Roger Hodgson (above) and Rick Davies (below), Supertramp co-founders, in 1979.
1970 debut album, Supertramp, has U.S. release in 1977
Supertramp’s July 1970 debut album simply dubbed Supertramp, wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1977. For the enterprising American traveler in the 1970’s, such a distribution shortfall could add to the purpose of a trip to England where a Europe-only released album record could be acquired and carefully packed for home into the carry-on bag.
Music for the album Supertramp was composed by Supertramp co-founders Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson. The lyrics were written by guitarist Richard Palmer-James. This was because no one else in the band wanted to write lyrics.
Indelibly Stamped, Supertramp’s second album in 1971
The debut album received positive reviews. Supertramp’s musical innovations were moving ahead so quickly that the first album’s ten songs were dropped from their promotional live mega-tours almost as soon as they were recorded and released.
Indelibly Stamped, Supertramp’s second album in 1971, was a major change for the band to the rock sound. This was followed by the group’s multi-platinum albums, Crime of the Century in 1974 and Breakfast in America in 1979.
Late 1970’s hits Dreamer and Give A Little Bit written by Supertramp around the time of their 1970 debut album
Supertramp never returned to its first days’ output as musician-poets. Though later hit songs such as Dreamer and Give A Little Bit were written in this early period, which add to the debut album’s appeal as other of Supertramp’s first songs definitely make for worthwhile listening.
Supertramp, 1971. Roger Hodgson, Frank Farrell, Rick Davies, Kevin Currie, Dave Winthrop
Critics react to Supertramp’s first songs—in 1970 and today
When this first album of the English prog-rock group was behind them and Supertramp was world famous, critics still had somewhat harsh words towards Supertramp’s debut album.
Critics, while acknowledging that the 1970 album Supertramp offers almost 50 minutes of enjoyable melodies—especially Surely, its lead track, as well as Words Unspoken, Nothing to Show and the 12-minute Try Again—potential upward revisionists continue to dismiss the album’s first songs.
Their main criticism is that Supertramp‘s musical and lyrical effort was too loosely conceived and, according to a review in AllMusic, wanders “pretentiously.” Critics generally agree that Supertramp’s progressive pop music on their 1970 debut album is melodious and poetic yet, lacking compositional rigor, wanders.
Meandering instrumentally among pretty patches of subtle melody is not all bad. Yet, as a new group, Supertramp’s first songs seem to overindulge in the pleasure of making music together for its own sake rather than attempting to make a powerfully cohesive statement.
Mellow and lyrical Aubade/I Am Not Like Other Birds of Prey is the third track on their 1970 debut album, Supertramp. It is one of the best/worst examples of what critics see as the musical airiness and pretension that characterize the songs on Supertramp, their debut album. This song and the rest of the first album, the band quickly put in its rearview mirror. In 1971 they progressed completely to a solid rock sound for album number two.
Rare film soundtrack
Along with Arc, Crucible, and other bands, Aubade/I Am Not Like Other Birds of Prey was featured as part of a rare soundtrack for a 1971 UK docufilm called Extremes. The film was directed by 19-year-old Tony Klinger and 21-year-old Mike Lytton and displayed the adventures and pursuits of young people of that era (it can be rediscovered in a 2017 DVD release).
First two albums are commercial flops
Despite this creativity and critical success, the album Supertramp was a commercial flop. Its follow-up album Indelibly Stamped in 1971 and new rock sound was also a commercial flop.
Crisis? What Crisis?
Supertramp breaks up, reforms with some new band-mates, and releases its third album: Crime of the Century. It is no.1 in the UK
Following these commercial disasters—and before fame—Supertramp broke up. Co-founders Davies and Hodgson recruited new band-mates. Bassist Frank Farrell and drummer Kevin Currie were replaced with pub rockers John Helliwell on saxophone, Dougie Thompson on bass, and drummer Bob “C.” Benberg. The third album, Crime of The Century, preceded by a massive millionaire-bankrolled promotional campaign, soared to no.1 in the UK —and sowed seeds of a following in the U.S.
Breakthrough U.S. single in 1975: Bloody Well Right
Supertramp’s breakthrough hit single in the U.S. was Bloody Well Right in 1975. Written by Supertramp co-founders Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson and sung by Davies (who performs its opening keyboard bars), the song appeared on the newly reconstituted English prog-rock band’s third album, Crime of the Century, released in mid-September 1974. The song features impressive guitar work by Hodgson and by saxman and new recruit John Helliwell.
Bloody Well Right was not Supertramp’s odds-on, or even favored, hit song from the album. That would have been Hodgson’s Dreamer, written when he was 19 years old, on side A. But Dreamer only charted in Canada.
As Crime of the Century went Gold in the U.S. (Diamond in Canada and Platinum in France), listeners in the United States flipped Supertramp’s single and preferred side B.
Bloody Well Right, on side B, climbed to no. 35 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. A Supertramp classic, it remains a staple “on the radio” and in the band’s live shows. In 1975, with singles from Crime of The Century charting, the bank-rolled group toured the U.S. and filled arenas by giving away most of the tickets.
Crime of the Century was the third studio album by Supertramp and recorded between February and June 1974. Released on September 16, 1974, it was Supertramp’s first Gold record in the U.S.
The album, which soared to no.1 in the UK, produced Supertramp’s breakthrough Top 40 hit single in the U.S., Bloody Well Right written by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson.
Band members believed that with this album Supertramp had entered into one of its most creatively original periods.
Crisis? What Crisis? is the fourth album by the English progressive-rock band.
Recorded in the summer of 1975 in London and Los Angeles, it was released on November 29, 1975.
Hastily assembled from second-hand discards of Crime of the Century so to capitalize quickly on the third album’s success, Rolling Stone magazine panned this album and Supertramp came to believe the project was a low point in their career.
Give A Little Bit from Supertramp’s Even in The Quietest Moments…became a Top 20 hit in the U.S. and Canada and reached no. 29 in the UK.
Even in the Quietest Moments… was the fifth studio album by Supertramp. Recorded between November 1976 and January 1977, it was released on April 10, 1977 and featured another song that Hodgson wrote at 19 years old.
Even in the Quietest Moments… repeated Crime of the Century‘s certification achievements and became their second Gold record in the U.S. During this period, Supertramp relocated permanently to Los Angeles.
Supertramp’s Breakfast in America produced the Top 10 hit, The Logical Song. Written by Roger Hodgson, it became Supertramp’s biggest hit.
Rock-star success for Supertramp was achieved in 1979 with Breakfast in America.
Recorded from May to December 1978, Supertramp’s sixth album was released on March 29, 1979.
Breakfast in America became the no.1 LP around the world and went 4x Platinum in the U.S., selling over 4 million copies.
The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Third Edition, edited by Holly George Warren and Patricia Romanowski, New York: A Rolling Stone Press Book, 2001.
ticket stub–“Supertramp with Chris de Burgh – July 9, 1977 – Kitchener” by Ken Schafer is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Even in the Quietest Moments album cover (backside)—“Backside Supertramp – Even In The Quietest Moments…” by Piano Piano! is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Breakfast in America album cover–“Vintage Vinyl LP Record Album – Breakfast In America Vinyl LP By Supertramp, Catalog Number SP-3708, Rock, A&M Records, 1979” by France1978 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0