Supertramp was a band that rose to fame and commercial success during my teenage years, with significant long-play record releases that I remember from 1974 to 1979.
I remember “School” and “Bloody Well Right” from the album Crime of the Century and “The Logical Song” from Breakfast in America were anthems for my friends’ and my youth and early adulthood. “Bloody Well Right” might also be among that group of songs always played during that Manitoba phenomenon, the “social evening” or “social” (please see my post on The Proclaimers’ “Sunshine on Leith” for my perhaps jaded memories about enduring those gatherings). However, the song always managed to clear the dance floor as it isn’t exactly a dance tune, so I’m not entirely sure why it was such a popular tune in the explosively-loud context of that type of social gathering, ostensibly arranged so that friends and families could gather for conversation to celebrate a soon-to-be-wed couple. (Again, you may need to see the earlier post; and, I’ll always buy your social’s ‘support tickets,’ by the way.) I haven’t done so in a while, but it appears I just digressed.
I chose today’s song today after seeing the album cover for Breakfast in America posted by a friend on Facebook as one of those ‘ten albums, no explanation’ posts.
On July 10, 1979, I saw Supertramp play live in Winnipeg, Canada, supporting Breakfast in America, at the venue now called the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg. It always struck me as an odd place for concerts, but the show was terrific. Supertramp is the only band I’ve ever seen include their concert sound engineer as a member of the band lineup (as in the liner notes for Breakfast in America). And rightly so; Supertramp was unmatched in the fidelity of their live sound.
It was not only the brilliant instrumentation and vocals of Supertramp but also the band’s attention to the quality of their sound reproduction that hooked me into buying A&M Records’ ‘Audiophile Series’ pressing of the album. I passed along my original copy of the standard LP to a grateful family member at a family party after exhorting to the clan about the quality of my new acquisition. A&M writes on the album back cover, “The cutting of the master from the original stereo tapes is performed at half the normal speed(;) the velocity of the cutting stylus being dramatically reduced results in a more faithful cutting of heavily modulated passages and the general extension of the frequency range.” They also claim to use “the purest possible anti-static vinyl.” The difference in sound was and is still significant to me.
My favourite member of Supertramp was the bespectacled, blonde, exquisitely long-haired and bearded John Anthony Helliwell. He has the coolest name. And when he wasn’t playing saxophone, keyboards or woodwinds in Supertramp, he would mime some of the key lyrics of the songs, and it was a joy to see him perform.
Today’s song is the powerful opener to Breakfast in America and the song, like the rest of the album, caused the hair on my arms and legs to stand on end when I listened to it today. It’s that great. I felt gratitude, reminiscence and enjoyment.
As I write this, one line in particular from another song on the album, “Take the Long Way Home,” speaks to me about how the seemingly impossible challenges we sometimes face in life— like now during the coronavirus pandemic and forced isolation — can lead to either surrender or thriving, development and growth:
“Does it feel that your life’s become a catastrophe?
Oh, it has to be for you to grow, boy.”
(from “Take the Long Way Home,” by Richard Davies, Roger Hodgson)
Another song, “Casual Conversations,” is one I haven’t heard in decades, I’m sure.
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s the official audio for the song from Supertramp’s YouTube channel. (Oddly, a search finds four official versions of the studio track on their account: two of the 2010 remaster, posted on different days in July 2018; one of the 1979 original, also posted in July 2018, and a version from The Very Best of Supertramp, published to YouTube in August 2018!):