Sometimes I feel like my life has just become too filled with negativity. Then other times I feel like that’s just a natural consequence of the world we live in. How could it not be? With runaway climate change threatening the very future of civilisation, a nigh-on unbreakable neoliberal hegemony destroying the world for the benefit of a tiny elite, and Kendall Jenner blowing on a birthday cake, how could you not feel like you’re being constantly stalked by a dark shadow of rage and sorrow in a world like that? It’s the only sane reaction.
But you have to find ways to let some light in sometimes. Otherwise you’d drown. It can get hard though—remembering to focus on the good stuff now and then. But you need to, otherwise, you might as well give up. So with that in mind, I’ve decided to take some proactive steps and to allocate time here and there to really focus on the good that’s out there, whatever form it may take.
Today, it’s a hairy form.
It’s the music video to Kansas’ ‘Carry On Wayward Son’, from the AOR band’s 1976 album ‘Leftoverture’.
On the off chance that you have been deprived of the joy of ever seeing it before, here it is, in all its hirsute glory!
Goddamn it, do I love this video.
Because I need some joy in my life, let’s break that sh*t down like it’s the Zapruder film.
A lot of music videos take their sweet time before they get to the iconic shot. That makes sense. You build to a climax. It’s cinematic. Think of ‘Thriller’, which crescendos with the legendary group zombie choreography after almost a full nine minutes. Granted, that’s a particularly skewed example, but still, the principle holds: You don’t just start off at 60, you have to accelerate there from 0.
Not so Kansas!
Kansas rocket out the gate on ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ with the most iconic shot of the whole damn thing: violinist and vocalist Robby Steinhardt’s incredible and majestic avalanche of hair.
Look at that majestic sonofabit*h.
Look at him! It’s a well-known fact that music just used to be hairier in general, but Robby Steinhardt takes that to the next bloody level, with a mane and beard so magnificent that they look like they have been spun from mithril.
And the best part is: Steinhardt has kept that sh*t going to this day!
How does it not get in the way of the violin? Only sages and prophets know.
The ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ video could just be one, long, unbroken shot of Steinhardt and his kickass vocal delivery, his earnest expression framed so perfectly by that lustrous mane—the video could just be that, and we would be lucky enough to have ever lived in its presence.
But it’s not. In their infinite generosity, the lads at Kansas instead deploy a fusillade of epic. Right from the outset, when Steinhardt passes the baton, we know we’re in good hands. The video goes straight from this:
Ladies, if you need a minute to compose yourself, we understand. That right there is Steve Walsh’s moustache, and it brought Steve Walsh with him. Steve Walsh sang lead on two of Kansas’ best known (and best) songs: ‘Carry On Wayward Son’, and ‘Dust In The Wind’.
What I love about ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ is that the song is very much like the video: It goes straight into the money shot at the start. It’s like: boom, the song starts, and it goes right into the chorus. No messing around with a long, ambient intro, or build up. Nope. It’s Steinhardt’s beard and chorus right from the get-go. That’s interesting because Kansas are a little bit proggy. They’re not prog prog, but they’re a little bit proggy. And prog bands love their long, ambient intros.
Not so Kansas!
The song then kicks off proper, with perhaps the best riff the AOR scene ever produced, and the video introduces us to the rest of the band. All of whom are dressed to seventies perfection.
There’s guitarist Kerry Livgren in a low-key green velvet vest and giant cross combo:
There’s other guitarist Richard Williams, who rushed over to the gig from a wedding:
We then get a shot of drummer Phil Ehart, who… Well, who’s keeping things locked down not just with the beat but with his sensible red shirt, un-extravagant hair, and no facial hair. That’s fine! Not everybody can be Robby Steinhardt. Though imagine if they were…
Where was I?
Oh yeah! Band member introductio—…!
Sorry. Sorry, I must’ve blacked out there after being speared through the eye and brain by bassist Dave Hope’s moustache. There should be some kind of law against having moustaches as glorious as Steve Walsh’s and Dave Hope’s in one video. Hell, there might be. But Kansas wouldn’t give a sh*t anyway! Other bands might. Not so Kansas!
There are other Kansas videos in which Steve Walsh doesn’t have a moustache. That’s good. ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ is all the more special for it.
There are long, instrumental passages in ‘Carry On Wayward Son’. That’s awesome for two reasons: 1) Because it always is, and 2) Because these sections naturally leave Robby Steinhardt with nothing to do. He’s the group’s violinist, but ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ quite uncharacteristically doesn’t have any violin in it. So what does Robby Steinhardt do during these sections? Does he pop off stage to have a smoke? Does he hell! He turns into a hype man so bursting with excitement that he’s barely weighed down by all that hair.
Still images do not do this hurricane-force ball of hype justice.
Robby Steinhardt is not alone with needing to find something to do during the long instrumental sections of ‘Carry On Wayward Son’. Steve Walsh, though busy on the keys during the verses, knows that the lads didn’t want any keys during the solos. So what does he do? Most of the time he’s jumping back and forth between his keyboard and his singing spot. During the solos, he takes an even bigger leap and lands at the bongos!
But, oh sh*t! Then he remembers that actually, the lads did want some keys in there!
At that point it’s carnage. Steve Walsh tears up any bongos and keys in his path. It’s amazing to watch him in his tucked-in shirt leaping from one to the other every few seconds as those twisting instrumental passages demand.
You may have also noticed something else by this point. Something happening in the background while ol’ Walshy was annihilating the stage.
That’s right. By this point in the song, Robby Steinhardt has found a tambourine somewhere.
And if you don’t think Robby Steinhardt doesn’t just go absolutely to town on this motherfu**er, then you haven’t been paying attention.
Steinhardt goes nuts. He travels all over the stage. He’s beating on that tambourine like he’s Jack Bauer and it knows the nuclear launch halt code. He’s the glue that holds this entire beautifully erratic ensemble together.
The best part is how Steinhardt’s rampage over the stage takes him on a journey towards Walsh. Walsh has his little corner there, with his mic and his keyboard and his bongos. It’s his space. This is seventies classic rock we’re talking about. That means that space is sacred. But Steinhardt just waltzes on over there. He gets right up into Walsh’s zone.
How does that go?
Is there tension? Do sparks fly? Are daggers shot?
Are they hell!
‘Carry On Wayward Son’ is a music video that just features a bunch of nerdy guys in mad seventies clothes and with totally rad facial hair playing a long song that doesn’t conform to typical pop song structure norms. That’s all it is. That’s all it needs to be. It’s perfect and it makes me happy for a few minutes when everything else seems to just add another grey hair. It might not literally be the best damn music video of all time, but today it is. Maybe next week it’ll be another one, and I’ll write about that then.
Image sources (in order of posting): Getty Images, YouTube