Supertramp

Supertramp were a British progressive rock band that released a series of top-selling albums in the 1970s and early 1980s.


Their early music included ambitious concept albums, from which were drawn a number of hits including "Bloody Well Right", "Dreamer", "Give a Little Bit", "Goodbye Stranger", "Take The Long Way Home", and "The Logical Song". Supertramp attained superstardom in the United States, Canada, most of Europe, Australia and Brazil, although they were not quite as popular in their home country, the UK. Nonetheless, the album Breakfast in America was a big hit there, reaching number three on the UK charts and featuring two top 10 singles.


Career


Beginnings

Backed by a Dutch millionaire named Stanley August Miesegaes, vocalist, pianist and ex-drummer Rick Davies used newspaper advertising in Melody Maker to recruit an early version of the band in August 1969, an effort which recruited vocalist/guitarist and keyboardist Roger Hodgson. Other members of this proto-Supertramp included Richard Palmer (guitar, balalaika, vocals) and Robert Millar (percussion, harmonica) . Initially, Roger Hodgson sang and played bass guitar (and, on the side, guitar, cello and flageolet). The band was called Daddy from August 1969 to January 1970, at which time this was changed to Supertramp, a name taken from W. H. Davies' book, The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, published in 1908.


They were one of the first groups to be signed to the UK branch of A&M Records. The first album, Supertramp, was released on 14 July, 1970 in the UK and Canada only (it was first issued in the US in 1977). Although it was very intense and lyrical, it did not attract a large audience and few critics paid any attention to this first effort. Dave Winthrop (flute and saxophone) joined the group after the release of the first record and Supertramp was able to earn a slot on the bill of the Isle of Wight Festival 1970. Richard Palmer abruptly left six months after the album's release. Robert Millar suffered a nervous breakdown shortly afterwards. For the next album, Indelibly Stamped, released in June 1971 (in both UK and US), Frank Farrell (bass) , Kevin Currie (percussion) replaced Millar and Palmer, while Roger Hodgson switched to guitar. "Indelibly Stamped" featured rocking Beatlesque tunes, with vocal harmonies similar to Simon & Garfunkel songs (Davies now serving as the band's second lead singer, alongside Hodgson, who suggested that the band should have two lead vocalists), a more commercial approach and eye-catching cover artwork. Supertramp had established themselves as a "cult" band. Sales, however, failed to improve and sold even less than their debut. In early 1972, Miesegaes withdrew his support from the band after paying off debts. All members gradually quit except Hodgson and Davies.


These two first albums were later reissued during Supertramp's popularity peak and have maintained a certain appeal with die-hard fans. The first album is melancholic and quieter and the songs are spread out more than they were later on. Roger Hodgson once called it his favourite Supertramp album (though later he favoured Crime of the Century). The second album is their most traditionally rock album, and certainly their heaviest sound.


Initial success and commercial breakthrough

In late 1972, after being persuaded to carry on, Davies and Hodgson went on an extensive search for replacements, which first brought aboard Dougie Thomson (bass), who played with the band almost a year before auditions resumed to complete the line-up. In 1973, auditions restarted and brought in Bob Siebenberg, drums, and John Helliwell (saxophone, other woodwinds, occasional keyboards, backing vocals), completing the line-up that would create the group's defining albums, Hodgson would also begin playing keyboards in the band in addition to guitar, usually acoustic and electric pianos on his own compositions. The classic Supertramp keyboard is a Wurlitzer electric piano (model 200A) with its unmistakable bright sound and biting distortion when played hard.


A lost single, "Land Ho" was the first recording by the reformed Supertramp. It was not included on "Crime of the Century" and has never been reissued in its original form.


Crime of the Century, released in September 1974, began the group's run of critical and commercial successes, hitting number four in Britain, supported by the iconic countercultural opening track "School", and the top-10 single "Dreamer". Its B-side "Bloody Well Right" hit the US Top 40 in May 1975, peaking at #35. Siebenberg would later comment that he thought the band hit its artistic peak on this, their third album, though their greatest commercial success would come later.


The band continued with Crisis? What Crisis? released in November 1975. It achieved good though not overwhelming commercial success. The following album, Even in the Quietest Moments, released in April 1977 spawned their hit single "Give a Little Bit" (#15 U.S.), and the FM radio staple Fool's Overture. During this period, the band eventually relocated to the United States and 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, Breakfast in America in March 1979, which reached Number 3 in the UK and Number 1 in the United States and spawned four successful singles, "The Logical Song" (#6 U.S.), "Take the Long Way Home" (#10 U.S.), "Goodbye Stranger" (#15 U.S.), and "Breakfast in America". The album has since sold over 18 million copies worldwide.


