"The judicious use of sound effects adds to the occasionally claustrophobic atmosphere": Crime Of The Century by Supertramp - Album Of The Week Club review

With Crime Of The Century, Supertramp defined their signature sound and created a progressive rock masterpiece

Supertramp: Crime Of The Century album art
(Image: © A&M)

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Supertramp - Crime Of The Century

Supertramp - Crime Of The Century cover art

(Image credit: A&M)

Bloody Well Right
Hide in Your Shell
If Everyone Was Listening
Crime of the Century

The album that saved Supertramp’s career was recorded by a band in turmoil, abandoned by their rich patron, all but forgotten by their record company, and with a new line-up. But singer Roger Hodgson remembers the making of it as “a magical period”.

With Crime... Supertramp defined their signature sound and created a progressive rock masterpiece. Each track was a classic in its own right, and with Hodgson and Rick Davies in deeply philosophical mood, the album had an intellectual weight to match the best of Pink Floyd. Moreover, it had one shining pop song, Dreamer, that gave the band their first Top 20 hit.

“Rick and I had just bought the band’s first Wurlitzer electric piano, and Dreamer just exploded into my head down at my mother’s house [in Portsmouth],” Hodgson told Classic Rock. “With no drums, I made a demo on a two-track tape recorder by banging away on cardboard boxes and lightshades, then adding a whole bunch of harmony vocals. It sounded magical."

Co-producer Ken Scott, the unsung genius who’d worked with Pink Floyd, The Beatles and David Bowie, must take great credit. The pretty songs are given depth; the darker, vitriolic ones are granted light and shade. Hodgson and Davies were credited as co-writers throughout, though for example Hide In Your Shell is Hodgson’s, and the candid, keening Asylum is Davies’. 

With its recurring (faintly Orwellian) themes of indoctrination, identity and mental insecurity, the album works as a concept, even if vaguely. Its final flourish, with the fragile If Everyone Was Listening leading into the titular climax – and its almost overpowering sweep of pianos and sax – is one of the classic grandstanding moments, from the school of The Dark Side Of The Moon.

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Other albums released in October 1974

  • Fear - John Cale
  • Walls and Bridges - John Lennon
  • Red - King Crimson
  • Paper Money - Montrose
  • War Child - Jethro Tull
  • It's Only Rock 'n Roll - The Rolling Stones
  • Hotter Than Hell - Kiss
  • Borboletta - Santana
  • The Heart of Saturday Night - Tom Waits
  • Homeless Brother - Don McLean
  • The Impossible Dream - The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
  • It'll Shine When It Shines - Ozark Mountain Daredevils
  • Lost in a Dream - REO Speedwagon
  • The Mirror - Spooky Tooth
  • Mother Lode - Loggins and Messina
  • Not Just Another Bunch of Pretty Faces - If
  • Quatro - Suzi Quatro
  • Rock and Roll Outlaws - Foghat
  • Silk Torpedo - The Pretty Things
  • Slow Motion - Man
  • Smiler - Rod Stewart
  • Veedon Fleece - Van Morrison
  • Todd Rundgren's Utopia - Todd Rundgren's Utopia


What they said...

"They say this is the rock and roll of the future, which I find a depressing thought even though (or because) the amalgam is a moderately smart one. Straight-ahead art-rock, sort of – Queen without preening. Yes without pianistics and meter shifts. And Bloody Well Right documents a gift for the killer hook. Now if only Bloody Well Right weren't an impassioned plea for complacency. Maybe if we close our eyes they'll go away." (Robert Christgau)

"The group still betrayed a heavy Pink Floyd influence, particularly in its expansive art rock arrangements graced by saxophones, but Supertramp isn't nearly as spooky as Floyd – they're snarky collegiate elitists, an art rock variation on Steely Dan or perhaps a less difficult 10cc, filled with cutting jokes and allusions, best heard on Bloody Well Right." (AllMusic)

"When you are a teenager this album seems like a classic performance rooted in teen angst, but as you get older there becomes a disconnect. Since the lyrics are so rooted in the teenage experience it can seem a bit juvenile at times. Despite this sometime juvenile approach, Crime Of The Century is one of the better albums to be fished out of the sea that is 70's progressive music and is Supertramp's best work." (SputnikMusic)


What you said...

