Articles de magazines (en anglais)
Open The Door
by Tim Jones
Record Collector magazine, London
Back with his first solo album in 13 years, the former main man from soft rockers Supertramp offers ten superb songs with the help of friends like ex-Yes guitar guru Trevor Rabin. His influence can be discerned clearly on the likes of "The More I Look", with it's bright harmonies, cracking lead vocal and idyllic harpsichord tones. "Hungry" is more like the old tramping days, but several tunes are reminiscent of latter-day Roger Waters, which is a major bonus!
The Queen even appears in an intro speech to "Along Came Mary", with it's pipes and bodhran making a relaxing and energizing number. The bright summery flavor even comes over all Supergrass on the brassy "Showdown" before the more melancholic but beautifully atmospheric "Death and A Zoo". There are a couple of Al Stewart-like ditties as well and the nine-minute title track is majestic melodic rock. A very fine return. Ex-Supertramp Singer Books a Solo Passage
by STEPHEN MAJEWSKI (A free-lance story for The Morning Call). Friday, May 1, 1998 You probably wouldn't recognize Roger Hodgson if you bumped into him on the street, but chances are, you can hum his songs. The co-founder and former lead singer of Supertramp wrote a slew of chart busters in the 1970s and '80s, including "Dreamer," "Give a Little Bit," "The Logical Song," "It's Raining Again" and "Had a Dream." Now Hodgson is back with his first extended tour since leaving Supertramp in 1983. His "Solo Tramp" show will stop Saturday night at the Keswick Theatre, Glenside. Hodgson didn't plan such a lengthy absence. "There have been a lot of things that have been different than what I expected in leaving Supertramp and being on my own," says Hodgson, whose long brown hair and slender physique belie his 48 years. "I think it's because naturally I'm a team player. I'm not an artist who has a great desire to have his name in lights." Although he's released three solo albums, leaving Supertramp left Hodgson without a recognizable moniker (and his former band to continue without a hit songwriter). He planned to tour in 1988 to promote his second solo effort, "Hai Hai," but fate stepped in. "It was ironically the week the album came out that I broke both my wrists when I fell out of a sleeping loft, which killed the album stone dead and put me out of commission for quite a while," the native Englishman says. "That really sent me into a lot of mid-life questions and a lot of soul searching for 10 years." Creatively, Hodgson remained as strong as ever, writing nearly 80 songs, but had nothing to show for it. "He wasn't just stuck in the studio, he was a puddle on the floor," says his wife Karuna. "Just knowing who Roger is, he's an incredibly responsive personality and his creative energy actually needs direct feedback from other people to find its place." In 1996 Karuna came up with the idea of a short Northern California tour to jump-start his stalled career. The final show was recorded and released as an album, "Rites Of Passage" (Unichord). Hodgson credits his wife, who produced "Rites," for getting him back on track. "Karuna saw how desperate things were and realized that I had to recapture the joy of playing live," he says. "She'd never produced a record before, but she championed this whole project. It was exactly what I needed to bring me back to life." Like Hodgson's first solo effort, 1984's "In The Eye of the Storm," "Rites Of Passage" features his patent mix of sardonic yet sensitive lyrics and catchy melodies spiced with a rock edge. Although his teen-age son Andrew and Supertramp saxophonist John Helliwell played on "Rites," Hodgson will be playing solo on this tour. He'll accompany himself on guitar, piano and the pump organ on which he composed many Supertramp hits. Hodgson's set includes songs from his Supertramp days, solo albums and unreleased material. "I'm rediscovering the wandering minstrel side of myself. I'm really focused on touring --and touring for quite some time. Because I haven't toured, I've got a lot of catching up to do." Hodgson's "modus operandi" is refreshingly unique in the see-how-bad-I-can-be rock world. He avoided the self-destructive drug addiction-rehab-relapse-recovery routine. He's been married to the same woman for nearly 20 years and is a devoted husband and father. To his credit, he has not publicly feuded with Supertramp for continuing to play his songs in their live set (a la Roger Waters and Pink Floyd). Hodgson's work with Supertramp continues to sell well and is heard regularly on classic-rock radio formats. Still, the ever-humble Hodgson wondered whether people would remember him. "Having been away for 14 years, I didn't know whether I'd been totally forgotten," he says. "It's been incredible to hear the love for the music that I've put out there. It gives me a lot of juice and excitement about playing my music again."
Thanks to Stephen Majewski for emailing us this story.
November 19, 1977
by David Boothroy
Any band that play 114 concerts on a tour of America and Europe spanning several months deserve full marks for endurance, if nothing else.
That Supertramp managed to give their audience at Bournemouth last week and example of their best at this, the last gig, speaks volumes - for the band themselves, the road crew and everybody else involved.
Supertramp have by now reached a stage of technical perfection that few bands ever approach. Their sound system, which they own themselves, makes most others sound like a transistor radio. The lighting is timed to micro-seconds and they play their music faultlessly.
Last week they even installed a private generator in case of power cuts, after suffering that way the week before at Wembley.
But at Bournemouth it was far from a purely technical masterpiece. There were monkeys dancing with bananas(!), schoolgirl Joan attacking sax-player John Helliwell ("a dream come true," he said), and a male stripper sitting beneath the parasol from the cover of "Crisis What Crisis?"
It was a night of restrained lunacy, which the audience loved, but the stage antics were never allowed to distract attention from the music. The band played many of the songs from their 1977 album, "Even In the Quietest Moments," including "Babaji," their latest singe, as well as alder material, ending up as they always do with "Fool's Overture" and "Crime of the Century," still apparently the favourite of most audiences, and certainly Bournemouth's.
Supertramp's set is not the most spontaneous you will ever see. They stick to one encore, "Crime of the Century," ending in an explosion of noise with the famous album cover of the fists gripping the iron grill filling the screen.
But if they changed the set all the time they couldn't achieve the split-second timing and precision that makes their concerts literally breathtaking. Nobody at Bournemouth seemed to think it sounded over-rehearsed or artificial, just fine music played to perfection.
If you missed them this time around, you missed something special. The band will be back in 1978; don't make the same mistake again.
