There was a minute during the early ’70s when it seemed that Supertramp would be over before it even really started.
Now wouldn’t THAT have been the crime of the century?
Thanks to a judicious lineup change and the exemplary song cycle Crime Of The Century in 1974, Supertramp became a global hitmaker for the better part of eight years, blending pop, progressive rock, blues and jazz while founders Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies engaged in a kind of ongoing lyrical dialogue, each commenting, sometimes loosely, on what the other had to say via alternating songs. For a time, during the campaign for 1979’s Breakfast In America, Supertramp could even lay some claim to being the biggest band in the world at that moment.
The heyday came to end when Hodgson left the group in 1983. Davies led Supertramp through four more albums and occasional tours, but the real magic is still to be found in that period between 1974-79, when the group, er, indelibly stamped its reputation as clever, original and refreshing songsmiths…
Here’s a list of the 10 best Supertramp songs.
10. Supertramp – “Give A Little Bit”
The lead track from 1977’s Even In The Quietest Moments… was a keeper even before Goo Goo Dolls’ hit 2004 remake. A chiming 12-string acoustic guitar and Hodgson’s keening vocals launched an anthem whose hippie ethos rings resonant in troubled times 10 years later.
9. Supertramp – “Goodbye Stranger”
Supertramp never had the lothario reputation of, oh, the Rolling Stones or Steel Panther, but Davies’ lighthearted ode to road romance indicates there were a few shenanigans in this camp, too. It’s also one of the best executed trade-offs between Davies and Hodgson vocals and features one of the hottest guitar solos the latter ever brought into ‘Tramp town.
8. Supertramp – “From Now On”
This Davies track from Even In The Quietest Moments is an aural adventure of ebb and flow in which the “Goodbye Stranger” guy declares “my life is full of romance” before John Helliwell’s beefy saxophone solo. This Supertramp song culminates in a multi-tracked call-and-response singalong that spotlights the group’s Spectorian ambitions.
7. Supertramp – “Take The Long Way Home”
Supertramp secured itself a regular show-closing song with this Top 10 single from Breakfast In America, a bouncy melody awash with keyboards and featuring a rich sax-and-harmonica exchange between Helliwell and Davies.
6. Supertramp – “Sister Moonshine”
Another of Hodgson’s “hippie” anthems — a sibling for America‘s “Sister Golden Hair,” if you like — with more ringing acoustics and tasteful electric soloing and a rollicking, fleshed out melody that got more enduring attention than the actual singles from 1975’s Crisis? What Crisis? album
5. Supertramp – “Breakfast In America”
Hodgson actually wrote the title track from Supertramp’s 1979 smash several years prior, before Supertramp even formed (though Davies added the “What’s she got? Not a lot” passage later). Fans of the track include Gym Class Heroes, who adapted it for “Cupid’s Chokehold,” and Drake, who sampled it for “Stunt Hard.”
4. Supertramp – “Even In The Quietest Moments”
The best of Supertramp’s several mini-suites, a pastoral rumination that builds incrementally into a trancey drone before returning to the original theme. An intricately nuanced piece that easily knits together prog and folk-rock flavors.
3. Supertramp – “Hide In Your Shell”
Another finely composed and constructed pop gem, from delicate, piano-driven courses to demonic bridges and sweeping choruses, as well as another soaring outro made for Carpool Karaoke.
2. Supertramp – “Bloody Well Right”
An angry indictment of British economic caste systems couched with hard rock, jazz and Music Hall references. It was initially the B-side of “Dreamer” until American radio stations flipped the disc and turned it into Supertramp’s first hit across the pond.
1. Supertramp – “Dreamer”
Everything we love about Supertramp wrapped up in three minutes and 33 seconds of cascading song arrangement and intertwined keyboard and vocal patterns. It’s a sonic thrill ride with more twists than the average roller coaster and ore hooks than a church cloak room.