In my last blog post from earlier today (9.17.2016), I talked about the English Progressive Rock band, Supertramp, and the departure of one of the band’s founders and co-frontmen, Roger Hodgson, in 1983. In 1984, Roger joined the club of nearly 500 artists who reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time. He did it with his moderate hit, “Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy).”
Well, that inspired today’s “song of the day.” After Roger’s departure from the band (who, at that point, had been situated out of Los Angeles for several years), Supertramp concentrated on their next album, BROTHER WHERE YOU BOUND, an album the band’s frontman, keyboardist and vocalist (and now sole writer) Rick Davies wanted to make since their last album, 1982’s …FAMOUS LAST WORDS…
Rick Davies wanted to get the band back to a more Progressive Rock sound than in previous efforts. A demo for the album’s title track was recorded for the last album, but differences between Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies prevented it from being on the album. For the new album, Supertramp recruited Thin Lizzy’s rhythm guitarist Scott Gorham and Pink Floyd’s legendary David Gilmour on the guitar solos. The song “Brother Where You Bound” wound up being 16-and-a-half minutes long.
In a 2012 piece about the album on the web ‘zine PROG SPHERE, it states that the title track “is a prime example of ‘crossover’ prog at its very best, and as such highly recommended to anyone but those prog fans who think that ‘pop’ is inevitably a bad word.
Speaking of “pop,” one song out of the six songs on BROTHER WHERE YOU BOUND, “Cannonball” (the album’s opening track), did manage to reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100. “Cannonball” debuted on the Hot 100 four months after the departure of Roger Hodgson’s lone solo hit, “Had A Dream.”
“Cannonball” was well-received at first, reaching the Top 40 in just three weeks. But, unlike a cannonball, it slowed down after reaching the Top 40, and spent its second of two weeks at No. 28 on July 13th, 1985, the day of Live Aid. It dropped off after 12 short weeks, and to date, is the last song Supertramp has charted on the Hot 100. “Cannonball” did, however, return the band to BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart (No. 4), and even placed them on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart (No. 9), no easy trick.
I love many songs by Supertramp, but prolly strangely enough to some, “Cannonball” remains my favorite song by them (or the seven-minute, 42-second album version anyway). I just love it. There are so many elements and layers to the song, and such great instrumentation. Rick Davies wrote and sang the song entirely in the chord of G minor. Now, I’m no musician, but it sounds like something that’s not normally done, at least not in 1985. He said in an interview, “I did it simply to see if it could be done.”
After “Cannonball” and BROTHER WHERE YOU BOUND, the biggest noise Supertramp would make was on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, where their song “I’m Begging You” (from their 1987 album, FREE AS A BIRD) would spend a week at No. 1 in January 1988, wedged inbetween Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional” and Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” It sounded more like should have come out 1978 as opposed to 1988, but maybe that’s just me.
Supertramp released two studio albums and four live albums after FREE AS A BIRD, but apart from a popular 2005 compilation, Supertramp never achieved international success again. They are still together, and were to have a 25-date European tour in 2015, but Rick Davies was sadly diagnosed with multiple myleoma (a cancer of plasma cells). I’m sure the band and fans around the world (including yours truly) are holding out hope for the recovery of Rick Davies.
Rick Davies, now 72, has sang lead on not only my favorite Supertramp song, but also great songs like their first hit, “Bloody Well Right” (No. 35, 1974), “My Kind Of Lady” (No. 31, 1983) and “Goodbye Stranger” (No. 15, 1979).
When “Cannonball” was released, the song’s lyrics (like “I’m washing my hands on you / How could you be so untrue”) were, contrary to belief, not about Roger Hodgson, but instead (according to a French radio interview) a “less than perfect” concert promoter Rick Davies wouldn’t name.
“Cannonball” may not have been Supertramp’s biggest or best hit, but it was released during the best year of my youth (a year of a lot of great music), and I still dig it (and still dig driving to it) to this day…