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BOB SIEBENBERG in Modern Drummer, December 15, 2014

Supertramp’s Bob Siebenberg

Bob Siebenberg By Jane-Magarigal

December 15, 2014
Posted in: Drummers, Feature Stories

Reflecting on the fortieth anniversary of the band’s classic "Crime of the Century" album
by Adam Budofsky

Supertramp has always been tough to categorize. Is it a pop band with a fondness for complex arrangements, a progressive-rock band with impeccable pop smarts, or something else entirely? One thing’s for sure: Difficulties categorizing the group seemed not to hurt its popularity, as a string of hit albums, including Even in the Quietest Moments (featuring the hit “Give a Little Bit”) and Breakfast in America (“The Logical Song,” “Take the Long Way Home,” “Goodbye Stranger”) kept Supertramp at the top of the charts throughout the mid and late ’70s.

The group’s breakout album, 1974’s Crime of the Century, has recently been remastered and fleshed out with a second disc containing a 1975 concert at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, mixed from the original tapes by on-the-night engineer and regular Supertramp studio guide Ken Scott, who’d previously worked with the Beatles, David Bowie, and Mahavishnu Orchestra, among many others. Modern Drummer asked drummer Bob Siebenberg—whom Supertramp followers know from album credits as Bob C. Benberg—to reminisce about the recording, which still sounds remarkably vital today.


MD: It’s difficult to avoid superlatives when discussing Crime of the Century. The songs, the sounds, the performances, and the ideas are all so strong. At the time did you feel that you were on to something special and making a leap forward as a band?

Bob: The band was brand new. [Singer-songwriters] Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson had recorded two albums previously with two different lineups, without much success. There was a real feeling of optimism in the new lineup, and we jelled right away. We knew we had an interesting cast of characters and totally believed in ourselves. This was the first record with the new lineup, and it felt like we could do something special. The ingredients were all there. We had label support and tons of enthusiasm.

MD: Your playing is always graceful, yet your parts are often unexpected. The main drum beat of “Dreamer,” including how it sort of slips in during the buildup, is not typical. The removed backbeats in the verses of “Bloody Well Right” are really cool. The floor tom and delayed-snare bit in “Hide in Your Shell,” the offbeat cymbal crashes during the dual-vocal section of “Rudy,” those big flammed fills when you enter the title track—so many cool approaches. Did you make a habit of trying significantly different ideas when you were arranging your parts in the studio or rehearsal room?

Bob: Thanks for saying so. I appreciate it. The drumbeat in “Dreamer” evolved from an idea by Roger. He always had unorthodox ideas about drums, and sometimes it would turn out really cool. These ideas would get sent through my filter and feel and come out the other end. What you mention on “Bloody Well Right” was just how I heard it. It followed the feel of the riff. And, yeah, I was always in pursuit of being creative and solid. My job was to provide a steady but interesting backbone. If it didn’t need a fill, don’t do one; the transition setups could be served by just an extra bass drum kick or flick of a stick. If it needed a fill, make it count. Make it meaningful and keep the pulse seamless.

All these examples you have chosen came pretty naturally. It’s always a process of simplifying, listening back and deciding whether it was cool or not. It starts in rehearsal. We used to tape our rehearsals on a two-track and sit and listen and find the form. Things would evolve right through the backing-track stage in the studio. Once we get in there and hear the sounds, things can change.

The “Hide in Your Shell” piece you refer to was a production idea. By that I mean it’s not what I originally started to play. Roger and Ken pulled that one out on a particularly zany night. I’m [actually] playing it pretty straight in there. It’s a cool beat that sits up and hovers and always sits back down on the 1.

MD: There’s such clarity to your stick work. Did you have rudimental training when you were coming up?

Bob: I would have to admit I’ve had no rudimental training. It’s all seat of the pants. It’s how I learned to play—listening, emulating, and feeling. I grew up playing in bands. I never lived anywhere where I could practice.

MD: More than many drummers, you really work the floor toms into your creative ideas. The fills leading into the choruses of “Asylum,” for instance, are so powerful. And the way they’re treated with reverb there makes them sound even more dramatic. One could imagine these types of moments being the result of discussions between the band and Ken Scott. Was that the case?

Bob: Well, to begin with, we were so fortunate to have Ken at the helm. There was and is no one better in the studio as a producer/engineer than Ken. And that’s not to take anything away from our good friend and producer/engineer Peter Henderson, who we worked with on several records later in our career, including Breakfast in America. But it was a different time and stage in our career with Ken. He was totally absorbed and working hard to create something that would blow people away. He set the tone for what our records had to be for the rest of our career.

In the case of “Asylum,” those were the fills I had cooked up in rehearsals and modified ever so slightly in the studio. Ken recorded them and made them sound the way they do. There was always interaction between us in the studio. We were all in this together, and we had respect for one another and were all willing to take direction. Ken included.

