SUPERTRAMP Interview, Even in the Quietest Moments, May 1977


The Supertramp Interview by Ritchie Yorke

Cheap Thrills magazine – May 1977

LOS ANGELES – Hot sounds are thundering out of the two monstrous studio monitor speakers. We’re in Studio C at the world-famous Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles, the same studio where Stevie Wonder worked on “Songs in the Key of Life” and the Eagles painted their “Hotel California” audio scenario. Making history is a habit in these hallowed and sound-proofed walls. Tonight is no exception.

The amiable members of the brilliant British band, Supertramp, are gathered here to provide us with a sneak preview of the keenly-anticipated album followup to “Crisis? What Crisis?”. It’s more of a progress report than the standard preview trip – some of the tracks are in the final stages of completion, others require further overdubbing work. Nonetheless, it’s the first time any media member has gained access to the Supertramp inner sanctum during the recording of this new album (the group’s fifth). We are keenly aware of the honour which has been bestowed upon us but we have maintained a diligent hold on our critical faculties.

The new album is entitled “Even in the Quietest Moments”. In a word, it can be fairly (but not adequately) described as superb. The playback offers one dynamic track after another, leading up to the tour-de-force finale, a 12-minute instant rock classic entitled “Fool’s Overture” which may well be the absolute highlight of Supertramp’s recording career thus far.

The album was initially rehearsed in a rented house in Malibu last Fall and the rhythm tracks were laid down at the Caribou Studios in Colorado. Shortly before Christmas, the group moved back to Los Angeles and commenced overdubbing and mixing at the Record Plant. They worked solidly for ten weeks until the album was completed on March 10. The release of “Even in the Quietest Moments” will be accompanied by a full scale world tour which kicks off in Regina, Canada, on April 6. After covering the Canadian and American tour circuit, Supertramp intends to plunge right into a British and European tour in the Fall.

During the course of a most memorable evening at the Record Plant (and dinner at a strange vegetarian restaurant called the Yellow Submarine), we rapped with each of the members of Supertramp – singer-guitarist-pianist Roger Hodgson (who produced the new album without his previous co-producer Ken Scott), drummer Bob Benberg, horn player John Helliwell, bass guitarist Dougie Thomson, and vocalist-keyboards player Rick Davies. In addition, we talked with Supertramp manager, Dave Margereson, and sound man Russel Pope.

In this exclusive interview, Supertramp elaborates on the new songs from “Even in the Quietest Moments,” the coming tour, musical interests and influences, and assorted other topics.

I’d like to open by getting you to tell us some of the background behind the recording of your new A&M album, “Even in the Quietest Moments.”

John: We took a break last July and August after eight solid months of touring. After that we got back together in a house at Malibu and rehearsed for about a month or two, getting all the numbers together. We finally chose seven of these songs that seemed to fit together pretty well. Then we went up to the Caribou Studios in Colorado in November and December, and laid down the basic rhythm tracks. After a little Xmas break, we went into the Record Plant here in L.A. to finish off the album. We worked on it through the end of February.

Can we get a little more specific about the seven songs on the new LP?

Rick: The opening cut, GIVE A LITTLE BIT is one of Roger’s songs. It’s a light-weight opener, a nice daffy song. You might even call it commercial (chuckles).

Bob: [sic] Roger had been working at Malibu for quite a while on this tune. I’d hear the song in hotel rooms and places like that. He had the song on a little tape when I first joined the band so I was quite familiar with the tune. We tried out various drum things and it seemed right to ride it along on the snare drum…giving it something almost like a train beat. So it’s all on the snare and bass drum, with no tom tom fills or anything. It was something to march right through, to keep it really happy.”

Roger: GIVE A LITTLE BIT is very simple. The album starts out simply and builds in intensity. This song seemed the best opener. As I said, it’s a very simple song – give a little bit of your love to me and I’ll give a little of my love to you.”

How about LOVER BOY?

Bob: Rick had been working on that tune for quite a while and finally came up with the long middle section. I just heard that as a really slow, really solid sort of beat, just to give the song dynamics underneath it all, because the song itself is really powerful and it needed something really solid underneath it.”

Rick: Well, now, this is the first time that I’ve had to provide a description of LOVER BOY. Well I really wrote the song so I could tell interviewers what I wrote the song about. It was inspired by advertisements in men’s magazines telling you how to pick up women. You know, you send away for it and it’s guaranteed not to fail. If you haven’t slept with at least five women in two weeks, you can get your money back. It’s sort of based around that. I mean, you just can’t stop the LOVER BOY! It’s really an excuse to get into some big sounds – the big city noises and a big chorus. It’s an exercise in doing something with the music. You can’t stop the LOVER BOY because he’s guaranteed. He’s sent away for his thing.”


John: It may not be called DOWNSTREAM, it may be called Took A Boat Sunday. We’re not sure.

Rick: It’s about the sea rather than a stream. The actual song is old but the lyrics are new. It’s just me and the piano. It was done in one take, piano and voice together. We’re going to put a lot of harmony vocals creeping up towards the end of the song. It’s quite a step for us not to fiddle around with things for months on end.”

Bob: It’s my favourite song on the entire album because it’s so personal and so pure. I love it when Rick just works with piano. What the song is saying and the way he puts it out really floors me every time I hear it.”

Roger: DOWNSTREAM is of course a love song by Rick. He’s just got married so the song’s probably about his wife.


Bob: QUIETEST MOMENTS is one of Roger’s pet projects I think. It’s also been on the way for quite a while. That track gave me a chance to knock out a pretty meaty beat through the middle section while keeping the rest of it rather gentle. I stayed out of the way in the rest of it – just adding little things here and there.

Doug: This is a song we first came across in Malibu. It’s a pretty simple little acoustic song which gets into a good groove in the end. It gives Bob and I a chance to sit on it. It’s one of Roger’s nicest melodies.

Rick: It has two basic parts. It starts off in a very standard melody thing and then it notches onto a sort of one chord progression or perhaps we should call it digression. It’s a thing where there’s hundreds of sounds coming in and going out, a whole collage thing. You’ll have lots of fun trying to figure out what’s what.

Roger: QUIETEST MOMENTS is another love song. It’s kind of a dual love song – it could be to a girl or it could be to god. I’ve left it ambiguous so that everyone can take it how they wish. Basically it’s just about a guy who’s searching. I’m a seeker. I think I’ll always be a seeker.

Moving over to side two, BABAJI?

John: BABAJI is one of the people who is supposed to help run the earth, to run this planet we’re living on. He’s one of the big mystics. It’s one of Roger’s songs.

Rick: BABAJI is one of the biggest mystics we’ve ever heard of, isn’t he? He’s supposed to be six foot three. (laughs)

John: He’s immortal. There are accounts of people who’ve met him but he’s supposed to be able to travel in and out of the physical world.

Rick: You won’t ever see him if he doesn’t want you to see him. I mean, you should really talk to Roger about this. It sounds highly suspicious to me. But I don’t want to get into any controversy about it.

John: Good Lord, no.

Rick: You can’t see him unless he wants you to see him. So if you haven’t seen him, it’s not because he doesn’t exist but because he doesn’t want you to see him.

Bob: BABAJI is like Roger’s light of life. I don’t know exactly how Roger would put it but he’s Roger’s guiding light sort of guy. Roger came up with the different bits of time I play. That cut took the longest to work the drums out for – it was crucial just where I played what, whether that trip should be on high hat or on the bell. It all had to be right in the right spots. I had to make the moves in the right place.

Roger: BABAJI is a very high spirit ala Christ and Krishna. He’s less known because he didn’t have a public or a mission like Christ or Krishna. He’s kind of a back room boy. He runs the universe and he runs everything. He’s an unbelievable spirit or force on god. He is god really…a manifestation of god.

Are you getting more into this particular trip?

Roger: Yeah, I’m getting into it. He’s had a physical form for hundreds of years. He doesn’t have to eat or anything. He inhabits the Himalayas with a small band of disciples. He’s a legend in India but he’s lesser known in the west. I don’t know, talking about him kind of lessens him somehow. It’s weird. It really is fascinating.


Rick: I’m just finishing off the lyrics for that tune, words hot from the brainbox. It’s turned into a fantasy about a Mr. Average, if there is such a person, who goes off into these weird trips. He plays mental games with himself to get away from the monotony of his work. He pretends he’s on TV, like a pirate or running through the desert, and he just opens up a lot of avenues. There’s a big chorus at the end saying that he’s going to live in fantasy forever, that he’s resigned to living in fantasy all the time, that he can’t really take the normal life he’s leading. He’d sooner by lots of different characters.

Bob: That’s another of Rick’s older songs. I’ve always enjoyed it and I just love playing it. It really suits my style and I had a chance to open up a little towards the end of it. I love John’s sax trip in the tail of the tune.

John: The music to that song is quite old. It was one of the very first things I heard Supertramp play when I first went down to have a blow with them, and that was over three years ago. I really liked the number then.

And the twelve-minute tour de force closing number, FOOL’S OVERTURE?

John: We’ve been calling that tune the String Machine Epic for so long now it’s hard to get that out of our brains. It came primarily from a few melodies that Roger had worked out on the string machine thing we use on stage to create string sounds, or sounds thereabouts. The track is a combination of a year’s work. We’ve been putting strings and brass instruments on to pad it out a bit. (chuckles) It’s going to sound really good.

Bob: On this album, that’s the real sort of grand tune for me and for everybody in the band. It used to be called the String Machine Epic which fits the way the song builds and grows. It’s the epic of the album this time out. I tried to get as much of that grand power in there as I could.

Roger: Ooooh. (laughs) Well, I’d like people to make up their own minds about this one really. I like being vague and yet saying enough to set people’s imaginations running riot. So there’s a lot of suggestions in there about the coming holocaust, the fall of mankind, or whatever you want to call it. It’s another searching song really.

Are you using strings on any of the tracks?

John: “Fool’s Overture,” “Babaji” and “Lover Boy.” Richard Houston did the string arrangements on Crime and Crisis, but he’s 7,000 miles away so we’ve been working out some things with Michel Colombier.

I understand this is the first album you’ve produced yourselves?

John: Yeah.

Rick: Not strictly…if you count the first two albums years and years ago, which was no advert for our producing.

John: We co-produced the last two albums with Ken Scott. So the time had come to go the whole hog.

Rick: I think in a way we learned a lot from Ken and we’ve taken a lot of tips from him such as taking the same amount of trouble to get the right sounds, especially drum sounds.

John: Plus we’ve had a great engineer in Pete Henderson. We’re very fortunate to have someone like that. He’s really good and he thinks the same way as we do. He did the rhythm tracks with us at Caribou.

How long is it now since the band was last out on the concert trail?

John: June, we finished in New Zealand last June.

Rick: It took me about 23 hours to get home. I went ‘round the world the wrong way. If I’d gone the other way, it would have only taken me about 18 hours. It was quite a plane journey. I had pneumonia at the time. It was really bad to get into a plane because of my ears – and we must have landed and taken off at least six times. When I finally arrived in New York, I didn’t really have any ears left.

John: You still haven’t got ‘em now by the sounds of things.

Let’s venture back to CRIME OF THE CENTURY. Did you have a particular concept in mind with that album, or was it merely a collection of songs that suited one another?

Doug: It’s hard to work out what people mean about concept albums. With CRIME OF THE CENTURY, somewhere along the way somebody said ‘concept’ while we were making it, and from then on it took on an air of something it really wasn’t. That trip never really related to what we were doing in the first place. Our concept is to try and make an album as complete as we can. We never sit down and work out some kind of overall picture of a thing. We want to keep it complete down to the cover, every part of the thing, but we never actually project one kind of concept on one subject.

Where did the album jacket trip behind CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS? originate?

Doug: That was an idea of Rick’s. It came from his sketchbook.

John: It came from us going back to England last year after spending that summer in L.A. We came back to the reality of the sinking pound and all that. That was it. We didn’t know there was a crisis until we got back.

So you returned to Los Angeles which is now the home base?

John: No…well, I mean we are living here and today was terrific for this time of the year. 85 degrees which is nice. Especially when you’ve got a motorbike like me. I love it. It’s a challenge. You’ve got to zip ‘round the Cadillacs.

Manager Dave Margereson: He’s very heavily insured.

