The Eye of the Acoustic Storm
Each week, a different artist is spotlighted in “The Eye of The Acoustic Storm.” Hourly segments of “The Eye” feature the artist’s music along with bio information and sound bites.
Supertramp was formed by Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies. They went on to become one of the most popular bands to come out of England in the late ’70s, with albums like “Crime of the Century,” “Even in the Quietest Moments,” and their tour-de-force, “Breakfast in America.”
The Acoustic Storm Interview
Our very own late, great Jeff Parets spoke with Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson on March 16, 2010.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Well, let’s start by tracing back to your early days. When did you first take up music?
ROGER HODGSON: I always pinpoint when my parents divorced. My father left his guitar behind, and I often wonder whether it was a parting gift from him to me. He had an old acoustic guitar that I used to drool over but he never used to let me touch, and he left it behind when I was 12 and so I took this guitar to boarding school in England and a teacher showed me three chords, and the moment this guitar got into my hands, my life changed forever. Every spare moment, I would take the guitar to this teacher’s room. He let me use it and just play like crazy in between classes and any time off I had, and within a year, I actually did my first concert at that school of all original songs. So I got the bug very quickly and was writing songs. I mean, they’re pretty interesting songs. I wouldn’t play them for anyone now, but I was definitely off and running at age 12.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Had you been absorbing musical influences before that, and do you have any favorites or inspirations musically?
HODGSON: The first artist or the first band that I really took to were The Shadows. I just loved them. I don’t know. They were the first band that I fell in love with, but when The Beatles came along a few years later, that was really what changed my life. I was a teenager throughout the whole Beatles era, their whole history, so that’s what influenced me the most to tell you the truth, because not only did they change my life but I obviously saw the way they changed our whole culture and changed the world and certainly changed the musical world. So when I got together with Rick and formed Supertramp, I really wanted to see what we could do to have the same impact in a way, or leave as powerful a legacy. I mean, I was really driven by the excellence and the bravery and the breaking of new boundaries that the Beatles taught me with Supertramp.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Moving ahead in time in your career, you had your first recording contract even before Supertramp, when you were just 19. How did that come about, and I understand that at one point, you were in a session band with the future Elton John, Reginald Dwight.
HODGSON: Well, 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 actually the band Traffic. Steve Winwood’s band 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, and through that connection, actually, one of my tapes that I was making of my songs got into a music publisher’s hands in London. He liked what he heard, 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 which was a man called Reg Dwight who later became known as Elton John. He had a red-hot band with him; actually, most of the members of the band that he toured with later, Caleb Quaye (on guitar) and Nigel Olsson on drums, and they did an awesome version, obviously, of my songs and then I sang on top. This music publisher released the single under the name Argosy, and actually it came very close to being a hit in England. It was played a lot on the radio but never actually charted, but that was my first experience in a recording studio and it was quite a thrill, I can tell you.
ACOUSTIC STORM: I would think that maybe Hodgson aficionados might want to track that one down and hear what you sounded like pre-Supertramp.
HODGSON: Well, I know copies are out there. I mean, I often sign different sleeves that people bring to shows backstage, so I don’t think it is in print anymore. I’m pretty sure of that, but it has become somewhat of a collector’s item and if you check eBay, you may come across it.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Was it released under the name of Argosy?
HODGSON: Yes. It was released under the name of Argosy and the name of the song was “Mr. Boyd.”
ACOUSTIC STORM: Speaking of names of bands, Supertramp is a great name, how did you decide on that?
HODGSON: Actually, our first name was Daddy and, unfortunately, we were forced to change it because there were quite a few other bands coming out with the same name, and we were literally sitting around the kitchen table one day trying to think of a name and I think someone said “tramp” and another said “super” and we put the two together, but it seemed to fit our identity. I mean, at that point, we were penniless and barely had enough money to get to the next concert. You know, we were traveling up and down the length of Great Britain and so we felt like tramps. I mean, we kind of crashed on people’s floors and just did whatever we could to survive, but I always feel like later we kind of grew into our name “super.” I mean, here we were tramping around the world in a super way, so I don’t know. When we put the two together, something clicked at that kitchen table and we said, “That’s it.” We had no idea, of course, of the success that awaited us in the future.
ACOUSTIC STORM: How did you meet Rick Davies and start the band?
