Top 10 Supertramp Songs
Supertramp were many things during the few years in which they were reliable hitmakers: art-rock proggers, post-Beatle popsters, kinda-classical rockers. They moved from esoteric cult band to the top of the charts — undoubtedly hastened by the core group’s relocation from the U.K. to the shiny sunscapes of Los Angeles in 1977. But the early-’80s split between co-founders Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson aided the band’s quick slide off the charts. Supertramp have soldiered on without Hodgson, and not even the prospects of a quick-cash reunion tour can bring the band’s creative center back together. Our list of the Top 10 Supertramp Songs highlights the core duo’s best years.
Having trafficked in a Pink Floyd-style of progressive rock on their first two albums, Supertramp began to find a steady lineup — and their own art-pop sound — on their third record. That’s nowhere more apparent than on ‘Dreamer,’ a diaphanous slice of sentiment credited to both of the band’s founders, Hodgson and Davies. The song would eventually reach the Top 15 in the U.K., helping ‘Crime of the Century’ become Supertramp’s first gold LP.
‘Breakfast in America’
Capturing a young kid’s fanciful dreams of one day visiting this U.S., this Top 10 U.K. hit reflects the song’s own beginnings. Hodgson originally made a pass at the song at as a teen; later, Davies helped sharpen the lyrics. And the title track to Supertramp’s biggest album was born.
‘Take the Long Way Home’
The final song composed for the blockbuster ‘Breakfast in America’ album would become the record’s fourth single. Hodgson’s ‘Take the Long Way Home’ would also mark Supertramp’s last trip to the Top 10. By 1985’s ‘Brother Where You Bound,’ Davies would be carrying on without Hodgson.
One of the best representations on our list of the Top 10 Supertramp Songs of how the group, when not constructing compact radio hits, could unfurl endlessly intriguing long-form compositions. Episodic and delightfully proggy, this 11-minute, album-closing sound collage features excerpts from Winston Churchill’s legendary “Never Surrender” speech to the House of Commons in 1940, a flash of Gustav’s Holtz’s ‘Venus,’ a reading from Blake and even a snippet of the band’s own ‘Dreamer.’
‘The Logical Song’
A telling examination on the loss of childhood idealism, Davies and Hodgson’s ‘Logical Song’ would settle in for a three-month stay on the U.S. singles charts in 1979 — a credit to its Beatlesque sense of cheeky pop-song gumption. Supertramp took pains to get John Helliwell’s saxophone sound just right (reportedly recording in a stairwell, then a bathroom), and dotted the song with contemporary sound effects, including a then-hot Mattel electronic hand-held football game.
The seeds of the band’s best tune, Hodgson’s light-filled ‘Give a Little Bit’ (see No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 Supertramp Songs), seem to have been planted in the elfin, sweetly conveyed ‘Sister Moonshine.’ A highlight on a rush-job album that was perfectly named, the track perfectly illustrates how Supertramp’s group dynamic — from the tight interplay between Davies and John Helliwell on woodwinds and harmonica to the cascading rhythm from Dougie Thomson and Bob Siebenberg — always served to elevate Hodgson’s best moments.
This snarky kiss-off from Davies, a hit single, showcases the band’s predilection for the Wurlitzer that goes at least as far back as ‘Dreamer’ — not to mention a deeply effective shared vocal that underscores what Supertramp have been missing since Hodgson’s departure. Following 1982’s ‘Famous Last Words,’ it was “Goodbye Roger.”
This jazz fusion-informed gem has long been obscured by ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Bloody Well Right’ from the same album (see elsewhere on our list of the Top 10 Supertramp Songs). That’s a shame. From its free-form creativity and plaintive lyric (part nostalgia, part fitful rebellion) to its stirring musical specificity (the vivid piano lead, the growling harmonica, the thudding bass), ‘School’ remains an often-neglected Supertramp manifesto.
‘Bloody Well Right’
Though originally issued as the B-side to ‘Dreamer,’ ‘Bloody Well Right’ became Supertramp’s first-ever Top 40 U.S. hit. And for good reason — voiced by Davies, the song features a sharp anti-authoritarian streak, not to mention what was then considered a naughty word in the U.K. right there in the title. Careful listeners quickly connected this song back to ‘School,’ which shared a theme of questioning the education system.
‘Give a Little Bit’
Hodgson’s singalong paean to the Golden Rule has since completely transcended its respectable, but not massively huge, No. 15 showing on the charts. ‘Give a Little Bit’ became a personal anthem for Hodgson, but it could also be found in countless movies (including the original 1978 version of ‘Superman’), in a string of Gap commercials in 2001, as part of numerous charitable causes and all over the radio again when the Goo Goo Dolls recorded a mid-2000s remake that went Top 40.