Friday, 13 May 2011

They tell you not to hang around and learn what life’s about And grow up just like them, won’t let you work it out – And you’re full of doubt

70's Pick of the Week

“School”, Supertramp (1974)

In its quirky way, this was a band that cheered up the down-trodden, the weary, and the struggling. The average person loved Supertramp, but the critics, not so much, at least not initially.

In 1969 Stanley 'Sam' August Miesegaes, a Dutch millionaire, gave his friend Rick Davies money to form a band. Davies did what all musicians did at the time when looking for a band, and placed an ad in ‘Melody Maker’ magazine. The initial band produced two albums that really didn’t go anywhere, and in 1972 Miesegaes withdrew his financial support – he has probably been kicking himself for a long time since.

The core members of Supertramp, then Rick Davies and Rodger Hodgson did some auditions for some new talent. They recruited Dougie Thomson (Bass), Bob Seidenberg (Drums) John Halliwell (Sax, occasional woodwinds). Davies himself brought in a Wurlitzer electric piano and the ‘new’ Supertramp was born. 

“Crime of the Century”, my favourite Supertramp album, was released in 1974 and was the rise of Supertramp with the poppy hits “Dreamer” and “Bloody Well Right”, both excellent songs. The theme of the album was  the underdog making a go of it, and great support came from the songs “School”, “Hide in Your Shell”, and “Rudy”.  Interestingly Hodgson had written “School” and “Dreamer” in his teens, long before Supertramp. I remember blasting the very melancholy sounding harmonica opening of “School” in my car – everyone knew a “Johnny Too-Good”, even though in hind-sight it seems like everyone struggled with their own personal identity formation in junior high school and into high school – some dealt with it better than others – or at least appeared to.  

The next album “Crisis What Crisis” seemed a bit more scattered but was still successful. ‘77’s “Even in the Quietest Moments” spun off “Give a Little Bit” (my single favorite Supertramp song), and “The Fools Overture”, which was used as background music on the Canadian news show ‘W5’ and on Netherlands radio show, ‘Radio Veronica’. 

In March of ’79 the band released its most successful commercial album to date, the one everybody knows – “Breakfast in America”. The singles were: “The Logical Song”, “Take the Long Way Home”, “Goodbye Stranger”, and “Breakfast in America”. This album finally caught the attention of the critics and won Supertramp a huge audience in North America. Despite this, I still prefer “Crime of the Century”, it is much more heart-felt and a rawer, genuine, expression of the band.

Supertramp put out one more album with a now disgruntled Hodgson “Famous Last Words”, with a song I like called, “It’s Raining Again”. Hodgson would leave the band in 1982.

Davies led Supertramp to produce “Brother Where You Bound”, but essentially this was the end of Supertramp, although it still tours as such.

Hodgson produced his own solo effort called "In the Eye of the Storm" in 1984 which spun off the very decent single "Had a Dream".

In 2005 a good 2-disc compilation of Supertramp music was released called “Rerospecitble: The Supertramp Anthology”. Did I mention to give “Crime of the Century” a listen – the mournful saxophone and philosophical lyrics are well worth it.  

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