Golden gift for a Dutch uncle
Saturday, July 30 1977
Pauline McLeod in Los Angeles
Supertramp have found the answer to a $64,000 question that's been bugging them for years. How to pay off a debt to their Dutch uncle.
He's known simply as Sam, a millionaire from Holland who "adopted" the two founder-members of the group, Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, in the early seventies and sank a lot of money in their future.
The group split up in disharmony after making only two albums…having spent $64,000 of Sam's money with nothing in return.
It was a case of third time lucky with their next line-up.
Their records began to sell and today the group is so successful they could pay back every penny they owe…if Same would only agree to take the money!
Instead, the group dedicated their album "Crime of the Century" to him…and it's just earned a golden disc for selling 500,000 copies in America.
Supertramp moved to the States "lock, Stock and barrel" eighteen months ago and are currently preparing for the second leg of an extensive tour over there.
"We're looking forward to coming back to England in October but I think that to b certain extent we had outplayed ourselves at home," John Helliwell , who plays wind instruments with the group, told me.
"We couldn't do the usual trick of jumping on to a big name group's tour because it takes so long to set up our equipment.
"So we started off in the great land of opportunity heading and of course, at first we lost money." Supertramp's latest album, "Even in the Quietest Moments" has also just won a gold disc in America.
John puts down the style of the new album to the 'maturing and mellowing' of Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson.
They are the group's writers.
"Roger is for ever searching," says John. He meditates regularly and Babajee - one of the tracks on the record - is supposed to be an Indian guru who lives for ever.
"Rick is totally opposite to Roger. That is why the two of them gel so perfectly in their work. Rick is very down-to-earth. He is married now and that has obviously made him a lot happier."
Supertramp are happy enough making a temporary home in America, although they do miss certain typically British pleasures. Like?
"Fish and chips and English pubs," said John, with a wistful eye on Autumn.
A Tale of Supertramp, Organic Fruit Juice
The Burlington Free Press
Friday, June10, 1977
By Susan Green
Why is it that nothing ever happens quite normally in this state? Everything seems to be touched by some strange little twist of fate, perhaps just to remind us that we're mere specks in the great scheme of things.
The scheme of things Tuesday morning did not appear to hold much promise of an interview with Supertramp, the band that played rock music's swan song a Memorial Auditorium Monday. After a night of sheer chaos trying to hear the concert, I was too worn out to ask any intelligent questions of the three Englishmen, one Scotsman and one American who comprise Supertramp.
So, a tentative appointment was set up for the next morning with the group's publicist, who promised to round up the ban members. The publicist was unable to locate anyone, so I calmly went about my business, which, in the early afternoon, included a shopping trip to a local health foods store.
As I was bending over a barrel of brown rice, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the guitarist-vocalist-composer of Supertramp squeezing organic grapefruits at the other end of the store.
I introduced myself to Roger Hodgson, whose high-pitched, intriguing voice had so captured the imaginations of the high-school-age audience the night before. He introduced me to the bass player, Dougie Thomson, and we made arrangements for an interview after completing our purchases.
Back in the kitchen, over a few cups of red clover tea, we got down to talking about Supertramp's brand of music.
"If we come play here again, we'll bring security with us," said Hodgson, a native of Oxford, England. "It's a nice place to play. There is nothing wrong with those kids (at the concert). There was a communication breakdown".
"We've always thought that our music was kind of contrary to violence. We like to hypnotize people with the light show. They get off on the words and the music," Thomson said in a lilting Glasgow Scots accent.
I asked them about the words in "School" from their popular album "Crime of the Century." For example: "Don't do this and don't do that, What are they trying to do? Make a good boy of you, Do they know where isn't at? Don't criticize. They're old and wise, don't want the devil to, Come and put out your eyes…Maybe I'm mistaken expecting you to fight…."
Hodgson thought a moment. "There are two different types of revolutions in lyrics. One that just incites listeners to stand up and start shouting 'This is wrong. This is wrong.' Any one that suggests they become aware of what's really happening and change themselves and bring about a change. The world needs that now," he said.
"The song 'School' is putting down the educational system, which is easy for us, having been through it. Reaching the age we are (both 27) and looking back logically, it (school) didn't teach me much or what it did teach me was how not to educate a child."
Thomson added, "It's not so easy if you're in it. You obviously do get frustrated then." "There are many sides to Supertramp," Hodgson said. "There's a real boogie side, a jamming side, a jazzy side, a drama side - which really is 'Crime of the Century.' It just happens that one side took off. so people kind of labeled us into that."
Both men agreed that each band member had changed a great deal since coming to the U.S., and accordingly, their music has evolved into new realms, one of them being spiritual.
"Music itself is spiritual on all kinds of different levels," Hodgson said. "I'm a spiritual seeker. The thing that most musicians strive for - most musicians that I've idolized in the past - is success. And then when they get there, they kind of fall apart because there's nowhere else to go. And then their writing falls to pieces. Most of the bands from the 1960s, I've seen them go that way. A lot of them either take to drugs or they take to their mansion or their car and they just divorce themselves from reality. Hopefully, if success does get a bit crazy, knowing that I'm looking for something else, will keep me sane."
What was that something else? "Well, just a meaning to my life. God has given me music. Hopefully I can be a vehicle to learn more about myself and help other as well from what I learn," Hodgson said. We all got off on the Beatles' dream. The Beatles showed how music can change the world".
"We need some respect for each other's individuality," Thomson said.
"Rock music today seems to have a void of anything meaningful,"Hodgson said. "In the '60s, there was really hope there, because it exploded, because people were singing about things that meant something. It's a cycle. Maybe it will explode again in the '70s."
"Yeah," Thomson said. "It's become unfashionable to express yourself…to care. People tend to knock it. But basically behind all the facades, everybody's just as confused as the next one."
He feels that America is "the hub of what's happening in the world. All the problems are here and all the answers. In England, people are still walking around with blinkers on. That stubbornness to change is what's going to cripple them, whereas here people are so willing to change."
"I always wonder where songs come from,"Hodgson laughs. "If you knew how Supertramp came together seven years ago, you'd have to believe in some kind of guiding force. If that guiding force is there then there has to be a guiding force for all our music as well. All thoughts and music are extracted from the cosmos, I suppose. The music is just coming through me. I'm just a sort of transmitter. And so, the more positive and purer I make the transmitter, the better the music is going to be."
