30 years ago: Supertramp makes a go of it without Roger Hodgson

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      Thirty years ago today—on June 28, 1985the Straight published my interview with Supertramp drummer Bob Seibenberg. That’s no big whoop in the grand scheme of things, but at the time the band had just released its first album without original member Roger Hodgson, Brother Where You Bound, so there was interest in how it would sound (and sell) without the guy who’d written and sung its biggest hits.

      I remember the local A&M Records rep drove me out to Vancouver airport to interview Seibenberg at a bar there. That was pretty unusual. I was impressed when the drummer told me that his brother-in-law–who plays guitar along with David Gilmour on the title track–was Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy fame.

      If I recall correctly, the album didn’t do much for me, though. Tweren’t no Crime of the Century.

      “Roger wanted to do his own thing for quite a while,” says Supertramp drummer Bob Seibenberg, “and the rest of us wanted to get back to our earlier sound. AfterBreakfast in Americawhich was such an obviously big albumwe tried to decide whether we should do Breakfast in America again, or come back a little heavier.

      “We came back with Famous Last Words, and it wasn’t really what we wanted to do. That was obviously the beginning of the end there, you know.”

      The “musical differences” that surfaced between Supertramp’s co-leaders Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies around the time of Famous Last Words eventually led the rest of the group to side with Davies. And though Hodgson stuck with the band through their 1983 World Tour, it was common knowledgeamong band members and fans alikethat the was on his way out. In 1984 he cut the ties for good with the release of a successful solo album, In the Eye of the Storm.

      “Roger’s a neat guy,” claims Seibenberg, “and we miss him from that point of view. But internally–in terms of getting on with the business of being a group–everybody’s happier now.”

      Supertramp’s recently released their ninth album, titled Brother Where You Bound. Davies is clearly the man in control now, having written all the music and lyrics on the latest LP. “He knows what he wants, says Bob, “and we’re only too happy to go for that.”

      And what is it like recording as a four-piece band now?

      “Well, it’s a pretty slick machine. The four of us play all the time anyway, just around at Rick’s house. We go in and have a few beers and play Fats Domino and stuff. And we groove pretty well together. We could probably do two 45’s [45-minute sets] in a local club, you know.”

      When Roger Hodgson left, Supertramp lost not only a major songwriter and vocalist, but also a guitarist. For Brother Where You Bound they hired session player Marty Walsh, who had done stints with both Eddie Money and Christopher Cross. And on the 16 1/2-minute title track, there also appearances from Scott Gorham (Seibenberg’s brother-in-law, formerly with Thin Lizzy) and Dave Gilmour (late of Pink Floyd). According to Seibenberg, the idea of using Gilmour for one song came about on the spur of the moment.

      “We tried Marty doing a solo, and we tried Scott doing a solo, and it just wasn’t the ticket. So we were sort of going, ‘Well, a Dave Gilmour-kinda thing would be neat here.’

      “And Norman our engineer went, ‘Well why the…don’t you just call up Dave Gilmour?!’ And we went, ‘Duhhh!’ So we sent him a cassette, and he came back to us in a couple of days and said, ‘When?’

      “And he was just great to work with. I mean you don’t have to do anything at the desk. He works out there with his roadie for a couple of hours, and fiddles with all his stuff, and it’s like ‘Ready!’ You just slip the fader up and it’s just there–like a trademark sound.”

      “Brother Where You Bound” is the showpiece of the new album (which is currently #8 on the Straight’s Top 50). It is one song that ‘s been a long time in the making.

      “It was slated for Famous Last Words,” explains Bob, “but it looked a bit silly up against some of the lighter tracks on that album, so we saved it. We anticipated it being the backbone of the next effort, knowing that Roger would not be around.

      “People would always come up to us and say that they really like the ‘Crime of the Century’ song, and the ‘Fool’s Overture’ kinda thingthe big piece where it stops and there’s effects and musical pictures. So Rick stuck ‘Brother’ back someplace and just worked on it over the years, to come out with something like that himself.”

      The “musical pictures” of “Brother Where You Bound” have been put together in the form of an 18-minute video, filmed in L.A. by Dutch director Rene Daalder. The clip is currently making the rounds on both MTV and Canada’s MuchMusic.

      “It’s controversial,” says Seibenberg. “People aren’t really sure whether they like it or not. And I’m kinda the same way–I’m not quite sure that I like it or not either. But the whole point of the thing is that people are talking about it. It disturbs people, and makes them think.

      “It’s kinda violent. I mean there’s guys on fire. But it’s not as bad as the news. I’ve said I wouldn’t let my kids watch it, but I don’t let them watch Magnum P.U. either. And it’s certainly nothin’ like Friday the 13th or anything like that.

      “But we didn’t make it for the kids. It’s like a political kind of thing that’s a statement against violence. It’s directed at people who are supposed to be takingcare of all this and that’s older people.”

      Comments

      9 Comments

      Eleanor

      Jun 29, 2015 at 8:09am

      There is nothing better than seeing the original singer/songwriter performing his own songs. No one sings Roger's songs like Roger. There's a reason he's called the Voice of Supertramp! Can't wait to see him again in concert this summer and fall. His show is incredible and what a band he has. Check this out - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fVQ2Rq2U0o

      Miner

      Jun 29, 2015 at 8:40am

      Some things never change. But it would Be nice to see everybody on stage for one more tour/album. Not much time left. But it's up to them.

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      RDC

      Jun 29, 2015 at 10:04am

      Sorry guys, all the talent left the room when Hodgson left.