MD: The sound quality of Crime is as good as anything being released today, forty years later, and it seems to really benefit from a spaciousness in the mix. Do you recall any details about the recording in terms of miking or mixing?

Bob: The arrangements to these songs are very streamlined and very well thought-out. Rick and Rog were totally absorbed in the process—as we all were—but these were songs they’d been cooking up for quite a while, and they had a pretty good idea how they wanted them to come off. As for the mixing, it was an all-hands-on-deck affair. Everyone had a job to do. All pre-automation, pre-digital—totally handmade.

MD: Do you recall what gear you used on the sessions?

Bob: I had brought over my drums from Los Angeles when I moved to London in 1971. [Siebenberg, the lone American in Supertramp at the time, had previously played with the popular British pub-rock band Bees Make Honey.] I had bought them in 1965. They were champagne sparkle Ludwigs. I used a 26″ Ludwig bass drum, with two on the top, one on the floor. I had picked up a Rogers 16×18 in London. My snare drum was a wooden Gretsch.

My cymbals were pretty raggedy from years of dragging everything around, and they were all Zildjians except for the main ride, which was a Zyn I had picked up somewhere while playing in Bees Make Honey. All of them except for the hi-hats were replaced after recording the album and there were a few bucks around to hit the road.

MD: Several of the tracks on Crime have dramatic drum entrances, sometimes a couple minutes after the song begins. When you play those songs live, are you really raring to go as the tension builds up to those entrances?

Bob: Well, yes, I guess you could say that. Being on the stage with Supertramp back then was a totally focused affair. I was always listening and inside the tune. I would start playing along in my head as my spot approached, and my body would start to move as if I was already playing, and bang. So I was totally in before I actually started. It’s a great band to play in. The band was always very, very focused on the music.




crime cover


Bob Siebenberg de Supertramp

15 de diciembre 2014

Reflexionando sobre el cuadragésimo aniversario del album "El crimen del siglo", una gran fita de la banda.
por Adam Budofsky

Supertramp siempre ha sido difícil de clasificar. ¿Es una banda de pop con afición por los arreglos complejos, una banda de rock progresivo con impecables toques pop, o algo completamente distinto? Una cosa es segura: Las dificultades a la hora de categorizar su musica parecían no hacer daño a su popularidad, con una cadena de álbumes de gran éxito, incluyendo "Even in the Quietest Moments" (con el hit "Give a Little Bit") y "Breakfast in America" ("The Logical Song", " Take The Long Way Home ", "Good bye Stranger") mantuvo a Supertramp en la cima de las listas de éxitos a mediados y finales de los 70.

El álbum de su despegue, "Crime of the Century" en 1974, ha sido remasterizado de nuevo y se acompaña de un segundo disco con un concierto de 1975 en el Hammersmith Odeon de Londres, mezclado de las cintas originales por su ingeniero en aquellos tiempos Ken Scott, que había trabajado anteriormente con los Beatles, David Bowie, y Mahavishnu Orquesta, entre muchos otros. Modern Drummer conversó con el baterista Bob Siebenberg, a quien los seguidores Supertramp también conocen como Bob C. Benberg por los créditos en los discos, para rememorar aquella grabación, la cual sigue sonando en nuestros días con una vitalidad extraordinaria.


MD: Es difícil evitar superlativos cuando se habla del “Crime of the century”. Las canciones, los sonidos, interpretaciones y las ideas son tan potentes. ¿En aquel momento érais conscientes de que estábais grabando algo tan especial y dando un salto gigantesco como banda?

Bob: La banda era completamente nueva. [Los cantautores] Rick Davies y Roger Hodgson habían grabado dos discos anteriormente con dos formaciones distintas, pero sin mucho éxito. Había una verdadera sensación de optimismo en la nueva formación, y todo encajó enseguida. Sabíamos que teníamos un interesante conjunto de personalidades y creíamos totalmente en nosotros mismos. Este fue el primer disco con la nueva formación, y sentíamos que podíamos hacer algo muy especial. Los ingredientes estaban allí. Teníamos el apoyo de la discográfica y entusiasmo a raudales.

MD: Tu estilo siempre es elegante, aunque tus partes son a menudo inesperadas. El ritmo principal en "Dreamer", incluyendo la forma en que va progresando con detalles la canción, es algo atípico. Los extraños acentos y contrapuntos en los versos de "Bloody Well Right" son realmente geniales. Los los golpes de timbales y "delay" de caja en "Hide in Your Shell," los insólitos golpes de platillos durante la sección doble vocal de "Rudy", esos grandes redobles ardientes cuando entras en la canción que da titulo al álbum, tantos y tantos detalles frescos e interesantes .... ¿Tenías la costumbre de probar nuevas ideas mientras preparabas tus partes en el estudio o ensayos?