What can we expect in the way of changes and surprises on this all-important 1977 North American tour?

John: Glitter suits.

Doug: Flamethrowers.

Rick: We’ll have a huge statue of Donald Duck at the back. No seriously, as soon as the gong goes for Crime, it will sprout bubbles. We hope this lighter approach will go down well.

John: Yeah, we’re playing two weeks at Disneyland.

Rick: Which is where we got the duck, incidentally. We couldn’t pass it up because it was going to be thrown out. We got a few of the guys to make up the bubble thing. It took a few months but it’s going to be all right.

For a change of pace, I’d like to point this mike towards the face of Supertramp soundman extraordinaire, Russel Pope. To get right to the point Russel, what’s the secret of the sensational live Supertramp sound?

Russel: Money.

Really, eh?

Russel: Really! In the sense that nobody else ever wants to spend that amount of money on a sound system. Everybody else rents…they rent whatever they can get, whatever the quality is in that particular year. There are only two companies in America which can cover everyone and if you don’t get those people you have to go down the ladder to poorer and poorer sound. So it was better for us to buy, because to perform our trip well, they just don’t make the right stuff for rental. We’ve slowly built up a system that’s become…


Russel: A bottomless pit in terms of finances. But a motto of ours is that it’s always better to buy.

Is the sound on the ’77 tour going to be superior to earlier Supertramp tours?

Russel: Infinitely better. The last one was less than perfect. But it’s a costly business. It’s painful. They make it, and I spend it. (Much laughter all around).

How about your experience at the Caribou Studios?

John: Caribou is unlike any place we’ve ever worked in that you can go and live there. It’s just a beautiful environment. It’s really good and it makes you feel good. Good air and good…you get into a good groove.

Rick: But you have to use oxygen.

John: Yeah, it’s 9,000 feet up and they have an oxygen tank in the studio. The air’s a bit thin, and you get a bit out of breath at first. Roger took the oxygen quite a bit while he was singing. It’s really a wonderful place though.

What sort of long term ambitions does Supertramp have?

John: Eventually we’d like to have our own studio. Then we could go in and spend a few months on an album, without worrying about how we’re going to physically and financially do it. That’d be a nice scene. That’s one of our long term plans. That of course is what Chicago’s plan was and they got Caribou. They just pop in there now and again and make another platinum album. Overall we have a kind of consolidating approach to the future. Each tour we try and get that little bit more, reach a wider audience. But we want to do it without losing our integrity along the way.

In short, you’re not clambering on top of that 24-track tape recorder over there trying to locate a commercial single?

John: No, oh no. If there’s something from the album that stations think is commercial, then we’ll put it out as a single. But it wouldn’t have been made with a single in mind. But we’re not putting down singles: singles are good for selling albums, for getting to more people, especially in the States.

I feel that with such strong songs as Dreamer, Supertramp has been unlucky not to land a big single thus far?

John: It would have considerably helped us, that’s for sure. Dreamer did well for us in England. I think it went top ten and the album went right up there.

Can anyone explain why Supertramp is so phenomenally popular in Canada but that this success is not really paralleled as yet in the American market?

Rick: I can only assume that Canadians are infinitely more intelligent than other people.

John: The first time we went to Montreal, we really seemed to do well. The people were into us before we’d even played there.

Rick: I suppose also that since Canada is a small market and such a huge country, it’s easier to concentrate promotion. Whereas America is a huge maze. It really takes a lot of business manouvreing to make a dent in the States…so many groups and so much music every week, hundreds of albums.

John: Also, I think that A&M Canada must be really good getting the product out and about to the people. They must play a big part in that.

Flipping back the pages again, could you explain how the visual concept for the Crime of the Century album jacket came about?

John: We worked in conjunction with a London photographer named Paul Wakefield. We played him the album and he got into the lyrics and he went away and came back with some ideas. One of them was a child’s teddy bear lying in a gutter with its stomach ripped open and real guts coming out of it. We thought that was a little – how shall we say – nasty. Another one was prison bars lying in a gutter. We got the idea of having the hands behind them and the bars being a prison. The photographer went away and came back with a few more ideas on that line. We agreed the stars should be in space.

Rick: Wakefield got the idea from the line ‘how they haunt me and taunt me in my cage’ from the Asylum cut. And the stage thing came from the cover.

John: It’s really quite a strong image. It was good on the album cover. Then we had the idea of putting together a bit of a movie with the bars coming right out from the center and right up to you – which in turn was even more effective.

One of the most interesting aspects of Supertramp’s career is that in addition to highest quality music-making, the band is not above providing some light comedy entertainment?

John: The music always comes first, of course, but we like to enhance it. The audience has to sit there for a couple of hours and they have to look at something. So we try and make that part as compatible as possible with the music. So far we’ve used an all black stage with side drapes and black carpets so that there’s nothing to divert attention. The lights are all directed onto players and instruments to spotlight them at various times. We try and get the lights to move with the music and create a mood. On the new tour, we hope it will be like that only better.

Doug: To try and get some perspective on ourselves, we went out to the Shepparton Film Studios before the ’76 tour and set up the whole thing, lights and all. We wanted to watch a full rehearsal. We went scouting around the studio and found a bunch of old Roman statues with arms and heads missing and we put them on stage. It’s the only time you get to see the show as it is. We had Caesar on drums and a whole band of Romans rocking on.

John: Next time we’ll try and get some more appropriate dummies. There shouldn’t be any shortage of dummies in Hollywood.

How do you find living in Los Angeles?

John: Next question. No, it’s alright. Weather’s pretty good. Smog’s pretty bad. All the roads are straight and you can find your way about quite easily.

Doug: Except if you’re going in the wrong direction and then you’re really in trouble.

John: Everything’s square...the streets I mean. And there’s a bit of music going on.

Rick: John lives right over the local hot spot.

John: Yeah, I live right above a club that doesn’t close its doors until two or three in the morning. Loud groups. Terrible time getting to sleep if I do go to bed before 2:00 am. I live down by the beach. It’s nice. But that’s L.A., isn’t it?

Rick: I’m getting used to it. I quite like it now.

John: Well, he doesn’t have to drive anywhere. He gets everyone to chauffeur him around. He doesn’t have that worry. I’ve got my bike. Rick’s been on it once. That was enough for me. He wobbles around all the time. We were riding down Sunset Strip with the big cars and big rear wheels and all that business on a Friday night. It was a bit scary.

Rick: It’s a funny place really. It’s like a huge suburb. There’s just no middle to it. I’ve been looking for the middle for the past two years. It’s a very big place. We went to Disneyland and it took about four hours to get there and there were houses all the way.

John: One thing though – no matter what you want to do, you can usually do it here, regardless of what your interests are. There’s always something available to you. I live about 100 yards away from the Lighthouse Jazz Club which is a famous jazz haunt. I picked my spot. I pop in there occasionally when there’s someone good on. I’ve got one or two old jazz albums that were recorded at the Lighthouse. I liked it a lot in Colorado. I wanted to move there. Still do actually. The Caribou Ranch is near Boulder, which is a real nice little town or city or village or whatever you want to call it. It’s a pretty nice place. But I would also like to be back in Maidenhead, Berkshire, by the River Thames.

So do you miss England from time to time?

John: To a certain extent. But one or two people who’ve been back say that it was a downer. You go back thinking everything’s going to be great and it isn’t. So maybe when we get to go back, our memories will be shattered.

Rick: The scene over there seems to be getting more violent. We had a guy in here the other night who said he’d been down to the Marquee and all these young football supporters were pushing him around. I don’t know whether he just had one of those faces or what.

John: Maybe it was Cup Final Day.

Rick: He went to see the Sex Pistols.

John: Ah, well.

Let’s delve a little, if we may, into your individual backgrounds and personal musical pursuits?

John: I’m the sax player and I like sax players. I first came up liking trad jazz and then sort of moved on to listening to a broader spectrum of jazz. That’s what first influenced me to play clarinet and saxophone. It wasn’t until I was about 20 that I started getting into R & B and rock and soul and all that. I played in a band for a few years called the Alan Bown Set. I backed up a lot of visiting American soul singers. Doug came into the Alan Bown Set when it was almost in its death throes, the last year or so. When that split up, Doug and I took various gigs working in factories and strip clubs playing music. The Doug joined Supertramp and I went off to Germany to work. When I got back, I got a call from Doug to come down and have a blow with Supertramp. So that was it, that was just over three years ago. I joined the band, we rehearsed for a long time waiting for the availability of our producer, Ken Scott. Then we made Crime of the Century, toured, made Crisis? What Crisis?, toured and then got into this album. That has taken up three years.

What sort of music are you into now?

John: I still listen to a lot of jazz and could single out a few names like Weather Report. I really like them very much – they’re a good fusion of things that I find quite valid today. They’ve got good pedigrees, all the players. I like it when people play their instruments well. I like Stevie Wonder’s new album, the singer Donny Hathaway, lots of sax players like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, to name but a few.

How about your background, Rick?

Rick: I used to be a drummer to start with so I really used to think drums were fantastic. So in actual fact, my first influence was Gene Krupa. I used to go see his films, watch those swing era movies on TV and I couldn’t believe it. I took up drums, which sort of took me into the jazz side. In much the same way as John, I got into the jazz thing. All this time I was also picking up on piano. I wasn’t really taught it. I used to pick the simplest things I could – Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Bill Black – and learn them and that way I got into rock. I was a trained musician on drums but a very primitive one on keyboards. It’s still the same today I suppose. So I was fortunate in that I appreciated both the jazz and rock worlds. My favourite drummer used to be and still is Joe Morello, who played with Dave Brubeck.

As far as the English scene was concerned, I think that Traffic represented the first time I began taking English musicians seriously. When the Beatles first came out, they were incredibly sort of...well basic. They were vital and all the rest of it, but still basic. It took them a while to win me over. But of course they have been one of the main influences on the group, and the main influence on almost all groups that came from our generation. As musicians go, I think Stevie Winwood is the best one in England.

Unfortunately the British scene doesn’t seem to be continuing as far as I can see at the present time. There doesn’t seem to be any decent new sounds coming out.

The Sex Pistols?

Rick: Yeah, they go around saying drat and rat and damn, don’t they? I suppose people are going to say it reflects the situation and all the rest of it. I can’t really understand it myself.

John: We’d never really heard of them before we left England. We just read about them in the American music papers.

Rick: It’s not music really. It’s four guys becoming a business concern.

How about contemporary music tastes?

Rick: I’m not too keen on most of it. I like Stevie Wonder. Some disco music actually. I like Tavares. I just hear the occasional thing I like on the radio.

Doug, how about a little on your background?

Doug: Roger and myself first got into the Shadows – that was the first things we listened to. Then we got into the Beatles. I guess the whole band comes together about Traffic, the Band, Procol Harum. That was an interesting period in British rock. It was probably the most productive period ever. I don’t listen to as much jazz as the other guys. I tend to listen to a wide range of what’s going on. It’s hard to think of any particular bass players being strong influences. I liked old Motown bass lines, Jamie Jamerson. That’s a lot of different people I listen to now. I like really simple bass players – guys who don’t play too much. I also liked to go and see Pink Floyd – they were innovators.

Bob, as Supertramp’s only non-Pommy member, how did you become involved with the band?

Bob: I moved from L.A. to London and I’d been there about two years playing around London with a group called Bees Make Honey. Rick and Roger lived in a pub over the road from the Kensington, where I used to play Mondays and Wednesdays. Rick used to drop in now and then to hear the Bees. We also backed up a singer named Frankie Miller and did a short British tour with him supporting Supertramp. So the relationship sort of evolved from there. Roger and Rick came in one night and said they’d had a bit of a bustup, and had gotten rid of their drummer. They said they wanted to reform the group and they asked me to join. That was just prior to the recording the Crime album.

Which drummers particularly influenced you?

Bob: I’d say Jim Capaldi and B.J. Wilson. Plus of course Levon Helm. I really like the way he just marches along all the time. I really do like The Band a lot. I was sort of lucky to beam in on the right guys; I was lucky I chose the right ones. I believe that’s one of the keys. Plus I’ve worked at it.

The obvious question, of course, is to ask you to unveil the secrets of the sensational Supertramp drum sound?

