Wednesday, September 22, 2010

They Say The Point Demons Guard Is An Ocean Grave For All The Brave

Y'know how the other day we were all talking about what we picture when we think of D&D?  Here's somethin' I shoulda mentioned:  Kansas' landmark 1977 album "Point Of Know Return". 

Hello, 1977.  Howya been?
I've had a copy of this album, or at least easy access to it, pretty much all of my life (well, except for the three or so years during which it did not yet exist), and in high school I listened to it a lot -- incidentally, around the time I picked up D&D.  

Peanut butter and jelly, man. 

Some of you already know why, because you know the album.  The uninitiated will be unaware of the strong fantastic elements that run through this record along with everything else on it.  Yes, it's the same album that had "Dust In The Wind" on it, but it also contained the stirring call to adventure that is the album's title track... well as the totally bad-ass hymn to bad-assedness that is "Lightning's Hand":

...which, you will agree, would make ANYONE would totally think of a blue dragon.  

That's not all that's there to feed your gamer brain, though; not by a mile.  Take "Sparks of the Tempest", which describes an epic apocalypse (and whose lyrics "The dead are the living in the age of the gun" put "Mad Max" pictures in my head); consider "Nobody's Home", a majestically sad song about an interplanetary traveler mourning that he has made first contact with a dead civilization; dig on "Closet Chronicles", purportedly about Howard Hughes but easily suggestive of any kind of interesting person (read "NPC") whose history could fit into your campaign. 

Now you know why everyone who knows the album was nodding at the beginning of this post.

Inspirational to the gamer, for sure, and to the geek certainly, but was any of it intentional?  Did the band themselves set out to record something so full of fantasy imagery, or where they on to something else?  It's hard to tell.  I know that Kerry Livgren is really into Urantia (or was, anyway), and some of the band's other material (noticeably on the album preceding this one, "Leftoverture") reaches for spiritual themes ("Opus Insert", yo), and they touched a lot on Native American themes, too.  As to what the hell "Magnum Opus" was all about, I have no clue at all -- but it's hard not to listen to the themes that bookend the piece and not think of Conan swaggering through a temple of Set and topless slavegirls swaying in time.

I googled "Cimmerian" and she came up.  Mind you, I am NOT complaining.

'Course, when thinking about D&D, I sometimes also think of The Alan Parsons Project.  That's because my brain is messed up, though.