Bob: Gracias por tus halagos. Te lo agradezco de verdad. El ritmo de "Dreamer" evolucionó a partir de una idea de Roger. Él siempre tenía ideas poco ortodoxas sobre la batería, y a veces resultaban geniales. Estas ideas pasaban a través de mi filtro y se adaptaban a mi propio estilo. Lo que mencionas sobre "Bloody Well Right" fué lo que sentí al escuchar la canción. Me dejé llevar por el sentimiento del riff. Y, sí, siempre buscaba la forma de ser creativo y sólido. Mi trabajo consistía en proporcionar una estructura estable pero interesante. Si no necesitaba un relleno, no lo hacía. Las transiciones pueden resolverse también con un golpe extra de bombo, o un click de caja. Si se necesita un relleno, haz la cuenta, dale un sentido, y mantén el pulso sin fisuras.

Todos estos ejemplos que has elegido surgieron de manera bastante natural. Se trata siempre de un proceso de simplificación, a base de escuchar lo probado, y decidir si era interesante o no. Se inicia en el ensayo. Solíamos usar una simple grabadora de dos pistas y luego nos sentábamos a escuchar y encontrar la forma. Luego se evolucionaba en el estudio, a partir de las pistas que íbamos grabando. Una vez que escuchamos los sonidos, las cosas pueden cambiar.

Tu referencia a "Hide in Your Shell" fué una idea durante la producción. Quiero decir que no es lo que yo empecé a tocar originalmente. Fué una ocurrencia de Roger y Ken durante una disparatada noche en el estudio. De hecho lo que hago en esa parte es muy sencillo. Un ritmo curioso que sube y baja para volver a empezar.

MD: Se aprecia tanta claridad en tu trabajo con las baquetas. ¿Realizaste algún aprendizaje básico para empezar a tocar?

Bob: Tengo que admitir que no recibí ninguna clase. Todo ha sido a base de tocar y tocar. Es la forma en que aprendí, a base de escuchar y tocar, imitando, sintiendo. Crecí tocando en bandas. Nunca viví en un lugar donde pudiera practicar.

MD: Trabajas mucho con los timbales en tus ideas creativas, más que la mayoría de baterías. Los rellenos que conducen hacia los coros de "Asylum", por ejemplo, son tan poderosos. Y la forma en que están tratados con reverb hace que suenen aún con más dramatismo. Uno podría imaginar este tipo de momentos son el resultado de las conversaciones entre la banda y Ken Scott. ¿Fué así?

Bob: Bueno, para empezar, hay que remarcar lo muy afortunados que éramos de tener a Ken en el timón. Nunca ha habido nadie mejor que Ken en un estudio como productor/ingeniero. Y con eso no quiero quitarle meritos a nuestro buen amigo y productor/ingeniero Peter Henderson, con el que trabajamos en varios discos posteriormente en nuestra carrera, incluyendo "Breakfast in America". Pero con ken fué un momento y etapa diferente en nuestra carrera. Estaba totalmente absorto y trabajó muy duro para crear algo que impactase a la gente. Él estableció la pauta de lo que iban a ser nuestros discos el resto de nuestra carrera.

En el caso de "Asylum", esos eran los rellenos que había ido cocinando en los ensayos, y ligeramente modificados en el estudio. Ken los grabó e hizo sonar en la manera en que lo hacen. Siempre hubo interacción entre nosotros en el estudio. Estábamos todos juntos en esto, y sentíamos mucho respeto por el otro y todos estaban dispuestos a tomar siempre la mejor dirección, incluido Ken.

MD: La calidad de sonido de “Crime of the century” es tan buena como cualquier álbum actual, cuarenta años más tarde, y parece beneficiarse realmente de un extenso trabajo en las mezclas. ¿Recuerdas algún detalle acerca de la grabación en términos de microfonía o mezclas?

Bob: Los arreglos de esas canciones están eficazmente diseñados y muy bien pensados. Rick y Roger se volcaron totalmente en el proceso, como el resto, pero eran las canciones que habían estado cocinando durante bastante tiempo, y tenían una idea bastante clara de hasta dónde querían llegar. En cuanto a las mezclas, todos nos implicamos. Todo el mundo tenía algo que aportar. Eran tiempos previos a la automatización, y digitalización, todo el trabajo era totalmente artesanal.

MD: ¿Recuerdas qué equipo utilizaste en aquellas sesiones?

Bob: Llevé conmigo mi batería desde Los Angeles cuando me mudé a Londres en 1971. [Siebenberg, el único estadounidense en Supertramp en ese momento, había tocado previamente con la popular banda británica de pub-rock "Bees Make Honey"] Una Champagne Sparkle de Ludwig que había comprado en 1965. Usaba un bombo Ludwig de 26", con dos timbales en la parte superior, y otro en el suelo, un Rogers 16 × 18 que conseguí en Londres. Mi caja era una Gretsch de madera.