Bob: Well, from my end, it has something to do with the way I play the drums. I’m not a very speedy drummer. I give the sound a lot of room. So it’s partly approach. Then there’s the trip of getting the tuning just right. It takes a lot of care and having a good ear for working at it. Our sound man Russell Pope is responsible for a lot of it. He’s got a real good ear for listening to drums, and he’s got a lot more patience to sit around in the studio for hours and get it right. He spends countless hours just trying to get the drums together.

How do you feel the drum sound on the new album compares with say, Crime of the Century?

Bob: Crime definitely turned a lot of people on to our drum sound. It was a lot easier to get the right drum sound this time than it had been previously.

What music do you listen to at home?

Bob: I still listen to most of my old favourites. I still listen to Traffic and Procol Harum. I sort of lost interest in Procol when Matthew Fisher left but I liked Grand Hotel a lot. I pick up each new Band album when it comes out. John has turned me on to Weather Report and I like a few of the albums, Mysterious Traveller being my favourite. Stevie Wonder I like. I listen to more of a variety of things now than I ever used to. Richard and John have really opened me up to people like Art Blakey, Max Roach, things like that.

How then does everyone feel about the new album in an overall sense?

Bob: From my point of view, I had a much easier time recording this album. Plus it’s been our most enjoyable recording project thus far. I think the Caribou location helped a lot. All of us have really grown since Crime. So we’ve become more comfortable with the process of recording an album, and all the painstaking time-consuming thing.

John: I think this is the strongest thing we’ve done.

Rick: All we can really go by are the reactions of people around the group – people from the record company and so on. And they apparently think it’s very good. When you’re doing it day in and day out, it’s hard to be objective. But people seem to be getting very enthusiastic about it.

Roger: Overall I feel pretty good. I think it will be our best album to date. I don’t think it will be our Sgt. Pepper but I do think it’s worked out really well. It’s taken a long time. We thought it was going to only take a short time to record but we were wrong.

One of the reasons is that we took a break. After eight months on the road, we took a break because we needed it to get our heads and bodies back into shape. So it wasn’t easy to plunge back into performing again, without that advantage of a long tour, which means your playing is hot and your voice is trim.

Plus we haven’t been letting anything go by this time around. We weren’t too happy with Crisis for that reason – it was all so rushed and some things we weren’t satisfied with. This album means more to us. To us, it’s just a case of what can we do? The better the album is the stronger the band, and the better the band will be in the future.


SUPERTRAMP Interviews year 1977


A Tale of Supertramp, Organic Fruit Juice

The Burlington Free Press
Friday, June 10, 1977
By Susan Green

Why is it that nothing ever happens quite normally in this state? Everything seems to be touched by some strange little twist of fate, perhaps just to remind us that we're mere specks in the great scheme of things.

The scheme of things Tuesday morning did not appear to hold much promise of an interview with Supertramp, the band that played rock music's swan song a Memorial Auditorium Monday. After a night of sheer chaos trying to hear the concert, I was too worn out to ask any intelligent questions of the three Englishmen, one Scotsman and one American who comprise Supertramp.

So, a tentative appointment was set up for the next morning with the group's publicist, who promised to round up the ban members. The publicist was unable to locate anyone, so I calmly went about my business, which, in the early afternoon, included a shopping trip to a local health foods store.

As I was bending over a barrel of brown rice, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the guitarist-vocalist-composer of Supertramp squeezing organic grapefruits at the other end of the store.

I introduced myself to Roger Hodgson, whose high-pitched, intriguing voice had so captured the imaginations of the high-school-age audience the night before. He introduced me to the bass player, Dougie Thomson, and we made arrangements for an interview after completing our purchases.

Back in the kitchen, over a few cups of red clover tea, we got down to talking about Supertramp's brand of music.

"If we come play here again, we'll bring security with us," said Hodgson, a native of Oxford, England. "It's a nice place to play. There is nothing wrong with those kids (at the concert). There was a communication breakdown".

"We've always thought that our music was kind of contrary to violence. We like to hypnotize people with the light show. They get off on the words and the music," Thomson said in a lilting Glasgow Scots accent.

I asked them about the words in "School" from their popular album "Crime of the Century." For example: "Don't do this and don't do that, What are they trying to do? Make a good boy of you, Do they know where isn't at? Don't criticize. They're old and wise, don't want the devil to, Come and put out your eyes…Maybe I'm mistaken expecting you to fight…."

Hodgson thought a moment. "There are two different types of revolutions in lyrics. One that just incites listeners to stand up and start shouting 'This is wrong. This is wrong.' Any one that suggests they become aware of what's really happening and change themselves and bring about a change. The world needs that now," he said.

"The song 'School' is putting down the educational system, which is easy for us, having been through it. Reaching the age we are (both 27) and looking back logically, it (school) didn't teach me much or what it did teach me was how not to educate a child."

Thomson added, "It's not so easy if you're in it. You obviously do get frustrated then." "There are many sides to Supertramp," Hodgson said. "There's a real boogie side, a jamming side, a jazzy side, a drama side - which really is 'Crime of the Century.' It just happens that one side took off. so people kind of labeled us into that."

Both men agreed that each band member had changed a great deal since coming to the U.S., and accordingly, their music has evolved into new realms, one of them being spiritual.

"Music itself is spiritual on all kinds of different levels," Hodgson said. "I'm a spiritual seeker. The thing that most musicians strive for - most musicians that I've idolized in the past - is success.

And then when they get there, they kind of fall apart because there's nowhere else to go. And then their writing falls to pieces. Most of the bands from the 1960s, I've seen them go that way. A lot of them either take to drugs or they take to their mansion or their car and they just divorce themselves from reality. Hopefully, if success does get a bit crazy, knowing that I'm looking for something else, will keep me sane."

What was that something else? "Well, just a meaning to my life. God has given me music.

Hopefully I can be a vehicle to learn more about myself and help other as well from what I learn," Hodgson said. We all got off on the Beatles' dream. The Beatles showed how music can change the world".

"We need some respect for each other's individuality," Thomson said.

"Rock music today seems to have a void of anything meaningful,"Hodgson said. "In the '60s, there was really hope there, because it exploded, because people were singing about things that meant something. It's a cycle. Maybe it will explode again in the '70s."

"Yeah," Thomson said. "It's become unfashionable to express yourself…to care. People tend to knock it. But basically behind all the facades, everybody's just as confused as the next one."

He feels that America is "the hub of what's happening in the world. All the problems are here and all the answers. In England, people are still walking around with blinkers on. That stubbornness to change is what's going to cripple them, whereas here people are so willing to change."

"I always wonder where songs come from,"Hodgson laughs. "If you knew how Supertramp came together seven years ago, you'd have to believe in some kind of guiding force. If that guiding force is there then there has to be a guiding force for all our music as well. All thoughts and music are extracted from the cosmos, I suppose. The music is just coming through me. I'm just a sort of transmitter. And so, the more positive and purer I make the transmitter, the better the music is going to be."

On their latest album, "Even in the Quietest Moments," there is a tune written to "Babaji," a "very high spirit a la Christ and Krishna."

"All my life," the song goes, "I felt that you were listening, Watching for ways to help me stay in tune. Lord of my dreams, although confusion, keeps trying to deceive, What is it that makes me believe in you?…Babaji, oh won't you come to me, Won't you help me face the music, Bring out so We can sing it out, Help us find it before we lose it…"

After a few hours of tea and conversation, the two rock and rollers rode off in their superterrific camper to the next town and the next show.

Was I impressed by their music and their mystery and their manners? Bloody well right I was.


Golden gift for a Dutch uncle

Daily Mirror
Saturday, July 30 1977
Pauline McLeod in Los Angeles

Supertramp have found the answer to a $64,000 question that's been bugging them for years. How to pay off a debt to their Dutch uncle.

He's known simply as Sam, a millionaire from Holland who "adopted" the two founder-members of the group, Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, in the early seventies and sank a lot of money in their future.

The group split up in disharmony after making only two albums…having spent $64,000 of Sam's money with nothing in return.

It was a case of third time lucky with their next line-up.

Their records began to sell and today the group is so successful they could pay back every penny they owe…if Same would only agree to take the money!

Instead, the group dedicated their album "Crime of the Century" to him…and it's just earned a golden disc for selling 500,000 copies in America.

Supertramp moved to the States "lock, Stock and barrel" eighteen months ago and are currently preparing for the second leg of an extensive tour over there.

"We're looking forward to coming back to England in October but I think that to b certain extent we had outplayed ourselves at home," John Helliwell , who plays wind instruments with the group, told me.

"We couldn't do the usual trick of jumping on to a big name group's tour because it takes so long to set up our equipment.

"So we started off in the great land of opportunity heading and of course, at first we lost money."

Supertramp's latest album, "Even in the Quietest Moments" has also just won a gold disc in America.
John puts down the style of the new album to the 'maturing and mellowing' of Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson.

They are the group's writers.

"Roger is for ever searching," says John. He meditates regularly and Babajee - one of the tracks on the record - is supposed to be an Indian guru who lives for ever.

"Rick is totally opposite to Roger. That is why the two of them gel so perfectly in their work. Rick is very down-to-earth. He is married now and that has obviously made him a lot happier."

Supertramp are happy enough making a temporary home in America, although they do miss certain typically British pleasures. Like?

"Fish and chips and English pubs," said John, with a wistful eye on Autumn.


Personality crisis, what personality crisis?

April 9,1977
An interview by Matt Mabel.

You work hard and eventually convince your record company to give you an open cheque book to accompany you into the studio. The result is a huge hit spurned on by a nationwide tour.

A year later you repeat the cycle and become staple diet of both the album chart and disc jockeys who profess to program ‘rock’ radio. The second tour goes so well that a ‘thank’ you gig is arranged at London’s Royal Albert Hall. It sells out.

After the gig you vanish, leaving the album charts and the playlists behind. Another year later, you sit between colourfully carpeted walls at the Record Plant in Los Angeles and say "I sure hope they haven’t forgotten us in Britain".

So says Roger Hodgson after ace Record Plant engineer Geoff Emerick gives the Supertramp co-leader permission to leave the control room where the mixing of the new album, "Even In The Quietest Moments…" is almost complete.

In their own minds Supertramp haven’t ‘moved’ to L.A., according to Hodgson, who loyally sports an A&M Records t-shirt and is pretty shagged out, as the Americans would say, after two-thirds of a day of listening to playbacks.

"We live in a Supertramp bubble. We are each other’s friends so it’s like the English vibe is still there. L.A. is a totally crazy place, none of us like living here particularly. We like the weather and that’s about it".

Since they’ll be touring for nearly a year following the album’s release, there is hardly a question of living anywhere in the first place. Bette Midler cleverly dubbed the City Of Angels "The Home Of Absolutely Nothing" on this year’s Grammy Awards telecast and Supertramp fit comfortably into her definition.

"We haven’t found anywhere we want to live really, although I don’t think we want to go back to England.

"I don’t personally miss it but some of the others do. If anything I miss the subtleties of the English".

Supertramp have taken a big step on the new LP and decided to produce themselves, jettisoning the services of Ken Scott. That move comes as a reaction to their last release, ‘Crisis What Crisis’. Problems Hodgson sees in ‘Crisis have been solved on ‘Even In The Quietest Moments’.

"’Crisis’, he explains with an either-you-laugh-or-you-cry-smile, "came to mean more to us as a title than it did to other people because it was really a crisis album. We learnt how not to make an album, coming right off the road and going into the studio.

"It could have been much better that ‘Crime Of The Century’ but it wasn’t. We had a lot of bad luck in the studio. We really didn’t enjoy making it and in the end it was kind of a patch up job. A lot of people liked it but for us it missed".

Funny how they don’t tell you that before the album comes out. Still. This time around after 1976 North American tours they took a three month planning period, similar to their occupation of a Somerset farm house three years ago planning what would become their best seller, ‘Crime’.

With 40 songs in hand, the band worked arrangements of 7 and had the set pretty much in mind before they began recording at Jimmy Guercio’s Caribou studio last November.

Appropriately, working with material that sounds as if it has come more from the heart that ever before, the Tramp have captured warmer, fuller sound

"Working with Ken we became perfectionists in a way and went overboard on ‘Crisis’ and became perfectionist technically. Now we are concentrating on getting the feel of a song down. That’s why it has taken so long. Some days we don’t feel like playing. So we don’t play.

