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Music / Supertramp

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The classic lineup, circa 1979. Left to right: Bob Siebenberg, Rick Davies, John Helliwell, Dougie Thompson, Roger Hodgson.

"When I was young it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle,
Oh it was beautiful, magical,
And all the birds in the trees well they'd be singing so happily,
Oh joyfully,
Oh playfully watching me."
—"The Logical Song"

Supertramp is a British Progressive Rock band, that was big in the 70s and 80s, with such songs as "The Logical Song", "Breakfast in America", and "Take The Long Way Home", all three of which appeared on what is considered their greatest album, Breakfast in America. Their most well-known members are singers and multi-instrumentalists Roger Hodgson (who left in 1983) and Rick Davies (still in the band).

Current members:

  • Rick Davies – Vocals, keyboards, harmonica, composition, saxophone
  • John Helliwell – Vocals, woodwinds, keyboards, synthesisers
  • Bob Siebenberg – Drums, percussion
  • Carl Verheyen – Guitars, percussion, backing vocals
  • Cliff Hugo – Bass
  • Lee Thornburg – Trombone, trumpet, keyboards, backing vocals
  • Jesse Siebenberg – Percussion, vocals, guitar, keyboards
  • Gabe Dixon – Keyboards, tambourine, vocals
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  • Cassie Miller – Background vocals

Former members:

  • Roger Hodgson – Vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass, cello, flute, composition
  • Dougie Thomson – Bass, backing vocals
  • Mark Hart note  – Vocals, keyboards, guitar
  • Tom Walsh – Percussion
  • Kevin Currie – Percussion
  • Richard Palmer-James – Vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, balalaika
  • Robert Millar – Percussion, harmonica
  • Dave Winthrop – Woodwinds, vocals
  • Frank Farrell – bass, keyboards, backing vocals

Studio albums to date:

  • Supertramp (1970)
  • Indelibly Stamped (1971)
  • Crime of the Century (1974)
  • Crisis? What Crisis? (1975)
  • Even in the Quietest Moments... (1977)
  • Breakfast in America (1979)
  • ...Famous Last Words... (1982)
  • Brother Where You Bound (1985)
  • Free as a Bird (1987)
  • Some Things Never Change (1997)
  • Slow Motion (2002)

Live albums to date:

  • Paris (1980)
  • Live '88 (1988)
  • It Was the Best of Times (1999)
  • Is Everybody Listening? (2001)
  • 70-10 Tour (2010)

Compilation albums to date:

  • The Autobiography (1986)note 
  • The Very Best of Supertramp (1990)
  • The Very Best of Supertramp 2 (1992)
  • Retrospectacle (2005)

Give a little bit of your tropes to me:

  • Despair Event Horizon: "If Everyone Was Listening", "Lord Is It Mine", arguably "Rudy".
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Their 1970 self-titled debut album, featuring guitarist Richard Palmer-James writing all the lyrics and handling most of the vocals, Roger Hodgson playing bass, and no woodwinds.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: Their album closers usually contain one of these. In many cases, the ending or the opener lasts half the song.
  • Epic Rocking: They have some roots in progressive rock, so it's not surprising. The most well-known is the 11-minute long "Fool's Overture". Brother Where You Bound's title track takes up most of side two.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Lover Boy" and "Fool's Overture," which fades out right before the singing starts.
  • Genre Shift: They started out as a Prog Rock band, but as time went on, they became more poppy, culminating in their extremely poppy Breakfast in America. And still later, "I'm Beggin' You" reached #1 on the US dance charts.
  • Gratuitous Panning: Cleverly used on "Better Days", when it uses clips of speeches from the 1984 Presidential campaign; Republicans Ronald Reagan and George Bush on the right channel, Democrats Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro on the left.
  • Greatest Hits Album: They've released four of them over the years. "The Autobiography of Supertramp", "The Very Best of Supertramp", "The Very Best of Supertramp 2", and more recently, "Retrospectacle: A Supertramp Anthology."
  • Homage: "My Kind of Lady" was done in a style of 50's rock/doo-wop bands. The video really amplifies the style.
  • I Have Many Names: The American drummer Bob Siebenberg spelled his name "Bob C. Benberg" on the band's 1970s albums to avoid tipping off the U.K. immigration authorities that he'd overstayed his visa working with the band.
  • Insecure Love Interest: "Even In The Quietest Moments" is sung from the perspective of one who is self-conscious about his relationship with the one he's singing to. It ends with him asking to come in, in spite of the fact that he knows her door is always open.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "If Everyone Was Listening" ends with foreboding strings. Also, the Fake-Out Fade-Out in "Lover Boy" is very abrupt.
    • Subverted with "Asylum", which ends with a faint cuckoo noise.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: From the revamp to Hodgson's exit was 11 years with the same band.
  • Motif Merger: Of a sort; the cover of their compilation album The Very Best of Supertramp features items from three of their most famous albums: the grate from the cover of Crime of the Century, from which emerges the hand carrying a glass of orange juice from the cover of Breakfast in America, with the glass adorned with the orange umbrella from Crisis? What Crisis?.
  • One-Woman Wail: The wordless vocal melody at the end of "Don't Leave Me Now", sung by Clair Diament. She would add a longer, more complicated line in a similar manner on Roger Hodgson's ballad "Only Because Of You" from his In The Eye Of The Storm solo debut two years later.
  • One-Word Title: Multiple songs:
  • Or Was It a Dream?: "Even In The Quietest Moments" has the singer asking this question at the end of the song.
  • Parody of Evolution: The album cover for Brother Where You Bound is a multi-colored straight example, but the inside artwork shows an Abbey Road Crossing pose by the members of the band, all not too dissimilar to how the "man" figure is walking.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: John Helliwell often serves as this during their concerts as the master of ceremonies. For example in the Paris album, he was talking about enjoying some French cuisine, before listing off some Italian dishes instead and realizing the mix-up.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Bob Siebenberg composed the soundtrack to Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon.
  • Red Scare: "Brother Where You Bound", complete with excerpts from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Asylum"
    Don't arrange to have me sent to no asylum.
    I'm just as sane as anyone.
    It's just a game I play for fun...
  • Scatting: Roger Hodgson had a tendency to do this in many of the songs.
  • '70s Hair: Davies and Hodgson, to this very day.
  • Sexy Packaging: Indelibly Stamped uses a photo of a topless woman's heavily-tattooed upper body as its cover photo.
  • Signature Style: The band's use of Wurlitzer electric pianos is responsible for their distinctive sound.
  • Silly Love Songs: A couple, such as "Oh! Darling!", "Give A Little Bit", and "Downstream".
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: While there are some songs on the idealistic end like "Give a Little Bit" or "Hide in Your Shell", many of their songs head straight for the cynical side and never look back.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Hodgson is a tenor, while Davies has a deep voice. This also goes down to their compositions, with Hodgson's folk and pop leanings while Davies is rooted in the blues.
  • Splash of Color: the cover photo of Crisis? What Crisis? features a man sitting in a beach chair under an umbrella in color, while the background (a rundown factory) is all in black and white.
  • Spoken Word in Music:
    • "Fool's Overture" has a short clip of Winston Churchill's famous "We shall fight on the beaches" speech.
    • "Better Days" ends with clips from Ronald Reagan, his vice-president George H. W. Bush, and their Democrat opponents Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, taken from the 1984 US Presidential campaign.
    • "Brother Where You Bound" opens with readings of news reports and passages from 1984.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Originally Davies, as Hodgson and Palmer-James were the stronger vocalists and handled almost all the lead parts on their debut. When Palmer-James left, Davies took over the position of second vocalist, but Indelibly Stamped still features one song sung by neither (Dave Winthrop on "Potter", the last song with neither Hodgson nor Davies on lead until after Hodgson's departure).
  • The Band Minus the Face: Supertramp minus Roger Hodgson after the latter's departure.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Nevermind three chords, Rick Davies wrote "Cannonball" on one chord, just because he wanted to see if he could.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Originally Hodgson/Palmer-James, then Hodgson/Davies, and then Davies/Hart, and with the first two, there exist many songs where they tag in several times per song.
  • We Used to Be Friends: "It's Raining Again" from "Famous Last Words". "Oh no, I'm losing a friend" indeed.
  • When She Smiles: "Know Who You Are"
    "When you smile we can see the sun"

You're comin' along!