Brian Carr: Once again a Club selection reminds me of my uncle’s magical record collection from my youth, one of the most important influences on my musical development. I remember Supertramp’s Crime Of The Century being in that collection, but unlike many other vinyl gems, this is one I never listened to, let alone commandeered for my own.

Fast forward a decade or two and I realised just how much I dug the radio tracks from Breakfast In America that it found its way into my own sizeable collection on both CD and eventually vinyl. Despite my love of that classic, I still never listened to Crime Of The Century before this afternoon. Maybe I was discouraged from doing so because I don’t like its radio tracks anywhere near as much - Bloody Well Right and Dreamer just never really did it for me. But I will be listening again.

Turns out Bloody Well Right is a bloody good song, just one with a chorus that I don’t like as much as the other auditory goodness that’s happening. Dreamer still doesn’t grab me, but that’s okay - the other tunes are quite good. The title track at the end of the record is what I really look forward to diving into again.

So much great music, so little time might be the reason for my limited knowledge of Supertramp, but thanks to the Club, that will probably change moving forward.

Mark Davies: Crime Of The Century is a classic album and probably Supertramp's best. However, it is not an album that I would have on constant play, but something that I would go back to on occasions and then not to return to for some time. It is a good album but not life changing.

John Fishwick: Fabulous album. I could not listen enough to it back then, and still today.

Eric Coleman: Crisis, What Crisis? is still my favourite Supertramp, but this is a close second.

Robert T. Stewart: Crime Of The Century is the #1 Supertramp album in my books, followed closely by Even In The Quietest Moments, then followed by Breakfast in America. They were a stellar band.

John Davidson: Much like ELO, Supertramp managed in the mid to late 70s to perfectly straddle the lines between pop and progressive rock. They were a band that I enjoyed when I heard them on the radio or saw them on TOTP but the lack of focus on guitars always meant they were further down the pecking order when it came to buying albums, so many of the songs on here are only familiar from occasional listens.

Crime Of The Century opens with strains of a harmonica redolent of Ennio Moricone, before it turns into an upbeat pop rock song with a mix of guitar and piano on the excellent opener, School.

Things turn more bluesy on Bloody Well Right without losing any of the melodic instincts (at times it sounds a little bit Floydian).

I don't particularly care for Hide In Your Shell or Asylum (thought they're not bad) but things pick up again with Dreamer and the rest of the album leans a little more proggy.

Overall I do prefer the songs where the guitars have a more prominent role, but there's no denying that the guys can string together a decent melody and interesting lyrics . I'd give it an 8/10.

James Romag: This is one of those albums where once I hear the first note, I know I'll be listening the entire album through to the very last note.

Gino Sigismondi: Like the best of Britain's "golden age" art-rock bands, Supertramp are practically a genre unto their own. They sound nothing like what came before, nor has anyone that's come since. Something about the combination of Roger Hodgon's high tenor and Richard Davies' deep growl, mixes with the various keyboard timbres and woodwinds to create something truly unique. 

Breakfast In America remains the pinnacle of their craft, but with Crime Of The Century Supertramp laid the groundwork, best exemplified by the memorable Bloody Well Right, with its blend of groovy keys and crunchy guitars. Parts of the album veer a little too far off into prog-land (the title track itself more of an extended outro than a song itself), and Dreamer still grates. But taken as a whole, Crime... rewards repeated spins for those who enjoy albums that take the listener on a journey. I'd give it an 8 out of 10.

Greg Schwepe: Despite having everything Supertramp has ever done at my fingertips with the advent of the streaming services, believe it or not, I had never before listened to Crime Of The Century in its entirety. Now, I was already familiar with two of the tracks (Bloody Well Right and Dreamer) due to their status as The Ones From Supertramp That Get Played On FM Radio A Lot. I only had six remaining tracks then to dig into. And dig into I did.