On their latest album, "Even in the Quietest Moments," there is a tune written to "Babaji," a "very high spirit a la Christ and Krishna."
"All my life," the song goes, "I felt that you were listening, Watching for ways to help me stay in tune. Lord of my dreams, although confusion, keeps trying to deceive, What is it that makes me believe in you?…Babaji, oh won't you come to me, Won't you help me face the music, Bring out so We can sing it out, Help us find it before we lose it…"
After a few hours of tea and conversation, the two rock and rollers rode off in their superterrific camper to the next town and the next show.
Was I impressed by their music and their mystery and their manners? Bloody well right I was.
Personality crisis, what personality crisis?
An interview by Matt Mabel.
You work hard and eventually convince your record company to give you an open cheque book to accompany you into the studio. The result is a huge hit spurned on by a nationwide tour.
A year later you repeat the cycle and become staple diet of both the album chart and disc jockeys who profess to program ‘rock’ radio. The second tour goes so well that a ‘thank’ you gig is arranged at London’s Royal Albert Hall. It sells out.
After the gig you vanish, leaving the album charts and the playlists behind. Another year later, you sit between colourfully carpeted walls at the Record Plant in Los Angeles and say "I sure hope they haven’t forgotten us in Britain".
So says Roger Hodgson after ace Record Plant engineer Geoff Emerick gives the Supertramp co-leader permission to leave the control room where the mixing of the new album, "Even In The Quietest Moments…" is almost complete.
In their own minds Supertramp haven’t ‘moved’ to L.A., according to Hodgson, who loyally sports an A&M Records t-shirt and is pretty shagged out, as the Americans would say, after two-thirds of a day of listening to playbacks.
"We live in a Supertramp bubble. We are each other’s friends so it’s like the English vibe is still there. L.A. is a totally crazy place, none of us like living here particularly. We like the weather and that’s about it".
Since they’ll be touring for nearly a year following the album’s release, there is hardly a question of living anywhere in the first place. Bette Midler cleverly dubbed the City Of Angels "The Home Of Absolutely Nothing" on this year’s Grammy Awards telecast and Supertramp fit comfortably into her definition.
"We haven’t found anywhere we want to live really, although I don’t think we want to go back to England.
"I don’t personally miss it but some of the others do. If anything I miss the subtleties of the English".
Supertramp have taken a big step on the new LP and decided to produce themselves, jettisoning the services of Ken Scott. That move comes as a reaction to their last release, ‘Crisis What Crisis’. Problems Hodgson sees in ‘Crisis have been solved on ‘Even In The Quietest Moments’.
"’Crisis’, he explains with an either-you-laugh-or-you-cry-smile, "came to mean more to us as a title than it did to other people because it was really a crisis album. We learnt how not to make an album, coming right off the road and going into the studio.
"It could have been much better that ‘Crime Of The Century’ but it wasn’t. We had a lot of bad luck in the studio. We really didn’t enjoy making it and in the end it was kind of a patch up job. A lot of people liked it but for us it missed".
Funny how they don’t tell you that before the album comes out. Still. This time around after 1976 North American tours they took a three month planning period, similar to their occupation of a Somerset farm house three years ago planning what would become their best seller, ‘Crime’.
With 40 songs in hand, the band worked arrangements of 7 and had the set pretty much in mind before they began recording at Jimmy Guercio’s Caribou studio last November.
Appropriately, working with material that sounds as if it has come more from the heart that ever before, the Tramp have captured warmer, fuller sound
"Working with Ken we became perfectionists in a way and went overboard on ‘Crisis’ and became perfectionist technically. Now we are concentrating on getting the feel of a song down. That’s why it has taken so long. Some days we don’t feel like playing. So we don’t play.
"Now the sound is not quite so clinical, it’s more live and definitely much better."
Hodgson himself, has discovered the Oberheim synthesizer since we heard from him last. "It’s an amazing instrument, we did most of the strings and a lot of other sounds with it. It gets any sound under the sun".
Two of the new tracks stand out in his mind, one of which is recorded to be the band’s best, a ten minute job called ‘Fool’s Overture’, once had a provisional title of ‘The String Machine Epic’. It closes the album.
If you’re wondering why the ‘Overture’ is reserved for the end, then you’ll have to get into the, er, depth, of the message. The album ends with a conductor tapping his baton on his music-stand after a track dealing with The End Of Everything As We Know It.
With such honest material they are leaving themselves open to plenty of criticism, which, no doubt, by press-time has manifested itself.
The other stand out track for Hodgson is so because he sees it as ‘a hit’, is a voice approaching the Queen’s English. Not that Supertramp think product-wise, of course, but "it will help in America because you really can’t do anything here without one.
"You just write and record your songs. ‘Give A Little Bit’ is one of mine. Obviously if you play the game right it is good if you have a number that is going to be a single.
"Next year we’ll probably put out singles as singles as well. We’ve got songs that’d make great singles but wouldn’t fit so well on an album".
The tour, which begins in Canada to coincide with the album’s release, took a month’s rehearsal. Fans who have already seen the ‘Crime Of The Century Film’ time and time again will be happy to know that it will be taking back seat to a new film, shot to coincide with ‘Fool’s Overture’. There’ll be slides, too.
"The set is going to be really amazing. For a start it will be much stronger cause we’ve got three albums to pull material from. We can pick the ones we enjoy playing and the ones which are most popular.
"It’ll be great to play England again. We don’t want to lose our English identity. I dread the thought of anyone ever thinking we were an American Band.
"After the American tour we do England, then Europe, some recording, then another American tour, a bit more recording after that, then Japan, Australia, and if we last that long we’ll be happy".
So, you spend time on another album, until you are completely satisfied, you aim for the charts and the air waves, and try to remind your audience that your vanishing audience that your vanishing act can’t go on forever. Supertramp’s quietest moments have temporarily been cancelled.
The Albert Hall
February 6, 1976
By Robin Denselow
With no distinctive gimmicks, no great publicity drive, or even much of a distinctive sound – except that their music is excellent and unmistakably British – Supertramp seem to have sneaked in from nowhere to acquire the status of a respectably serious, respectably successful band. That reputation is well deserved, as they showed with this concert at the Albert Hall, but I confess that it still surprises me slightly. The band played well, sang well, and demonstrated a range of excellent songs, certainly. But there was only a narrow margin on all counts that separated them from countless other good British bands who are doomed to failure.
