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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 – Vocals, keyboards, guitar
  • Tom Walsh – Percussion
  • Kevin Currie – Percussion
  • Richard Palmer-James – Vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, balalaikanote 
  • 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)
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  • 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:

  • And That's Terrible: From "Crime of the Century"
    So roll up and see
    How they rape the Universe
    Now they've gone from bad to worse.
  • Assimilation Academy: "School", which is the trope's page quote.
    "I can see you in the morning when you go to school
    Don't forget your books, you know you've got to learn the golden rule
    Teacher tells you stop your play and get on with your work
    and be like Johnny — too good, don't you know he never shirks
    He's coming along."
  • Because I Said So: "School" even provides the page quote.
    "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 it's at?
    Don't criticize, they're old and wise
    Do as they tell you to
    Don't want the devil to
    Come and put out your eyes"
  • Big Applesauce: The cover for Breakfast in America is NYC with boxes as buildings and a waitress as the Statue of Liberty.
  • Book-Ends: Crime of the Century opens and ends with the harmonica solo of "School", and their debut album features one version of the song "Surely" at each end.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Deconstructed with "Dreamer", as the person in the song continues to dream on instead on acting on his thoughts. Thus wasting his life while doing nothing noteworthy.
  • But Now I Must Go: "Goodbye Stranger".
    Goodbye stranger, it's been nice Hope you find your paradise...
  • Captivity Harmonica: The intro to "School" invokes this.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: On the original Lyrics sheet insert for Crime of the Century (the album), Roger Hodgson's vocals are colored white, and Rick Davies' yellow.
  • Concept Album: Crime of the Century. Its uniting theme being insanity, or the dark side of society. However, Roger Hodgson says that other than a deliberate connection between "School" and the first line of "Bloody Well Right", there was never any intention to link any of the songs, and any reading of it as a concept album is strictly the listener's.
  • Contemptible Cover: Indelibly Stamped. For those who don't want to look (or are at work), it's the heavily-tattooed upper body of a naked woman.
  • Despair Event Horizon: "If Everyone Was Listening", "Lord Is It Mine", arguably "Rudy".
  • 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.
  • Greasy Spoon: The diner in the back cover of Breakfast in America, based on a real life diner the band ate at across the street from the studio where they recorded the album.
  • 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.
  • Horrible Hollywood: "Gone Hollywood".
  • Humans Are Bastards: The song "Crime Of The Century" is either this or a group jumping the Moral Event Horizon (Raping the universe besides being difficult, would obviously cross that line) depending on how you interpret the fact that behind the masks "there's you and there's me".
  • 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.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: The page quote is from "The Logical Song".
  • 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.
  • Lead Bassist: Roger Hodgson started as the band's bassist.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: From the revamp to Hodgson's exit was 11 years with the same band.
  • Loss of Identity: "The Logical Song", again.
    Please, please tell me what we've learned
    I know it sounds absurd
    Please tell me who I am
  • 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.
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The inner sleeve of Breakfast in America is designed to look like a diner menu, in keeping with the theme of the cover.
  • Parody of Evolution: * The Supertramp 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. 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.
  • 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 Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  • 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).
  • Take That!: Word of God says that "Casual Conversations" and "Child of Vision" are take thats to Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies respectively (and written by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, respectively).
  • The Band Minus the Face: Supertramp minus Roger Hodgson after the latter's departure.
  • The Man: A common theme in their music, especially their more cynical songs, such as "School", and "The Logical Song".
  • The Something Song: "The Logical Song"
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Nevermind three chords, Rick Davies wrote "Cannonball" on one chord, just because he wanted to see if he could.
  • Train Song: "Rudy". Rudy's on a train to nowhere, ...
  • 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.
  • When She Smiles: "Know Who You Are"
    "When you smile we can see the sun"
  • You Are Not Alone: "Hide In Your Shell."

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