'Counting Out Time' wouldn't be complete if it didn't feature at least one album by Supertramp. Crime of the Century would probably have been the most obvious choice, but we already had several albums to discuss for the year 1974. Eventually we decided to pick Paris, not only because it's one of the most legendary live albums in rock history, but also because it's a splendid 'best of live' compilation which ended the golden years of this band.
The Road to Paris
We therefore bring you the history of Supertramp, centered around the Paris live album. Bon appetite!
The genesis of Supertramp was a meeting between Richard Davies and Dutch millionaire Stanley August Miesegaes in Munich whilst playing in a band called The Joint. Miesegaes offered to sponsor Davies if he formed a new group so Davies placed an advert in Melody Maker in August '69, offering 'genuine opportunity'. Nineteen years old Roger Hodgson auditioned on guitar among hundreds of other musicians and ended up having a beer with Davies. This was the start of a friendship which first resulted in a band called Daddy, which would later be renamed 'Supertramp', inspired by the book Autobiography of a Supertramp by R.H. Davies.
The first two albums of the band, Supertramp (1970) and Indelibly Stamped (1971), were far from what you would call a commercial success. It was then that Rick and Roger build a new line-up for the band with Dougie Thompson (bass), John Helliwell (sax) and Bob Siebenberg (drummer). With these musicians they wrote the Crime of the Century album ('74). The album, which contained one gems after another, was produced by Ken Scott (who also did Bowie's Ziggi Stardust) and became a huge success, reaching number 1 in the UK charts. An UK and Northern American tour followed. In early 1975 the band received its first gold record.
On Paris the following tracks from Crime can be found: School, Bloody Well Right, Hide in Your Shell, Asylum, Dreamer, Rudy and the title track (basically, all but one track !).
Rick and Davies had written most of the songs on the first two albums in collaboration. From Crime ... on, each would bring in his own songs, even though they would all be credited as Davies/Hodgson. The actual writer of the track would also perform the vocals.
The next album, Crisis ? What Crisis saw the light of day in the fall of 1975. The first world tour of eight months that followed this release featured a show which included lights, sounds and film footage. By the end of '76 the band had moved to California.
Paris features the tracks Ain't Nobody But Me, A Soapbox Opera and the short Two of Us. Another Man's Woman, which became a favorite during the '97 tour, can also be found on this album.
Even in the Quietest Moments was the band's fifth album and was again followed by an extensive world tour. From Now On and the epic Fool's Overture can be found on this album and the Paris album. Even in the Quietest Moments also featured the hit Give A Little Bit.
In 1979 de band released their most successful album so far; Breakfast in America. It hit the number 1 position in the charts around the world and by 1980 the album had already sold 16 million copies ! The tour that followed broke all previous concert attendance records in Europe and Canada. In the wake of this success, even their re-released first album Supertramp went gold !
Bon Soir Paris!
The success came as a big surprise to some band members. Davies had even bet Bob $ 100.- that the album wouldn't reach the US top 5. The poppy content of the album consisted partially of material that had been rejected from earlier albums !
The Logical Song, Take the Long Way Home and Breakfast in America taken from this album are included on Paris. Breakfast ... also included the later concert closer Goodbye Stranger.
Some pretty interesting things happened during the Breakfast tour. In LA the band was joined on stage by Elton John and three members of the Doobie Brothers during the performance of Hide in Your Shell. Other songs which were on the twenty songs setlist of this tour but which cannot be found on the Paris album were Sister Moonshine, Oh Darling, Give A Little Bit and Even In The Quietest Moments. The concerts lasted about 2 and a half hours.
Heidi Hodgson, Roger's daughter, was born on April 11, 1979 in the family motor home, just outside of the concert hall in San Diego. Roger appeared on stage 15 minutes later.
When the band finally reached Paris they had already played 108 shows.
In 1980, after a 10 month world tour, the double live album Paris was released, based on 4 recorded shows in the French capital, each with an audience of 3000. The album reflected the goal of the band to improve the existing studio versions during live renditions.
