4FUN HITS: Supertramp: Child of Vision


Supertramp.

How many Millenials don’t know this band or how significant they were in the 70s? Quite a few, I would imagine.

Not everyone likes Supertramp. One of my friends back in the day once admitted, “When I heard those high voices…”

In other words, they were way too shrill for her, much like some people just cannot stand Neil Young, I guess.

Myself, I never had a problem with singers who didn’t fit the bill for a “great voice.” It was more what they did with what they had that concerned me.

Supertramp definitely was one of my favorite bands in my teens. And I still crank them up once in a while today.

The band captured a 70s existential angst that only Brits living in a post-industrial/colonial complex could pull off. There were countless hippie protest songs from around the world, but few exhibited the iconic depth, despair and sometimes borderline madness of Supertramp (Don’t arrange… to have me sent to no asylum...).

The world was going to hell. Everyone was alienated. And toxic pollution was a known and pressing problem.

To me, that’s classic Supertramp. Although they did have touching (Took a boat Sunday…), philosophical (Look at me I’m a speck of sand…) spiritual (Babaji…), feelgood (Give a little bit…), and healing (Take the long way home…) moments too.

This tune isn’t the biggest hit on the album but it spoke to me, even if not quite as dynamic as other progressive numbers recorded in earlier albums like Crime of the Century and Crisis? What Crisis?

Breakfast in America was their breakthrough album with no shortage of catchy, clever tunes on both sides of the record.

But the album spelled the beginning of the end for Supertramp. Their next release, Famous Last Words, was a limp, uninspired collection of murky tunes. Songs like “Crazy” and “It’s Raining Again” paled in comparison to earlier singles.

Supertramp peaked with Breakfast in America, commercially at least, and Famous Last Words was mostly a disaster. We’d heard it all before. And the dull reverberation of the band’s former glory was somewhat sad, depressing and difficult to endure.

But that’s the way it goes. Genius usually isn’t forever, especially in pop music. Classical composers may keep churning out masterpieces until their earthly departure. But popsters, well, they usually reach a zenith and then slide into a natural decline.

Why?

I’m not sure.

Perhaps it has something to do with the youthful, ephemeral nature of pop music. Pop is mostly for kids, young adults and adults who manage to stay young (not too many these days). So if you’re not a kid anymore, it likely gets harder and harder to relate to your music-streaming audience.

Some producers like Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers bridge the gap. But seasoned producers and rising stars are two different things. Ever notice how it’s usually an older guy with a younger artist?

Nile Rodgers who produced the late Avicii

Again, not everyone likes Supertramp. But we’d be pretty hard-pressed to say they didn’t develop a mature, distinctive style. I particularly like the Euro-kreaminal-on-the-run theme that kicks in around the four-minute mark of this tune.

You tried to be a hero,
Commit the perfect crime
But the dollar got you dancing
And you’re running out of time

Could have been a soundtrack for The Bourne Identity films!

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