Album: Breakfast in America
. . .
I never bought a Supertramp album; I never saw a Supertramp concert. And yet, I know all their 1974-1979 albums very very well. Why? Because I lived in Fresno, California, one of the biggest hotbeds of Supertramp fandom in, well, the world.
How big? In 1977, then-mayor Daniel K. Whitehurst gave them the Key to The City of Fresno. Two years before Breakfast in America made them multi-platinum, chart-topping stars. Weirdly, the only reason I remember this is that I read about it in Creem Magazine, which was clearly my main source of Fresno music news in the late 1970s.
That said, even in Fresno, Breakfast in America was another level of stardom for Supertramp. To the point where you didn’t just hear their music on the radio, you also heard it at parties, alongside AC/DC, Journey and Van Halen. You know, the big boys.
And so, their self-proclaimed “fun” album came out at time when other prog bands — Genesis, Rush — were testing out writing pop songs, and in essence getting to where Supertramp (and to be fair, Pink Floyd, who were topping the charts) had been since 1974, and was anchored by four ace prog-pop tunes: “Breakfast in America,” “Goodbye Stranger,” “Take The Long Way Home” and their biggest hit of all, “The Logical Song.”
Anchored by Roger Hodgson’s electric piano, “The Logical Song” crammed a lot of 50-cent words telling his dime-a-dozen story about how school and society tried to take away his sense of wonderment.
When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh, it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well, they’d be singing so happily
Oh, joyfully, oh, playfully watching me
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh, responsible, practical
And then they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Oh, clinical, oh, intellectual, cynical
I mean, this isn’t so far off from what Roger Waters was going after with the dread “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” though it wasn’t nearly as dark, and Waters would never steal so shamelessly from both the Kinks and the Beatles on his chorus.
There are times when all the world’s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned?
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am
Me, I’ll take those steals over a fucking children’s chorus any day of the week, and I’ll especially take how “The Logical Song” got more fun as it went along, Hodgson taking the piss as soon as the opening of the second verse, which has one of the most unexpected uses of The Handclap Rule — handclaps make good songs great and great songs immortal — ever.
I said, now, watch what you say, they’ll be calling you a radical
A liberal, oh, fanatical, criminal
Oh, won’t you sign up your name? We’d like to feel you’re acceptable
Respectable, oh, presentable, a vegetable
Oh, take, take, take it, yeah
As relentlessly catchy as “The Logical Song” is, instead of immediately going to the second chorus, there a sax solo from John Helliwell, breaking the song up enough that when the second chorus appears, you’re going to notice the extra background vocals from Rick Davies and Hodgson’s singing on the three repetitions of “whoo I ammmmmmmm” that lead into the outro, which is basically a joyful call-and-response between Hodgson and Helliwell where Hodgson spits out a word and Helliwell tosses out a sax sound effect. Except for the word “digital,” of course.
Hell, there’s more fun in the ending of “The Logical Song” than there is in the entire The Wall album.
Anyways, “The Logical Song” was Supertramp’s biggest hit ever, topping out here at #6 and #7 in the U.K. And while some of their singles made the top 20, it was definitely their pinnacle.
After the Breakfast in America juggernaut — it topped the charts all over the world — they did the inevitable live album, and the follow-up, 1982’s presciently-titled …Famous Last Words… also topped charts, though I bet you can’t name a single song from it. Outside of maybe “It’s Raining Again” which I’d totally forgotten about. After that, Roger Hodgson left the band, and while Rick Davies and John Helliwell occasionally released Supertramp (or “Supertramp” if you wanna be pissy about it) albums from 1985 through 2002, that went as well as you might expect, though I’ll admit I haven’t heard any of them.
“The Logical Song”
“The Logical Song” Live in Paris, 1979
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