Los platillos estaban bastante maltrechos tras años de uso, y todos ellos eran Zildjian, excepto el ride principal, que era un Zyn que había conseguido en alguna parte mientras tocaba con "Bees Make Honey". Todos ellos, excepto los hi-hats fueron reemplazados tras la grabación del álbum, con el dinero que conseguí.

MD: Algunas canciones del “Crime of the century” tienen entradas de batería muy impactantes, a veces incluso un par de minutos después del comienzo de la canción. Cuando las interpretas en vivo, ¿ te van aumentando las ganas de empezar a tocar mientras la tensión se acumula en esas entradas?

Bob: Bueno, sí, supongo que se podría decir que es así. Estar sobre el escenario con Supertramp en esos tiempos requería total concentración. Yo siempre estaba escuchando y muy metido en la melodía. Empezaba a tocar en mi cabeza a medida que se aproximaba mi momento de entrar, y mi cuerpo empezaba a moverse como si yo ya estaviera tocando y golpeando. Así que en realidad yo ya estaba totalmente en situación antes de empezar. Es una gran banda en la que tocar, y siempre ha estado muy, muy centrada en la música.


La historia del Crimen del siglo 40 Aniversario


La historia del crimen del siglo

Se acaban de cumplir 40 años de la publicación de 'Crime of the Century', la obra maestra de Supertamp. Roger Hodgson recuerda su gestación

JULIÁN RUIZ Actualizado: 16/12/2014 04:17 horas

Source: El Mundo

Es maravilloso desarrollar la historia de la creación de una obra maestra a través de comentarios, anécdotas y secretos de uno de sus creadores. Ni más ni menos que los de Roger Hodgson, que junto con Rick Davies creó, compuso y grabó uno de los álbumes históricos de los años setenta. Hace justo cuarenta años.

Es decir, el inconmensurable, casi divino 'Crime of the Century', desarrollado y grabado a lo largo del año 1974. Para muchos críticos, junto con 'The Dark side of the Moon' de los inmensos Pink Floyd y 'Tubular Bells' de Mike Oldfield , él disco clave. Finalmente, el aficionado a la música empezó a no conformarse tan sólo con el pequeño single de éxito, sino que comenzó masivamente a comprar la historia de un artista a través de un disco de vinilo de 12 pulgadas, con una bella portada, a 33 1/3 revoluciones por minuto.

Casi se nos ha olvidado esa maravillosa ceremonia de escuchar el bello vinilo, la obra de tu artista favorito. Sólo a los veinte o veinticinco minutos tenías que levantarte para darle la vuelta. Me une cierta complicidad con Roger Hodgson . Así que se ha prestado con mucho mucho énfasis en recordarme que "es como una obra imposible de hacer en estos días. En la actualidad, hay demasiada prisa por elaborar un disco. Tampoco hay paciencia en el estudio. Recuerdo que llegamos a tener una sesenta canciones para poder hacer 'Crime of the Century'. Nos sobró mucho material que incluso utilizamos para los álbumes siguientes", por ejemplo el fantástico 'From now on', que no vio la luz hasta el disco 'Even in the quietest moments', más de dos años después.

Quiebra mental y económica

A comienzo del año 1974, Supertramp estaban al borde de la disolución. Los dos primeros álbumes habían sido dos fracasos de venta descomunales y se suponía que el sello A&M inglés, la sucursal británica de la discográfica de Herb Alpert, no tenía ningún interés en un tercer disco del grupo. " En aquellos días estaba experimentando nuevas cosas: me hice vegetariano, practicante de yoga y de la meditación. Eran cosas poco conocidas en aquellos tiempos. Incluso pensé en la idea de viajar a la India. Pero Rick y yo tuvimos una reunión definitiva y decidimos que todavía nos quedaba una bala en la recámara. Tomamos la decisión de vender nuestro equipo de carretera y ponernos a componer y grabar maquetas. Rick ya había escrito 'Bloody well right' y yo había compuesto 'School' y 'Dreamer'".

Y así fue el inicio de 'Crime of the Century'. Paralelamente, introdujeron tres miembros imprescindibles en los nuevos Supertramp. Primero el bajista Dougie Thompson, un escocés de la Alan Bown Set. El propio Douggie se acordó del carismático saxofonista de su viejo grupo, John Anthony Helliwell. El grupo quedaría maravillosamente cerrado con la incorporación del gran batería de Los Angeles, Bob Siebenberger, que reacio en un primer instante a integrarse al medio 'supergrupo', se convenció cuando escuchó las formidables canciones en maqueta de Roger y Rick, cuando ensayaban en la Furniture Cave, en Kings Road.

