Forty years ago Supertramp created their most accessible work to date with "Breakfast In America". It meant for the British formation not only the breakthrough in the USA. It is also the record that sold best by far from their catalogue, the record that made them world stars and a stadium band. What you don't listen to is the arduous, sometimes agonizingly slow process of creation - at a time when the two songwriters Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson were already avoiding each other as much as possible. For the fortieth anniversary of the release of the record we go on a search for clues and talk to Hodgson and John A. Helliwell about their biggest litter.
"I hate this band. But if one of her songs is on, I'll turn the radio up." The ambivalence that many music fans feel towards Supertramp can hardly be better described than Heinz Rudolf Kunze. Few rock groups polarize to such an extent. And even among the fans there are two big camps: "Breakfast In America" or "Crime Of The Century"? That is the question of all questions when it comes to the biggest album of the British-American formation founded in England in 1969. May everyone answer this question for themselves (perhaps even with "Crisis? What Crisis?" or "Even In The Quietest Moments"). The fact is that "Breakfast In America", which was released 40 years ago, is the group's most successful record with around 20 million units sold - the one that turned Supertramp into a stadium band and helped it achieve a major breakthrough in the USA. It is considered to this day to be a timeless, cheerful, engaging masterpiece of progressive pop with many songs, even evergreens, which are still regularly broadcast on the radio and have long been regarded as classics.
Those are beside the title song also "The Logical Song", "Goodbye Stranger" and "Take The Long Way Home". Furthermore "Child Of Vision", "Just Another Nervous Wreck" and the opener "Gone Hollywood" belong to the best the band ever recorded. For Roger Hodgson, who also went solo later on "Breakfast In America" tours, it was the "collection of the strongest pieces we had back then". For saxophonist and clarinetist John Anthony Helliwell "Breakfast" is even "the real highlight in our catalogue". It contains the best songs the guys have ever written."
Pragmatic business relationship
It is more than astonishing that Supertramp 1978/79 were still capable of such a feat. Because the founding members and alpha male Hodgson and Rick Davies have always had a deep love-hate relationship. The relationship between the two main composers, singers and instrumentalists, who, like so many musicians back then, had met and got together through an advertisement in the trade journal "Melody Maker", had not been considered the best since the early days. On the contrary. It was never a friendship, but rather a pragmatic business relationship between two men who could hardly be more different. On the one hand Davies, son of a dock worker and a hairdresser, a rather cautious, serious, introverted and often cynical man who felt he belonged to the working class and to whom nothing in life really went off lightly. On the other hand, Hodgson, a former boarding school student and bon vivant from a wealthy home with a weakness for everything spiritual, esoteric and sweet - someone who has tried many things (such as LSD) and walks through life with a certain extroverted ease of being. In 1979 the "Melody Maker" described her aptly as the philosopher and the realist. After all, they complemented each other well, the division of labour worked well, although they only worked together on pieces in the beginning. Later, around 1974, everyone wrote for themselves, even though they always shared the songwriting credits until Hodgson's departure in 1983.
After two disoriented records Davies and Hodgson created with "Crime Of The Century" (1974), "Crisis? What Crisis?" (1975) and also "Even In The Quietest Moments" (1977) strong albums and established Supertramps world fame. In the spring of 1978, when the five musicians came together for the first "Breakfast" sessions, they had long since become one of the most sought-after acts, although not yet in America, where the musicians (four British and with drummer Bob Siebenberg a real Californian) had moved to. Their always recognizable sound had made Supertramp a brand. A sound that has developed over "years of hard work", as Rick Davies explained in an interview with the "Melody Maker" in 1980: "The sound actually came all by itself from the characters of the people who played along. As always with music. We didn't design the sound, we instinctively developed it."