Saturday, July 27, 2013

Roger Hodgson Retrospective
The Voice of Supertramp
by Anthony Servante

The Driving Force behind Supertramp

Many bands break up. Some of my favorites have broken up over the years. And sometimes after the break-up some of the band members remain and keep the band name, even tour with the band name, though it is not the same band anymore. Consider the case of Barclay James Harvest. They were together over 30 years when the decision was made for the two main songwriters of the band to part company. But something strange happened: they both kept the band name and attached their own name to the band: John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest; Les Holroyd’s Barclay James Harvest. And neither band is Barclay James Harvest. Together Lees and Holroyd created the sound of the band; separately they merely resemble the BJH music.

Another Hodgson Hit.

Now consider the case of Supertramp. They broke up in 1983, but Rick Davies kept the band name, and Roger Hodgson went solo. It was apparent right off that Supertramp’s new sound was not the hit-making sound heard during the Hodgson years. And that’s ok. Rick Davies had a different vision for the band and was willing to give up the band’s popularity so that he could steer the group in a new direction. In concert he played the songs he had written for the band, plus new material in the Hodgson-less group. But the fans wanted to hear the hits, and that was not the direction Davies wanted to go. Eventually he succumbed to the demands of the fans and played the old hits—the Hodgson written songs. And that’s where Barclay James Harvest and Supertramp differ: The hits of BJH were a joint effort by the two main songwriters, while the hits of Supertramp were not collaborations—they were Roger Hodgson songs.

The Post Supertramp Hodgson

When Hodgson left, it was under the agreement that he would get back his own songs (the ones he wrote for Supertramp) and that Davies would keep the band name. Here Hodgson explains, “To tell you the truth…, I would never have handed over Supertramp, I am not that much of a fool, to just hand over something I had put 14 years of my life into to Rick for nothing. I really was the driving force in that band for 14 years. I remember very clearly the only thing I cared about when I gave Rick the name was that I would leave with my songs and my voice intact. That would be my security. For him, his security would be the name, obviously”.

Songwriter and Hit-maker.

In concert it is quite obvious that Davies is trying to capture the Hodgson sound, hiring singers that attempt without success to sing the range that Hodgson’s songs demand, the sound that he wrote for the range of his own voice. The Davies sound was not Supertramp, and the dwindling fans could be noted in the smaller and smaller venues that Davies was left with for lack of the Hodgson library to rely on. He even had a fake retirement tour that brought in the fans hoping for a Hodgson appearance, but it was all a ploy. I remember the fans booing when spokesman Doug announced that “ This was Supertramp’s last concert; and then added—this year!” We were tricked. Then they played some Hodgson songs to appease the fans.

Relaxed Before a Show.

Here is further clarification: “Hodgson’s concern is that Rick Davies has resurrected Supertramp and gone back on an agreement that he would not perform Roger’s songs in the set. However, the marketing for the Supertramp tour promotes a set list rich in Hodgson tunes. Supertramp performing Roger Hodgson songs without the Hodgson voice will clearly not be genuine to the fans. Roger Hodgson left Supertramp 27 years ago and as part of his departure, Rick Davies agreed that the continuation of Supertramp would become a vehicle for Rick’s songs and Roger would do his own songs in his solo shows.”

Let’s take a look at the list of Roger Hodgson songs and the Rick Davies songs. Let's see why Davies needs to rely on the Hodgson hits.

Here are the hits written by Roger Hodgson:

The Logical Song
Give a Little Bit
It’s Raining Again
Breakfast in America
Take the Long Way Home
Sister Moonshine
Land Ho
If Everyone was Listening
Hide in Your Shell
Easy Does It
The Meaning
Two of Us
A Soapbox Opera
Even in the Quietest Moments
Fool’s Overture
Child of Vision
Lord Is It Mine
Know Who You Are
Don’t Leave Me Now
C'est Le Bon

And songs written by Rick Davies:

Bloody Well Right
Crime of the Century
Goodbye Stranger
Summer Romance
Another Man’s Woman
Ain’t Nobody But Me
Poor Boy
Lover Boy
From Now On
Casual Conversations
Gone Hollywood
Just Another Nervous Wreck
Oh Darling
You Started Laughing
Put on Your Brown Shoes
My Kind of Lady
Waiting So Long

Although Davies had some popular Supertramp songs, there were no national hits, Top 40 favorites, radio station driven requests. Hodgson had the national and international favorites, the ones heard on radio stations all over the world. As you can see, these lists show two very different styles, two very different concert experiences. Davies needed the Hodgson hits to keep his own limited library alive in concert.

Which brings us to the Roger Hodgson live show.

Hodgson plays Hodgson, that is, he plays the songs he wrote, the songs that were written for the range of his own voice. Even with Supertramp, he wrote “Hodgson” songs, songs that he would sing in the studio and in concert. And that is what we get today when we attend a Roger Hodgson show: we get the best of Supertramp, the hits, the voice, the lyrics, the music. Plus we get the Hodgson solo music, which to this blogger, is still the Supertramp sound because Supertramp is Hodgson, and Hodgson Supertramp. 