HODGSON: One of the purposes for me in putting that single out under the name Argosy was I wanted to be in a band, and this music publisher was really not helping me do that, so I took it upon myself to just try and find a band to join or form with someone. Actually, there was an advertisement in the Melody Maker, which was the famous English music trade paper, and Rick had put an advertisement in for musicians and so I answered that ad. I was one of actually about 250 musicians, I believe, but when we met, we really hit it off and went to a pub for a drink. He told jokes to me for an hour, but I think there was a musical attraction and that was the start of it.
ACOUSTIC STORM: And eventually, you guys decided that you were more comfortable writing songs on your own, correct?
HODGSON: Yes. Initially, we started writing together and Rick would basically come up with some chords. I would put the melody on top and then actually a third member of the band, Richard Palmer, would write the lyrics and we were just kind of still finding, exploring each other’s potential and not even really knowing what that was at that point, but as we grew personally and musically, music became more of a personal form of expression. For me and for him, we needed to be alone to create, to write, and that’s really when we started from the second album on, even pre-“Crime of the Century,” we were writing totally separately and it had to be that way. I’ve tried collaborating with other musicians, but you end up kind of writing from your head more than your heart or your emotions. When I’m alone and I just let the music take me, then whatever’s going on inside me in my heart or in my emotions or my soul or whatever, can come out much more easily when I’m kind of empty if you like or more clear, and that, to me, is really the magic of composing; getting your mind and getting out of the way to let magic happen. It’s a very amazing process to me writing a song and sometimes when I’m playing some of these songs I’ve written, I think, “Wow. Where did that come from?”
ACOUSTIC STORM: It might be like writing a book; it’s a creative process and the narrative has to come from you in the purest form. I don’t know if that example works, but it seems that you hit it on the head, that you can get closest to the creative experience by not having any distractions, by letting your heart speak more directly to you.
HODGSON: think the closest thing I can really compare it to is meditation in a way, and you can’t meditate with someone else (laughs). I mean, it’s a solo experience to me, and I’ve never been able to write a song by trying, let alone a hit song. I mean, it just doesn’t work. I don’t know where I learned to do it or how it happened, but I think probably because of the love and the passion I had for music, it happened almost straight away when I picked up that guitar when I was age 12. It was where I went to find myself in a way. It was where I went to release, where I went to express myself, where maybe I couldn’t feel like I could express myself to my peers or my parents. It became my best friend, my place where I went to kind of bare my soul and bare my heart. I wasn’t thinking of sharing all that with the world. All I was doing was really just expressing myself and, over time, or looking back in a way or analyzing the process, it was really borne out of the passion that I had for music, but I realized that I could also kind of lose myself in the music by letting the music take me, rather than me trying to control the music. Obviously, you have to have a certain technique and know where the fingers need to go or whatever, but just allowing the music to kind of take you is a very magical process and that’s when magic happened and that’s when a series of chords or a melody popped in out of nowhere. Wow, that’s beautiful. So I just starting singing it and you just follow where it goes and that’s really where all these songs came from, that amazingly magical process.
ACOUSTIC STORM: So music is akin to meditation in terms of the creative process for you?
HODGSON: Yeah. It’s a most amazing feeling. It’s almost like a little mini love affair also because the seed idea, sometimes the whole song, comes all in one sitting but often the song will kind of reveal itself over a period of weeks. I mean, every spare moment I have, I just want to play this new idea because it feels so good and it’s very much like falling in love and just watching the seed idea grow to a full-blown creational flower. It’s difficult to put words to the process. I’ll just leave it. It really is an amazing process.
ACOUSTIC STORM: That’s a very inspiring answer. So how did you write your songs with the band?
HODGSON: Yeah. It’s interesting nowadays where all these songs that I wrote that are very personal and that were written while I was alone and then usually made a demo of them where all the parts were arranged, the bass was written, the whole idea was kind of laid out or captured on a tape before I took it to a band. All these songs are kind of known now as Supertramp songs, and a lot of people even ask me, “How did you write with Supertramp,” and the truth is, I never did. I learned that if I didn’t get the whole idea, including all the arrangement down myself first, then it wouldn’t work. If I took it to the band too soon, then I’d kind of lose the idea because others would put their ideas in and it would go in a direction that was different to what I was feeling or conceived in the first place. So basically I really did take the entire picture to the band. I mean, I wrote all the bass parts, for example, for most of the songs and in terms of the band, I mean, obviously, it was a great band and they were able to translate what I brought to them very well, but that is the truth of it. I never wrote with the band. It was always very much a solo process.
