September 16, 1983
By David Huff
The End of an Era?
Roger Hodgson, the lead singer and principle songwriter of Supertramp, sat comfortably in his Northern California home. The band had just completed a three month European tour that Hodgson called "one of the most enjoyable tours that we have ever done.” And in a few days, he would rejoin his fellow -Tramps- to embark on the bands' first tour of the United States in four years.
There has been a lot of commotion stirred in the press about the Supertramp 1983 World Tour. And deservedly so. It is the last time Hodgson will ever appear on the stage with a band that he, and the other force behind Supertramp, Rick Davies, founded over a decade ago. Hodgson announced a few months ago he was retiring from the hand to pursue a career as a solo artist and to work with other musicians outside of the Supertramp framework.
"Initially, I thought about doing solo projects outside of Supertramp and still be part of the band," offered Hodgson quietly. "And that could have been possible. Actually, that was my intention to do that.”
"We are at a point now where Rick and myself, the two writers, the two forces within the band, where for many reasons, we kind of need to get divorced before we can be friends again. That is what I call it. It’s not working being tied to each other contractually and having to make albums rather than make albums because we want to.”
"I am certainly open for the future. Maybe three or four years down the line, we will feel like working together. But, at the moment, it is pretty clear that we need to go and spread our wings.”
To say that Hodgson won't be missed from the Supertramp line-up is a gross understatement. Hodgson has penned some of the classic Supertramp songs. like "Fool's Overture,” "School," "Dreamer,” "The Logical Song,” "Give A Little Bit,” "Take The Long Way Home,” and "Breakfast In America,” to name a few. Because of the tremendous amount of airplay those songs have received, subsequently. Hodgson has become known as the 'voice' of Supertramp.
To set the record straight, Hodgson had actually decided to retire from Supertramp after the band's strenuous Breakfast In America tour in 1979, which he says, nearly destroyed the band mentally and physically.
"Up until Breakfast In America, there really were magical feelings when writing and recording Supertramp material,” said Hodgson as he pointed in the direction of the platinum Super-tramp albums that decorate the wall of his modest secluded home some 500 miles north of Los Angeles.
"We had a very close kind of family feeling for a long, long time really, up until Breakfast In America. Breakfast is really where it started diverging and everyone started looking outside the Supertramp music for their personal happiness and fulfillment.”
Perhaps today's situation wouldn't have existed had Supertramp not recorded Breakfast In America?
"No. I am very, very happy that it did happen," Hodgson said quickly. "It is a great album. It wasn't really so much the album, it was the nine month marathon tour that followed it. We did 120 shows in nine months and almost killed ourselves and killed the band as well.”
“It was during that tour really that the songs began to sound very, very tired and very, very old. I felt like I needed to do something else and probably should have gone and made the decision to leave straight after that tour at the end of '79. However, it wasn't the time to talk after the tour, so we took two years off and got back together again, did another album, …Famous Last Words, to see if it could work again, It didn't.”
The failure of ...Famous Last Words to duplicate the success of Breakfast In America shouldn't be considered the final nail that was driven into the Supertramp coffin as far as Hodgson was concerned. As he is careful to point out, even though ...Famous Last Words was a traumatic experience to record, there are other albums in Supertramp's past that also proved very difficult to deal with as far as the band was concerned.
"Really, it comes down to what is happening in one's life at the time an album is recorded as to whether a project is magical or it's not," said Hodgson dutifully.
"Breakfast was magical. Crime of the Century, was magical, Crisis. What Crisis, there was a lot of crisis things happening in our personal lives and it didn't go the way that we wanted it. Even in the Quietest Moments was pretty traumatic. It didn't come out exactly the way we wanted it.”
"The albums that are successes really stem from having a good time making them. There are a set of circumstances that make for a chemistry that makes magic, and I think that that is the main ingredient. You can never tell when that is going to happen."
Supertramp started out like so many English bands in its day, a couple of aspiring musicians who meet and find that musically they both gel together. In the early years. Davies and Hodgson had a difficult time finding the right musicians to make the music that today is instantly recognizable around the world.
"It was very tough to find the right musicians to make Supertramp in the beginning,” recalled Hodgson. "It took about five years to do and many, many auditions. We must have seen over 400 drummers. 50 bass players, and about 50 guitarists. For the first five years. I was constantly changing from bass guitar to lead guitar just because we couldn't find whichever one at the time, and whichever one we couldn't find. I would take up that instrument."
Supertramp finally stabilized with Even in the Quietest Moments, That album spawned two tremendous singles, the title song and "Fool's Overture," that brought Supertramp to the attention of the world.
"When Supertramp started out, we never had a conscious goal apart from just trying to do everything the best way that we could," said Hodgson. "There are a lot of perfectionists in the band.”