Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) (2014)
'Breakfast in Detroit: Tales from a Dreamer!'
Roger Hodgson has been recognized as one of the most gifted songwriters and lyricists of our time. As the legendary composer of many of the band’s greatest hits, he gave us 'Give a Little Bit,' 'The Logical Song,' 'Dreamer,' 'Take the Long Way Home,' 'Breakfast in America,' 'It’s Raining Again,' 'School,' 'Fool’s Overture,' and so many others that have become the soundtrack of our lives.
Hodgson co-founded the progressive rock band Supertramp in 1969 and was with them for 14 years. Roger recently received two awards from ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) for his songs being in the top played songs in their repertory, proving that they have indeed stood the test of time.
Now about to embark on a brand new North American tour, I caught up with the man himself, Roger Hodgson ... and I first asked him to reflect back to his youth in Portsmouth, England, and what was he listening to at the time? "The first artist, or the first band that I really took to were The Shadows. I just loved them. But when the Beatles came along a few years later, that's really what changed my life. I was a teenager throughout the whole Beatles era, so that's what influenced me the most because not only did they change my life, but I obviously saw the way they changed our whole culture and certainly changed the musical world."
"When I got together with Rick and formed Supertramp, I really wanted to see what we could do to have the same impact and leave as powerful a legacy. With Supertramp, I was really driven by the excellence and the bravery and the breaking new boundaries that the Beatles taught me."
And knowing you recorded your first single ('Mr. Boyd') right at the end of your final boarding school year, just who was Mr. Boyd anyway? "Mr. Boyd was a fictional character."
And being that you had a session band backing you that included pianist Reg Dwight (Elton John), what are your memories of that glorious time? "When I left school, I really didn't know how to proceed or how to break into the music industry at all. The only lead I had was the band Traffic, Steve Winwood's band. They lived a few miles away from me, so I used to go and knock on their door whenever I had enough courage to do that. One of the demo tapes that I made of my songs got into a music publisher’s hands in London. He liked what he heard. He signed me up and put me in a studio in London which was my first time in a recording studio with session musicians, one of whom was a man called Reg Dwight who later became known as Elton John."
"He had an incredible band with him; some of them were members of the band that he toured with later, Caleb Quaye and Nigel Olsson on drums. They did an awesome job of playing my songs and then I sang on top this music. The single, 'Mr. Boyd,' was released under the name Argosy and came very close to becoming a hit in England. It was played a lot on the radio but never actually charted. If it has been successful, my destiny would have been different."
So, talking of destiny, when did Charles Roger Pomfret Hodgson decide that Roger was to be his first name - and why? "Charles was actually my father’s name and to avoid confusion around the house, they called me Roger."
Shortly after that you met Rick Davies and the seeds of what would become Supertramp were born. But why was the band named Supertramp ... and reflecting back, if not Supertramp what else was being seriously considered? "Actually, our first name was Daddy and we were forced to change it because there were quite a few other bands coming out with the same name. Supertramp was a name that we literally thought up while sitting around the kitchen table one day. In England, "tramp" means hobo and in our penniless condition at that time, it seemed to suit us very well. Maybe the "super" was a dream of what we hoped we would become."
When your self-titled debut was released in 1970 you must have been on cloud nine, but how did it actually change your life the most first? "Our very first album gave us a small cult following in England where we were known as being a very arty band."
Come 1974 and 'Dreamer' from your third album Crime Of The Century became your first bona fide hit. So, at that juncture, with money now coming in, were all your musical prayers being answered? "When I first laid my hands on a Wurlitzer piano, I really connected with the particular sound and percussive feel of the keyboard. 'Dreamer' exploded out of me one day on my Wurlitzer at my mother's house when I was 19-years-old. Right then and there I made a magical demo of the song with many vocal harmonies and banging cardboard boxes for percussion."
"Four years later when I was recording it with Supertramp, we were not capturing anywhere close to the the magic of the demo I had made so we put the demo on two tracks of the multi-track and played along to it and duplicated everything that was on the demo, but obviously in much higher quality."
"We, as Supertramp, were not flush with money for many, many years as we were famous for spending a fortune any time we made an album, which had to be paid back to the record company before we saw any money."
For the next nine years Supertramp released four albums, toured all around the world and couldn't seem to put a foot wrong. But was it like that behind-the-scenes, perhaps? "It was a great time, there was generally a great spirit in the band and in the crew we had. It was a very strong family feeling and a belief in what we were doing."
The first time I came to know, and love Supertramp was in 1980 when you brought out the brilliantly-catchy single 'The Logical Song.' A song that went on to garner you the Ivor Novello Award, so please tell us more about its creation and meaning "Well, 'The Logical Song' was born from my questions about what really matters in life. Throughout childhood we are taught all these ways to be and yet we are rarely told anything about our true self. We are taught how to function outwardly, but not guided to who we are inwardly. We go from the innocence and wonder of childhood to the confusion of adolescence that often ends in the cynicism and disillusionment of adulthood."
"In 'The Logical Song,' the burning question that came down to its rawest place was "please tell me who I am." I think in these modern times, the more complex life becomes, this eternal question becomes ever louder - which is why the song continues to strike such a deep chord in people around the world."