ACOUSTIC STORM: How do you feel about your songs being called Supertramp songs? Is there a sense of wanting to reclaim your music?
HODGSON: Well, I realize that I’m living with some choices I made earlier in life to kind of bury my own identity in the name Supertramp and I never really thought that I would be leaving Supertramp, because Supertramp was so much my creation, and I never dreamt that Supertramp would even continue without me. I didn’t even think that was possible but it had been challenging to go out, especially after 20 years of not touring, under the name Roger Hodgson because unless you’re a diehard Supertramp fan, you really don’t know who Roger Hodgson is. So we’ve had to do a lot to connect the dots, and what a lot of fans tell me and write to me about, is now when they go to a Roger Hodgson concert, they feel that the heart and soul and the spirit of what they imagine they would get from a Supertramp concert or imagine they would’ve gotten from a Supertramp concert way back when. Yeah, a lot of them have nicknamed me Mr. Supertramp for that reason. I don’t really care what name people relate to me as. All I know is that these songs are very personal babies of mine and that when people come to see my show, then they will very much hear the songs that they’ve been listening to for years and hear the man who created them.
ACOUSTIC STORM: So for someone who never saw Supertramp live, would you say that attending a Roger Hodgson concert would be about as close to seeing Supertramp, the true heart and soul of the band, as you could get at this point in time?
HODGSON: That’s what people tell me and that’s what I feel, really, because, you know, there were two forces in Supertramp. There was myself and then there was Rick Davies and we were very different, and some people really prefer my songs and some people prefer Rick’s. When I left the band, the agreement was that I would take my songs and I would have my voice and that would be my future, and Rick would continue with Supertramp under his direction and his songs, and he took the band in a much more jazz and blues direction, which some fans like, but a lot of fans who want to hear “Dreamer” and “Give a Little Bit” and “Take the Long Way Home” and “Breakfast in America” and “School” and “It’s Raining Again” and the more well-known songs, which were mostly mine that became the hits, there is a lot of disappointment that happens when people go to a Supertramp concert (without me) and don’t hear those songs.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Are they still touring or making records as Supertramp?
HODGSON: They have not toured since 2002. That was the last tour they did.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Do you have mixed emotions about it, because if they continue to exist under that name with a very eclectic, jazzy, bluesy expression and getting real obscure, then a lot of people are not going to have heard about them anyway, so it’s not going to really taint the image to most Supertramp fans. It’s kind of like no harm, no foul. By the same token, there may be some sort of intellectual property that is assigned to you for having created the power and mystique of the Supertramp name in the first place. So I suppose it may be kind of a mixed bag for you to know that they’re still off and on trying to carry on under that name.
HODGSON: It is a mixed bag. I mean, I don’t hang on to the past but it does bring up some emotions sometimes because the albums that Rick has made under the name Supertramp have not done well and, to tell you the truth, I don’t think they’re very good albums. The first one was pretty good but what happens is that when people think of Supertramp, they think of the era when I was with the band. So when they do go out on tour, that’s the band that people are expecting to see.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Like you said, when you were with Supertramp, it was never an issue for you of “I need to establish my name with Supertramp” or the same for Rick. For instance, in Pink Floyd, you know Roger Waters, and you know David Gilmour, but you guys were so unified as Supertramp in its heyday that people didn’t necessarily identify you as, “Oh, Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies and so forth…”
HODGSON: Back then, I was very idealistic and really didn’t have any kind of business sense, and even though I was the driving creative force behind the albums and wrote most of the hit songs, I mean, I really did bury my identity in the group identity and it was a two-way street. I think looking back also, they didn’t want me to get too much of the attention. The other thing was I was very shy and introverted, too, so I was very happy to be kind of buried in a band identity, but I didn’t expect to be saying goodbye to it at the height of its success. That was obviously a choice I made but it was hard to say goodbye to something you put 14 years of your life into and it’s so much a part of my identity.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Can you elaborate on why you left Supertramp or are you comfortable talking about it?