The run of successes was capped with 1980s Paris, a 2-LP live album, in which the band stated its goal of improving on the studio versions of their songs. Instead of focusing on songs 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. Initially, it was supposed to be a show recorded in Quebec City, Canada, but A&M vetoed the idea for a "more mainstream city". Also in 1980, the song "Dreamer" was finally released as a single in the U.S., where it reached #15.


Later career

Though Supertramp's songs later in the band's career were credited to both Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies, each wrote separately. Hodgson and Davies' differing singing and songwriting styles provided these albums with an interesting counterpoint, contrasting Davies' determined blues-rockers and songs of broken relationships ("Another Man's Woman", "From Now On", "Goodbye Stranger") with Hodgson's wistful introspection ("Dreamer", "School", "Fool's Overture", "The Logical Song"), but Hodgson felt constrained by the arrangement and left the band after the tour for their next album, ...Famous Last Words... (1982) which contained the Top 20 hit "It's Raining Again" and the Top 40 hit "My Kind of Lady". There was much speculation behind the reasons why Roger Hodgson left Supertramp. In an interview in the 90's Hodgson stated that family was the main reason he left the band. He also went on to say that his wife at the time and Rick Davies' wife did not get along very well and it became a big conflict for the group. He said there were never any real personal or professional problems between him and Rick Davies as some people thought.


Having left the band in 1983, Hodgson began a solo career, his biggest hit "Had a Dream (Sleeping With the Enemy)" coming from his first solo album In the Eye of the Storm, in 1984.


The Davies-led Supertramp soldiered on, releasing Brother Where You Bound the same year. This included a Top 30 hit single, "Cannonball", along with the title track, a 16-minute exposition on Cold War themes highlighted by guitar solos from Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. The album reached #21 on the US charts. 1987's Free as a Bird included more straightforward Davies rockers, including "I'm Beggin' You", which reached Number 1 on the US dance charts, a curious accomplishment for an "art rock" band.


After 1988's tour, Thomson left the band over a disagreement with Davies about the use of Hodgson-penned songs during live performances. One of the conditions of allowing Davies to continue with the name Supertramp was that no Hodgson songs would be performed. Hodgson was dismayed to attend a concert and find that the band was performing his songs such as "Take the Long Way Home" and "The Logical Song." These songs were usually sung by Crowded House's Mark Hart (Hodgson's replacement on stage), and the Scottish bass player was against this move. When Supertramp reunited in 1996, Thomson declined an invitation to return and eventually quit playing for good.


On April 14, 1993, Davies, Hodgson and Helliwell performed at a retirement dinner at the Beverly Hills Hilton in honor of A&M co-founder Jerry Moss. After this, Davies and Hodgson began working together again but Hodgson eventually pulled out of the sessions. In interviews published on his and other fan forums, Hodgson later claimed he had been more than willing to rejoin Supertramp, but only if Davies' wife, Susan, abstained from interfering in band affairs (an issue before Hodgson left). Sue Davies was in Artist Relations at A&M (welcoming the band and helping them settle) when Supertramp moved to Los Angeles in the mid-70s and, as the romance between Davies and her blossomed, she quit A&M and started managing the band. Having to deal with two Davieses instead of one increased Hodgson's frustrations and prompted his departure. Davies declined to exclude his wife from his professional affairs, and he and Hodgson have not worked together since.


In 1996, Davies re-formed Supertramp with former members Helliwell, Siebenberg and Hart, plus several new musicians. The result was Some Things Never Change, a polished effort which echoed the earlier Supertramp sound. This was released in March 1997. Ironically, that same year saw the release of Rites of Passage, Roger Hodgson's first solo album since Hai Hai in 1987. Rites of Passage was a live album featuring both new works from Roger as well as three Supertramp songs ("Take the Long Way Home", "The Logical Song" and "Give a Little Bit").


In an ironic reversal two years later, the re-formed Supertramp released a live album, It Was the Best of Times while Roger released a studio album. Open the Door. Another live album, Is Everybody Listening?, a recording of Supertramp at the Royal Albert Hall in 1975, was released in 2001.


Early 2002 saw the release of another album by Davies and Supertramp, Slow Motion (sold direct in North America). Another attempt to reunite the band, including Hodgson, fell apart in 2005.


Rick Davies has since left California and resides in Long Island (East Hampton).