"Now the sound is not quite so clinical, it’s more live and definitely much better."

Hodgson himself, has discovered the Oberheim synthesizer since we heard from him last. "It’s an amazing instrument, we did most of the strings and a lot of other sounds with it. It gets any sound under the sun".

Two of the new tracks stand out in his mind, one of which is recorded to be the band’s best, a ten minute job called ‘Fool’s Overture’,
once had a provisional title of ‘The String Machine Epic’. It closes the album.

If you’re wondering why the ‘Overture’ is reserved for the end, then you’ll have to get into the, er, depth, of the message. The album ends with a conductor tapping his baton on his music-stand after a track dealing with The End Of Everything As We Know It.

With such honest material they are leaving themselves open to plenty of criticism, which, no doubt, by press-time has manifested itself.

The other stand out track for Hodgson is so because he sees it as ‘a hit’, is a voice approaching the Queen’s English. Not that Supertramp think product-wise, of course, but "it will help in America because you really can’t do anything here without one.

"You just write and record your songs. ‘Give A Little Bit’ is one of mine. Obviously if you play the game right it is good if you have a number that is going to be a single.

"Next year we’ll probably put out singles as singles as well. We’ve got songs that’d make great singles but wouldn’t fit so well on an album".

The tour, which begins in Canada to coincide with the album’s release, took a month’s rehearsal. Fans who have already seen the ‘Crime Of The Century Film’ time and time again will be happy to know that it will be taking back seat to a new film, shot to coincide with ‘Fool’s Overture’. There’ll be slides, too.

"The set is going to be really amazing. For a start it will be much stronger cause we’ve got three albums to pull material from. We can pick the ones we enjoy playing and the ones which are most popular.

"It’ll be great to play England again. We don’t want to lose our English identity. I dread the thought of anyone ever thinking we were an American Band.

"After the American tour we do England, then Europe, some recording, then another American tour, a bit more recording after that, then Japan, Australia, and if we last that long we’ll be happy".

So, you spend time on another album, until you are completely satisfied, you aim for the charts and the air waves, and try to remind your audience that your vanishing audience that your vanishing act can’t go on forever. Supertramp’s quietest moments have temporarily been cancelled.



Melody Maker
November 19, 1977
by David Boothroy

Any band that play 114 concerts on a tour of America and Europe spanning several months deserve full marks for endurance, if nothing else.

That Supertramp managed to give their audience at Bournemouth last week and example of their best at this, the last gig, speaks volumes - for the band themselves, the road crew and everybody else involved.

Supertramp have by now reached a stage of technical perfection that few bands ever approach.

Their sound system, which they own themselves, makes most others sound like a transistor radio.

The lighting is timed to micro-seconds and they play their music faultlessly.

Last week they even installed a private generator in case of power cuts, after suffering that way the week before at Wembley.

But at Bournemouth it was far from a purely technical masterpiece. There were monkeys dancing with bananas(!), schoolgirl Joan attacking sax-player John Helliwell ("a dream come true," he said), and a male stripper sitting beneath the parasol from the cover of "Crisis What Crisis?"

It was a night of restrained lunacy, which the audience loved, but the stage antics were never allowed to distract attention from the music. The band played many of the songs from their 1977 album, "Even In the Quietest Moments," including "Babaji," their latest singe, as well as alder material, ending up as they always do with "Fool's Overture" and "Crime of the Century," still apparently the favourite of most audiences, and certainly Bournemouth's.

Supertramp's set is not the most spontaneous you will ever see. They stick to one encore, "Crime of the Century," ending in an explosion of noise with the famous album cover of the fists gripping the iron grill filling the screen.

But if they changed the set all the time they couldn't achieve the split-second timing and precision that makes their concerts literally breathtaking. Nobody at Bournemouth seemed to think it sounded over-rehearsed or artificial, just fine music played to perfection.

If you missed them this time around, you missed something special. The band will be back in 1978; don't make the same mistake again.

SUPERTRAMP Articles year 1976

The Albert Hall

The Guardian
February 6, 1976
By Robin Denselow

With no distinctive gimmicks, no great publicity drive, or even much of a distinctive sound – except that their music is excellent and unmistakably British – Supertramp seem to have sneaked in from nowhere to acquire the status of a respectably serious, respectably successful band.

That reputation is well deserved, as they showed with this concert at the Albert Hall, but I confess that it still surprises me slightly. The band played well, sang well, and demonstrated a range of excellent songs, certainly.

But there was only a narrow margin on all counts that separated them from countless other good British bands who are doomed to failure.

Supertramp’s main bonus was their sheer professionalism. A versatile five-piece, they were constantly swapping instruments, so on one song they could have three keyboard players and on another two of them could move across to bass and saxophone. They could swap around with their vocals and harmonies too. And with their carefully arranged material – with the songs performed as elaborate set-pieces, rather than the basis for improvisation – they kept a careful balance between their considerable store of pleasing melodies and the occasional patches of instrumental dexterity.

At times they showed an instrumental and vocal skill, and a lightness of touch that was reminiscent of 10CC – but without their cleverness or wit. Elsewhere, there were echoes of several other British bands, all blended smoothly and professionally together into a style that was far too clever and pleasing for me possibly to attack, but never with quite the originality or edge that marks out a band of truly firs-class status.

They deserved a good reception, but not quite as good.



Tramp Puts on a Super Show

The Sun, Australia
June 7 1976 Page 6
by Pat Bowering

One of rock's most accomplished groups, Supertramp, last night exerted total control over its Festival Hall audience. By blacking out the disused area of the stage, an excellent light show and the use of sheer volume, the band made sure every sense was concentrated on the stage.

And in a day still reigned by the two-minute single, the band presented complete musical statements instead of the short, basic pieces we hear over our radios.

It was a performance full of colour, movement, power and, at times sensitivity. Rick Davies was slick with his flowing-jazz keyboard runs; John Helliwell balanced his excellent woodwind playing with light, almost comical spots. And Roger Hodgson displayed his guitar excellence, a facet of the band that is not highlighted enough on record. All this powered by the superb drumming of Bob Benberg and the precise bass of Dougie Thompson.

The show was excellent and will be repeated at Festival Hall tonight.



Quiet Supertramp’s a loud sensation

Adelaide Advertiser, Australia
June 4 1976
by Ian Meikle

Supertramp is considered Britain’s quiet Sensation, but only for its low-key rise to stardom. In reality, super-duper Tramp is an indisputably loud sensation, as the thundering, capacity crowd at Apollo Stadium last night would agree. The show started simply enough as the curtains opened (yes, curtains at the Apollo Stadium) to the lone harmonica of Rick Davies as he drifted into " School." Then the four fellow Tramps edged into the act, criss-crossing through 90 minutes of music from the band’s phenomenally successful last tow albums " Crime of the Century" and "Crisis, What Crisis?"

Supertramp music is held together rather like a card house, American Bob C Benberg’s cannon-fire drumming leans against the dancing bass of Glaswegian Dougie Thomson. Atop them is clipped, terse piano of Davies and the saxophone of John Helliwell. Then delicately dangling above is the high, emotional voice and guitar Roger Hodgson.

Certainly, they were unshakable on their memorable versions of "Bloody Well Right," "Sister Moonshine," "Asylum," "Dreamer," and the highlight of the night, the swirling drama of Hodgson’s voice as he sailed through "Hide In Your Shell."

But perhaps more spectacular were the Exciting closer "Lady" and the encore "Crime of the Century," which featured a filmed backdrop of the album cover.

Supertramp is reportedly keen to reproduce its recorded work as near-perfect on stage. If that’s the criteria to judge this concert, the got damn close last night.

SUPERTRAMP Interviews year 1975

Supertramp up the Chart

February 22, 1975
Pete Makowski

"Where You going then?", asked the cab driver half out of interest, half out of boredom. "Er, Wantage, near Didcot," I replied, trying to sound enthusiastic about a place I'd never heard of before.

"What for?" the cab driver asked while lighting up a 'coffin nail', and desperately trying to sustain the conversation.

"To see a group," I replied, expecting him to tell me how much his kids loved Donny Osmond and could I blag him any albums.

"You're going all the way to bleedin' Didcot just to see a bleedin' group," he exclaimed. The conversation ended. There was no point me telling him that I was on my way to see Supertramp and they didn't really have time to pop into town because they were preparing themselves for a European tour.

I was driven from Didcot to a few square miles of beautiful rural pastures known as Wantage, by Tramp's composer/guitar player and keyboards man Roger Hodgson. Three of the band, Roger, bassist Dougie Thomson and drummer Bob C. Benburg live in a house with their ladies.

Dougie was in the living room in front of a log fire busily sewing his fur coat while the music of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils gently played in the background. Very-atmospheric, eh?.

Like Wantage, everything about Supertramp is unassuming, unpretentious, unaffected. They're not the type of guys who have to say 'oh we haven't changed since our success'.

Supertramp are one of those bands that had potential vibrating from the vinyl of their masterwork 'Crime of the Century,' but I don’t think anyone expected them to achieve success quite so quickly.

From a musical point of view Tramp are complex but definitely not inaccessible. Visually they score zero, which means they're sold on the music, not bad hype. So why the success? The immediate suspicion arises when a band playing good uncommercial music become instantly appealing.

Dis is known as an enigma ja? Well not really when you consider what a state the music scene was last year. Tramp were a rare quantity. Anyway enough of these journalistic ramblings and back to the band.

Supertramp began life a few years ago but there's no point in going into their earlier career as the new and old band have little in common. Supertramp's career begins with 'Crime Of The Century ' a work that was written three years ago by Roger and keyboardsman Ric Davies.

An invigorating, intense piece of work it's only one side of the coin as far as the band are concerned.

They're already written material for a new album. "In fact," added Dougie, a man with a broad Scots' accent, "we could have recorded another album immediately after 'Crime'."

The album was produced by Bowie/Mahivishnu man Ken Scott whose superb production work became an integral part of the bad's sound. "We recorded a single a while back and mixed it ourselves," explained Roger, "but the record company weren't satisfied with our job and got Ken to re-mix.

"He did a great job and we asked him if he'd be interested producing us, we let him listen to some demos and he wasn't interested. So that was that and we began to look for another producer. Then Ken rang back and told us he had been listening to the tapes and he wanted to produce us."

The record company PR sheet to 'Crime' describes the album as a concept work which is very unfortunate as it thrusts the band into the depths of pretentiousness. "People are looking for hidden meaning in the album," said Roger, almost embarrassed, "people who have interviewed us even asked us if we committed any crimes. As far as the band are concerned the album is a concept in as much as the tracks flow into each other. "And in that sense every album's a concept."

It's fascinating how the Davies and Hodgson writing styles seem to gel, making Supertramp an entity of sound rather than various individuals under one name.

Davies has had quite an illustrious career, he even once played in a band with Gilbert O'Sullivan, on drums would you believe? "Ric's a bloody good drummer, we want to feature him in the act, " said Roger, "it would be nice to have a part with two drummers".

Talking about drummers the band's most recent acquisition Bob C. Benberg, a tall soft spoken American walked into the living room, stoked the fire and sat himself in one corner of the room. Benberg played in various bands in America "We used to play Procol Harm type material," and he joined Bees Make Honey when he came over to Britain. He saw Supertramp when the Bees were on tour backing Frankie Miller.

"It was at Birmingham Barbarella's and they were amazing. I just knew this was the type of band I wanted to be in." Benberg's drum style is unusual in the fact that he is not constantly backing the band. His drumming is sporadic and embellishes the music, rather that just keeping a continuous backdrop of rhythm.

Roger: "That's the thing about the whole band, we adapt ourselves to the music…whatever it demands. If there was a tune that just needed acoustic guitar, then we'd just use acoustic guitar.

"Our next album is going to be completely different from 'Crime', more rhythmic. That's one of the band's main elements we're exploding with rhythm."

Again, recently the band have achieved the unpredictable by releasing a single off the album 'Dreamer', which is selling very well. Apart from their 'odd' experiences at 'Top Of The Pops' the band seem to be enjoying their new found singles status.

"We've got nothing against making singles. They've just been made a dirty word by the quality of the stuff that's coming out now," said Roger. "I mean have you seen the rubbish that's in the charts now? You don't get the quality singles that were around when we were younger."

