We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
Hey hey, my my, rock and roll will never die, though many bands from our glorious past are currently on life support. Thankfully loyal hardcore fans would never pull the plug on their musical heroes regardless of changing environmental conditions with the occasional recognition that many decades have passed since you were permitted to define what is popular music.
This is clearly explained in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz. If you paid attention to its hidden meaning, this 1939 masterpiece of nuance, subliminally advocates that we must all adjust to changing conditions in our environment. Whenever you move from a place where cyclones are lifting your house from its clearly poorly constructed foundation, to a country that has only one road, and it is made from yellow bricks you should change your attitude. This why the pivotal message of the movie is so important to remember as you try to figure out the legal implications of your changing tax exemption status.
Dorothy looks at her darling little dog and simply says, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.” My recollection is Toto does not respond. He doesn’t respond because he is a dog and dogs rarely respond to human wisdom. As an actor I place Toto right up up there with the Teen Age Mutant Ninja Turtles as best actors in the very ignored “Actors that could be your pet” category. What made Toto’s very underappreciated performance even more exceptional was that this dog’s real name was Terry.
So people as you grow and adapt to change accept that you are not in Kansas anymore. Adapt to your new location properly. Adjust quickly, even if you are assaulted by the occasional flying monkey, wicked witch and those brainless heartless people who aren’t even your relatives. Sorry to lecture you in only the fourth paragraph of this article, that is about to segue into my thoughts on music, but science supports my scolding. Darwin encouraged us all to adapt to our environment if we want to survive.
Now speaking of surviving, to escape the brutal winters Canadians endure, with a frozen Canadian smile, my wife and I recently travelled to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. All inclusive is code for drink and eat until you start to sound like a loud American, who knows what is wrong with the rest of the world.
As we doused ourselves with booze and sunscreen, the very friendly staff shared the multiple options of distraction that would help keep us out of the bars all day. One surprising suggestion was at their newly built theatre. We were cordially invited to a concert featuring the legendary band Kansas, and because we were valued guests, and the tickets were free, we immediately made the reservation.
Dust in the Wind and Carry on your Wayward Son, were songs indelibly stamped in the part of my brain that tries to convince me that my high school years were not traumatic at all.
This concert began with a five-course dinner, more free alcohol, and a local opening act, playing original songs on an acoustic guitar. With the backdrop of a large Kansas sign, and surrounded by multiple instruments just itching to play familiar songs, this poor artist did her best to perform as about one thousand diners, consumed our meal with noisy impatience for the headline act.
As the dessert plates were taken from the left by the well-trained serving staff, the announcement finally came. “Ladies and gentlemen, Kansas” poured through the large state of the art sound system. Thunderous applause greeted our vintage rock stars… That was the loudest ovation of the night. Mr. Spock had warned me that “The thrill of wanting is often greater than the thrill of having” but that was years ago and the TV part of my brain that was dedicated to Star Trek knowledge, is now filled with increasing PVR Netflix obligations.
Now like you, I only know two Kansas songs, but this band anticipated that all of the audience owned all of their records, converted each track to MP3, made multiple song lists on their iPod and had never stopped listening to their songs. I had forgotten that Kansas was a progressive rock band. For the uninformed, progressive rock means that every song that should last about three minutes, is extended out to seventeen minutes with five guitar solos and three violin solos to help contribute to your enjoyment of the song. Progressive rock dominated the music scene for about seventeen minutes on August 14th, 1974. The audience is supposed to be catapulted into a state of frenzy by the sheer virtuosity of the musicians.
The band cleverly waited until ninety minutes into show before playing a recognizable tune. The strumming of the guitar let the resort crowd know that Dust in the Wind was the next song. Of course this song lasted only three minutes, as why would you play a song that people know for a long time? The band went back to their much more sophisticated song list that hopefully all the members on stage would recognize.
Like hundreds of others, my wife and I slowly moved our chairs away from our table, quietly walked backwards, and exited the concert hall, while one of the guitarist in the band was mesmerizing the front row with another guitar solo for the ages.
Rumour has it the band did a very nice job with Carry on Your Wayward Son, as their third encore, but only the serving staff clearing the tables could confirm that rumour.
This evening ended with an immediate Google search of this band Kansas, and their official website informed me that there were only two original members in this version of band. Two out of six ain’t bad.
Clearly there is a business model with memorable rock bands. Make lots of money. When annual record sales plummet from four million to forty, adjustments must be made.
If we can’t sell our music, let’s tour!!! Don’t worry about silly details like original band members just get out and tour! People will remember your band name not your birth name so get out and tour.
The Who, have said goodbye more times than your guests at the end of your last Christmas dinner. The Rolling Stones continually rerelease old albums, hoping the term “digitally re-mastered” will prompt you to rebuy what you already have, as you upgrade your music library.
So if any version of any band is now the accepted standard for musical performance rooted more in nostalgia than original membership, I make the following obvious recommendations for this years Casino tours.
The Beatles: with only Pete Best
The “and Garfunkel” retrospective
The Jackson Two
KISS \Fragile Rock Stadium Tour
Diana Krall and the Supremes.
The Grateful Dead featuring the cast of Glee.
Janice Joplin starring Celine Dion.
Crosby Stills Nash and Young, replaced by The Law Firm: Dewy Skrew Yu and Howe
Journey with a YouTube discovery…. Never mind that already happened.
Queen staring some guy from American Idol…Never mind that already happened.
The very much anticipated Led Zeppelin \ Lawrence Welk Reunion Tour.
But wait there’s more:
Surviving members of Pink Floyd, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Green Day, Golden Earing, Moody Blues with the much anticipated “Colours of Music” tour. I am open to renaming this to The 50 Shades of Grey tour to attract that often ignored S&M fan base. We’ll get Alice in Chains to open.
Now if you are more of a numbers type, I propose that convincing any willing and relatively alive musicians from U2, Three Dog Night, The Four Tops, Dave Clark Five, Nine Inch Nails, 10CC (I will stop with apologies to Matchbox 20, 38 Special, UB40, B52s etc.) form a concert to create Math hysteria. Again being mostly alive is as important as your willingness to share the stage with fellow musicians from the past.
Now I like a good concert as much as the next guy, so before you say move over so I can talk to the next guy, let me state that musical nostalgia is good for your soul. It might be good for your heart and lymph nodes too, but most of that medical research is limited to carefully controlled exposure to carefully selected Fleetwood Mac songs.
Clearly I have lost my way in the purpose of this article. I will now do what I always do, when I can’t formulate an appropriate killer ending to an important well-written piece. I will make something up.
So I am walking through the downtown core of Wichita Kansas the other day. Two gentlemen are sitting on a bench, whittling what appeared to be their unique versions of the Rise of the Phoenix. To add to the intricacy of their work, they both chose to use a single toothpick to add to the complexity of their carving. I stopped to admire their artistry, which seemed to annoy both of them. Perhaps it was my noisy slurping of the extra large blue slushy I just bought at the 7\11 that caused their unified vexation. I am not really sure what was irking the two whittlers, as when I annoy people the causes of my annoyance vary from individual to individual.
So I say’s to these guys (That is more how I talk than how I write, but just trying to achieve a little authenticity to this made up story) “Hey that’s some pretty nice whittling use guys are doing there.”
They look up and say in perfect harmony, which did surprise me a little on this sunny day in Wichita, “ We have to whittle nowadays. We used to be in a very popular progressive rock band called, not Toto, but Kansas. Our gently fried progressive brains continually remind us to put down our old instruments and whittle, because we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Cue the Blong: Kansas you broke my heart but others will not…