HODGSON: Yes, I am, totally. I left Supertramp in 1983 after 14 years with Rick and it was a very painful, very difficult choice because, as I said, Supertramp was my baby, my creation, and so much of my identity at that time but I was facing kind of a crossroads in my life. I was looking at two very small babies and realizing that I had no idea of how to be a parent or a father, and I really wanted to do that, and I knew that I just couldn’t do both well. I couldn’t continue with the kind of time commitment that Supertramp demanded from me and also be a good parent and learn how to be a parent, so I made a very, very difficult decision, but one that my heart was telling me I had to make, which was to stop and really make music a second priority to raising my children and being there at home while they grew up, and it is a decision I look back on now and know it was the right one. At the time, I had a lot of questions. It was very difficult, obviously, but, you know, I now have no regrets and my family stayed together, my children are in good shape, and here I am back out here touring again and in the best shape ever I’ve been in. So I think actually my time away from the music industry was very, very healthy for me and gave me some perspective on life and also allowed me to grow in other ways that I really needed to.
ACOUSTIC STORM: I think that decision shows what kind of a man you are; that you rank family and life above career, which speaks volumes of your character. They say you can always fix a job but you can’t get back time. Here you are now continuing your career in a way that helps to establish the name Roger Hodgson as part of, but also distinct from, Supertramp. Yet you were able to have all those priceless years with family. So I applaud you for that.
HODGSON: Thank you. That’s very true what you said.
ACOUSTIC STORM: You have released some fine solo material and, by the way, I like the title of one in particular, “In the Eye of the Storm,” which is great for The Acoustic Storm. Looking back, there was an incident that happened, a traumatic accident that occurred right around the time of one of your solo albums. What exactly happened and how did it affect your life from a personal standpoint?
HODGSON: Well, breaking my wrists in 1987 was huge, again another crossroads, another pivotal point in my life. Prior to that, as you said, I had released my first solo album, “In the Eye of the Storm,” because even though I had stopped to devote my life to my family, I did build a studio in my home up in northern California and intended to at least put out albums even if I didn’t tour. “In the Eye of the Storm” was the first one, which was very autobiographical and I really did feel like I was in the eye of the storm in many ways, going alone and feeling very alone, and having not made a popular decision to leave a band that was very successful and a decision that a lot of people didn’t like.
So four years later, I recorded an album called “Hai Hai,” and that was at a point in time where I really had lost a lot of self-confidence in myself and, because of that, was starting to listen to my advisors, my manager, and different people, and I made an album that at the time I was not happy with. I felt like I was doing it for everyone else but me, which as an artist, is the kiss of death, and without knowing it, I really slipped into a place of very deep crisis within myself and, ironically or not, I mean I can see why it happened now in a way, the week the album came out, I took a fall in the middle of the night onto cement and I smashed both my wrists and also landed on my head. So it was a major accident and I was taken to hospital and the first thing the doctors said to me when they looked at my wrist was, “Oh well, you’ll never play again.”
So that really did stop me, stop my life, and obviously stopped my career. Everyone who was helping me with my career had to leave. So for the first time, I was really truly alone with my family, and my family had to support me, obviously, while I recuperated, and I was really faced with a life without music and I was forced to face myself as a man, not as a musician, and it really did begin a period of self-introspection or self-discovery that was actually very good for me as I look back on it, but at the time was very difficult. Initially, I went into a big depression because it was a very hard piece of news to get from the doctors, but about two and a half months after I got the news, one day I woke up and said, “I’m not going to accept this.” You know, life without music would be unbearable. It’s a gift I was given. It’s a gift I have to be able to share again and so I just rallied everything in me and I started praying like crazy. I started doing physical therapy, willpower, just every which way I could do. I was incredibly determined to get the use of my wrists back and the doctors were absolutely amazed because my wrists were literally splintered into a hundred pieces and they thought I’d have to be pinned and my wrists would never come back the way they were, and I proved them wrong. It took about a year and a half, but they are in perfect shape today and it was literally through that decision I made that day that it happened.
ACOUSTIC STORM: I understand that this experience led you towards more of a spiritual path. Could you touch on that as well?
HODGSON: Well, I’ve always really had a spiritual bent if you like. I mean, even when I was young, I wanted to know who/what God was. I mean, nothing really made sense in the way it was taught to me when I was young. I mean, it never kind of computed that God was this being up in the sky somewhere and to be fearful of. That never computed, so that question really burned inside me. I mean, it found its way into a lot of my songs. I mean, a lot of my songs, even a lot of my love songs, are actually love songs to God. They are kind of disguised as a love song to a woman but that was really where I found my place of passion.
