Once a Dreamer, Always a Dreamer
An Interview with Supertramp Co-Founder Roger Hodgson
By Jeb Wright
Roger Hodson was nothing more than a kid, a dreamer of sorts when he sat down and wrote the song that became Supertramp’s first hit single. Now, 35 years later, “Dreamer” and is still played daily on classic rock radio around the world.
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the album which featured the song “Dreamer”, Crime of the Century, has been remastered by Ray Staff and comes with a live recording from 1975 when the band performed at the popular Hammersmith Odeon in London. The live disc has been remastered from the master tapes by Ken Scott. The album is available for purchase on CD, 2CD, 180g vinyl, Blu-Ray, digital formats and as a vinyl box set.
To celebrate the release of this album, Hodsgon sat down with www.classicrockrevisited.com and reflected on the album. Their iconic songs mix pop and prog to perfection. The pop fun of “Dreamer” mixes perfectly with the rock sensibilities of “Bloody Well Right.” Forever a struggle between Roger and Co-founder Rick Davies, the Tramp put their stamp on rock and roll.
Jeb: It has been 40 years since Crime of the Century. The album is famous for the mix of progressive and pop musical elements, but I think the real gems are the song lyrics on the album. I think they are brilliant.
Roger: I would agree with you.
Jeb: That is always a good way to start an interview! What in your mind makes this album so special?
Roger: [laughter] There is a lot that is known about the album. I was trying to think what it was that came together and made that album fulfill its potential, as it did. I think that Rick and I came of age as songwriters at that time. We came of age as separate songwriters.
The album or two before that we were collaborating, which was fine but, obviously, we didn’t have a hit album. We didn’t write any hits, either. It was when we started writing separately that the music became more personal, and even autobiographical sometimes, that we came up with the depth and the passion that we achieved on Crime of the Century. Rick wrote four fantastic songs and I was able to match his songs with four of mine that I felt really worked in a forty-minute listening experience. I have always been lucky to have a huge backlog of material, so I could match my songs with whatever he came up with.
Jeb: Are you an anniversary guy, Roger? Did you think, “Wow, it has been FORTY years?”
I played four of those songs live today and they sound fresh and vital and they have depth. I still appreciate the songs myself. The album has stood the test of time well and has not really diminished in people’s opinion of it. It really was a very, very well crafted forty-minute listening experience, and that is how I approached it. We were very blessed to work with Ken Scott, and I was like a sponge with him learning about recording and experimenting with things in the studio. It was a lot of fun to learn the ropes of recording from him.
Jeb: You were very young guys. I find it amazing that such prolific music came out of people so young.
Roger: The passion was really strong in me and we were all experiencing a high point within the band and we were getting along really well. It all came down to the songs and we came up with some great ones.
Jeb: A very personal song is “Hide in Your Shell.”
“Hide in Your Shell” really came out of a place of loneliness and feeling very lonely, both within the band and in life. I had no one to share my spiritual kind of yearning. It is interesting that it is really connected with a place of vulnerability and loneliness with people around the world. We try to cover that up, and to have an artist express that with a song has really made a lot of people feel that they are not alone.
Jeb: “School” is also a wonderful song.
Roger: “School” is a golden one. Obviously, back then, I was pretty fresh from school. It had been a few years, but it was still very much in my consciousness. I had a lot of mixed feelings about school and I expressed them in that song.
Jeb: When you were at boarding school you really turned to the guitar for the first time.
Roger: I was in boarding school in England. I was 12 when my parents got divorced and I inherited my dad’s guitar as he left it behind. I took it to boarding school and it became my best friend. It was my lifeline to something I was just passionate about. Every spare moment I played. It filled the void as I was lonely at school then. It was very difficult for me because I was a very sensitive young boy. Suddenly, I had an outlet and a friend, and the guitar really became my best friend.
Jeb: You really brought those feelings out in your songs.
Roger: It was where I put everything. Music is where I went to express my dreams and my loneliness and my longing and yearning for God and my longing for love. It was where I got my identity to meet girls back then and it was how I felt good about myself. It became a lot of different things to a very awkward teenager growing up.
Jeb: You were coming off a couple of albums that did not set the world on fire, so I want to know if you knew you had a hit with Crime?
Roger: I knew we had made a really good album and I was really happy, but after four and half months making an album you kind of lose sight of it. You don’t know what you’ve created when you spend that much time on eight songs. I felt really good about it. It only began to sink in when I started hearing “Dreamer” on the radio and then that magical day when I read the Melody Maker headline saying, “Crime of the Century Number One.” That was electrifying.
Jeb: I would love to see you strip it down and do a tour that is very intimate and telling the story behind the hits. It would be very upfront and personal.
Roger: I have been thinking of that. I do a lot of shows with just Aaron [Macdonald], the sax player, which is kind of what you’re talking about. People absolutely love it. During those shows I do tell more stories. We’ve got a few of those shows coming up this year.
I don’t know if will do more of those shows. I did shows like that a few years ago, and then I got the band together, so we are doing more band shows. Part of me would like to get back to that because, to me, the magic of concerts is really the connection I can make with the audience. There is something that happens when I tell stories and talk to the audience and share on that level that brings a greater depth to not only the songs, but also to the feeling that is generated in the evening and the connection that I have.
Jeb: It would make a good DVD release.
Roger: There is a DVD out for the DVD that I did in Montreal. I think you and I did an interview for that.
Jeb: We did, but this would be a different thing.
Roger: That was a tour and I didn’t do too many stories on the DVD. That was a French speaking audience, so I didn’t do that on that night. Maybe you can catch a show where I do tell a lot of stories. Those songs have interesting stories and they still speak to so many things today that are very relevant.
Read our past interview with Roger here
The views of the comments below are not necessarily those of Classic Rock Revisited