Finally talking about live performances, I asked the band if they enjoyed the touring aspect of life? "Oh yeah," said Dougie enthusiastically, "I don't think we could really survive without that aspect of the business."


Roger Hodgson

Melody Maker
January 18, 1975
by Brian Harrigan

Roger Hodgson, ex-pupil of Buckingham's Stowe School, is with Rick Davies one of the original driving forces behind - Supertramp.

It was he and Davies who penned all of the songs on "Crime Of The Century," the band's third album and first chartmaker. His musical career started at the age of 13 and progressed through school bands to Supertramp which he joined on leaving school and has been with for five years.

"It started when my parents got divorced and my mum managed to steal my dad's guitar from him without him seeing. I think if that hadn't happened I wouldn't have taken up guitar."

He started on bass but, after the first incarnation of Supertramp folded he moved to guitar. He and Davies are the only members remaining from the original Supertramp and as such they have shared the good times and the bad from the original 'euphoric days when they were 'sponsored' by a Dutch millionaire through to the despair of a fateful Norwegian tour which, according to Roger "ended in disaster."

"We were thinking of just forgetting it when fate stepped in and said 'Okay, you can have it, you can have anything you want.'

"We found Bob and he was just the drummer we were looking for, for ages. Dougie had joined by that time and he knew John and he was just unbelievable as a sax player and he fitted in well. Everything's gone well from then.

Roger considers Supertramp's material to be "the strength' of the band "It keeps all of us interested and makes fresh demands on us every time we have to do something. I think Bob's playing things now he'd never even dreamt of before.

"I've been writing song ever since I was 12 and Rick and I are still writing all the time.

"The songs on 'Crime' weren't even our favorites but we recorded them because this was something that had been planned three years before. Most of the songs had been written for that long . They seemed to suit each other for a album so we decided to put it out. The next album's going to be completely different because the songs are completely different. I don't know two of our songs that sound anything like each other."

Roger sees himself and Davies as the main writers in the band because of the bulk of material they already have and are still producing . "It's difficult for the others really to get a look in," he said. "There are so many songs waiting to be recorded it's really difficult to know what to pick."

Roger admits that he doesn't really listen to much of other people's music now. "All the people I used to like are either blowing it or not writing such good songs. I don't know whether it's me changing or the music scene changing but there's very little surprise in anything now.

"I'm a Beatles youth really and I love Traffic, too. I think they're the band we all get off on. I love the Beach Bays too, although why people keep saying we sound like them I don't know."

Roger is full of admiration for the rest of the band and feels that Tramp have a tremendous potential. "There's no weakness in the band. If any one of the band left it would b e nigh on impossible to replace them really. There are so many side to Supertramp it's unbelievable 'Crime is one side, the drama side, but there's so much humor in the band I think we'll probably get that coming out on stage eventually.



‘Lady’ and the Tramp: hot dogs!

Melody Maker
December 13, 1975
By Phil Sutcliffe

I have never known an audience that seemed so devoted to a band as the congregation at Hammersmith the other night.

Nearly every number rated an outburst of applause as if they were Sinatra on the opening bars of ‘My Way’. The reasons are quite different, though, I imagine I sensed an audience which has recognized a considerable new talent and wants everyone including the band to know that they are valued, that they must stick around for a long time and make a lot of music for us ‘cos we need it in this crisis (what crisis?)

So Supertramp are loved – and that’s a surprise. Because they are one of the coolest bands in the big-time. John Anthony Heliwell is the only one who seems to have any personal rapport with the crowd and perhaps his puppet-like mook show bizzy gestures say it for the rest of them: that’s just not their scene. Even their lighting is almost entirely on stage, i.e. no long beams from the back of the auditorium linking them and us.

And their music, delivered with supreme precision as it was, is rarely hit – you – between – the – eyes stuff so the reaction of the comparatively impartial observer is hardly one of excitement. Except of course when they played their two singles ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Lady’.

Whether or not they were purpose-built hits they really do it and were the highlights of the set to me because the sweat came busting out on my brow and that’s when this animal knows he’s enjoying himself.

However, even with the academic feel to the rest of the set, some of the new material established itself as quite outstanding lives the 20s melancholy of ‘Poor Boy’ was very appealing, Hodgson’s irate-goblin vocals on ‘The Meaning’ disturbed the appreciative calm and ‘Ain’t Nobody But Me’ saw them get them down (almost) with ramrod piano and strident guitar. I also admired a sequence of fadeout sounding the like of what I’ve never seen a live band attempt before.

Meanwhile, back in the tailpiece, Joan Armatrading, exquisitely together with the Movies, proved again that she is the best singer in Britain, of any shape, size or sex (and if someone insists she’s from St Kitts you got me because I haven’t heard any other singers from St Kitts and perchance there are better). She shiver me spine, she stand me hair on end.



Pete Makowski traces the success of Supertramp


December 27, 1975

Two years and two months, that’s how long Super tramp have been together believe it or not. Two years and two sensational albums – ‘Crime Of The Century’ and ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ – Supertramp have carved their name in a market that’s literally crying out for quality. That’s what the ‘Tramp are; a quality band who, with bands like 10cc, set themselves high standards that they continually maintain.

Supertramp are: Rick Davies (keyboard/vocals), Roger Hodgson (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Dougie Thompson (bass) John Helliwell (saxophone, various instruments) and Bob C. Benberg (drums). But Supertramp have been around for quite a while in various forms, this line-up is the culmination of years of ‘paying dues’, I caught the band towards the end of their tour, where they reflected on their past exploits which led them to join together on their musical venture.


*"The actors and jesters are here

The stage is in darkness and clear

For raising the curtain

And no one’s quite certain whose play it is."

The story really begins with Rick Davies who debuted his professional career with The Lonely Ones, a band from Folkstone formerly led by Noel Redding. "We worked in England for about six months playing should stuff," he explained, "then we went to Europe for supposedly two weeks but we got stuck there….didn’t come back for a year and a half!"

The band eventually found themselves stranded in Munich. "We were gigging at night and making film music during the day. It was good experience but Germans make the worst films in the world. We were just a cheap way for them to get music on their films. We worked for a guy called David Lluellyn, who was an unbelievable character we met over there. He used to get us all these film jobs.

"The band were broke when Dave mentioned the fact that he knew this guy in Switzerland who was a millionaire. We thought ‘sure pull the other one’, but then again it was worth a try. We were all destitute at the PN Club living on soup. We’d play at the weekends and that would give us enough money to last us through till Thursday then we had to pilfer until Saturday.

"It was on a Saturday that Dave went to see this guy and then he just didn’t get in contact for about three months, and we thought ‘that’s it, he’s gone’. Then we got a telephone call from Dave saying that the guy would be interested in seeing us. We wouldn’t believe it! We were all walking around in a dream thinking ‘this is it’".


The man Dave was referring to was none other that Same, the Dutch millionaire, to whom ‘Crime Of The Century’ is dedicated. Sam was the man responsible ‘for making it all possible’.

Rick: "He had these ideas for us to get classical themes and turn them into pop music. Of course we all went charging down to his house and when we got there we spent the first two weeks playing ping-pong. We had an attempt at getting this thing together. It was completely bizarre, this buy’s music and the pop idea on top of it. We eventually came over and signed to Robert Stigwood and ended up playing the Rasputin Club every week, that was about it."


Rick: "One morning Same phoned me up at nine o’clock in the morning and told me to have a look out of the window and I said ‘There’s nothing out there, except an old coach and he said;’ it’s yours boys’, so we got in and Andy (our singer) drove it around Finchley while we played football in the back. It’s only when we started playing the Marquee that it got to be a problem. We had to park in Oxford Street and you’d see a huge chain of people on Wardour Street carrying equipment, anyway that was taken away from us when something wasn’t pleasing Same. I went over to see what was grieving him."

It transpired that Sam didn’t feel that the group were living up to his expectations. "I knew the band wasn’t that good, but everyone was heartbroken when we had to split, we were so close." It seemed that the Dutch millionaire recognized a spark of songwriting talent developing in Davies and persuaded him to stay under his wing.

*"For we dreamed a lot

And we schemed a lot."

"I went over to Sam’s to try and write my own music, so I could get enough confidence to start something off my own back and I stayed there just writing. Of course all sorts of crazy ideas popped up from Sam, like ‘Rick Around The World In Eighty Tunes’ whereby we’d hire a few LAN drovers and go round the world.

"We’d sit in an Afghanistan village and be influenced by the music and then go onto somewhere else. It sounded fantastic but it wasn’t real at all. So I went back to London and I began auditioning for what was to become the first Supertramp."

*"If we’d known just how right we were going to be,"


Hodgson’s pale, gaunt, almost hawk like features seen either sitting behind a guitar, squeezing every ounce of emotion into each verse he sings, are a complete contrast to the cool, full-faced Davies, who only occasionally breaks his stern dead-pan features with a single grimace or offstage a burst of raucous laughter. This makes up the black and white of the Supertramp writing team.

While Hodgson walks on stage wearing kaftan and jeans, you’ll see Davies on the other side sporting a suit and shirt, looking like a latter day Irving Berlin. Both equally intense, both equally talented, both equally different. It’s hardly surprising that one of Hodgson’s mainmen is Stevie Winwood – they’re both vagabonds of the wind, eternal music makers, living in their own time, their own reality.

"When I joined Rick I had signed a contract with another guy the very same day," admitted a quiet spoken Hodgson. In fact he had been contracted by DJM to record a single under the name of Argosy.

"The single had Elton John on piano, Nigel Olsson on drums and Caleb Quaye on guitar…it also flopped…Tony Blackburn liked it."

When Hodgson first joined ‘Tramp, his main instrument was bass. "That’s my favourite instrument funnily enough, I love the bass more than any other instrument."

Davies got Richard Palmer (who had previously written some lyrics for King Crimson) on guitar and Bob Millar on drums, completing the line-up of Supertramp Mk I. Purpose?

Rick explains: "There was a huge change happening at the time I was away in Europe. That change was like Traffic, Jethro Tull, Spooky Tooth sort of nice up and coming bands, which I wasn’t away of until I went down to see Rory Gallagher and Taste at the Lyceum, only then did I reckon on the possibilities that something could happen, because I didn’t rate myself as a big pop star and I thought to get anywhere I was going to have to be like that. But with the new bands coming up, there was a new standard to live up to and that’s what we were aiming for.

"Roger, Richard and Bob were all aware of these groups, so having them in the band was sort of an education for me. It was great because Richard Palmer was going about Traffic and The Band getting into their lyrics and I had never thought about their lyrics before."

Supertramp signed to A&M and released their debut album in 1970. It was described in the liner notes of their second album as having a ‘melancholy mood’. The album vaguely indicates ‘Trams intention, without really making them clear. Not a totally memorable debut album, just interest.

Rick: "We were very green then. There was this thing about not having a producer. Bands weren’t using producers then, and we decided ‘yeah we’re not going to have a producer’. Paul McCartney’s not using a producer, why should we use one? (breaks into hysterical laughter) it was that sort of greenness" "It worked on the first one", argued Roger, "it had its own kind of magic."


Rick: "That first year, we must have played to an awful lot of people. We were doing Top Gear all the time, it was keeping us alive."

Roger: "Our first album did sell quite a lot."

Rick: "Yeah it did. It almost took off in actual fact, because we did the Croydon Greyhound where we pulled in a lot of people just once, after that Bob left and then it must crashed."

Roger: "In that first year we were put in a country house together, we didn’t mix socially and the vibes got really bad. We never made any friends because the vibes were so bad, people hated coming up to the house."


Rick: "We did that ourselves as well. The second album consisted of a different band. By that time Richard Palmer and Bob Millar had left. We got a guy called Dave Winthrop on saxophone, Kevin Currie on drums and Frank Farrel on bass."

The second album titled ‘Indelibly Stamped’ (a cover sporting a nude female body festooned with tattoos) was a much more meatier effort that it’s predecessor, developing theme upon theme in musical layers, a sound not too dissimilar to Traffic. The same feel.

Live gigs? Well that was a different story…

Rick: "It was all rock and roll really. We used to get people up on the bloody stage and it was just chaos, bopping away doing about three encores, but there was meat and potatoes behind it. No more or less people would come to the next gig."