Supertramp’s main bonus was their sheer professionalism. A versatile five-piece, they were constantly swapping instruments, so on one song they could have three keyboard players and on another two of them could move across to bass and saxophone. They could swap around with their vocals and harmonies too. And with their carefully arranged material – with the songs performed as elaborate set-pieces, rather than the basis for improvisation – they kept a careful balance between their considerable store of pleasing melodies and the occasional patches of instrumental dexterity.
At times they showed an instrumental and vocal skill, and a lightness of touch that was reminiscent of 10CC – but without their cleverness or wit. Elsewhere, there were echoes of several other British bands, all blended smoothly and professionally together into a style that was far too clever and pleasing for me possibly to attack, but never with quite the originality or edge that marks out a band of truly firs-class status. They deserved a good reception, but not quite as good.
Pete Makowski traces the success of Supertramp
December 27, 1975
Two years and two months, that’s how long Super tramp have been together believe it or not. Two years and two sensational albums – ‘Crime Of The Century’ and ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ – Supertramp have carved their name in a market that’s literally crying out for quality. That’s what the ‘Tramp are; a quality band who, with bands like 10cc, set themselves high standards that they continually maintain.
Supertramp are: Rick Davies (keyboard/vocals), Roger Hodgson (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Dougie Thompson (bass) John Helliwell (saxophone, various instruments) and Bob C. Benberg (drums). But Supertramp have been around for quite a while in various forms, this line-up is the culmination of years of ‘paying dues’, I caught the band towards the end of their tour, where they reflected on their past exploits which led them to join together on their musical venture.
*"The actors and jesters are here
The stage is in darkness and clear
For raising the curtain
And no one’s quite certain whose play it is."
The story really begins with Rick Davies who debuted his professional career with The Lonely Ones, a band from Folkstone formerly led by Noel Redding. "We worked in England for about six months playing should stuff," he explained, "then we went to Europe for supposedly two weeks but we got stuck there….didn’t come back for a year and a half!"
The band eventually found themselves stranded in Munich. "We were gigging at night and making film music during the day. It was good experience but Germans make the worst films in the world. We were just a cheap way for them to get music on their films. We worked for a guy called David Lluellyn, who was an unbelievable character we met over there. He used to get us all these film jobs.
"The band were broke when Dave mentioned the fact that he knew this guy in Switzerland who was a millionaire. We thought ‘sure pull the other one’, but then again it was worth a try. We were all destitute at the PN Club living on soup. We’d play at the weekends and that would give us enough money to last us through till Thursday then we had to pilfer until Saturday.
"It was on a Saturday that Dave went to see this guy and then he just didn’t get in contact for about three months, and we thought ‘that’s it, he’s gone’. Then we got a telephone call from Dave saying that the guy would be interested in seeing us. We wouldn’t believe it! We were all walking around in a dream thinking ‘this is it’".
AND THEN THERE WAS SAM
The man Dave was referring to was none other that Same, the Dutch millionaire, to whom ‘Crime Of The Century’ is dedicated. Sam was the man responsible ‘for making it all possible’.
Rick: "He had these ideas for us to get classical themes and turn them into pop music. Of course we all went charging down to his house and when we got there we spent the first two weeks playing ping-pong. We had an attempt at getting this thing together. It was completely bizarre, this buy’s music and the pop idea on top of it. We eventually came over and signed to Robert Stigwood and ended up playing the Rasputin Club every week, that was about it."
UNTIL ONE DAY…..
Rick: "One morning Same phoned me up at nine o’clock in the morning and told me to have a look out of the window and I said ‘There’s nothing out there, except an old coach and he said;’ it’s yours boys’, so we got in and Andy (our singer) drove it around Finchley while we played football in the back. It’s only when we started playing the Marquee that it got to be a problem. We had to park in Oxford Street and you’d see a huge chain of people on Wardour Street carrying equipment, anyway that was taken away from us when something wasn’t pleasing Same. I went over to see what was grieving him."
It transpired that Sam didn’t feel that the group were living up to his expectations. "I knew the band wasn’t that good, but everyone was heartbroken when we had to split, we were so close." It seemed that the Dutch millionaire recognized a spark of songwriting talent developing in Davies and persuaded him to stay under his wing.
*"For we dreamed a lot
And we schemed a lot."
"I went over to Sam’s to try and write my own music, so I could get enough confidence to start something off my own back and I stayed there just writing. Of course all sorts of crazy ideas popped up from Sam, like ‘Rick Around The World In Eighty Tunes’ whereby we’d hire a few LAN drovers and go round the world.
"We’d sit in an Afghanistan village and be influenced by the music and then go onto somewhere else. It sounded fantastic but it wasn’t real at all. So I went back to London and I began auditioning for what was to become the first Supertramp."
*"If we’d known just how right we were going to be,"
ENTER ROGER HODGSON – FRESH FACED YOUTH FROM STOWE SCHOOL
Hodgson’s pale, gaunt, almost hawk like features seen either sitting behind a guitar, squeezing every ounce of emotion into each verse he sings, are a complete contrast to the cool, full-faced Davies, who only occasionally breaks his stern dead-pan features with a single grimace or offstage a burst of raucous laughter. This makes up the black and white of the Supertramp writing team.
While Hodgson walks on stage wearing kaftan and jeans, you’ll see Davies on the other side sporting a suit and shirt, looking like a latter day Irving Berlin. Both equally intense, both equally talented, both equally different. It’s hardly surprising that one of Hodgson’s mainmen is Stevie Winwood – they’re both vagabonds of the wind, eternal music makers, living in their own time, their own reality.
"When I joined Rick I had signed a contract with another guy the very same day," admitted a quiet spoken Hodgson. In fact he had been contracted by DJM to record a single under the name of Argosy.
"The single had Elton John on piano, Nigel Olsson on drums and Caleb Quaye on guitar…it also flopped…Tony Blackburn liked it."
