Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The First Time I Ever Heard.....Kansas

While finishing up high school, I did a number of odd jobs. I worked at Miller Container in Milan, I sold Channel 100 (Home Box Office) and I worked at a TEAM electronics store which was right across 42nd Avenue from my house, which made it convenient. I really had no selling skills, but quickly adapted my greeting to one where each question could be answered by a question. "Do you have an lower end models?" "What would you consider lower end?" Etc. This quality has become very important to me now, as I teach my people to do the same, answer a question with a question and you can find out many details that you never knew. Every once in a while, we would get promo copies of records and one day, we got this weird looking album on a label called "Kirschner". What? Never heard of this label, but certainly knew who Don Kirschner through his late night TV show, an alternative to the sometimes overly poppy "Midnight Special". Our job? Sell stereos. How? Put something that "sounds" good through the speakers. When I say something that "sounds" good, that's sonically speaking. Now a particular musical genre may sound "good" to you, but if the recording is inferior, it won't "sound" good. Not knowing anyone or any song on this LP, I think it stayed behind the counter a couple of weeks, until we got real busy one day. While "Crime of the Century" by Supertramp (the ultimate sonically good sounding LP of 1974) was in use, I reached behind the counter and grabbed this weird looking LP from these guys from Kansas. Closing m self and the customers in the sound proof room, we went off to check out the latest equipment available and on went the Kansas album. I accidentally flipped the LP to side two where the song "The Pilgrimage" immediately came blaring through the speakers and literally just about knocked us down. I was not sure what this music was, I just knew I had never heard something like that before and I wasn't sure I liked it. So, after the rush died down, I taped the LP on to one of our 8 tracks and took it home. After clearing my head later, I sat down and heard "Can I Tell You" and "Lonely Wind". Wow! What dynamics and depth. I got into the longer, more progressive stuff , too and quickly became a fan. They played at a very small venue in the Quad Cities and there might have been 50 people in the bar that night. They debuted a song called"Song For America" and again, I was blown away at how tight they were. I called them the Yes of the midwest and that's what they sounded like to me. When "Song For America" and "Masque" came out, I still thought they had talent but they plateaued at that point. I knew if they were going to go somewhere and be somewhere big, they needed that ONE song, that song that would push them past the midwest and on album number four, they found it. When "THE" song came on the radio for the first time, I knew it was them and I knew that was going to be THE song that did it. I was right. It sounded like nothin else on the radio at that time. I had just started my radio career when their big song happened and I told the story of how I "found" them. Someone called and said they loved that story. I remember telling the story to Steve Walsh later in my career and he seemed impressed (Steve was a very difficult interview). In early 74, at TEAM electronics in East Moline Illinois is where and how I first heard Kansas

3 comments:

Matt said...

I have loved the prog rock of Kansas ever since hearing them in 7th grade (1978 - sheltered AM radio life). Saw the regrouped version on their Song & Dance tour (1988-89) at Memorial Hall - still one of the most dynamic concerts I've been to - I just remember Steve Walsh moving all over the stage like a madman - what a dynamo. Had a flashback to it this past week when I saw Good Old War open for Joshua Radin at The Pageant - their guitarist was non-stop movement.

Anonymous said...

Rocko,
So glad to see you're back.....I hope you're doing well!!!
I saw Kansas this summer at the Black Oak Mountain Amphitheater and it was freakin' AMAZING. I was actually never a huge fan of "Dust in the Wind", but ya know what.....In person....Under the stars on a pretty night.....It honestly took my breath away.
I hope the upcoming Xmas is wonderful for you......Hugs and kisses!
Boo

RR said...

Love to you always.

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