In the past few years, Roger Hodgson has donated "Give a Little Bit" to raise funds for Tsunami Relief efforts and other causes. It's been used by the Red Cross, United Way, the Make a Wish Foundation, and The Oprah Winfrey show requested the use of "Give a Little Bit" as part of their ???Gift of Giving Back Program???. In the UK it was used during the "ITV Telethon".


2006 was a busy year for Roger Hodgson. Throughout the summer of 2006, he has been touring Europe (France, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark, Switzerland, and Germany), as well as the US (St. Paul, MN) and Canada (fall 2006) and his DVD "Take the Long Way Home ??? Live in Montreal" has gone Platinum and to the #1 spot in Canada, in its first 7 weeks of release.


He has also been asked to mentor Canadian Idol???s Top 7 contestants, alongside Dennis DeYoung (a founding member of the group Styx).


In March 2006, Roger Hodgson was honoured for his song "Give a Little Bit" at the 23rd Annual ASCAP awards in Los Angeles. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers gave the award in acknowledgment of the song being one of the 50 most played songs of 2005.


Roger Hodgson appeared solo at the Diana Memorial Concert at Wembley Stadium on 1 July 2007. The band were one of the late Princess of Wales' favourites.


In 2008, Supertramp's music was set to be featured in the film adaptation of Irvine Welsh's best-selling novel Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance.


Members


1970
Rick Davies - vocals, keyboards, harmonica
Roger Hodgson - vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass, cello, flute
Richard Palmer-James - vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, balalaika
Robert Millar - percussion, harmonica
1970-1971
Rick Davies - vocals, keyboards, harmonica
Roger Hodgson - vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass, cello, flute
Richard Palmer-James - vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, balalaika
Robert Millar - percussion, harmonica
Dave Winthrop - woodwinds
1971-1972
Rick Davies - vocals, keyboards, harmonica,
Roger Hodgson - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Frank Farrell - bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Kevin Currie - percussion
Dave Winthrop - vocals, woodwinds
1972-1973
Rick Davies - vocals, keyboards, harmonica,
Roger Hodgson - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Dougie Thomson - bass, backing vocals
Kevin Currie - percussion
Dave Winthrop - vocals, woodwinds
1973
Rick Davies - vocals, keyboards, harmonica,
Roger Hodgson - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Dougie Thomson - bass, backing vocals
Bob Siebenberg - drums, percussion
Dave Winthrop - vocals, woodwinds



1973-1983
Rick Davies - vocals, keyboards, harmonica
Roger Hodgson - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Dougie Thomson - bass, backing vocals
Bob Siebenberg - drums, percussion
John Helliwell - vocals, woodwinds, keyboards, synthesizers
1983 Tour support musicians
Scott Page - woodwinds, guitar, percussion, backing vocals
Fred Mandel - keyboards, guitar, backing vocals
1983-1988
Rick Davies - vocals, keyboards, harmonica,
Dougie Thomson - bass, backing vocals
Bob Siebenberg - drums, percussion
John Helliwell - vocals, woodwinds, keyboards, synthesizers

with


Scott Page - woodwinds, guitar, backing vocals (1983-86)
Marty Walsh - guitars, backing vocals (1984-1988)
Mark Hart - vocals, keyboards, guitar (1985-1988)(when live sang Roger Hodgson's compositions)
Steve Reid - percussion (1987-1988)
Brad Cole - woodwinds, keyboards (1986-1988)
Carl Verheyen - guitars, percussion, backing vocals (1985-1986)
1996-1997
Rick Davies - vocals, keyboards, harmonica
Bob Siebenberg - drums, percussion
Mark Hart - vocals, keyboards, guitar
John Helliwell - vocals, woodwinds, keyboards, synthesizers
Carl Verheyen - guitar, backing vocals
Lee Thornburg - trombone, trumpet, backing vocals
Cliff Hugo - bass
Tom Walsh - percussion- studio album (Jesse Siebenberg appeared on tour)
1997-2002
Rick Davies - vocals, keyboards, harmonica
Bob Siebenberg - drums, percussion
Mark Hart - vocals, keyboards, guitar (when live sang Roger Hodgson's compositions)
John Helliwell - vocals, woodwinds, keyboards, synthesizers
Carl Verheyen - guitar, backing vocals
Lee Thornburg - trombone, trumpet, backing vocals (did not appear on 2002 tour)
Cliff Hugo - bass
Jesse Siebenberg - backing vocals, percussion, acoustic/electric guitar (playing "Give A Little Bit" in live performances)

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