Pero, ¿que iba a pasar con A&M?. La providencia estuvo de la mano de Supertramp. El ejecutivo Derek Green había cedido al puesto a un director artístico de CBS , que había fichado a Gary Moore y que le encantaba la música de Supertramp. Así que con dinero fresco de un pequeño adelanto de la compañía, músicos, esposas, novias, perros y gatos se instalaron en un pequeña granja en Southcombre, en Somerset, por la que pagaban 20 libras esterlinas a la semana. Allí se gestó como tocar y arreglar las maravillosas canciones de Roger y Rick. "Empezamos a conocernos de verdad. Yo empujé a Rick a cantar. No le gustaba su voz. No parecía gustarle. Pero por primera vez empezaron a escribir por separado. Y una buena canción de uno empujaba a que el otro tratara de mejorarla".

'Ziggy' Scott

El gran Ken Scott fue el ingeniero y el productor de 'Crime of of the Century'. Y el propio ingeniero me contaba: "De alguna manera me recordaban a como se picaban John Lennon y Paul Mc Cartney, en mis días, cuando grabé a los Beatles durante el "álbum blanco" y "Abbey Road". El bueno de Ken, al que entrevisté hace poco por la publicación de su libro de memorias, ya ni se quiere acordar que se negaba en rotundo a grabar y producir a Supertramp en su 'santa santorum', su estudio Trident, en Londres. Para él sólo era un grupito con dos tremendos fracasos. Fue la compañía con su dinero y su rotundidad los que lograron convencer a Ken Scott para que acudiera a un ensayo a escuchar las canciones. Desde ese momento, Ken se convirtió en el mismísimo arquitecto del sonido de uno de los maravillosos discos de los años setenta. Algo que ya había logrado con los discos de Bowie 'Hunky Dory', 'Ziggy Stardust' y 'Aladin Sane', más el 'Transformer' de Lou Reed. Todos ellos grabados como ingeniero y co-productor. Ken era el nuevo Midas del sonido, con esas obras maestras. El mago de la consola Tridente A Range, sus mágicos ecualizadores y su magnetófono nuevo de 16 pistas.

"De verdad que si escuchas hoy en día 'Crime of the Century', te quedas petrificado. Suena increíblemente bien, espectacular. Ken era un tipo muy meticuloso, muy específico, pero maravillosamente técnico y positivo. El logró darnos el sonido típico de Supertramp, el mismo que desarrollamos en los siguientes discos".

"Más presupuesto, esto es bueno"

Roger recuerda con nitidez como se grabaron algunas cosas, incluso en el estudio Ramport , propiedad de los Who, aunque casi todo se hizo en los Trident . Pero con un leninismo proceso de gestación. Desde finales de febrero hasta casi llegar a junio de aquel 1974. Tantos meses era una barbaridad.Tenía que soportar la creación de 'Crime of the Century' un presupuesto de grupo consagrado. Así que le pregunto a Roger de como pudo querer seguir la compañía con un presupuesto brutal para un grupo casi desconocido. "Bueno, hubo un momento muy delicado de la grabación. Pero, sí, es cierto. Jerry Moss, es decir, la 'M' de A&M Records, se presentó un día en el estudio. Me acuerdo que escuchó 'Dreamer' y 'Crime of the Century' y le gustaron muchísimo. Luego supimos después de que llevábamos veinte mil libras esterlinas gastadas en el disco, casi cinco veces más de los presupuestado y que Jerry Moss le dijo a nuestro director artístico que siguiéramos adelante, "carta blanca". Hoy día esa perspectiva hubiera sido imposible. Es otro guiño del destino en la suerte de 'Crime of the Century', desde su nacimiento".

Roger y Rick, finalmente, decidieron que el disco se llamara 'Crime of the Century'. Y le digo a Roger que fue una decisión muy generosa y honesta, porque la canción precisamente no era de Roger. "Daba igual. Era un maravilloso título y creo que la mejor del disco, con esos arreglos sensacionales de cuerda de Richard Hewson. Además, ya habían elegido mi canción 'Dreamer' como el single, lo que se iba a escuchar en la radio. Al fin y al cabo, mi canción fue el primer éxito de Supertramp en listas. No podía dejar de estar orgulloso, me acordaba que la había hecho en casa de mi madre, con el acompañamiento de mi piano Wurtlizer y una percusión absolutamente casera, en un magnetófono Sony de cuenta abierta". Pero el Wurtlizer se convirtió en el sonido distintivo de Supertramp.

El rapto del universo

'Crime of the century' es también el "rapto del universo", como decía Roger Waters (Pink Floyd). Esa terrible combinación de "lujuria,codicia y gloria" que envuelve al mundo. "Estoy más que orgulloso del álbum. Han pasado cuarenta años, pero está más vivo que nunca. Es verdad que 'Breakfast in America' fue el disco de más éxito de Supertramp, pero para mí, 'Crime of the century' sigue siendo el mejor, el único, el divino".

