If ever a rock band made the right record at the right time, it was Supertramp with Crime Of The Century in 1974. Just a year earlier, they had seemed a lost cause. Their first two albums had flopped, and as various members quit, the two remaining co-founders, Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, were staring down the barrel.
What kept them going was the new songs they had written. One by Davies had a heavy rock edge and a quintessentially British sensibility in its theme of class struggle and sardonic title, Bloody Well Right. And in two songs by Hodgson, School and Dreamer, there was melodic sophistication and powerful expression of existential angst.
As Hodgson recalled: “It felt like these songs were better than anything we’d written to date.” From this, a classic album was born – the album that not only saved Supertramp’s career, but also took them to a whole new level.
By late ’73, the band’s definitive line-up was established. Davies and Hodgson both sang lead. Davies also played keyboards; Hodgson piano and guitar. Alongside them were bassist Dougie Thomson, saxophonist John Anthony Helliwell and American drummer Bob Siebenberg, aka Bob C. Benberg. It took five months for the album to be completed. But in November 1974, two months after its release, Crime Of The Century hit the Top Five in the UK.
In an era when progressive rock was at its peak, with albums such Tubular Bells and The Dark Side Of The Moon high in the charts, Supertramp’s clever, complex music and deeply philosophical lyrics connected with a huge audience. Like Lennon and McCartney before them, Davies and Hodgson mostly wrote separately, and their differing personalities were reflected in the songs.
Davies provided the intense drama in Asylum and the grim irony in the album’s title track; Hodgson the fragile beauty of Hide In Your Shell and the euphoric pop of Dreamer. The latter song also gave Supertramp a hit single in February 1975, and the following month they were recorded live at London’s Hammersmith Odeon – a performance now featured as the bonus disc with this deluxe edition of the album. They played all but the title track, and they played it beautifully.
When the chips were down, Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson had delivered. Global domination would follow six years later with Breakfast In America, but it was with Crime Of The Century that Supertramp came of age./o:p