After digesting Crime Of The Century multiple times, it became 'one of those' albums for me. Add another to the list. So, what is 'one of those' albums, you ask? For me, it’s one that you can listen to over and over when you need something to get you in a certain vibe. The kind where you can listen along to when reading the paper or working, it can get in your head, but it won’t distract you or interfere with what you’re doing. Not background music by any means. That perfect balance.

After a short trip to School, along comes Bloody Well Right with its signature electric keyboard intro, the memorable line, and the distinctive saxophone outro. Quintessential English band!

Dreamer brings yet another signature electric keyboard intro, along with crystal clear vocal harmonies. And by the first chorus, it’s kind of hard to not sing along with the feelgood bouncy keyboard lines.

Rudy brings about yet another keyboard (hmmm, keyboards are a thing here, and they're good!) intro, this a little more introspective. About 1:40 into the song, the rest of the band kicks in and gives me yet another reason to add this album to my 'one of those' list.

The Supertramp juggernaut; Breakfast In America was one of a handful of albums I mentally log with my senior year of high school that were played a lot on the radio and amongst friends. This was one I wish I would’ve checked out long before that one and before now. Another one I definitely saw in the record store racks back in the day and thought, “Ooh, cool cover!” 8 out of 10.

Evan Sanders: I'm glad to see Crime Of The Century as our chosen listening pleasure for the week, because as an American teenager in the 70's and 80's, I really only knew Supertramp for Breakfast In America. After listening, I'll put Crime Of The Century in the 'like, not love' category. The popular singles, School, Bloody Well Right and Dreamer are all strong, as well as Hide In Your Shell and the title song. 

For me, several others sounded more like b-sides or filler, which I know isn't everybody's opinion, so maybe I just wasn't feeling it the same way. As an example of progressive rock, I did find it more enjoyable than the sometimes ponderous ELP or King Crimson, but not at the level of Genesis or Yes. And similar to Genesis, I find it noteworthy that their biggest success came after they adopted a more radio-friendly sound, although still with the progressive elements. 7/10.

Jon Peacock: A great album from start to finish, not an album to listen in parts. I have always thought this as Supertramp's masterpiece, my go-to from the band.

It’s not easy to pick a favourite track as they are all so good, but Hide In Your Shell is such a wonderful song, so well crafted it has to be the one that stands above.

The following albums are good too, however, it kind of went down hill after Breakfast in America.

Alex Hayes: One of the most pleasant aspects of being involved with a club like this, is that I occasionally find myself reacquainted with great music that I have shamefully been remiss in keeping up with, and, with Supertramp's Crime Of The Century, that's very much the case this week. It's been a few years since I last gave this fantastic album a listen, and I can only shake my head in disbelief at that.

I'm a big fan of what I consider to be Supertramp's 'core' years, a period that stretches from this album through to Famous Last Words in 1982. The only problem that I have is that I wish it had lasted a bit longer. One of the unique features in the band's make-up was the complimentary balance that existed between the two songwriters, Rick Davies and Roger ('Writer & Composer'... yeah, we know) Hodgson. Two very contrasting personalities they may have been, but the best Supertramp albums were always a finely woven mix of Davies/Hodgson compositions. Both writers seemed to thrive off the other, until Hodgson jumped ship after Famous Last Words. The Davies-led Brother Where You Bound was another strong collection, but the 'golden age' of Supertramp ended right there and then. Shame.

Another notable characteristic of the Supertramp sound, was the band's lack of reliance on the guitar as a lead instrument. It's there of course (Hodgson rips off a cracking little solo on the title track here), but, as evidenced by a prominent use of Wurlitzer piano, the band's sonic palette was always much wider. Their secret weapon may well have actually been multi-instrumentalist John Helliwell, whose saxophone and clarinet playing often took Supertramp's music to places that more conventional rock bands never dared tread.