Then came the next departure. Farrel left to pursue his own career, finally meeting up with Leo Sayer, while the very Scottish Dougie Thompson entered the scene. Like the rest of the band. Thompson is a quiet unassuming character. On stage you can see him bouncing around, pumping throbbing baselines that have become such an essential par t of Supertramps’ sound.

"I joined the Mk II Supertramp about six months before that I was playing in some weird West End strip clubs. I’d played a bit in Alan Bown’s band. That was at a weird period of that band’s existence, when they parted company with Alan and we tried to get something happening, but we didn’t really get anything sorted out at all.

"So I was just looking around for a job to get some money, and then I say this ad for Supertramp. Sometime before my brother, who’s one of our roadies now, had been to London and brought one of their album back. So I had been aware of them. I decided to go along and see what was happening. At this point they had been going through some incredible audition scenes. I remember going to the Pied Bull in Islington and there were some terrible scenes. Rick was there with his crash helmet and sleeping bag. Dave Winthrop had given up hope and had gone to play pinball. Roger and Kevin were they’re trying to get some kind of audition sorted out. So I went in, played my two minutes and left.


"Roger phoned me up a couple of days later, asking me to come down to his house, and it just kind of evolved from there. It really was a strange period for the band, with Dave Winthrop. Sometimes he just wouldn’t come to gigs, and then he’d turn up a couple of gigs later almost as if nothing had happened…very strange."

Rick: "We did one gig in Swansea when the drummer didn’t turn up. So me and Rog split the drumming duties between us, because we needed the bread, otherwise we’d starve. It didn’t go down too badly."

Doog: "Towards the tail end of the Mk II band we did some gigs with Frankie Miller."

Which leads us very neatly to the entry of Bob C. Benberg from Los Angeles, who at that time was drumming with those infamous pub rock dudes – Bees Make Honey. "That was at the time Frankie had recorded an album with the Brinsleys, in fact that introduced us to him," explained Bob. "Frankie used to hang around the Tally Ho and sometimes he’d jump onstage and join us for a couple of numbers. When it was time for him to go out and work, he took us along to back him up and we did about three gigs supporting Supertramp. One of them was at Streatham where I didn’t meet the band at all, I just recognized Doog because I had seen him playing with the Alan Bown Set at the Greyhound about three months before, and the only thing I remembered about the band apart from the saxophone player with a black sax was the bass player who moved around a bit.

"Then I remembered walking in one day and seeing this guy playing drums and thinking ‘hey he sounds pretty good’ and then 15 minutes later the drummer walked in." The guy Bob saw was Rick who began his musical life as a drummer. "A few weeks later we were at Barbarella’s, Birmingham, supporting Supertramp. We did our set, then everybody split, except the piano player and me, we stuck around and watch Supertramp, and they were pretty good. They were the first band that I had seen that I thought were nifty, and I thought I could get on playing with them. After that I was putting it around that they were pretty good. The way I put it was they were the closest thing to Traffic I’d seen, they were really punchy…

"At that time we were doing some of the second album and a lot of ‘Crime Of The Century’," added Rick, "completely different versions."

Bob: "The next time I saw them was when we were playing a gig in Barnet and I saw their drummer beaming in on me. About two weeks later Roger came up to me in The Kensington and said they were going to be doing a new album in September and the drummer was splitting and what did I think about doing sessions for them."

This was a whole different thing to the Bees.

Bob: "In the Bees I never rehearsed for one day. We never rehearsed at all. With Supertramp it was different, the complete opposite. I remember the first time we got together was at the Furniture Cave in Kings Road."

Rick: "I’d never heard such a loud drummer in my life. I couldn’t hear anything except cymbals."

"Yeah but they were pretty neat huh?’

Pretty neat indeed. Bob’s punchy, clipped drum work, along with Doog’s bass makes up an invaluable and distinguished part of Supertramp’s sound. In a way they kind of weld Davies and Hodgson together into one accessible format. Now that the rhythm section had been sorted out there was one more thing to do.


When Dave Winthrop finally stopped coming to gigs the band sat around and discussed their next move. Suddenly Doog remembered his old playing partner in the Alan Bown Set) the one Bob Benberg, referred to as the man with the black sax). John Helliwell, the band’s musician and comedian rolled into one. Doog immediately phoned John to find that his reed-blowing friend was away in Germany, still a lucrative home for out of work musicians. In fact John was playing air bases with ‘a 20 stone multi instrumentalist."

Doog: "So we bumbled around for a couple of weeks without a replacement and then John came back. So I phoned him up and asked him to come down for a blow. By this time we were working in Manfred Mann’s old studios in the Old Kent Road. So John came down."

Rick: "He had a blow, then he sat down and there was silence for about 20 seconds, and then he did his joke about the Irish man who got a pair of water skis for Christmas and spent the rest of the year looking for a lake with a slope. And everybody sat and I thought ‘who is this?’"

John Helliwell is one of those natural comedians who has a static, relaxed, lunatic atmosphere that surrounds him both off and onstage. He’s also a bloody amazing musician. As Doog once described him: "The man who’ll play anything he can get his hands on."

Helliwell can tackle almost any musical task and look completely relaxed. Supertramp’s music has a certain sense of dramatics about it. Helliwell counteracts it, stopping it from becoming anywhere near pretentious and his decorative illuminations bring it closer to becoming brilliant. He’s also an ace guy.

Take it away John: "I went home after playing with them (Supertramp) and the wife asked me what it was like, and I said ‘yeah pretty good but I think I’ll go back tomorrow’. Then I went the next day and came home and she said ‘well how do you feel about it now?’ I said ‘It’s alright but I’ll have to go again’ and it kept on going like that.

"At the same time I had to do a job during the day. So I enlisted with Manpower and the first job I got was as a petrol pump attendant. Then I got a job screwing nuts and bolts together at a factory in Maidenhead." In fact most of the band had to get jobs to keep surviving.

Bob: "John recommended me to a friend of his who was playing in a band at The Park Towers Hotel in Knightsbridge and I played with them. I had loads of solo spots y’know we’d play about five sets a night, and I had about three solo spots in each set. If that wasn’t bad enough one night when we were playing our second set, d’y’know who rolled in? Carl Radle and Jim Gordon! They sat right in front of me! I was trying to play as good as I can…. but I was really nervous."

On asking Mr Helliwell for a brief resume of his musical career, his immediate reply was, "have you got three more tapes on you?" Indicating that he’s a lad with a bit of experience behind him. I then asked for the shortened version of the John Helliwell story.

"I was with Alan Bown for about six years through all the ups and downs, and then after that when it split up I went and worked for a few strip clubs. No hang on! The first job I got before that was working in a dry cleaning factory during the day and the Celebrity Club at night. Then when I sorted out my tax problem. I left the dry cleaning job and the Celebrity Club and went on to play the Twilight Rooms where Doog was working, and then I got my big break… I joined Jimmy Johnson and the Bandwagon! Then I joined up with Arthur Conley and later on with Jimmy Ruffin. Each one was a step up. Then I went to Germany and I came back in August to join this lot. They said they were making the album in September."

Bob: "That’s what they told me."

John: "Yeah that’s what they conned me into."

Bob: "We still haven’t been paid for those sessions."

Doog: "None of us were ever asked to join the group, we came along, stayed and nobody told us to leave.


Sometime during this period (late ’73) the band severed their ties with Sam, taking them from the lap of luxury and throwing them straight into the cold, had facts of rock and roll. Especially Rick, who before had limitless time to sort himself out, although he points out: "There was almost too much wasted time, you get to rely on that beg money man, there’s no urgency, your life doesn’t depend on it. By the time we left him I thought ‘wow we could sink like a stone’!"


John: "After the rehearsal studios in the Old Kent Road, we used to rehearse under Kew Bridge. Then we got together with A&M Records who hired a cottage for us in Somerset, we managed to wangle a stay there. So we all went there with girlfriends, wives, kids and cats. We were there for about three months trying to get a producer together."

One of the choices was Ian MacDonald: "He was just the wrong person, it was a simple as that," was the conclusion the band came to after MacDonald visited them. Then came Ken Scott, already renowned for his works with Bowie and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, to name a few. "We got him to re-mix our single which was called ‘Land Ho!’ and we dug what he was doing. So eventually we signed a contract for recording on February ’74. The birth of Supertramp Mk III!


Rick: "That was really bizarre when we had that house, the big house in Holland Villas. This big house, Joe Cocker was in there and there was only supposed to be four people to pay the rent, which was astronomical, so there was 12 of us in the end. There were people in the roof all over the place. I was living in the shower.

Rick: "You should have seen the scene when the landlady came around to collect the rent. I’ve never seen anything like it. She came round about 10 in the morning, and it was like panicsville. The alarm went off, I got up, walked straight out of the door with me pullover on, it was pouring with rain and I just walked round Shepherds Bush. I didn’t have money for breakfast or anything. I ended up bumming a quid off that guy at the Cabin. I expected everyone to be out in the street when I got back. I was surprised everyone was still there. It was like a farce. People stark naked rushing from room to room as they were showing the landlady around, there were people hiding in the cupboards. They were going to check in the attic and of course there were tents in there!

The setting for the rehearsal of ‘Crime’ was a much more peaceful cottage in the country.

Doog: "We had a room in the back with the gear in it and the mixer was set up in the kitchen."

The band spent three months of solid rehearsals, and then laid down some backing tracks for Jerry Moss (the ‘M’ of A&M) to hear, "Fortunately he like them," quipped John, ‘he must have gone back to America and said let them get on with it."

I asked John if ‘Crime’ was an expensive album to produce.

"Well with A&M helping us out because we couldn’t work, it worked out that we’d have to sell three quarters of a million copies to break even, so we’ll be getting there soon enough."

It’s nearly there already."

John: "’Crisis’ was cheaper, not that much."


The first time Supertramp played together in their current format was a gig in Jersey for a Lord’s party. A friend of a friend of a friend, of a friend job. "I got so drunk I couldn’t play", revealed Bob Benberg, "so I spent the whole of the break sobering up and by that time the rest of the band got so drunk they couldn’t play!"

The first time the band played ‘Crime Of The Century’ was at an A&M gathering in the Kings Road Theatre. "There were so many thing happening backstage you just wouldn’t have believed it," said John, Rick "We never worked with a full lighting crew so when they went out we couldn’t see a thing. And I remembered on one particular number I had to open a number in complete darkness, I couldn’t see anything so I couldn’t play, which meant the lights wouldn’t go on. We really bluffed through it and hoped for the best."

Since those first gigs the band have toured Britain, Europe and the USA. It’s only been two years and two months but no one can accuse them of slacking, and they still enjoy playing ‘Crime Of The Century’.

Roger: "I’m enjoying it more this time than I did last time."

Rick: "I think it’s taken almost this long to get completely on top of it without worrying about little knobs and switches, so in a way you can go out there and relax. There’s only a couple of numbers that worry me technically.

"Once you start getting on top of it, that’s when you have to be careful that you’re not going to become complacent. When you stop thinking ‘is it going to be alright!’ and start thinking ‘this is going to be a piece of piss’ – it’s only on the last gigs that I’ve thought this is nothing, I can do this easy, but you soon get brought down to earth about it all."

I asked Rick how he felt about the press reaction, second time around.

"I expected a slightly harder time with the album," he said referring to ‘Crisis? "opposite to what I initially thought, I expected it to be good for ‘Crime’ and not for this one. But the press are funny, there’s only a few people that you’ve got confidence in as far as what they think and sooner or later they blow it for you by saying something completely silly".

‘Crisis?’ features a lot of old material (never recorded before), indicating that the band have slowed down writing wise, which is hardly surprising when you consider how hard they’ve been working.

"There hasn’t been a great spate of writing," agreed Rick, "certainly not from me, I think Rog has done a bit more."

Doog: "It seems easier for Rog as he only needs a guitar, while Rick needs to be locked away somewhere with a piano."

Rick: "We need a break, where we can get fresh ideas."

Doog: "We never stopped, and it will have been two years solid work by the time we do stop. The important thing is that the music stays good. If it needs stop and thinking about then that’s what’s going to happen!"

Supertramp are here to stay.