When Hodgson first joined ‘Tramp, his main instrument was bass. "That’s my favourite instrument funnily enough, I love the bass more than any other instrument."
Davies got Richard Palmer (who had previously written some lyrics for King Crimson) on guitar and Bob Millar on drums, completing the line-up of Supertramp Mk I. Purpose?
Rick explains: "There was a huge change happening at the time I was away in Europe. That change was like Traffic, Jethro Tull, Spooky Tooth sort of nice up and coming bands, which I wasn’t away of until I went down to see Rory Gallagher and Taste at the Lyceum, only then did I reckon on the possibilities that something could happen, because I didn’t rate myself as a big pop star and I thought to get anywhere I was going to have to be like that. But with the new bands coming up, there was a new standard to live up to and that’s what we were aiming for.
"Roger, Richard and Bob were all aware of these groups, so having them in the band was sort of an education for me. It was great because Richard Palmer was going about Traffic and The Band getting into their lyrics and I had never thought about their lyrics before."
Supertramp signed to A&M and released their debut album in 1970. It was described in the liner notes of their second album as having a ‘melancholy mood’. The album vaguely indicates ‘Trams intention, without really making them clear. Not a totally memorable debut album, just interest.
Rick: "We were very green then. There was this thing about not having a producer. Bands weren’t using producers then, and we decided ‘yeah we’re not going to have a producer’. Paul McCartney’s not using a producer, why should we use one? (breaks into hysterical laughter) it was that sort of greenness" "It worked on the first one", argued Roger, "it had its own kind of magic."
IT’S A LONG ROAD
Rick: "That first year, we must have played to an awful lot of people. We were doing Top Gear all the time, it was keeping us alive."
Roger: "Our first album did sell quite a lot."
Rick: "Yeah it did. It almost took off in actual fact, because we did the Croydon Greyhound where we pulled in a lot of people just once, after that Bob left and then it must crashed."
Roger: "In that first year we were put in a country house together, we didn’t mix socially and the vibes got really bad. We never made any friends because the vibes were so bad, people hated coming up to the house."
TRY AGAIN…THE SECOND ALBUM – SUPERTRAMP Mk II
Rick: "We did that ourselves as well. The second album consisted of a different band. By that time Richard Palmer and Bob Millar had left. We got a guy called Dave Winthrop on saxophone, Kevin Currie on drums and Frank Farrel on bass."
The second album titled ‘Indelibly Stamped’ (a cover sporting a nude female body festooned with tattoos) was a much more meatier effort that it’s predecessor, developing theme upon theme in musical layers, a sound not too dissimilar to Traffic. The same feel.
Live gigs? Well that was a different story…
Rick: "It was all rock and roll really. We used to get people up on the bloody stage and it was just chaos, bopping away doing about three encores, but there was meat and potatoes behind it. No more or less people would come to the next gig."
Then came the next departure. Farrel left to pursue his own career, finally meeting up with Leo Sayer, while the very Scottish Dougie Thompson entered the scene. Like the rest of the band. Thompson is a quiet unassuming character. On stage you can see him bouncing around, pumping throbbing baselines that have become such an essential par t of Supertramps’ sound.
"I joined the Mk II Supertramp about six months before that I was playing in some weird West End strip clubs. I’d played a bit in Alan Bown’s band. That was at a weird period of that band’s existence, when they parted company with Alan and we tried to get something happening, but we didn’t really get anything sorted out at all.
"So I was just looking around for a job to get some money, and then I say this ad for Supertramp. Sometime before my brother, who’s one of our roadies now, had been to London and brought one of their album back. So I had been aware of them. I decided to go along and see what was happening. At this point they had been going through some incredible audition scenes. I remember going to the Pied Bull in Islington and there were some terrible scenes. Rick was there with his crash helmet and sleeping bag. Dave Winthrop had given up hope and had gone to play pinball. Roger and Kevin were they’re trying to get some kind of audition sorted out. So I went in, played my two minutes and left.
"Roger phoned me up a couple of days later, asking me to come down to his house, and it just kind of evolved from there. It really was a strange period for the band, with Dave Winthrop. Sometimes he just wouldn’t come to gigs, and then he’d turn up a couple of gigs later almost as if nothing had happened…very strange."
Rick: "We did one gig in Swansea when the drummer didn’t turn up. So me and Rog split the drumming duties between us, because we needed the bread, otherwise we’d starve. It didn’t go down too badly."
Doog: "Towards the tail end of the Mk II band we did some gigs with Frankie Miller."
Which leads us very neatly to the entry of Bob C. Benberg from Los Angeles, who at that time was drumming with those infamous pub rock dudes – Bees Make Honey. "That was at the time Frankie had recorded an album with the Brinsleys, in fact that introduced us to him," explained Bob. "Frankie used to hang around the Tally Ho and sometimes he’d jump onstage and join us for a couple of numbers. When it was time for him to go out and work, he took us along to back him up and we did about three gigs supporting Supertramp. One of them was at Streatham where I didn’t meet the band at all, I just recognized Doog because I had seen him playing with the Alan Bown Set at the Greyhound about three months before, and the only thing I remembered about the band apart from the saxophone player with a black sax was the bass player who moved around a bit.
"Then I remembered walking in one day and seeing this guy playing drums and thinking ‘hey he sounds pretty good’ and then 15 minutes later the drummer walked in." The guy Bob saw was Rick who began his musical life as a drummer. "A few weeks later we were at Barbarella’s, Birmingham, supporting Supertramp. We did our set, then everybody split, except the piano player and me, we stuck around and watch Supertramp, and they were pretty good. They were the first band that I had seen that I thought were nifty, and I thought I could get on playing with them. After that I was putting it around that they were pretty good. The way I put it was they were the closest thing to Traffic I’d seen, they were really punchy…
"At that time we were doing some of the second album and a lot of ‘Crime Of The Century’," added Rick, "completely different versions."
Bob: "The next time I saw them was when we were playing a gig in Barnet and I saw their drummer beaming in on me. About two weeks later Roger came up to me in The Kensington and said they were going to be doing a new album in September and the drummer was splitting and what did I think about doing sessions for them."
This was a whole different thing to the Bees.
