansas website

 

P.S. Dave says...
This story was commissioned by Classic Rock in the spring of 2005, immediately before the magazine underwent a re-design. In those days, the average length of a major feature was five or six thousand words – longer still if necessary. Having spent much time, effort and money tracking down as many members of the group as possible (as per the original brief), I was more than a little aggrieved when an abbreviated word-count arrived to fit the title’s new look. So it’s satisfying to finally post this unexpurgated edition of the story; 2,000 words longer than the truncated one from the magazine.
(31st July, 2009)

 

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