Ya casi hacia el final de la conversación, le pregunto si es posible que algún día que Rick y él se pongan a dialogar, a volver a tocar juntos y resucitar a Supertamp. Roger admite que "Realmente no es algo que necesite. No hemos vuelto a escribir juntos desde los primeros tiempos de la banda. Y sobre una posible reunión, ese barco ya partió. Y una reunión sin Dougie y sin mi no es lo que la gente esperaría ver". Le comenté que he hablado varias veces con Rick, una persona introvertida, de trato dificil, muy encerrado en si mismo. "Si, es una persona dificil de entender..." asume Roger. Así que parece claro que no volveréis a juntaros..... " Si, eso parece".

Un crimen más del siglo XX.


crime cover



English Translation: (Raw version)


The story of the Crime of the century

40th anniversary of the publication of 'Crime of the Century', the masterpiece of Supertamp. Roger Hodgson remember the process

JULIAN RUIZ Updated: 12/16/2014 4:17 pm

It's wonderful to develop the story of the creation of a masterpiece through comments, anecdotes and secrets from one of its creators: Roger Hodgson, together with Rick Davies created, wrote and recorded one of the historic albums of the seventies. It was forty years ago.

That is, the immeasurable, almost divine 'Crime of the Century', developed and recorded throughout 1974. For many critics, along with 'The Dark Side of the Moon' from the great Pink Floyd, and 'Tubular Bells' from Mike Oldfield, the key album. Finally, the fans started to not settle only with small single, but began en masse to buy the story of an artist through a 12 inches vinyl, with a beautiful cover, 33 1 / 3 rpm.

We've almost forgot that wonderful ceremony, when we listen the beautiful vinyl, the work of your favorite artist. After twenty or twenty-five minutes you had to get up to turn it around. I feel certain complicity with Roger Hodgson. So he helped with emphasis on reminding me that "it's like an impossible work to do that on these days. At present, there is too much haste to prepare a disk. There is no patience in the studio neither. I remember that we have sixty songs to prepare 'Crime of the Century'. We overran much material that even used for the following albums ". For instance the fantastic 'From now on', which was not released until the album 'Even in the quietest moments', over two years later.

Mental and economic bankruptcy

At the beginning of 1974, Supertramp were near the rupture. The first two albums were two failures and it was supposed that British A&M , the British branch of the Herb Alpert company, had no interest in a third disc of the group. "It was a time when I was doing a lot of experimenting with a lot of different things. I had just turned vegetarian and  then I was and getting into yoga and meditation. And that was at a time when no one even knew the words. I even pondered the idea of going to India. But Rick and I had a short meeting and we decided that we still had a bullet in the chamber. We decided to sell our road equipment and work to writing and recording demos. Rick had written 'Bloody well right' and I had composed 'School' and 'Dreamer' ".

And that was the beginning of 'Crime of the Century'. At the same time, introduced three essential members in the new Supertramp. First, bassist Dougie Thompson, from the Scottish Alan Bown Set. Dougie reminded the charismatic saxophonist from his old group, John Anthony Helliwell. The group was wonderfully closed with the addition of the great drummer from Los Angeles, Bob Siebenberger, that reluctant at first to join the half 'supergroup', became convinced when he heard the awesome songs from Roger and Rick, when rehearsing in Furniture Cave, Kings Road.

But, what would happen with A&M ?. Providence was the hand of Supertramp. The executive Derek Green nominated an artistic director of CBS, who had signed to Gary Moore and he loved the music of Supertramp. So with fresh money from a small payroll advance from the company, musicians, wife, girlfriends, dogs, and cats, were installed on a small farm in Southcombe in Somerset, by paying £ 20 a week. That was the place for starting playing and arranging the wonderful songs of Roger and Rick. "We started to know each other. I pushed Rick singing. He didn't like his voice. We began writing separately. And a good song by one pushing the other trying to improve it."

'Ziggy' Scott

The great Ken Scott was the engineer and producer of 'Crime of of the Century'. And the engineer himself told me: "Somehow they reminded to me the John Lennon and Paul McCartney "fights" in my days, when I recorded the Beatles during the 'White Album' and 'Abbey Road'. Ken, who interviewed shortly ago by the publication of his memoir, didn't want to remind that refused to record and produce Supertramp in its 'santa santorum', the Trident studio in London. For him it was only a small group with two tremendous failures. It was the company with his money and his rotundity those who managed to convince Ken Scott for him to come to a rehearsal to listen to songs. Since then, Ken became the very architect for the sound of one of the wonderful albums of the seventies. Something that had already achieved Bowie Albums 'Hunky Dory' 'Ziggy Stardust' and 'Aladdin Sane' plus 'Transformer' by Lou Reed. All of them recorded as an engineer and co-producer. Ken was the new Midas King for the sound, with these masterpieces. The Wizard of Trident A Range console, his magic equalizers, and its new 16-track tape.