Bob: "In the Bees I never rehearsed for one day. We never rehearsed at all. With Supertramp it was different, the complete opposite. I remember the first time we got together was at the Furniture Cave in Kings Road."
Rick: "I’d never heard such a loud drummer in my life. I couldn’t hear anything except cymbals."
"Yeah but they were pretty neat huh?’
Pretty neat indeed. Bob’s punchy, clipped drum work, along with Doog’s bass makes up an invaluable and distinguished part of Supertramp’s sound. In a way they kind of weld Davies and Hodgson together into one accessible format. Now that the rhythm section had been sorted out there was one more thing to do.
ENTER JOHN ANTHONY HELLIWELL
When Dave Winthrop finally stopped coming to gigs the band sat around and discussed their next move. Suddenly Doog remembered his old playing partner in the Alan Bown Set) the one Bob Benberg, referred to as the man with the black sax). John Helliwell, the band’s musician and comedian rolled into one. Doog immediately phoned John to find that his reed-blowing friend was away in Germany, still a lucrative home for out of work musicians. In fact John was playing air bases with ‘a 20 stone multi instrumentalist."
Doog: "So we bumbled around for a couple of weeks without a replacement and then John came back. So I phoned him up and asked him to come down for a blow. By this time we were working in Manfred Mann’s old studios in the Old Kent Road. So John came down."
Rick: "He had a blow, then he sat down and there was silence for about 20 seconds, and then he did his joke about the Irish man who got a pair of water skis for Christmas and spent the rest of the year looking for a lake with a slope. And everybody sat and I thought ‘who is this?’"
John Helliwell is one of those natural comedians who has a static, relaxed, lunatic atmosphere that surrounds him both off and onstage. He’s also a bloody amazing musician. As Doog once described him: "The man who’ll play anything he can get his hands on."
Helliwell can tackle almost any musical task and look completely relaxed. Supertramp’s music has a certain sense of dramatics about it. Helliwell counteracts it, stopping it from becoming anywhere near pretentious and his decorative illuminations bring it closer to becoming brilliant. He’s also an ace guy.
Take it away John: "I went home after playing with them (Supertramp) and the wife asked me what it was like, and I said ‘yeah pretty good but I think I’ll go back tomorrow’. Then I went the next day and came home and she said ‘well how do you feel about it now?’ I said ‘It’s alright but I’ll have to go again’ and it kept on going like that.
"At the same time I had to do a job during the day. So I enlisted with Manpower and the first job I got was as a petrol pump attendant. Then I got a job screwing nuts and bolts together at a factory in Maidenhead." In fact most of the band had to get jobs to keep surviving.
Bob: "John recommended me to a friend of his who was playing in a band at The Park Towers Hotel in Knightsbridge and I played with them. I had loads of solo spots y’know we’d play about five sets a night, and I had about three solo spots in each set. If that wasn’t bad enough one night when we were playing our second set, d’y’know who rolled in? Carl Radle and Jim Gordon! They sat right in front of me! I was trying to play as good as I can…. but I was really nervous."
On asking Mr Helliwell for a brief resume of his musical career, his immediate reply was, "have you got three more tapes on you?" Indicating that he’s a lad with a bit of experience behind him. I then asked for the shortened version of the John Helliwell story.
"I was with Alan Bown for about six years through all the ups and downs, and then after that when it split up I went and worked for a few strip clubs. No hang on! The first job I got before that was working in a dry cleaning factory during the day and the Celebrity Club at night. Then when I sorted out my tax problem. I left the dry cleaning job and the Celebrity Club and went on to play the Twilight Rooms where Doog was working, and then I got my big break… I joined Jimmy Johnson and the Bandwagon! Then I joined up with Arthur Conley and later on with Jimmy Ruffin. Each one was a step up. Then I went to Germany and I came back in August to join this lot. They said they were making the album in September."
Bob: "That’s what they told me."
John: "Yeah that’s what they conned me into."
Bob: "We still haven’t been paid for those sessions."
Doog: "None of us were ever asked to join the group, we came along, stayed and nobody told us to leave.
Sometime during this period (late ’73) the band severed their ties with Sam, taking them from the lap of luxury and throwing them straight into the cold, had facts of rock and roll. Especially Rick, who before had limitless time to sort himself out, although he points out: "There was almost too much wasted time, you get to rely on that beg money man, there’s no urgency, your life doesn’t depend on it. By the time we left him I thought ‘wow we could sink like a stone’!"
John: "After the rehearsal studios in the Old Kent Road, we used to rehearse under Kew Bridge. Then we got together with A&M Records who hired a cottage for us in Somerset, we managed to wangle a stay there. So we all went there with girlfriends, wives, kids and cats. We were there for about three months trying to get a producer together."
One of the choices was Ian MacDonald: "He was just the wrong person, it was a simple as that," was the conclusion the band came to after MacDonald visited them. Then came Ken Scott, already renowned for his works with Bowie and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, to name a few. "We got him to re-mix our single which was called ‘Land Ho!’ and we dug what he was doing. So eventually we signed a contract for recording on February ’74. The birth of Supertramp Mk III!
RICK AND THE HOUSE
Rick: "That was really bizarre when we had that house, the big house in Holland Villas. This big house, Joe Cocker was in there and there was only supposed to be four people to pay the rent, which was astronomical, so there was 12 of us in the end. There were people in the roof all over the place. I was living in the shower.
Rick: "You should have seen the scene when the landlady came around to collect the rent. I’ve never seen anything like it. She came round about 10 in the morning, and it was like panicsville. The alarm went off, I got up, walked straight out of the door with me pullover on, it was pouring with rain and I just walked round Shepherds Bush. I didn’t have money for breakfast or anything. I ended up bumming a quid off that guy at the Cabin. I expected everyone to be out in the street when I got back. I was surprised everyone was still there. It was like a farce. People stark naked rushing from room to room as they were showing the landlady around, there were people hiding in the cupboards. They were going to check in the attic and of course there were tents in there!
The setting for the rehearsal of ‘Crime’ was a much more peaceful cottage in the country.
Doog: "We had a room in the back with the gear in it and the mixer was set up in the kitchen."
The band spent three months of solid rehearsals, and then laid down some backing tracks for Jerry Moss (the ‘M’ of A&M) to hear, "Fortunately he like them," quipped John, ‘he must have gone back to America and said let them get on with it."
