Supertramp





While playing in a band called The Joint in 1969, a young keyboardist named Richard Davies met Dutch millionaire Stanley August Miesegaes (commonly called Sam) in Munich, Germany. Sam was impressed with Davies' talent and offered to sponsor him if he would leave The Joint and form a new band. Davies placed an ad in Melody Maker magazine and assembled a group originally slated to be called Daddy, before settling on a name taken from W.H. Davies' book, The Autobiography Of A Supertramp, published in 1910. With Sam's backing, the band issued their first album, "Supertramp", in 1970. The record was a collection of lengthy and uninteresting solos which made little impact on the record buying public. Dissolutioned, the band began to splinter and regrouped with two new members named Currie and Farrell, while original bassist Roger Hodgson switched to lead guitar. Their second album, "Indelibly Stamped", fared no better than the first and after their sponsor Sam paid off 60,000 Pounds worth of debts, all the band members quit except for Davies and Hodgson.

An extensive search for replacements brought aboard Dougie Thomson, Bob Siebenberg and John A Helliwell, completing a line-up that would create the group's defining albums. Recognizing the band's potential, A&M Records rented a farmhouse near Somerset, England for them to rehearse, and assigned producer Ken Scott to work with them. The resulting album, 1974's "Crime Of The Century", would become their breakthrough recording. The effort showcased the distinctive electric piano, rhythm-based sound epitomised by the single "Dreamer", which peaked at #13 in the UK. In the US, "Bloody Well Right", the flip side to "Dreamer" made it to #35 in the Summer of 1975. The following year, Supertramp released "Crisis? What Crisis", a similar styled album which achieved a comparable level of success. It climbed to #44 on the Billboard Hot 200.

In 1977, Supertramp engaged famed Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick for the LP "Even In The Quietest Moments", which produced a US #15 hit, "Give A Little Bit". But the best was yet to come. During the late seventies, the band moved steadily from the progressive styles of their early albums towards a more song-oriented Pop sound. This trend reached its zenith on their most popular album, 1980's "Breakfast in America", which spawned four successful singles in the US, "The Logical Song" (#6), "Goodbye Stranger" (#15), "Take the Long Way Home" (#10), and "Breakfast in America" (#62). The string of hits was encapsulated with 1980's "Paris", a 2-LP live album in which the band stated its goal of improving on the studio versions of their songs. Interestingly, instead of focusing on tunes from the hugely successful "Breakfast in America", it included nearly every song from "Crime of the Century", another testament to the importance of that album in the group's development. Hodgson and Davies' different singing and song-writing styles provided these albums with an interesting counterpoint, contrasting Davies' determined rockers and songs of broken relationships, with Hodgson's wistful introspection. Eventually Hodgson felt constrained by the arrangement and left the band after the tour for their next album, "Famous Last Words" in 1982.

Hodgson immediately began a solo career, with his biggest hit being "Had A Dream (Sleeping With the Enemy)" from his first solo effort "In the Eye of the Storm" in 1985. The Davies-led Supertramp soldiered on, releasing "Brother Where You Bound" the same year. The album contained the US #28 hit single, "Cannonball", along with the title track, a 16-minute anti-Soviet diatribe highlighted by guitar solos by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. 1987's "Free As A Bird" included more straightforward Davies rockers, including "I'm Begging You", which reached #1 on US dance charts, a curious accomplishment for an Art Rock band. Although their fan base rapidly declined, loyal followers continued to support their recordings, including 1988's "Live '88", after which Supertramp disbanded.

Meanwhile, Roger Hodgson's recorded a second album in 1987 called "Hai Hai", but was unable to tour in support of the effort after he fell from a loft in his home and broke both wrists. He recovered, but the album did not, with some critics describing the LP as 'juvenile and embarrassing.' Hoddgson decided to take a break from both touring and recording in order to spend more time with his young family. In 1990 he was rumored to have been approached to join the Progressive Rock band Yes as their lead vocalist, but declined the offer.

In 1997, Richard Davies reformed the group to tour and release a new LP called "Some Things Never Change", a polished effort which echoed the earlier Supertramp sound, featuring Davies, Helliwell, Siebenberg, and Crowded House's Mark Hart. It reached #74 in the UK. In 1999 Supertramp released the live "It Was the Best of Times", which was followed by "Is Everybody Listening - Live" in 2001. Early 2002 saw the release of another album, "Slow Motion", backed by a year long tour, after which the band went inactive once again. Another attempt to bring Roger Hodgson back into the band failed in 2005.

In 2008 it was announced that Supertramp's music would be featured in the film adaptation of Irvine Welsh's best-selling novel Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance. In 2009, Roger Hodgson told the press that he could not see a Supertramp reunion ever happening, but on April 21st, 2010 the rest of the band announced that they would give thirty-five concerts in Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, France and other European countries in late 2010. Roger Hodgson, who was not included in this series of shows, embarked on a solo 2010 tour to Australia, New Zealand, South America, Europe, Canada, and the US.

In 2011 both Hodgson and Supertramp continued to tour separately. When asked whether Roger Hodgson might appear on some of the 2011 dates, Richard Davies replied, "I know there are some fans out there who would like that to happen. There was a time when I had hoped for that too. But the recent past makes that impossible. In order to play a great show for our fans, you need harmony, both musically and personally. Unfortunately that doesn't exist between us any more and I would rather not destroy memories of more harmonious times between all of us." In 2012, the band's website showed that were no upcoming tour dates currently scheduled. It was later revealed that Rick Davies had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and the band's 2015 tour was canceled. In 2017 Supertramp's official website showed that all dates for its Supertramp Forever European tour were canceled due to health issues affecting Davies.

In the end, one would be hard pressed to describe Supertramp as being in any way influential, although they readily fused sound effects, nursery rhymes and out-of-context radio footage, forcing the point to hail them as precursors of the sampling age. But, alongside the other top acts of their time, they serve as a good example of that curious hybrid of melodic Progressive Rock that flourished between the genuine heavyweights of the '60s and late '70s.





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