The Modest Super-star.

Davies has the name, but Roger Hodgson has the spirit of the hits and the hits themselves played by the hit-maker himself. And that is our reward, true fans of Supertramp and of Roger Hodgson. We get the total package. In Hodgson's words from my interview with him (check the archives here on my blog): "Some of the biggest hits I recorded with Supertramp were songs I’d written in my late teens before I even met Rick and formed the band with him. Songs such as Dreamer, It’s Raining Again, Breakfast in America, Two of Us, A Soapbox Opera and even the beginning of Fool’s Overture, were all written during that time period. These songs are my babies – pieces of my heart and I still love playing them in my concerts today."

The success of Supertramp rests on the hits of Roger Hodgson. Although Supertramp has become a different band musically without the talents of Hodgson, it is a band without hits, which may account for their relying on Hodgson’s hits when they play in concert. As a solo artist, Hodgson plays only the songs he has written, be they hits from Supertramp or solo works; he does not rely of any songs he has not written to draw an audience. With Hodgson, you get the best of Supertramp and his solo works (songs I believe maintain the musical style of Supertramp during its heyday--listen to songs as "Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)" or "Death and a Zoo") because his music is synonymous with Supertramp hits.

The Real Thing!

Now don't get me wrong. I like Rick Davies' Supertramp, and had he given the fans the chance to get used to the new sound, he might have developed a following; instead he tried to keep Hodgson's fans under the illusion that "he" [Davies] is Supertramp. He isn't. But he can keep the projector and the backdrop screen common to the Supertramp live concerts. He can play "Bloody Well Right"; it is, after all, his song. But we’ll keep the “Voice of Supertramp”. We'll keep Roger Hodgson. 

See Roger Hodgson on his worldwide Breakfast in America tour:


  1. Supertramp, at least from the 1970s, remains in my top five favorite bands of all time. After BREAKFAST IN AMERICA, my interest in them began to wane (at the time, I began to become more enamored of many of the bands of the early 80s in general). I still think CRIME OF THE CENTURY is one of the finest albums ever recorded, and on it's that album that Davies and Hodgson most successfully blended their sounds and styles; EVEN IN THE QUIETEST MOMENTS and CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS? follow just behind. Songs like "School," "Hide in Your Shell," "Rudy," "Asylum" and "If Everyone Was Listening" bring their voices together flawlessly, making that combination, to me, the real sound of Supertramp. I do like Hodgson's solo performances a lot — his songs are richer, his vocals more expressive than Davies'. The songs I've heard from Supertramp solely under Davies have not impressed me one whit; you're quite right, I think, that without Hodgson, Supertramp just isn't.

  2. Well done ! That's the kind of articles I like to read!.I'm a huge fan of Roger Hodgson since Supertramp times.It was his voice and songs that introduced me in the band and made me love the whole ST work.
    I've always loved his voice and songs, his way to write, expressing so many feelings and thoughts I also have!
    It's obvious who was the soul in Supertramp, all the songs we love were written by Roger, if you ask for Supertramp songs, always Roger's ones are the first that came out.
    And nowadays we are very fortunate to can get all these great songs together in his shows, and as you say in your article, his wonderful solo work. Really, his voice is better than ever, and with his backing band, they sound terrific!!!
    And I must add: What a wonderful experience is to attend a Roger's show.They are so powerful!!! When you see him once, you can't stop, and need to see him once and another. It doesn't matter how far you have to travel, you are sure you'll enjoy. A show by Roger is a big party, a big celebration of love,peace and happiness. All together clapping, singing, dancing, and sometimes, also weeping...It's a thrill, a blast, chills and goosebumps, all at the same time... So, nobody should miss a concert of Roger. It's really worth!!!
    Sadly I can’t say the same about a Supertramp show in the current days. Nothing to do with the old times. I was very dissappointed when I saw them on their last tour.
    As I told Roger once after a show, “You don’t need Supertramp, Supertramp needs you”

  3. Hello, my name is Jorge, and I also like to share the words of Ana Lopez.
    It is a luxury to attend a show of Roger, his music has always accompanied us, since we were teenagers. Their music, their songs and their lyrics do not go out of fashion again.
    But most important to me is the great humanity of Roger and his love for all his friends and followers, the same as all eachother feel for him.
    And I agree with what Anna says about his comment to Roger ... "You do not need Supertramp, Supertramp needs you."
    Thank you.

  4. " Great to read such articles, which says the real situation and the truth about Roger Hodgson and Supertramp. I started listening to Supertramp 12 years,
    but it was not who I heard this band, I always focused on the songs of Roger Hodgson, his compositions, his music and his voice was the one that really
    conveyed very difficult emotions and feelings of able to express this early age for me, but for these songs did that arise in me. since then,

    Roger was for me the protagonist of everything I heard, and one could not help it, dismissed the songs of Rick Davies simply because Roger transmitting with his songs.
    From then to now, 33 years have passed, and Roger has been with me all this time and my life. I think, in my personal opinion, that when separated, the essence of Supertramp
    was defined in one person, Roger Hodgson and the maximum expression of all that music began to emerge in their new disc, along with the big hits he wrote for Supertramp and who gave fame to this band.