I asked John if ‘Crime’ was an expensive album to produce.
"Well with A&M helping us out because we couldn’t work, it worked out that we’d have to sell three quarters of a million copies to break even, so we’ll be getting there soon enough."
It’s nearly there already."
John: "’Crisis’ was cheaper, not that much."
THE FIRST GIGS
The first time Supertramp played together in their current format was a gig in Jersey for a Lord’s party. A friend of a friend of a friend, of a friend job. "I got so drunk I couldn’t play", revealed Bob Benberg, "so I spent the whole of the break sobering up and by that time the rest of the band got so drunk they couldn’t play!"
The first time the band played ‘Crime Of The Century’ was at an A&M gathering in the Kings Road Theatre. "There were so many thing happening backstage you just wouldn’t have believed it," said John, Rick "We never worked with a full lighting crew so when they went out we couldn’t see a thing. And I remembered on one particular number I had to open a number in complete darkness, I couldn’t see anything so I couldn’t play, which meant the lights wouldn’t go on. We really bluffed through it and hoped for the best."
Since those first gigs the band have toured Britain, Europe and the USA. It’s only been two years and two months but no one can accuse them of slacking, and they still enjoy playing ‘Crime Of The Century’.
Roger: "I’m enjoying it more this time than I did last time."
Rick: "I think it’s taken almost this long to get completely on top of it without worrying about little knobs and switches, so in a way you can go out there and relax. There’s only a couple of numbers that worry me technically.
"Once you start getting on top of it, that’s when you have to be careful that you’re not going to become complacent. When you stop thinking ‘is it going to be alright!’ and start thinking ‘this is going to be a piece of piss’ – it’s only on the last gigs that I’ve thought this is nothing, I can do this easy, but you soon get brought down to earth about it all."
I asked Rick how he felt about the press reaction, second time around.
"I expected a slightly harder time with the album," he said referring to ‘Crisis? "opposite to what I initially thought, I expected it to be good for ‘Crime’ and not for this one. But the press are funny, there’s only a few people that you’ve got confidence in as far as what they think and sooner or later they blow it for you by saying something completely silly".
‘Crisis?’ features a lot of old material (never recorded before), indicating that the band have slowed down writing wise, which is hardly surprising when you consider how hard they’ve been working.
"There hasn’t been a great spate of writing," agreed Rick, "certainly not from me, I think Rog has done a bit more."
Doog: "It seems easier for Rog as he only needs a guitar, while Rick needs to be locked away somewhere with a piano."
Rick: "We need a break, where we can get fresh ideas."
Doog: "We never stopped, and it will have been two years solid work by the time we do stop. The important thing is that the music stays good. If it needs stop and thinking about then that’s what’s going to happen!"
Supertramp are here to stay.
* Lyrics taken from ‘If Everyone Was Listening’ on ‘Crime Of The Century’ published by Delicate/Rondor Music.
Supertramp up the Chart
February 22, 1975
"Where You going then?", asked the cab driver half out of interest, half out of boredom. "Er, Wantage, near Didcot," I replied, trying to sound enthusiastic about a place I
d never heard of before.
"What for?" the cab driver asked while lighting up a 'coffin nail', and desperately trying to sustain the conversation.
"To see a group," I replied, expecting him to tell me how much his kids loved Donny Osmond and could I blag him any albums.
"You're going all the way to bleedin' Didcot just to see a bleedin' group," he exclaimed. The conversation ended. There was no point me telling him that I was on my way to see Supertramp and they didn't really have time to pop into town because they were preparing themselves for a European tour.
I was driven from Didcot to a few square miles of beautiful rural pastures known as Wantage, by Tramp's composer/guitar player and keyboards man Roger Hodgson. Three of the band, Roger, bassist Dougie Thomson and drummer Bob C. Benburg live in a house with their ladies.
Dougie was in the living room in front of a log fire busily sewing his fur coat while the music of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils gently played in the background. Very-atmospheric,eh?.
Like Wantage, everything about Supertramp is unassuming, unpretentious, unaffected. They're not the type of guys who have to say 'oh we haven't changed since our success'.
Supertramp are one of those bands that had potential vibrating from the vinyl of their masterwork 'Crime of the Century,' but I don’t think anyone expected them to achieve success quite so quickly.
From a musical point of view Tramp are complex but definitely not inaccessible. Visually they score zero, which means they're sold on the music, not bad hype. So why the success? The immediate suspicion arises when a band playing good uncommercial music become instantly appealing.
Dis is known as an enigma ja? Well not really when you consider what a state the music scene was last year. Tramp were a rare quantity. Anyway enough of these journalistic ramblings and back to the band.
Supertramp began life a few years ago but there's no point in going into their earlier career as the new and old band have little in common. Supertramp's career begins with 'Crime Of The Century ' a work that was written three years ago by Roger and keyboardsman Ric Davies.
An invigorating, intense piece of work it's only one side of the coin as far as the band are concerned. They're already written material for a new album. "In fact," added Dougie, a man with a broad Scots' accent, "we could have recorded another album immediately after 'Crime'."
The album was produced by Bowie/Mahivishnu man Ken Scott whose superb production work became an integral part of the bad's sound. "We recorded a single a while back and mixed it ourselves," explained Roger, "but the record company weren't satisfied with our job and got Ken to re-mix.
"He did a great job and we asked him if he'd be interested producing us, we let him listen to some demos and he wasn't interested. So that was that and we began to look for another producer. Then Ken rang back and told us he had been listening to the tapes and he wanted to produce us."
The record company PR sheet to 'Crime' describes the album as a concept work which is very unfortunate as it thrusts the band into the depths of pretentiousness. "People are looking for hidden meaning in the album," said Roger, almost embarrassed, "people who have interviewed us even asked us if we committed any crimes. As far as the band are concerned the album is a concept in as much as the tracks flow into each other. "And in that sense every album's a concept."
It's fascinating how the Davies and Hodgson writing styles seem to gel, making Supertramp an entity of sound rather than various individuals under one name.
Davies has had quite an illustrious career, he even once played in a band with Gilbert O'Sullivan, on drums would you believe? "Ric's a bloody good drummer, we want to feature him in the act, " said Roger, "it would be nice to have a part with two drummers".
