In honor of the 30th anniversary of Kansas’ Americana-laced, prog-rock behemoth Point of Know Return, the band’s guitarist, Richard Williams, provides an insider’s look at the making of each song.
Point of Know Return
The working title of the album was “Point of No Return.” Steve later wrote the song using the title as a theme and Budd Carr, our manager, suggested changing “No” into “Know” to make us deep and dark — something for the acid heads to ponder. Very silly!
Personally, I never heard this song as a potential single. I don’t think any of us did. Too many parts, too many time signature changes even for radio in those times. We still play it. It keeps you on your toes.
Our reaction to the song was “Damn, that’s cool — and watch his hands when he plays it. They look like spiders bouncing on the keyboard. Wait ... that would be a great song title!” Seriously.
Portrait (He Knew)
The song and theme are from the brain of Kerry [Livgren]. As to how the music fits the theme, I think the listener’s brain links the two together once given the instruction to do so. [Editor’s Note: The song is about Albert Einstein.]
I always enjoyed playing this one. We have brought up the possibility of playing it once again, but it’s lost all relevance to Steve, and when the singer can’t get into it anymore there is no point in kicking a dead horse.
The middle of this is really strong, and we are still playing it as a part of “Belexis.” The rest of it has become a comedy for us. When we started playing it on tour, we had a lightning machine we got from KISS. To make a long story short, it was a lackluster effect and when Robby “commanded lightning’s hand” the bolt went from the lighting truss, down his bow and bit him on the neck with great vigor. We sent the thing back. Did I mention that Robby wore a cape for this? Very “Spinal Tap” indeed.
Dust in the Wind
The equipment and recording process was barbaric compared to today’s standards. “Punch-ins” weren’t an option on a track as naked as “Dust,” and most things had to be performed beginning to end. If you blew the last note, you started over. I had only recently started playing acoustic guitar, and the only finger-picking experience I had was from banjo lessons a few years before. With a banjo, one uses metal finger picks and a huge plastic thumb pick, and the picking patterns are quite different due to the tuning.
Anyway, I finally got the first track on my Martin D-28, then we doubled it.
After that I did a Nashville tuning track with the same Martin but equipped with only the high strings of a 12-string set on it. This creates a nice shimmering effect. Then we called it a night. The next day when I arrived at the studio I could tell by the looks on everyone’s faces there was a problem. Due to ear fatigue the night before we hadn’t noticed the “CLACK-CLACK-CLACK-CLACK-CLACK-CLACK” of the metal