    We present nowadays and Roger still offers live music with sound quality that few artists can present with many years of racing, with a voice that has improved over the years,
    achieving great success around the world, connecting with his audience in a very special way wherever he goes. I have it, very, very, very clear, that group had to be called Rogertramp.

    If you want to enjoy a magical time in your life, you have to attend one of their shows, will you change your way of thinking about the meaning of what it is to attend a live show,
    and as will surface from within your best feeling and emotions, thanks to this great man and outstanding musical talent in the history of music. "

  5. Very well put! A Supertramp show simply isn't the same without Roger, and Roger can easily do without Supertramp. Because Roger performs his own songs, he plays them in such a way that comes directly from his heart, and connects so deeply with our own. The effect his music has on the audience is easily seen and felt - eyes lit up, smiles big and wide, dancing in the aisles - it is the timeless messages of his songs that cross all barriers and unify us in such a special, unique way.

    Every one of his set-lists is wholly satisfying and takes us along our own personal journeys where all our troubles can be left outside the door and we are allowed a special time to truly enjoy ourselves. I wouldn't miss any of his shows on the Breakfast in America tour for the world...seeing just one show simply won't cut it! It's assured you'll see a couple, or a few... :)

  6. Anthony...... a perspective rarely discussed, Rick keeping Supertramp and giving fans TIME to adjust to the new sound of the group, without Roger's influence, he would have collected his own fan base..... Sadly that was not the case. Roger however travels world singing his music and collects more and more fans with every performance. Many fan comments start with, "I was at the festival with friends and recognized the music. By the end of the the performance knew I would never forget who Roger Hodgson is". For over ten years now, Roger has toured solo, with his Saxophone player or his band. If you close your eyes you would not be able to tell the difference between the past and present renditions of musicians.....except Roger sounds better then ever!!!

    Travel, go.... to experience Roger Hodsgon live..... As Anthony alluded to, Rick can keep the projector and the backdrop screen common to the Supertramp live concerts. He can play "Bloody Well Right"; it is, after all, his song. But we’ll keep the “Voice of Supertramp”........... Roger!!!!

  7. A name means just a little; yesterday I tasted some cookies that I ate in my childhood: the cream layer was much smaller, the taste was not the same, and it tasted like chemicals, neither the white cat drawn in the container, only the name ... Maybe it's the memory or I got used to the homemade cookies, but disappoints. And suddenly you hear Roger Hodgson and is so fresh, authentic and essential, because the games passes though here, preserves intact the same wonderful energy of adolescence and the time he wrote that song. It is not easy to find that authenticity in this world of "products" adulterated. I like the piano from Rick Davis and the color of his voice and him good jazz. But Roger Live is a caress full of freshness, like when caresses a little baby, subtle, ethereal ....Roger Hodgson is Supersupertramp!

  8. I do not agree with everything expressed in this article that however, I liked it. I love Roger Hodgson, I think it's a great human being and I have the inner certainty is a better person than his former teammate Rick Davis, who has been very wrong not to keep his word not to touch Roger`s songs. Another thing expressed in your article which is also true is the fact Davies needs Roger`s song for a commercial purpose.
    But in terms of music, the thing is quite different, in my humble opinion is that as a fan of Supertramp, as President of the Argentine fanclub and as a musician, as I am guitarist in a progressive rock band in Argentina.
    Supertramp was unique and great band and that was due to the union of two different styles talents that complemented perfectly, creating the variety of songs and styles, and in that, the perpetrators were two Hodgson and Davies. One thing is certain, Roger was the great creator of the hits of the band, but contribution Davies songs helped complete the imprint of this great band. That one song is more successful than another does not make it automatically a better song, Though we love Roger's music we have to be objective about this. If we go to a concert of Roger we are seeing a concert of Roger and not of Supertramp, because we would need the DNA Davies songs to complete the whole stuff and the same happens if you go to a concert Davies. Davies however lacked to his word and that`s really bad, but this observation can not overshadow the great musical talent but not a creator of hits like Roger. When I feel the needs to listen the real Supertramp I listen since the beginning until Famous Last Words when they were together.

  9. Anthony,
    Your not telling the whole story and your take is all slanted to Roger. Interview Rick and Im sure the whole story would be different.

  10. Dear Anthony, I've already left a comment in this wonderful article. It's so good, that I've translated it for posting at my Fan Page, Roger Hodgson Spanish Friends Club -
    Hope you agree, ;)
    I want to note you that the link to Roger's website doesn't work, maybe is because you have use capital letters. Try this way:
    Big hug! and of course if you want to join to my page, please, do it.It will be a pleasure to have you among all Roger's friends. You'll be welcome.
    Ana López- Roger Hodgson Spanish Friends Club

    1. Thank you, Ana. The link is working now. Can't wait to check out your club.