You parted company with Supertramp in 1983, word has it to simply "follow your heart and live the simple life." But, in truth, is that exactly the reasoning behind you decision to leave? "I have always tried to follow my heart and my instincts in life. When I left Supertramp, I was wanting to step away from the music business to just have a simpler lifestyle. That's why in 1983 I chose to move away from the Los Angeles music scene at the peak of Supertramp's success to stay at home and be with my children as they were growing up."
"My heart was telling me this was more important than to continue touring with Supertramp. I do not regret the decision. I believe that my time away from the music industry is the reason why I am still in my prime creatively."
And being that everything associated with you now says "Formerly of Supertramp," are we to sadly assume from that you cannot legally use the bands name any more to record and tour with? ""Supertramp" is a brand name that is trademarked by Rick and Sue Davies."
With your last solo album release being Classics Live we all assumed Classics Live 2 would be right behind it - but it was not to be. Will we still see it down the line, perhaps? "Yes, Classics Live 2 is slated to come out in 2015 and also a new DVD is in the works."
And as you will soon be embarking on a small Fall US tour, how has touring changed for you over the years? "If you had spoken to me 35-40 years ago and asked me what is life going to be like in 40 years or would you still like your songs in 40 years I would not have been able to give you an answer. It just amazes me what is happening today. It seems the songs are even more popular and bring back even more memories for people."
"Music has an incredible quality for holding our memories. I know for myself, I can put on a song and it brings me back to a certain time in my life. It seems my songs have done that for a lot of people and that makes me very happy."
What has changed the most for you about your approach to performing live? "It's amazing to sing a song like 'Dreamer' or 'Give a Little Bit' knowing that when I wrote them I really didn't write them to become hits. I didn't have any goal other than the sheer joy of writing or singing and that's where they came from and to be playing them today and looking out on the audience and seeing whole families, mulit-generations from seven to 70, all enjoying it really warms my heart. After so many years I never get tired of singing these songs. They have an evergreen quality to them that amazes me. I am the one who has to sing and play them 70 times a year and I love them. It's amazing to me how they have stood the test."
Are there even songs of yours you yourself would rather see the back of live, but that would send the fans nuts if they didn't hear it each night?! "Luckily I enjoy playing most of my songs. Occasionally I will give one a rest for a few shows and the ones that have aged for me, I don't perform in concert and I am not going to tell you what they are."
It's been said that you have over 60 unreleased songs, so are they to be held captive forever, or will we see a huge Supertramp/Roger Hodgson box-set sometime soon, perhaps? "I would like to get some of the unreleased songs out at some point, but my life schedule has not permitted that yet and in the show I can't even fit all the songs that I have written that people want to hear. So, I often try to play a new song in my show for those who would like to hear something new. Many people have not heard the great songs from my last studio album, Open the Door, or even my first release after departing Supertramp, In the Eye of the Storm."
You've been hailed as one of the "most gifted composers and lyricists of our time," but when you look in the mirror who do you see? "A very blessed and grateful man!"
I notice that this tour will take in Detroit this time around, which we're all very excited about. So, will you be throwing in any Motown songs, perhaps? "No Motown, but looking forward to playing Detroit again after many, many years."
When you are at home relaxing, and music is not on the schedule what do you like to do to relax? Do you have a hobby? "Hiking or biking in nature."
A few years back you broke both your wrists in a nasty fall. The doctors told you you'd never play the guitar again, but you proved them wrong just a year and a half later. Today, can you still play all the chords and notes you always could, or do you still have to take pills and such for any lingering pain? "That was a very traumatic event in my life. I took a very bad fall and shattered both of my wrists. They were broken in a 100 fractures and the doctors told me that I would never play again. I went through a lot of depression and a lot of pain and suffering around that time. At a certain point, I decided I was not going to accept the doctors' conclusion and that I was going to create healing my wrists. It’s a miracle what happened for me. I did it through Prayer and intention, and physical therapy and worked hard at it. It took me two years and now they are healed. In fact, today you would never know that I ever broke my wrists - they work perfectly."
Do you think you will ever cut your trademark long hair as you get older, perhaps? "I am going one day at a time on that!"
Lastly, we here at Exclusive Magazine love penguins! Do you have any love for them also, perhaps? "Penguins are amazing, inspiring birds. When we think that life is hard for us, it's good to think what the penguins have to go through."
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
Roger Hodgson and Band Photos by: Rob Shanahan AND Todd Bretzmann
Buy Tickets Here!
Roger Hodgson North American Tour Dates:
November 4 - Wabash, IN - Honeywell Center
November 6 - Detroit, MI - MotorCity Casino Hotel
November 7 - Niagara Falls, NY - Seneca Niagara Falls Casino and Resort
November 8 - Ridgefield, CT - Ridgefield Playhouse
November 9 - Bethlehem, PA - Sands Bethlehem Event Center
November 11 - Huntington, NY - The Paramount
November 14 & 15 - Rama, ON, Canada - Casino Rama
Three Minute Song Sampler
Breakfast in America – Sample Full Length Song
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