Originally published in: Village Voice, 1975?


Kansas isn't the only hot shit group from Topeka to have taken their whole state's name for their own; the state government, in fact, beat them to it. The coincidence, in fact, is rather interesting, for the group's music relates to the mainstream in Kansas about the same way the government's middle class bureaucracy relates to the people they tax.

For example, music in Kansas is mostly country and gospel (white), except for Topeka (state government) and Johnson County (middle and upper class Kansas City suburbs), where the run is to MOR. If you cut this down to people more or less under 30, you're talking about rock, but basically the same cleavage holds. The biggest draws among the working class people I know in Wichita are ZZ Top and B.T.O. But if you sashay on up to the rich Kansas City suburbs in Johnson County, it's Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. And Kansas the group is practically the house band.

To carry the demography a little farther, it should be noted that halfway between Topeka and Johnson County lies Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas and middle class college town par excellence. In Kansas there are three state universities, and KU is absolutely numero uno, scraping off the cream of graduating high school classes across the state. Class-wise those students break into two amalgamating groups: those who start out middle class or better, and those who want to be and got the brains and hustle to make it. Moreover, to be upwardly mobile in farm-state Kansas is almost ipso facto a yearning for cosmopolitan sophistication.

Yearning for something you don't have is fine and dandy, but if you don't have some developed sense of standards, you're liable to get something you don't really want. Like a lukewarm ELP rehash. Now, ELP is an interesting sociological phenomenon even if you can't stand their music, which for the most part I can't. They are a very popular band both in England and in the United States, and I think for very different reasons. This is because classical music is very dominant in England's cultural heritage and in that context ELP's flagrant ripoffs and general grossness has a delightful air of sacrilege to it; in America, however, where few people, especially the young'uns, know any better, this stuff passes for sophisticated music. Even has something of an art factor.

Being a classical music moron, I often have to be nudged to get ELP's joke, which is one of the reasons I hardly ever listen to them anymore. But Kansas the group, I think, has the same problem. There's no joke in their music; even assuming that ELP or Yes is something worth becoming, that takes more than a synthesizer. A case in point might be a song off their third and latest elpee, Masque, called "All the World." Building into a mountain of violin and synthesizer, they offer lyrics like "All the world's forgiving the change is all around/ And people everywhere have seen the light in what they've found." Mush, pure and simple.

What it comes down to is immaturity; not only have they not been out in the world, in a manner endemic to the middle class they haven't even inherited some experience of that world. They are rootless, which is the only way they can identify their music with the land around them. The state government maintains its good name by law and force; Kansas the group seems to survive only because their fans are as immature as they are.

Archaeological notes, June 2, 2002

This was retyped from a notebook draft, so it lacks final edits. I'm not sure what the printed title was. Don't know the date, but this must have been written between the release of Masque in 1975 and Leftoverture in 1976.