The eclectic nature of Supertramp helped to take the group a long way. They ended up becoming popular all over the world (they were enormous in France for example), and this success reached peak levels with 1979's brilliant Breakfast In America, an album that's gone on to sell over 20 million copies. Songs like The Logical Song and Take The Long Way Home have since come to define the band. Thing is, as great as Breakfast In America is, it isn't Supertramp's finest album, that honour goes to Crime Of The Century.

Crime Of The Century is Supertramp at their absolute best. Sumptuously produced, the eight tracks here (four by each writer, naturally), succeed through each being musically distinctive in and of itself, yet also contributing to a hugely satisfying whole. It's a difficult balance to achieve is that. Although the band have always denied it, there is an unmistakable lyrical theme present here, that of loneliness, alienation and an inability to conform to 'grown-up' society. Like all great progressive rock albums (for that is precisely what Crime Of The Century is), the judicious use of sound effects here just adds to the, occasionally claustrophobic, atmosphere.

The kids messing about on the schoolyard (School), the cuckoo clock (Asylum), the train pulling out of Paddington Station, the tannoy announcer and the street sounds from Leicester Square (all from Rudy, possibly the album's ambitious highlight). These all combine with the instrumental passages to give the album an almost cinematic, story-telling quality. Then there is the title track itself, with it's magnificent instrumental finale. All told, this is 44 minutes of superb, and completely original, music. Like many of the great bands of that period, there is a certain quality in Supertramp's sound that is almost impossible to imitate. This definitely wasn't a band that spawned a hundred copycats.

I doubt there are many members of this club that aren't already familiar with Crime Of The Century. It's still a great album for the club to cover though, as there really isn't anything else quite like it out there, or like Supertramp as a band for that matter. God, I wish that line-up had recorded more studio albums together, but, it is what it is.

Brilliant, brilliant record. Sod it, I'll go there. 10/10.

Mike Canoe: I like Crime of the Century a lot more than I thought I would. I had written Supertramp off as equally ponderous and twee after I overindulged on The Logical Song as a young teenager. And as a budding metalhead, I also had little appreciation for harmonica or saxophone. And clarinet? More like clariNOT!

Listening to this album makes me think of a more accessible and less bitter Dark Side of the Moon. Excellent musicianship in the core group plus extra things for the ear like a musical saw (Hide in Your Shell) or maniacal babbling (Asylum) combined with incisive lyrics about the human condition. My musical tastes are now much wider and thankfully I can appreciate the clarinets and saxophones now, especially the moody sax solo on the title track.

So beyond Breakfast in America, where does a belated and budding Supertramp fan go from here?

Chris Elliott: Another bargain bin disappointment. The single Dreamer is cool (it overstays its welcome but it's 1974) - the rest just noodles around with no real intent or destination. So far, so smooth jazz - then you get the affected vocals on Bloody Well Right and I can't find the stop switch fast enough. That track is so annoying - it's nails down a blackboard the moment he opens his mouth.

Graham Tarry: Eight tracks, all wonderful. Just a brilliant album, as were all from here ‘til Breakfast in America.

Neil Pennell: One of my favourite albums. The best track is School.

Philip Qvist: When I get asked to name my favourite Supertramp album, it boils down to either Breakfast In America or Crime Of The Century - and it depends on my the mood at the time. Crime is probably the more purist album, but hey; both are flawless masterpieces.

The first Supertramp album to feature the classic lineup of Rick Davies, Roger Hodgson, John A Helliwell, Dougie Thomson and Bob Siebenberg; the record starts off with the superb School and ends with the just as great title track. The other six tracks are hardly filler material either; all great tracks such as the familiar singles Bloody Well Right and Dreamer, or the deep cuts such as Hide In Your Shell and Rudy.

If Breakfast In America is a 10, then so is Crime Of The Century - an absolute classic; a must in everybody's record collection.

John Davidson: The lack of focus on guitars always made Supertramp less interesting to me than the likes of Yes or Genesis but there's no denying the gift for melody. Really interesting choice

Andy Brian: Absolute classic album, 10/10.