"Really, if you listen today 'Crime of the Century', you stay petrified. It sounds incredibly spectacular. Ken was a very meticulous, very specific, but wonderfully technical and positive. He managed to give us the typical sound of Supertramp the same that we developed in the following albums. "

"More budget, this is good"

Roger remembers clearly how some things were recorded, even in Ramport studio, owned by the Who , although almost everything was done in the Trident. But with Leninism gestation process. Since late February to near June 1974. So many months that was exorbitant. The budget for the creation of 'Crime of the Century' was like an important band. So I ask to Roger how the company might want to follow with a brutal budget for an almost unknown group. "Well, there was a very delicate time of recording. But, yes, it's true. Jerry Moss, ie the 'M' of A&M Records, appeared one day in the studio. I remember he heard 'Dreamer' and 'Crime of the Century' and liked very much. Time after we knew we had twenty thousand pounds sterling spent on the album, almost five times more than the budgeted, and Jerry Moss told to our artistic director that we go forward, "carte blanche". Today this perspective would have been impossible. it's another piece of luck, in the history of 'Crime of the Century', from birth ".

Roger and Rick finally decided name the album "Crime of the Century". And I tell to Roger that was a very generous and honest decision, precisely because the song was not Roger's. "Never mind. It was a wonderful title and I think the best of the album, with those stunning string arrangements by Richard Hewson. Also, they decided 'Dreamer' as the single, to be broadcasted in the radio. After all, my song was the first Supertramp hit in the charts. I felt very proud, I remembered that I make it in my mother's house, with my piano Wurtlizer, and an absolutely homemade percussion, recorded in a simple Sony tape. But Wurtlizer became the distinctive sound of Supertramp.

The abduction of the universe

Crime of the century 'is also the "abduction of the universe," as Roger Waters said (Pink Floyd). That terrible combination of "lust, greed and glory" that encircles the world. "I feel more than proud of the album. Forty years have passed, but is more alive than ever. It is true that 'Breakfast in America' was the Supertramp most successful album , but to me, 'Crime of the Century remains the best, unique, divine. "

Almost at the end of the conversation, I wonder if it is possible that someday Rick and he start a conversation, return to play together and revive Supertamp. Roger said. "I do not need it. To tell you the truth. I never wrote with Rick until the very early days.  And for the Supertramp reunion, no, that ship has sailed long ago.  A reunion without Dougie Thompson and me is not a reunion that people want to see". I speak with him (Rick) many times, he is a difficult person, he is more introverted. He is very deep in himself. "Yes, he’s a difficult person to understand…" says Roger. It’s impossible for Supertramp to go with you?. "yes, it’s impossible".

One more crime of the XX century.




Crime of the century DELUXE EDITION

December 8, 2014

New Double CD  40th Anniversary Crime of the Century DELUXE EDITION

crime vinylbox

Read more

JOHN HELLIWELL in Cream, October 2012

Creammagazine   , Oct 4th, 2012

Supertramp are a band as definitive of the 1970s music scene as any other. They possessed all the key ingredients required just as the mainstream music arena really began to grow competitive. Up against the ubiquitous likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin (from the more ‘serious’ side of rock) and ELO and America (the somewhat lighter side of the spectrum), Supertramp stood out thanks to a universal sound that combined genres of pop, rock and a brand of new electronica (their main competition in that department was, indeed, ELO – whose very name in full – the Electric Light Orchestra – ultimately convinced the rock fraternity that electro would eventually be the way to go in making music, at least in part).

Each member of Supertramp could proudly boast multi-instrumental skills, dabbling in brass and woodwind here, digital technology there. The band formed in the UK in 1969 and split in 1983 due to lead singer, Roger Hodgson, calling it quits to bring up kids. In 1988, the band re-formed with former members and several new ones. One key player has been John Anthony Helliwell – famous for his saxophone and keyboard contributions to hits such as Breakfast In America, The Logical Song, Dreamer, Goodbye Stranger and Take The Long Way Home.

Four of those singles were lifted from the album Breakfast In America, which to this day makes it into credible music magazine’s ‘best of’ lists. In The World Critics List, music journalist Joel Whitburn ranked Breakfast the fourth greatest album of all time. In The Guinness All Time Top 1000 Albums it was voted #207, and also made the 69th greatest British rock LP of all time in the Classic Rock industry poll. In Australia, Triple M listeners voted the album in at #43 in their ‘100 Greatest Albums of All Time’, and in France it is the biggest selling English LP of all time and the third biggest seller overall (and believe us, there is stiff competition in the music business in France).

As well as playing various instruments in the band, Helliwell serves as MC during their live gigs, one of which – recorded in Paris in 1979 – has just been released in HD on Blu-ray and DVD. Here, Helliwell chats to Cream about longevity in the music industry, the art of the remix, and delivering repeated magic on stage as he and his band does on record.