* Lyrics taken from ‘If Everyone Was Listening’ on ‘Crime Of The Century’ published by Delicate/Rondor Music.

SUPERTRAMP Interviews year 1974


Hard-Up Heroes with the Hilton Connection

New Musical Express
November 2, 1974
by Fred Dellar

If you'd been foolish enough to mention a new album to Supertramp just over a year ago, you'd have been greeted with looks that suggested you ran away and played with a bottle of cyanide.

Money was still something you played Monopoly with and the band was so down it seemed just a matter of announcing the split and looking for the next set of circumstances.

But, somewhere along the way they decided to make a single and mix it at Trident. There, producer Ken Scott heard the band and liked what they did. So they bent his ear towards the large amount of material they'd piled up on their homely Sony (no, they couldn't afford a Reox like everyone else) and Scott became so intrigues that he began to work up a kind of Eddie Offord-Yes relationship with the group and decided to lead them on their quest for their personal Holy Grail - an album that would gain them acceptance.

So off they all went to the Who studio to up down some basic tracks, later returning to Trident for overdubs and thence to Scorpio where they did the final mix - all of which too around five months.

"Ken's really become part of the band," claims keyboardman and founder-member Richard Davies. "But he's such a perfectionist that when he tries for a drum sound we all walk out and leave bob Benberg (the band's drummer) and him to it. If we come back a couple of hours later they'll still be working it all out".

Even the sound effects on the album - 'Crime of the Century' (reviewed last week) had to be really authentic. When he wanted the sound of children's voices, Scott went down to his daughter's school and recorded the holocaust at going-home time. Another evening he could be found recording buskers in London's West End which on another occasion he and Supertramp made their way to Paddington where, amid the train-spotter, they recorded the station announcements for a track called "Rudy".

Scott, who won a large number of plaudits for his work with Bowie, is currently involved in a project with Billy Cobham. But he's already planning another album with Supertramp. Y'see the band claim they didn't put all their best material on the new album: "We just used some of the songs that fitted okay", says guitarist Roger Hodgson, "and some of the strongest material is yet to come - we've had a lot of time in which to write during the past couple of years."

But now the band are back to earning a little bread once more and they've dedicated their album, which A & M released a couple of weeks ago, to a guy called Sam - a guy who once decided that a small portion of his million would find a worthwhile investment in the talents of Supertramp. Now there's a story.

SUPERTRAMP Interviews year 1971


Breaks are coming for Supertramp

New Musical Express
October 23, 1971
by Tony McNally

High on a mountain road in Norway lies a definite reminder that Supertramp once played there - the equipment van, which had to be left because the mountain was too steep to take it down. And that is only one of the incidents with vans for this refreshing five piece outfit. So bad has the situation been that last Wednesday the band couldn't play Liverpool with TYA (who they're on tour with) and it resulted in sax player Dave Winthrop busking to cinema queues - he did make five bob though!

At London's Coliseum on Sunday night, I say the band play for the first time, and must say was impressed by their edited set. The music is complex, with strong harmony lines, and a variety of instruments including saxes, flutes, piano, organ and guitars, I would say they draw heavily from the blues, especially for the boogies, but do have a distinct country flavour.

The band was formed around keyboard player Rick Davies two years ago with guitarist Roger Hodgson. Dave joined 18 months ago, and Frank Farrell (bass) and Kevin Currey (drums) came in earlier this year.

The band have gained quite a bit of respect in the music business, and they told me that Paul Kossoff recently invited Roger to join his band. But as things were just beginning to go for them they decided to keep together.

As they put it, the band has been through absolute rubbish and now they are starting to get breaks, one of which must surely be the TYA tour.

"At last," Rick said, "five of us think probably the same way, which is quite useful and we like the same things in music.

"Like playing with Kevin; it's very hard to find a drummer who will do very simple thins because they think of jazzy bits, and can't do the simple rhythms because of this ego thing going.

When the band was in its early stages they played a minor key type of thing, and also some very poetical type of stuff - until the guitarist left, and that changed their musical format.

Rick: "Yeah, when Richard Palmer left, thing started to change all right, and we got into this type of funky thing. It's a feel type of thing. It's going to be a little bit more intricate and a little more worked out and more arranged, but not into the ELP type of thing.


Listening to the band I got the impression that the arrangements were carefully worked out, seems that things are going to be tighter though.

"It's arranged now, but simply," Rick went on to say "but it'll go a little bit deeper. A lot is drawn from the blues, that's the sort of feel bit."

The music is put together by the band, and the album "Indelibly stamped" seems to be doing well, if for nothing else, just originality.

"On Stage," said Rick," we try to be light-hearted, enjoy the rhythms and then let it show in the music.


Listen with your heads not your ears

Record Mirror
May 15, 1971
By Kevin Corrie

I joined Supertramp about two months before we started work on the new album. I had to do three auditions (short lists and things) and the band saw 87 drummers and 93 guitarists. They didn’t find a guitarist. Eventually Roger, the bass player, played guitar, so Frank joined on bass just after we finished the album.

"We’ll be rehearsing now for a few weeks, then we got to the P.N. Club, Munich for a few weeks to break the band in to coincide with the release of the album.

"What can I say about the album… it’s right where we all are at the moment. We’re not out to impress all and sundry with our musical prowess, virtuosity,etc. We like to think people who buy the album will listen with their heads, not their ears, but we don’t mind.

"If they get something out of it what we didn’t consciously put on it, then good for them. We think it is quite a varied album with most of the out of it that we didn’t emphasis on melody and feel, both on the album and on stage.

"Most of our live gigs are colleges which means we’re only exposed to people who want to know anyway. We hope the album will find it’s way into the possession of people who wouldn’t normally associate themselves with ‘groovy’ college bands.

"The fact that Supertramp are still together is a minor miracle in itself. When the first album was being made the personnel scenes were really bad.
Vans and cars breaking down one after the other.

"Eventually the guitarist and drummer left the band. That was it. As far as people in the business were concerned. We’re now slowly convincing them they were wrong.

"We have a gas doing the album. We were in the studios all over Easter and we wrote and produced it ourselves. People don’t realize it but the studios and studio engineers all affect the way the album comes together.

"It was recorded at Olympic in Barnes, Which is a really nice studio, and the engineer Bob knew exactly what we were trying to do without anyone having to say anything. A&M are rush releasing it to get it out for early June. So we can only sit tight and hope everyone digs it.


SUPERTRAMP Interviews year 1970

Tramp hits the road

Melody Maker
September 5, 1970
By Andrew Means

Like a thousand other relatively unknown groups, Supertramp are trying hard to make a name for themselves. But unlike most groups in a similar position, they have an excellent recommendation – their first album.

Richard Davies (organ, electric piano, vocals), Roger Hodgson (bass guitar, vocals), Richard Palmer (lead guitar and vocals) and Robert Millar (drums) have combined to produce some very tasteful material.

Latest addition to the group is David Winthrop (saxophone, flute and vocals) who was not featured on the album. The full effect of Supertramp, then, is as yet a relatively unknown quality. During a recent breakfast ritual I asked Roger and Richard Davies how the group had first started.

"I started the group off really, after my old group broke up. My manager asked me if I wanted to start again with new musicians," Richard Davies told me, in between gulps of bacon, sausages and other delicacies.

"We put an advert in, and built up the group from there. Me and Roger are the two main composers and Richard Palmer is writing lyrics at the moment. When we first started we took a wrong direction in trying to do complicated stuff, but we’ve change that now.

"The forming of the group and getting a record out has taken us about a year and we’re itching to get out on the road," Roger broke in.

Was there any particular sound or instrument which they felt would identify them?

"Ideally we’re just five guys on stage just grooving along." Said Richard Davies. "If anything the electric piano may be the distinctive thing. Also we’ve got some weird voices.

"We have very different voices," agreed Roger. "This comes out in the moods of the songs we each write. If we write a rock song Dave usually sings it. He’s got a harsh voice."

Richard explained that when either he or Roger thought of the beginning of a song, they tried to get the mood across to Richard Palmer and he wrote the lyrics.

"When we write a song we find that some line will just come into our heads subconsciously," said Roger. "Richard grabs these lines and writes lyrics around them, making them fit the mood of the song."

Richard Palmer strode in at that moment; I asked how he shaped the lyrics.

"This is contradictory because it’s not what I’m doing, but the lyrics that impress me the most are ballad lyrics about concrete people and places, rather than abstract ideas – like the Band do," he said "It’s not always possible but if you can make the words stand up on their own without the music then it’s good. The attraction of the ballad is that the song tells a story. I admire lyrics if they make sense.

"The days of the protest song as such are over. It’s much better to tell a story illustrating a point. I’m not sure that it’s the business of the rock-and-roll band to protest. It does seem to me a little bit easy to use the stage or record as a soapbox.

"Most people in the music business seem to adopt other people’s convictions without thinking it up for themselves. I try to make a personal point with my lyrics. The right thing is to try and present an attitude – just a statement of fact from which it’s evident that you are thinking in a certain way.

"The songs I admire are narrative. Protest songs are essentially negative. Jefferson Airplane, who I like a lot, have a very positive attitude. They drag you into their field of influence. Many groups don’t have the personality power to do that."

Did they feel that their album represented them fairly?

"I’m satisfied with this album in view of how long we’d been formed when we made it," said Richard Davies. "When we made it Robert had only been with us a week."

"We’ve got about twenty songs for our next album now," Roger told me. "It’s very much different from the first one emotionally."

"The last album was songs which Richard and I had written before Supertramp was formed," said Roger. "The next one is going to be songs written since the group started. Now all we’ve got to do is get the gigs. We’ve got a few University dates and this is the market we’ll be aiming for.




The Seventies Sound
Record Mirror
August 8, 1970

Roger Hodgson is the base guitarist with a new five-piece British group Supertramp, whose debut album "Supertramp" is issued by A&M are particularly enthusiastic about the band who have signed with The Chrysalis Agency and are beginning an extensive round of club and college dates throughout Britain.

"We’re very pleased at the reaction we’ve had to our initial bookings in Britain at places like the Marquee. As a group we haven’t been in existence for long, although all of the members have had a good deal of musical schooling in various groups during the past few years.

"When we originally got together earlier this year it was decided that we must spend some months together tightening up our sound before doing British gigs, so we went to the Continent and spent several weeks rehearsing solidly in Geneva. Then we spent some time as a resident band at the P.N. club in Munich. We had five half-hour shows during the week and seven shows a day at weekends. This was very good for us; it’s the type of experience that many other bands have gone through at the beginning of their careers.
For some reason, a lot of really good British outfits consider that the hard, exhausting work in German clubs is one of the best methods of tightening group sound and getting the group together as a team. We certainly found that to be true.

"Now we’re looking forward to all our British gigs and are really keen to hear the reaction to our album when it’s released. All the numbers were written by ourselves.
"As far as my personal history is concerned I’ve had a passion for playing guitar since my early schooldays – and it certainly affected my work! At school they tried to dissuade my passion for music, but in the end they let me have my own solo concert. I was 12 at the time. I played most of my own compositions but the only encore I received was the one non-original song I performed – Cliff Richard’s "Bachelor Boy."

"I left school at 18 and joined a group called People Like Us, but I was always the odd one out because I refused to force a smile on stage. Lionel Conway of Island Records heard a demo we made and asked me to leave the group and make a solo record of one of my own compositions called "Mr Boyd." It was released in America under the name Argosy and got to No. 28 in the Kansas City charts.

Up until now I’d always played lead guitar, but when I auditions for Supertramp they asked me to switch to bass and, having got used to it, I really dig it now. I also play piano and cello with the group."


John A. Helliwell BIO & NEWS

The showman
Birth date: February, 1945
Birth place: Todmorden, ENGLAND


From the JOHN HELLIWELL website :
I was born in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, England (U.F.O. centre of the U.K. ) in 1945 and grew up, rather sheltered from the big world, in the quite austere 1950s. I sang in the church choir and had piano lessons for a year at age nine.
After hearing Monty Sunshine play “Petite Fleur” with Chris Barber's Jazz Band, I was inspired, and saved up for two years to buy a clarinet for £15 when I was thirteen. I soon began to appreciate “modern” jazz and bought a saxophone two years later.
My inspirations then were Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis and Art Blakey.
When I left school I went to Birmingham to work as a computer programmer. There I played with various bands and groups including “The Dicemen” (we wore “Beatle” suits with trousers so tight we had to be lifted on to the stage) and “Jugs O'Henry” with whom I turned professional in 1965. “Jugs..” was short-lived, and, after putting an advertisement in the “Melody Maker” music weekly which read “Have sax, will travel”, I joined “The Alan Bown Set” with whom I spent six years.
We made several albums, played thousands of gigs, and had the singers Jess Roden, Gordon Neville and Robert Palmer.
Our music progressed (or regressed, depending on your point-of-view) from soul music to quite free jazzy rock, calling in on flower-power and psychedelia on the way.