The first album/disc of the double live album perfectly shows the two different sides of Supertramp; the catchy commercial tunes of Hodgson and the raw, bombastic R&B-inspired compositions of Davies. The concert starts with the harmonica of School and the crowd goes berserk. From then on it's a constant switch between Davies' and Hodgson's compositions with the powerful Ain't Nobody But Me, the mega hit Logical Song, an extended version of Bloody Well Right, Breakfast in America (another hit single), the previously unreleased You Started Laughing, Hide in Your Shell and finally From Now On.
The second album/disc contains another two hits; Dreamer and Take the Long Way Home. The rest of side C and D are filled with several less familiar tunes, again nicely split between typical Hudgson (like A Soapbox Opera) and Davies compositions (like Asylum).
Rudy is an incredible track from Crime of the Century and was accompanied by footage taken from the front of a running train during the concert (two decades before IQ used the idea for the footage of their The Narrow Margin).
The 11-minute Fool's Overture is a perfect example of diversity and 'tension building' and features the sampled speech of Churchill which would later be used by Iron Maiden in their Aces High as well. In strong contrast with this epic, the one-but-final song on the album was the very short Two of Us.
The encore for the show was the title track of the Crime of the Century album, which had almost been played in its entirety. During the filmic piano closing section a piece of film footage was shown of the 'prisoner in space' of the original album cover.
The album ends as it begins with the fading sounds of Davies' harmonica opening for School.
So, the Breakfast in America album was a smash hit and so was the tour that followed. Unfortunately the same tour would form the first cracks in the foundation of the band...
Life After Paris
After the release and 1.5 million spectators tour of the (creatively) less successful Famous Last Words, of which the single It's Raining Again was taken, Roger Hodgson decided to leave the band and start a solo career. The In the Eye of the Storm was the first result of this. Thus ended a line-up that had sold over 40 million albums. This success could partially be ascribed to the unique combination of Rick Davies (Wurlizer) piano technique and the commercial instinct of Hodgson.
Roger: "I was trying to find ways to bring the band back to life. I felt the spirit of the band had died. Personally we were not communicating or relating to each other with respect. Musically, the joy and the fun had disappeared. I look to a point half way through the Breakfast in America tour when the band stopped jamming during sound checks. Usually, that was when we got to stretch out and have some fun. The crew loved it and fed off it. I believe it was when we still felt like we were a band because the shows had pretty much become the same every night.
I think when the jamming stopped it was the death knell of the band. It began to feel like it was just a business.
With the waves that I was making at the time and especially having moved to Northern California, 500 miles away from Los Angeles where everyone was still living, I alienated myself from the rest of the band. It's kind of interesting. I didn't quit and I wasn't fired. I don't know what you would call it. An inevitable parting of the ways.
While everybody thought Supertramp was done for without Roger, Rick surprised the world with the marvelous, but hugely underrated Brother Where You Bound in 1985. The album featured the hit single Cannonball as well as the incredible 16+ minute epic Brother Where You Bound with Pink Floyd's David Gilmour on guitar.
After the less impressive Free as a Bird (87), which features lots of experiments with computers and drum machines, and live album in 1988 it became very quiet around Supertramp. The following decade only saw the release of several compilation albums.
Roger also slipped into oblivion after the release of his second solo album Hai Hai in 1987, only to return with a third album called Rites of Passage, an album with old and new songs (among which Take the Long Way Home, The Logical Song and Give a Little Bit), a decade later.
In 1997 Rick's Supertramp finally made its comeback with the interestingly titled Some Things Never Change. An effort to get Roger back in the band had unfortunately failed in 1993 because Roger insisted of Davies' wife stepping down from management position and wanted songs to be credited to the actual composer(s). Both old friends could not get to an agreement about these issues.
The comeback album has sold 1 million copies worldwide but did not have any hit singles. The 'new' Supertramp included Rick, Bob and John of the seventies line-up, plus a bunch of LA studio musicians.
A double live album of the nostalgic 'It's About Time' tour has been released recently, called It Was The Best Of Times. Rick is currently writing songs for a new album that is planned to be released in 2000.
Written by Ed Sander
The above article was compiled from bits and pieces found on the many web sites of the Supertramp Web Ring.