Talking about drummers the band's most recent acquisition Bob C. Benberg, a tall soft spoken American walked into the living room, stoked the fire and sat himself in one corner of the room. Benberg played in various bands in America "We used to play Procol Harm type material," and he joined Bees Make Honey when he came over to Britain. He saw Supertramp when the Bees were on tour backing Frankie Miller.
"It was at Birmingham Barbarella's and they were amazing. I just knew this was the type of band I wanted to be in." Benberg's drum style is unusual in the fact that he is not constantly backing the band. His drumming is sporadic and embellishes the music, rather that just keeping a continuous backdrop of rhythm.
Roger: "That's the thing about the whole band, we adapt ourselves to the music…whatever it demands. If there was a tune that just needed acoustic guitar, then we'd just use acoustic guitar.
"Our next album is going to be completely different from 'Crime', more rhythmic. That's one of the band's main elements we're exploding with rhythm."
Again, recently the band have achieved the unpredictable by releasing a single off the album 'Dreamer', which is selling very well. Apart from their 'odd' experiences at 'Top Of The Pops' the band seem to be enjoying their new found singles status.
"We've got nothing against making singles. They've just been made a dirty word by the quality of the stuff that's coming out now," said Roger. "I mean have you seen the rubbish that's in the charts now? You don't get the quality singles that were around when we were younger."
Finally talking about live performances, I asked the band if they enjoyed the touring aspect of life? "Oh yeah," said Dougie enthusiastically, "I don't think we could really survive without that aspect of the business."
January 18, 1975
by Brian Harrigan
Roger Hodgson, ex-pupil of Buckingham's Stowe School, is with Rick Davies one of the original driving forces behind - Supertramp.
It was he and Davies who penned all of the songs on "Crime Of The Century," the band's third album and first chartmaker. His musical career started at the age of 13 and progressed through school bands to Supertramp which he joined on leaving school and has been with for five years.
"It started when my parents got divorced and my mum managed to steal my dad's guitar from him without him seeing. I think if that hadn't happened I wouldn't have taken up guitar."
He started on bass but, after the first incarnation of Supertramp folded he moved to guitar. He and Davies are the only members remaining from the original Supertramp and as such they have shared the good times and the bad from the original 'euphoric days when they were 'sponsored' by a Dutch millionaire through to the despair of a fateful Norwegian tour which, according to Roger "ended in disaster."
"We were thinking of just forgetting it when fate stepped in and said 'Okay, you can have it, you can have anything you want.'
"We found Bob and he was just the drummer we were looking for ,for ages. Dougie had joined by that time and he knew John and he was just unbelievable as a sax player and he fitted in well. Everything's gone well from then.
Roger considers Supertramp's material to be "the strength' of the band "It keeps all of us interested and makes fresh demands on us every time we have to do something. I think Bob's playing things now he'd never even dreamt of before.
"I've been writing song ever since I was 12 and Rick and I are still writing all the time.
"The songs on 'Crime' weren't even our favorites but
we recorded them because this was something that had been planned three years
before. Most of the songs had been written for that long . Most of the songs had
been written for that long. They seemed to suit each other for a album so we
decided to put it out. The next album's going to be completely different because
the songs are completely different. I don't know two of our songs that sound
anything like each other."
Roger sees himself and Davies as the main writers in the band because of the bulk of material they already have and are still producing . "It's difficult for the others really to get a look in," he said. "There are so many songs waiting to be recorded it's really difficult to know what to pick."
Roger admits that he doesn't really listen to much of other people
s music now. "All the people I used to like are either blowing it or not writing such good songs. I don't know whether it's me changing or the music scene changing but there's very little surprise in anything now.
"I'm a Beatles youth really and I love Traffic, too. I think they're the band we all get off on. I love the Beach Bays too, although why people keep saying we sound like them I don't know."
Roger is full of admiration for the rest of the band and feels that Tramp have a tremendous potential. "There's no weakness in the band. If any one of the band left it would b e nigh on impossible to replace them really. There are so many side to Supertramp it's unbelievable 'Crime is one side, the drama side, but there's so much humor in the band I think we'll probably get that coming out on stage eventually.
December 13, 1975
‘Lady’ and the Tramp: hot dogs!
By Phil Sutcliffe
I have never known an audience that seemed so devoted to a band as the congregation at Hammersmith the other night.
Nearly every number rated an outburst of applause as if they were Sinatra on the opening bars of ‘My Way’. The reasons are quite different, though, I imagine I sensed an audience which has recognized a considerable new talent and wants everyone including the band to know that they are valued, that they must stick around for a long time and make a lot of music for us ‘cos we need it in this crisis (what crisis?)
So Supertramp are loved – and that’s a surprise. Because they are one of the coolest bands in the big-time. John Anthony Heliwell is the only one who seems to have any personal rapport with the crowd and perhaps his puppet-like mook show bizzy gestures say it for the rest of them: that’s just not their scene. Even their lighting is almost entirely on stage, i.e. no long beams from the back of the auditorium linking them and us.
And their music, delivered with supreme precision as it was, is rarely hit – you – between – the – eyes stuff so the reaction of the comparatively impartial observer is hardly one of excitement. Except of course when they played their two singles ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Lady’. Whether or not they were purpose-built hits they really do it and were the highlights of the set to me because the sweat came busting out on my brow and that’s when this animal knows he’s enjoying himself.
However, even with the academic feel to the rest of the set, some of the new material established itself as quite outstanding lives the 20s melancholy of ‘Poor Boy’ was very appealing, Hodgson’s irate-goblin vocals on ‘The Meaning’ disturbed the appreciative calm and ‘Ain’t Nobody But Me’ saw them get them down (almost) with ramrod piano and strident guitar. I also admired a sequence of fadeout sounding the like of what I’ve never seen a live band attempt before.
Meanwhile, back in the tailpiece, Joan Armatrading, exquisitely together with the Movies, proved again that she is the best singer in Britain, of any shape, size or sex (and if someone insists she’s from St Kitts you got me because I haven’t heard any other singers from St Kitts and perchance there are better). She shiver me spine, she stand me hair on end.