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Supertramp

In 1969, a young Dutch millionaire called Stanley August Miesegaes (‘Sam’ to his associates) gave vocalist and keyboard player (and – at the time -drummer) Rick Davies an opportunity to form the “band of his dreams” and Miesegaes would bankroll the lot. Davies placed an advertisement in Melody Maker.

One of the responses came from a youngster fresh out of boarding school named Roger Hodgson. “My mother was getting sick of having me at home;” said Hodgson, “so she saw this ad in the paper and had me answer it.”

The band were originally to be called Daddy, until original reedman Dave Winthrop suggested naming the band after the garrulous The Autobiography Of A Super-Tramp by W.H Davies.

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The group released two long-winded progressive rock albums – Supertramp (1970) and Indelibly Stamped (1971) – before the flying Dutchman withdrew his support – although he did absolve the group of about $100,000 in equipment and recording costs. With no money or fan base, the band was forced to redesign their sound.

Rebuilding the group and coming up with a more pop-oriented sound (which they dubbed “sophisto-rock”) the band had a hit with their third album Crime Of The Century (1974). Stripping away the long-winded excess of their first two albums, this LP featured tighter, more melodic songs, as evidenced by the singles, Bloody Well Right and Dreamer.

Their music was a carefully arranged, generally medium-tempo amalgam of ethereal art-rock sonorities; power drumming; whiffs of R&B-ish sax; steady jabs of electric piano and either Davies’ bluesy, nasal vocals or Roger Hodgson’s reedy, ingenuous ones – and some of the most tenacious riffs in rock music.

American record buyers loved Supertramp, which resulted in the group moving to the USA – although British success was never automatic for them.

Throughout the seventies, they had a number of best-selling records, culminating in their 1979 album, Breakfast In America which contained the hit singles Goodbye StrangerThe Logical Song and Take The Long Way Home. The LP sold over 18 million copies worldwide.

After that album, Supertramp began to develop a more R&B flavoured sound. The change in direction was successful on the 1982 LP, Famous Last Words, but the band soon ran out of hits. Nevertheless, Supertramp continued to record and tour into the 90s.

Hodgson departed for a solo career in 1984 after making a deal: he kept his songs, Rick Davies kept the name ‘Supertramp’. The agreement meant that Hodgson’s compositions (DreamerGive A Little BitThe Logical SongBreakfast In AmericaTake The Long Way Home and It’s Raining Again) were out of bounds for any Davies-led version of Supertramp.

It was a verbal contract – one apparently witnessed by the other members of Supertramp – and Davies stuck to it for four or five years. Since the late 80s, however, he irregularly toured under the guise of Supertramp for concerts that substantially comprised Hodgson material.

Rick Davies 
Vocals, keyboards, guitar
Roger Hodgson 

Guitar, keyboards, vocals
Richard Palmer 

Guitar, vocals
Bob Millar 

Drums
Kevin Currie 

Percussion
Frank Farrell 

Bass, vocals
Dave Winthrop
Saxophone, flute, vocals
John Helliwell 

Saxophone, clarinet, keyboards, vocals
Dougie Thomson
Bass
Bob Siebenberg 

Drums
Mark Hart 

Guitar, keyboards, vocals