Keith Jenkin: One of the underarm staples everyone carried around when we all lent each other albums via the school playground. Drawn to the record via the hit single Dreamer I found all eight tracks to be near perfect and although this is my favourite from the band it was just the first of a great run of four from Supertramp during the seventies.

Leeanne Shannon: I first heard this when I was 14, it’s music that has stayed with me ever since, which I think is the test of a classic, if it still brings you joy many years on, you know it is timeless. It’s a piece of art, from beginning to end, every track is just wonderful, a 10/10 from me.

Gregory Johnson: 10/10. Crime Of The Century my favourite Supertramp album. There are tracks like Rudy and School with ambient sounds that give you a setting to immerse yourself into this album. The Breakfast in America album is also great, but I end up skipping tracks on that sometimes. Crime Of The Century is a great album: sit down for a listen all of the way through.

Paul Mackrell: Better than Breakfast... with Even In the Quietest Moments right there too.

Richard Cardenas: I really like this record. I found it to be just adventurous enough without being arrogant. Great songs that have never really become tired.

Dennis Rendall: This is a perfect album. Not a bad song on it. A mesmerising listen from start to end, and still as enjoyable as the first time I heard back in 1975.

Craig Little: I consider the first two tracks on this album to be the pinnacle of the group.

Stav Au-Dag: A perfect album: 10/10.

John Sarno: Best album in their catalogue.

Gus Schultz: No arguing, this LP is a masterpiece. I thoroughly enjoy closing my eyes and listening to it on vinyl, it’s so well done on all levels. That being said, I did not like Supertramp at all at the time. Being in my teens, “sophisticated rock” was not on my radar then. It was all about heavy rock and guitar, but a little age and a couple of the band's concerts soon changed my mind. Definitely their best, followed by In The Quietest Moments. Breakfast In America was also a massive album and equally well done, although a little more MOR for me. They played the crap out of Breakfast... on the radio here in Canada and everyone had a copy, so much that I still can’t listen to it to this day. Not so with Crime Of The Century.

Matthew Joseph Hughes: Perfect album, but so was the next one. Crisis? What Crisis? is their overlooked masterpiece.

Pete Lettin: One of my very favourite albums.

Adrian Bolster: My brother introduced me to this album when I was 12 or 13. Despite being into Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, I absolutely loved this masterpiece. 10/10, no doubt.

Joseph J. Montgomery: School is such an amazing tune. I really need to learn the piano for just that song.

Mark Herrington: Supertramp’s Crime of the Century is their sublime prog rock/pop classic from 1974. The unmistakeable sound combined with more expansive epic song may surprise those not familiar with this time in their career. Yes, they went on to stellar success with the pop/rock catchiness of Breakfast..., but Crime... delivers a deeper, more complex listen that is ultimately more rewarding. A deserved high score for this classic album.

Gary Alan Thurgood: 10/10, the title track especially.

Phillip James Sainty: It's one of the ten albums everyone should own. From the days of listening in sequence, it was one of those 'turn the lights down and just listen' masterpieces. Essential. Elite.

Clay Halford: Multiple epic pieces from the delightfully dotty Dreamer to the urban bustle of Rudy, there are precisely zero duff tracks here. Breakfast was the commercial peak but Crime is the musical peak. Hide In Your Shell might be my favourite Supertramp track.

Olive Long: If Breakfast In America got a 10, this deserves 11.

Gary Claydon: One of those albums that really doesn't need any long-winded analysis - I doubt anything can be said that hasn't already been. Brings back memories of playing the Dreamer 45 to death and seeing if you actually could put your hands in your head and of The Old Grey Whistle Test (mid-70s Supertramp really were a band tailor made for Whistle Test, weren't they?). Hide In Your Shell is still my favourite track from Crime Of The Century. Great stuff.

Eric Pedersen: It's the GOAT of albums - period!


Final score: 8.98 (204 votes cast, total score 1832)

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