Do you recognize the band in the picture below?
In 1977, I fell in love with a song that I would only occasionally hear on the radio. This song had a Beatlesque appeal to it, with a 12-string acoustic guitar being the lead instrument, and I always seem to be falling for the sound of a 12-string guitar. Anyway, this song not only paid homage to the Beatles, but it also had a art rock sound to it, not unlike a band that I was just discovering at the time, the Electric Light Orchestra. The difference was the singer, whose unique, high-pitched voice was unparalleled on the radio at the time. The song was the brilliant “Give a Little Bit” by the band Supertramp. Little did I know that over the next five years, I would become a huge fan of this band.
So, I bought the band’s 1977 album Even in the Quietest Moments. That album was played, but overall, it was an uneven album. Then, in 1979, everything changed, when Supertramp released their masterpiece, the sublime Breakfast in America. It seemed as though that album found its way into many of my friend’s collections. That album happened to be a favorite of the infamous Chemistry II back row, a collection of brilliant non-conformists, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in medicine, engineering and other sciences, which was not bad for a formerly rural high school. Now, this group loved to discuss music, and we loved Supertramp. For whatever reason, that album, along with its live follow-up Paris, became serious discussion topics for us as we moved into Physics. Who knows why it appealed to us? Was it “The Logical Song”? Was it the intelligent playing coupled with the intelligent lyrics? Was it the Beatlesque sound that seemed to be a theme of much of my generation’s music? Who knows?
Therefore, in honor of my back row brethren, Mark Kline, Brad Eschleman, Jon Harvey and Monica Hammond, here is My 25 Favorite Songs by Supertramp. Let’s start the countdown, where the numbers get smaller, and the hits get bigger.
25. “Fool’s Overture” (Even in the Quietest Moments, 1977)
24. “Even in the Quietest Moments” (Even in the Quietest Moments, 1977)
23. “Lady” (Crisis? What Crisis?, 1975)
22. “Downstream” (Even in the Quietest Moments, 1977)
21. “Cannonball” (Brother Where You Bound, 1985)
20. “Crime of the Century” (Crime of the Century, 1974)
19. “Just Another Nervous Wreck” (Breakfast in America, 1979)
18. “Gone Hollywood” (Breakfast in America, 1979)
17. “Oh! Darling” (Breakfast in America, 1979)
16. “Free as a Bird” (Free as a Bird, 1987)
15. “From Now On” (Even in the Quietest Moments, 1977)
14. “Rudy” (Crime of the Century, 1974)
13. “Goodbye Stranger” (Breakfast in America, 1979)
12. “Ain’t Nobody but Me” (Crisis? What Crisis?, 1975)
11. “Lord Is It Mine” (Breakfast in America, 1979)
10. “Hide in Your Shell” (Crime of the Century, 1974)
9. “School” (Crime of the Century, 1974)
8. “Bloody Well Right” (Crime of the Century, 1974)
7. “Breakfast in America” (Breakfast in America, 1979)
6. “My Kind of Lady” (…Famous Last Words, 1982)
5. “Dreamer” (Crime of the Century, 1974)
4. “It’s Raining Again” (…Famous Last Words, 1982)
3. “Give a Little Bit” (Even in the Quietest Moments, 1977)
2. “The Logical Song” (Breakfast in America, 1979)
1. “Take the Long Way Home” (Breakfast in America, 1979)
That singer with the unique, high-pitched voice, Roger Hodgson, left the band after their 1982 album, …Famous Last Words, leaving the band with only one singer/songwriter in Rick Davies, who is a very good songwriter in his own right. But, when half of the band’s magic is removed, the band in turn fell on hard times as Supertramp lost its counterpoint voice. The band took a break at the end of the Eighties, but recently has gotten back together, still without Hodgson, would declined the invitation to rejoin his bandmates. Both songwriters have unique voices that honestly become irritating over the course of a whole album. The original magic of Supertramp’s great albums lied in the alternating of songs written and sung by both men.
Now, is Supertramp’s career Hall of Fame worthy? I am on the fence with that. Although I love the band, I am not sure of their long-term impact on the music world. I would love to see them nominated just to find out if they would get in, but, to me, there are several more worthy artists awaiting induction that Supertramp will get lost in the shuffle. But, the band will always have a fan here in Middle America. Let’s raise a glass in honor of Supertramp!