Please read the interesting INTERVIEW I made to John in 2003 in Manchester, near his home.
Por favor, leer esta interesante ENTREVISTA que le hice a John en 2003 en Manchester, cerca de su casa.

John was (and still is) working for many projects over the years appart of Supertramp. Diana Ross or Pink Floyd for instance.
John was playing for Roger Hodgson in his live album "Rites of passage" in 1996.
John was also involved in the GAIA project (Alan Simon) in 2003/2004 together with Jesse Siebenberg (Supertramp) and Andrew Hodgson (Roger's son) among other artists. Within this project John was playing with Roger Hodgson again in Zurich, Art on Ice show in 2004. (See the Roger's tours section)
John was playing on 4 tracks for Excalibur II project , CD released year 2007.
John is the saxophone player during Tour Excalibur, the celtic Opera, 2009-2011 (see below) German Tour in 2010
John featuring Alan Parsons live Project at the Olympia in Paris, first of June 2010 (see below)
John was playing on several tracks for Excalibur III project, recorded in 2010 and released year 2011. German Tour in 2011
John was playing on several tracks for Excalibur IV project, recorded in 2016
John is collaborating in some projects by Alan Simon, and also playing with Leslie Mandolki (2018-2019 and more.....)
John announces a new album in May 2020: EVER OPEN DOOR
John announces a new album in Oct 2022: DON'T EVER LEAVE ME

But, a special musical project for John is his own jazz band, called "Creme Anglaise". Mark Hart (Supertramp) is collaborating also on this band. The band performed several shows until now and a CD was released in 2005.
Below you can read my report about the show in Giverny two years ago.


All Helliwell collaborations (source: The Dude and BIS)

1977 "Bad Reputation" Thin Lizzy
1979 "The Old Pals Act" Peter Bennett
1979 "Rendez Vous" Cano
1980 "Eastern Wind" Chris De Burgh
1981 "Deception Is An Art" Ali Thomson
1984 "Positif" Jean-Jacques Goldman
1986 "Giants In Our Own Room" Bob Siebenberg
1987 "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason" Pink Floyd
1989 "Show Of Hands" Show Of Hands
1989 "The Long Shot" Heads Up
1989 "Say Something Good" River City People
1990 "Shortshop" Sara Hickman
1991 "The Force Behind The Power" Diana Ross
1996 "Bang !" Andy Scott & Sax Assault
1997 "Rites Of Passage" Roger Hodgson
2003 "Gaïa" Alan Simon
2004 "River To The Sea" Simon Apple
2005 "Angola" Lulendo
2006 "Dreamscape" dB-Infusion
2007 "Excalibur II - The Celtic Ring" Alan Simon
2007 "Sax Of Gold" Andy Scott's SaxAssault
2010 "Excalibur III - The Origins" by Alan Simon
2010 " Island kids" Skilda
2012 "The Legends Tour" Alan Simon CANCELLED
2016 "Excalibur IV - "The Dark age of the Dragon" by Alan Simon
2018 "Rock Meets Classic" 
2018 "Big Band Supertramp" 
2019 Some Alan Simon projects and gigs, and Leslie Mandoki
2020 "Ever Open Door"  New album
2022 "Don't ever leave me"  New album


CREME ANGLAISE Show in GIVERNY, 11th September 2005

Last weekend I attended the show of Creme anglaise in Giverny, thanks to "mes amis" Fabrice, Jerome and Laurent. The show was great !!! Nice evening. We had fun and enjoyed good music, John described their music as "friendly jazz" during the show. He was even more joker and brightened up than the Supertramp's shows, even dancing from time to time :o) He enjoyed a lot, a lot of solos, and enjoying the solos of keyboards, drums, bass and drums, he was really happy.

John was wearing as usual, so when he was playing and even more speaking, it was like a show of Supertramp :o) and listening the voice of the Paris album again ....

He started the show speaking to the audience "english class....... repeat after me....... my tailor is rich :o)" and later........ "the tailor of Arthur (the keyboard player) is not rich !!! laughs...... He explained some changes in the line up of the band for that nigth, so the name of the band was "Creme Fresh" for that show :o)

Mark Hart was on stage too (he cames from LA just for the show and back home the next day) and he composed some of the songs. He even played "lullaby for Channing" (from his own album) and other great songs. Alan Simon and Lulano (Gaia Project) joined the band for the last track, amazing mix of etnic & jazz. It was a party.

Jazz is not the kind of music I like listening at home and driving, but I enjoy jazz LIVE due to the virtouos musicians, powerful sound and nice rythm. And some of the "sound" of Supertramp is floating in the air when John is playing his own personal style :o)

During the dinner we had fun, I was kidding him about his basic french on stage (like Roger) and John repeated for me the "mythic words" Bonsoir Paris, bienvenue a une soiree avec Supertramp !!!! - in perfect french :o)

Fabrice was helping him selling the first CD of the band during the concert and John felt happy after the first sales of his first own project !!! A big smile from ear to ear......

John will update his web site with info about the next shows soon, and also offering the new CD of Creme Anglaise. I asked to Mark and John about news from Rick, but no news at the moment. So, at the moment all members of Supertramp are doing their own projects (John & Mark, Carl & Cliff, Jesse & Bob)


GIVERNY 11 Septiembre 2005

El pasado fin de semana fuí al festival de Giverny en Paris gracias a mis amigos Fabrice, Jerome y Laurent (Logical Tramps). El show fué genial !!! Buena musica y muy divertido, agradable velada. John describió su musica como "friendly jazz" (jazz amigable) durante el show. En realidad es jazz, pero más bien alegre y marchoso, con algún toque (canción) triste por parte de Mark Hart, que incluso interpretó Lullaby for Channing de su ultimo disco. John estaba más suelto y dicharachero incluso que en los shows de Supertramp, bailando incluso de tanto en tanto, siempre bromista y dando la nota, y haciendo que la gente aplauda los solos de los demás musicos. Se notaba que disfrutaba un montón, estaba feliz. Comenzó el show diciendo: "english class....... repeat after me....... my tailor is rich :o)"
y luego........ "the tailor of Arthur (el teclista) is not rich !!! risas......

La verdad que tener a John tocando el saxo a dos metros delante tuyo y vestido como siempre, da una sensación de estar en un concierto de Supertramp ....... y cada vez que habla, parece que escuches el disco Paris .......

Luego en la cena nos reimos un montón y me dijo en perfecto francés sus "miticas palabras" que pronunció en Paris 1979: "Bonsoir Paris !!! Bienvenue a une soiree avec Supertramp !!!! "

Mark Hart tambien estaba allí como dije (vino expresamente de LA como ya hizo otras veces) y es el compositor de algunos de los temas. Alan Simon y Lulano (proyecto Gaia ) se unieron a la banda para la ultima canción, interesante fusión de etnica & jazz. Fué una fiesta.

El Jazz no es la clase de musica que escucho en casa o en el coche (me aburre....) pero en directo es otra cosa: notas el virtuosismo de los músicos en primera persona, el potente sonido de los altavoces, el ritmo rico en matices, etc.... Y algo del sonido Supertramp está flotando en el ambiente cuando John está tocando el saxo y clarinete con su personal estilo y colores :o)

John actualizará su web pronto pues hay más conciertos en la agenda. Y ofrecerá su CD en la web. Fabrice estuvo ayudando vendiendo el primer CD de la banda durante la velada, y John se puso contento cuando vió que se habían vendido los primeros CDs de su primer proyecto auténticamente suyo..... una sonrisa de oreja a oreja !

Pregunté a Mark y John sobre noticias de Rick, pero no tienen noticias de momento. Por eso, por el momento todos los miembros de Supertramp siguen con sus proyectos (John & Mark, Carl & Cliff, Jesse & Bob)


Photo with Creme Anglaise in London, winter 2004

** Interview APRIL 2009 **

Latest shows, 2009

John Helliwell and his jazz band called "Crème Anglaise"
are performing several shows in U.K. this month (March 2009):

March 7th - Halifax, W. Yorkshire, U.K. - Square Chapel - 7.30 pm.

March 18th - Settle, N. Yorkshire U.K. - The Victoria Hall - 8.00 pm.
March 19th - Settle, N. Yorkshire U.K. - The Victoria Hall - 8.00 pm.

In the summer 2009 John played with Alan Simon's Excaliburproject ( in Kaltenberg, near Munich, an Italian jazz tour with Raimondo Meli Lupi's Open Frontiers Quartet, and several concerts with Andy Scott's Sax Assault in the UK. John recorded some songs for a CD with Raimondo Meli Lupi (guitar) and Fausto Beccalossi (accordion) in Parma, Italy in early August.

John will join Leslie ManDoki's "Soulmates" in Berlin (August 28th) and Gyor, Hungary (August 29th) for concerts to celebrate the relase of the "Soulmates II" CD.


Latest shows, 2010

John will perform again with Alan Simon's Excaliburproject ( in January 2010, Excalibur II - The Celtic Ring

02/01/2010 - Bremen AWD Dome
04/01/2010 - Mannheim SAP Arena
07/01/2010 - Hamburg Colorline Arena
08/01/2010 - Leipzig Arena
09/01/2010 - Hannover TUI Arena
13/01/2010 - Munich Olympiahalle
16/01/2010 - Berlin Max-Schmeling-Halle
18/01/2010 - Cologne Lanxess Arena
19/01/2010 - Stuttgart Schleyerhalle
21/01/2010 - Zurich Hallenstadion
22/01/2010 - Oberhausen Arena
23/01/2010 - Frankfurt Festhalle
26/01/2010 - Nuremberg Arena Nürnberger Versicherung

 Show in Cologne January 18, please see my own REVIEW & PHOTOS


 Paris, June 1, 2010

 John featuring Alan Parsons Live Project at the Olympia. John perfomed 3 songs during the show.
Please see my own REVIEW & PHOTOS


Manchester, July 23, 2010

John Helliwell officially launching the jazz festival playing a melody of notes stuck to a stave by members of the audience. Funny !
John Helliwell hizo la presentación del festival interpretando una melodía de notas musicales que el público había escrito al azar.
See the VIDEO / Ver el VIDEO


Supertramp tour, September - November,  2010

John Helliwell joined his band mates for the "70-10" tour around Europe.


** Interview JULY 2010**   (Excalibur Trilogy journal)

** Interview OCTOBER 2010 **  (Classic Rock)

** Interview OCTOBER 2010 **  (Penny black music) 


Excalibur Live, 2011

John is performing again with Alan Simon's Excaliburproject ( in January 2011, Excalibur III - The origins

The tour dates of EXCALIBUR III:

14.01.2011 – Berlin, Max-Schmeling-Halle. See the VIDEO
15.01.2011 – Hannover, TUI-Arena
16.01.2011 – Dortmund, Westfalenhalle
24.03.2011 – Erfurt, Messehalle
26.03.2011 – Frankfurt, Festhalle


Excalibur Live, 2016

John is part again of the Excalibur project, The dark age of the Dragon, by Alan Simon. German tour in January 2016

See the tour dates of  EXCALIBUR Live 2016

See our Report (Berlin December 13th of December) 


Asfalto, 2017/2018

John has colaborated with the spanish band "Asfalto". He played 3 gigs in Madrid, Tarragona and Barcelona

See our Report (Barcelona 27th of January 2018) 


Rock Meets Classic, 2018

John is part of the Rock meets Classic tour 2018, with Jesse Siebenberg

See our Report (Zurich, April 9) 


Big Band Supertramp, 2018

John leads the epic Storyhouse big band for a set of special arrangements of Supertramp’s biggest and best songs.

See our Report (Chester, July 13) 






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