The Supertramp/Great White North Connection

Occasionally I’ll pull an old post from the old Musical Nightmare site and re-publish over here, usually because I’m bored, and sometimes because I think it needs to be said again. This is one such post. I’ll let you figure out the “why” yourselves.

trampI reckon I love Supertramp because I was raised in Canada. Their music has weirdly appealed to me for well over 35 years now, and I still play their best 4 albums (Crime Of The Century, Crisis? What Crisis?, Even In The Quietest Moments and Breakfast In America) more regularly than makes sense.

Canada has always ‘gotten’ the ‘Tramp; America not so much. The rest of the world has also been keen on Supertramp’s particular blend of sophisto-rock. Actually, America finally got them for a brief while in ‘79 and ‘80, right after Breakfast In America came out and took the world by storm. That album was a perfect combination of pop smarts and prog excess, and as such is highly regarded by American fans, but mostly because it contained the word “America” in the title. Due to a sub-par follow up to Breakfast (Famous Last Words), America and its fickle listening habits dropped them like a steaming pile of poo. Roger Hodgeson, author of a great majority of their hits (Logical Song, Dreamer, Take The Long Way Home, Give A Little Bit, etc), quit soon after and forged ahead with a largely successful solo career.

The rest of the band is, miraculously, still touring and utilizing the Supertramp name to sell out mid-size stadiums across Europe and, of course, in Canada. Their efforts have contained some great tracks, but it became apparent that the two songwriters (Rick Davies and Hodgeson) brought out the best in each other.

A list of truisms about Canada for y’all to chew on, just because:

The beer. My God, the beer!

Tim Horton’s Donuts! Timbits!

Maple Syrup! Real Maple Syrup!!

In the war of 1812 Canadians burned the White house and most of Washington to the ever-lovin’ ground.

Their “Civil war” was led by a drunken, and possibly insane, man by the name of William Lyon McKenzie.

The average Canadian dog sled team can kill and devour a grown human in less than three minutes, and have been known to do so on occasion.

Canadians don’t have much of a taste for powdered bear testicles, but they know who does, and they’re willing to sell them.

They wear socks (black ones, if possible) with their sandals.

OK, ready now.

Supertramp, like most Canadians, have always injected humo(u)r into their music and have never taken themselves too seriously. Canadians are wacky human beings, certainly, and the best comedians on the planet have come from Up North. Neither Canada nor Supertramp, have it in them to be pretentious. For Supertramp, this is the main reason they were never fully embraced by the prog-rock brotherhood. The prog rock faithful have evolved over the years and they’re certainly more accepting to ‘sub-genres’ of prog than they were the ‘70’s, but back then they took their prog very seriously, and Supertramp were not allowed to join the club. They started their own chapter with Alan Parsons, 10cc and Camel, but that’s a topic for another day.

Supertramp made modest, catchy, spiritual, sarcastic, keyboard driven rock and roll, and that’s it. The majority of their output had a weird, very English, sense of the absurd that has aged very well, too. That funky, electric keyboard sound so associated with the band has retained its charms over the years with countless bands having gone on record citing the ‘Supertramp Sound’ as a major influence: Jellyfish, Daft Punk and AIR to name but three.

Supertramp deserves a critical re-evaluation and rehabilitation. Queen, E.L.O., 10CC and even Journey, get their share of the love. Not throwing some their way now would indeed be the crime of the century.

Ooohhh, I just couldn’t resist!