      Rummerama

      Jun 29, 2015 at 11:48am

      Where's Roger? These guys are talented musicians no doubt but this is very mediocre, writing isn't great, hasn't been since split, ain't no suptramp, just tramp now, lol

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      CeeJay

      Jun 29, 2015 at 1:30pm

      Oh, well – Thank you for reminding me. Re-reading that interview made me relive that time and it reminded me of why I left Supertramp alongside Roger Hodgson. This video was and still is painful to watch and this song is painful to listen to, as well – and actually, that's not what I first and foremost want when I listen to music. This is what I get in the news, Thank you. No need for some extra violence in a video and a song without hope.

      So, yes, I sided with Roger Hodgson and I'm still there in 2015 and boy, am I glad that Mr. Hodgson is touring the world again this year, because – call me a Hippie or a romantic – I really do believe we need more artists like Hodgson in this world. I cherish his concerts where he plays his songs which evoke the overall feeling that – even though so many things are in disorder in this world, we may still see the good. I guess some may call it pathetic, but Hodgson's songs restore my faith in humanity.

      Davies and Hodgson are actually not so far from each other when it comes to the basic topics in their songs, both of them write songs about the human condition but I personally feel at home with Hodgson because he has the ability to bring it all to a level that leaves me hoping and makes me focus on the good.

      Anyway, I simply love the warm and loving feeling I get from his live performances – and in order to spread this feeling, here are his tourdates: http://rogerhodgson.com/documents/tour.html Peace and Love :o)

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      Mike M.

      Jun 29, 2015 at 3:41pm

      I agree that Brother Where You Bound doesn't measure up to the Supertramp albums released in prior years, which I believe is due to the absence of Roger Hodgson's influence on the music. Can't compare the title song to 'Fools Overture' either. Roger was the force behind nearly all of my favorite Supertramp songs and his solo work beats everything Supertramp did without him. Thankfully Roger is still actively touring with an excellent supporting band of four excellent musicians and I am looking forward to seeing them in November, 2015 when they play in New York.

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      ripples

      Jun 29, 2015 at 8:03pm

      I've always felt that Roger Hodgson was/is the songwriting pinnacle of Supertramp, with many of their classics penned by Hodgson - Logical Song, Dreamer, Take the Long Way Home, Breakfast in America, Give a Little Bit, School, Fool's Overture - some written by Roger even before he co-founded the band. Once Roger respectfully chose the path of raising his family and left Supertramp in 1983, the sound and creative direction of Supertramp changed entirely. Their songs became rampant with cynicism and seeing the world through a bleak lens, while Roger's songs that I've lived with and made memories by were contemplative, meaningful, encouraging ("please tell me who I am", "you're playing a part in a picture show / well take the long way home"). And the best part, Roger has always written and performed from a very pure and honest place within himself, which gives his songs an air of freshness and timeless relevance across several generations. It left a great impression with me experiencing Roger in concert, going along a personal, intimate musical journey with everyone in the audience - realizing we're all in the same boat, riding every tide and current of life... and we can truly find great comfort and peace in that knowing. Roger is one of very few musicians I enjoy seeing in concert again and again - each time bringing each of us closer through the music. It's going to be an amazing 2015 world tour!

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      Candyfish

      Jun 29, 2015 at 11:34pm

      " After reading this interview, I'd go with something important to say to her: "Roger's a neat guy," claims Seibenberg.

      Indeed, Roger Hodgson, besides the great composer of Supertramp's greatest hits, is a great person.

      I had the good fortune to attend several of his concerts live, and enjoy the great essence of pure music, in acoustic, with his band, with Symphonic Orchestra and Choir.

      To listen to the great sound quality and placed on the stage, his live performances are characterized, listen to your side, songs he has composed since the beginning of this great musical career,
      as Fool's Overture, Dreamer, Give to Little Bit, School, Take the Long Way Home, Breakfast in America, Thel Logical Song, Hide in Your Shell, Two of Us, A Soapbox Opera, Child of Vision,
      Lord is it Mine, It's Raining Again; and in his solo career, In Jeopardy, Had a Dream Lover in the Wind, Only Because of You, Love is a Thousand Times, Puppet Dance, Death and a Zoo, The More I Look.....

      Of course, no doubt, Roger was the soul, the essence, the spirit and the voice of Supertramp.

      A luxury in our days, to continue deisfrutando of these magical shows of Roger Hodgson live, where the artist connects with your audience intimately, and feel close to the best music of three generations.

      A sample of their repertoire:
      https://youtu.be/WMLNeSbtVN0 "

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      Ana López

      Jun 30, 2015 at 9:22am

      Reading this article brings back to me some old memories. As a huge fan of Supertramp for years, I felt a big empty hole inside me when Roger left the band. I remember myself saying, "Supertramp is over" and for me so many years later, I must say how true I was then.
      Without Roger, Supertramp is nothing. I saw them in their last tour and I was so disappointed, and of course I won't attend their shows any longer.
      But, all of us who love those songs, are very fortunate to have Roger Hodgson on tour all these years. We can enjoy not only the old hits from ST, but Roger's solo work gems. He and his four piece backing band create such atmosphere that it's always a great celebration. I encourage everyone to attend Roger Hodgson's shows, they will surprise you pleasantly, you'll find there all those wonderful songs that have accompanied us throughout our life as our soundtrack, songs like Give a Little Bit, Dreamer, Fool's Overture, Logical Song, Breakfast in America and so many others that only Roger, as his author, can give to them the magic and charm they have. Viewing Roger and his band in action is a must for all lovers of good music.
      And what the charisma?, the positive aura that surrounds Roger... No other artist gets that communication with his audience like him interacting with them, telling the stories behind his songs, always with his permanent smile. A unique spectacle of a single artist. Are you going to miss it? I do not.

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