Weekend Songs: Kansas, ‘Carry On Wayward Son’
Classic rock is about heavy hooks, power chords, and tight harmonies, but it’s also about letting loose and enjoying the good times — and there’s no better time than Friday evening, when we pick up our paycheck, punch out of work, and enjoy a couple days of much-needed rest and relaxation.
This weekend, we’re paying tribute to a song that never sounded better than when it was regularly being blared out of the 8-track decks in Camaro sound systems on Friday nights around the country: ‘Carry On Wayward Son,’ the leadoff single from Kansas‘ 1976 release, ‘Leftoverture.’ Although the band’s first couple of albums had failed to make much of a dent on the charts, ‘Leftoverture’ turned into a Top Five hit, due largely to the massive success enjoyed by this song; in fact, its single edit rose all the way to Number 11 on the Billboard charts, giving Kansas an early taste of worldwide fame (and a signature song in the bargain).
Like a number of guitarist Kerry Livgren’s early compositions, ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ explores themes of spiritual yearning and discovery, which made it a bit of an odd fit for Top 40 radio, even during the prog-friendly ’70s. But if the lyrics cast an eye toward the heavens, the arrangement was heavily rooted in good old-fashioned boogie rock, complete with plenty of heavy guitar riffs (including one that may have been lifted from Journey‘s ‘I’m Gonna Leave You‘) and a chorus that immediately embeds itself deep in the listener’s memory. While ‘Leftoverture’ failed to deliver another single with as much impact as ‘Carry On,’ it did herald a period of massive (albeit relatively short-lived) sales success for Kansas, who saw their commercial profile truly take off with 1977’s ‘Point of Know Return’ LP.
Like a lot of their peers, Kansas weathered some extreme ups and downs during the ’80s and ’90s, including a long list of label changes and lineup variations. But the band is still performing today — in fact, they’re celebrating their 40th anniversary this year with an extensive series of dates that will take one of rock’s most legendarily hard-touring groups across the country one more time. While the guys in Kansas are probably on a tour bus while you read this, you have the luxury of listening to them right now: Just scroll down a bit to where we’ve embedded the ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ video, hit play, turn up the volume, and let your weekend start now.
Watch Kansas’ ‘Carry On Wayward Son’