Interview by Antonino Tati.


Tell us about the release of your Blu-ray and DVD Supertramp: Live In Paris.

J.H: You have to bear in mind that this was filmed in the ancient days of the end of the ’70s so it was not recorded digitally initially, but on proper film. But it comes over very well. It’s actually good to be able to see it so clearly after all these years. Of course we’d heard the music on the live album Paris but it’s nice to see the concert in full.


This particular concert was performed and recorded in 1979, which was a phenomenal year for Supertramp, being the year your perennial album Breakfast In America came out.

J.H: Yes, we released Breakfast In America in March of that year, and we began touring in August right through to December. The live recording was done about eight months into that tour, so we were very together and knew what we were supposed to be playing. Looking back at it, it’s good to see the empathy and the tightness in the band.


You would have had a lot on your plate then. There were four hit singles from that album alone.

J.H: Yes, and that was the longest tour we’d ever done so we were very tired by the end of it, and actually took a couple of years off after that. Everyone was a bit knackered at the end of it, but it was well worth it. It was actually the last time the five of us [original members] played together. For the tour after that we had some extra musicians… In general, I think 1979 just captured a really good spirit for us as a band.


How do you compare music of that era compared to what you’re hearing on radio and on the net today?

J.H: Well I get a bit fed up with the music of today. I think there’s still a lot of good music out there, but there’s also so much more out there nowadays and I can’t listen to everything. There are some genres of music that I don’t get. My range is classical, jazz and pop, and blues and soul.


So would I be right in saying that a lot of your influence went into the bigger Supertramp hits with all that fife and brass?

J.H: The sound we made at that time was just the combination of the five of us, working together sounding quite unique. Admittedly, it was unusual to have a saxophone in a rock group back then. And certainly it was unusual to have keyboards in there. Our sound just happened to have a magic combination I think. As for influences, there was the Beatles-type background from [lead singer] Roger Hodgson and [bassplayer] Dougie Thompson, and from myself and [keyboardist] Rick Davies came a more jazzy-type sound. And then, from Bob Siebenberg – our American drummer – came a sort of surf sound.


Well the combination worked to appeal to a broad audience. Even today bands are taking samples from your records and weaving them into dance music, of all genres.

J.H: Yes, there have been a few dance versions of our songs but if you ask me, the originals are the best [laughs].


When did you tour most recently?

J.H: Well the last tour we did with the same band members that you see on the Blu-ray and DVD, was in 1983, but Supertramp have played ever since. In 2010 we toured Europe for two months, and then we toured Canada, and then back to France in 2011.  We haven’t played this year but we could possibly tour next year again. It’s up to Rick Davies when we work, but I’m always happy to.


How likely would it be that we might see you tour Australia?

J.H: I’d like to think of it as a possibility. The last few tours have been through Europe and North America. Australia is obviously quite a long way, but I’d like to come back. We were there in the ’70s, even before this video was done, actually. I think was 1976 we were in Oz.


Is there any modern music that you particularly like?

J.H: I love Muse; I think they’re really creative.


They’ve certainly got a vaudeville edge to them that I thought you’d find appealing.

J.H: Yeah, they’re a little like Queen used to be. They can go ‘pomp’ and then get back to basic rock. They’re my favourite band at the moment. Them, and Elbow.


I think we need more pomp and circumstance in music; it helps keep us entertained.

J.H: Of course. There are a lot of miserable records out there, so we need something to make us happy.


Well musicians are show-people at the end of the day, so part of the job should be to make us –the audience – happy.

J.H: That’s true, but there’s room for all types. If you want to go to a concert and think about things and be morose, you can go see Morrissey. But there’s all sorts now, and I think variety is good.


On the subject of showmanship, I believe you’re the MC of the band, telling stories on stage in between songs.

J.H: That was just because nobody else wanted to do it! It started when we were touring in 1974 for the album Crime Of The Century. It was all quite serious, that album, so it was good to just relieve the tension occasionally with a bit of a chat. I still do it, and like to keep it natural and to not think too much before I speak. Sometimes I can put my foot in my mouth, but most of the time it engenders a good spirit with the audience.


Do you feel you’ve got enough stories from life on the road to write an autobiography?

J.H: I haven’t written anything because I find it difficult to remember stuff, but Bob Siebenberg is writing an autobiography which obviously includes a lot of Supertramp, so that’s something to look forward to.


Thinking cap on now: what are your top five albums of all-time?

J.H: Let’s see… Asia by Steely Dan would have to be in there… Heavy Weather by Weather Report… Somethin’ Else by Cannonball Adderley with Miles Davis… Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis… and I’d also pick Glen Gould playing [Bach’s] Goldberg Variations. That’s just off the top of my head.


Nice variety. Thanks for your time, John, and we look forward to watching the Live In Paris release.

J.H: Thank you, and enjoy!


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