The Gay Blades hit the Riot Room tomorrow, December 2, and they've written a song called "KC, I Need You Now..." (downloadable here) to commemorate the occasion. Seems the band has written a song for every stop on their current tour. In the press release accompanying said song, James Dean Wells says he wrote it because he feels "like Kansas City has so many great old rock n' roll tunes written about it, so I wanted mine to be a really cool slinky rock song, a la' Keith Richards."
That got us thinking about other great songs about Kansas City. Now, the Leiber and Stoller version has been covered by everyone, so we're just putting that one up as a gimme, and moving on. Happily, though, many other song smiths have put pen to paper and memorialized KC. Here are the best songs about Kansas City that aren't "Kansas City."
In Roger Miller's "Kansas City Star" not only does the kiddie TV star sing about the fame he's got in Kansas City, he manages to work in a dig at another Midwest metropolis (that coincidently manages to get all the good tours we don't): I'm the king of Kansas City, no thanks, Omaha, thanks a lot.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma! (I think I'm legally required to use the exclamation point) is, like most things R&H: big and brassy. "Everything Is Up to Date In Kansas City" is a little more restrained, but still a little bit of hokum. The singer is a big ol' rube, amazed by Kansas City, where it seems that everything has gone about as fur as it can go. However, it's a lovely thing to think that, once upon a time, Kansas City was a place by which other places were judged, and in a good way.
The Okkervil River number entitled "Kansas City" is not the standard. This song, from their debut full-length Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See, actually a slow, lonesome piece -- exactly what you'd expect from Will Sheff. Hearing our city referred to as the place where the sky is so blue is a nice compliment. It takes some of the sting out of KC being where a cocaine addict liar (with whom the song's protagonist is in love) wants to move.
"Train From Kansas City," originally performed by the fantastic girl group the Shangri-Las (best known for "Leader of the Pack" and "Walking In the Sand"), was given new life when Neko Case got the Sadies to back her up on a version for her 2004 live album, The Tigers Have Spoken. Once again, Kansas City is a place that has to do with a lying woman, and when she sings The train from Kansas City is coming into town, that train carries the man she never told about her new love. You KC ladies are a bunch of damned heartbreakers, evidently.
Never has there been a better love letter to Kansas City than Tech N9ne's "It's Alive." From the opening KANSAS CITY!!!, all the way until me and Dorothy and Toto's on your ass when you visit, this banger is probably the best thing Tecca Nina's ever done. The love for the 816 is 100% palpable, as the song reps everything except Gates BBQ -- that's so good, Tech had to give an entire song over to it.
Special honorable mention goes to the twin streetpunk anthems from Tanka Ray and the Main Street Saints. Tanka Ray's "KC Kids" don't take no shit, while the Saints take the Cocksparrer anthem "England Belongs to Me" and reclaims it as a piece of Midwest pride, even to the dirty water of the river. Sadly, we couldn't find any embeddable versions, but you can download 'em both below.
MP3: Tanka Ray, "KC Kids"