I really wanted to find my home, find out who I was, find out what my connection to life, to God, to my life purpose was, and it was driving me from a very early age and it has always been, you know. The older I got and more I discovered about myself and about God and life, the more peace that came to me, but I realize that as I look back on my life, the times where my life has really flowed well and successfully have been when I’ve been really guided by what I call my spiritual compass, and when I have floundered and got lost is when I’ve let go of that and gotten lost in something else, so it really has sustained me. It still does today and it’s obviously the most important thing in my life because I believe that’s what life is for, to really find out who we are as a soul, and as a soul, that is really where we are connected to God.
ACOUSTIC STORM: And music is such a wonderful vehicle to express that.
HODGSON: Music is so much, at least for me, you know, an expression of my soul and of my heart and of the longing of my heart, and I expressed my longing to know God through songs like “Lord Is It Mine” and “Only Because of You” and songs wanting to really know who I am. I mean, “Logical Song” is the classic one. You know, they taught me how to be all these, you know, sensible and intellectual and cynical and all these things but, at the end of the day, please tell me who I am, and that to me was the most important question and has been for most of my life.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Well, it’s probably your vulnerability that helps make those songs so authentic. As long as we’ve broached the subject of specific titles and how your creative expression has been brought to life through some of these great songs, let’s explore some of them in particular. Can you elaborate a bit more on “Logical Song?”
HODGSON: Yeah. “Logical Song” is very autobiographical. I mean, you know, when I was young, I mean, life was very magical. I have old 8-mm movies of me as a little child and I was just a joy bubble and most children are at that age and, you know, then they sent me away. Well, I was sent to boarding school. “They sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,” and that was where confusion set in, really. I was taught all these ways to be and behave and it was not all bad but it definitely set in a level of confusion to what I felt when I was much younger. So when I left school, the burning question that came down to its rawest place was “please tell me who I am,” and that’s basically what the song is about.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Let’s stay with the “Breakfast in America” album and go with “Take The Long Way Home.”
HODGSON: I think I wrote that during, or right before we went into the studio to record the album. It was a last-minute surprise for me. “Take the Long Way Home” for me is home on two levels. I mean, I’m talking about not wanting to go home to the wife, take the long way home to the wife because she treats you like part of the furniture, but there’s a deeper level to the song, too. I really believe we all want to find our home, find that place in us where we feel at home, and to me, home is in the heart and that is really, when we are in touch with our heart and we’re living our life from our heart, then we do feel like we found our home.
ACOUSTIC STORM: For the title track, how did you come up with that whole concept of “Breakfast in America”? I mean, it’s so quintessential.
HODGSON: “Breakfast in America” still brings a smile to my face when I sing it on stage. I don’t know why, but I was driven to find a pump organ, which is a harmonium. It’s like an organ that you pump with your feet to make the sound come out, and in England they had most of them in the back room of churches, because they were replaced by electric organs. So I went to searching all these churches to try and find a pump organ and eventually, I did find one. I bought it for 40 pounds and took it home and proceeded to write all these songs on it, and it had that magical quality to it. It still does, I still have it, but all these songs came flowing out of me, and “Breakfast in America” was one of them. Actually, the sound on the record is this harmonium and a grand piano, and I think that day I must have been in a very playful, melancholy mood with all these interesting lines, “Could we have kippers for breakfast, mummy dear, mummy dear.”
ACOUSTIC STORM: And it also seems like it’s an Englishman’s take on America. You’ve lived in the U.S. for many years, but with the exception of concert tours, I don’t know that you had ever been to America all that much before moving here.
HODGSON: Well, when I wrote “Breakfast in America,” I mean obviously, I had a lot of dreams. One of them was to go to America, and the America that we saw on the television was very different to the America that we’re very much more connected to today. I mean, it was very archetypal in a way, “everyone in Texas is a millionaire,” for example. So a lot of my thoughts, you know, want to “see the girls in California,” it was just a playful song, (part of) I think dreaming of going to America. I think the Beatles maybe had just gone to America. Maybe that affected it but, again, I was dreaming and having fun one day and this song just flowed out. I think the lyric was written in about an hour, so I didn’t even stop to think what I was writing. It just came out of me.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Let’s talk about the album cover for “Breakfast in America.” I think of the waitress on the front cover and the diner with you guys on the back. Can you describe coming up with that visual concept? It was quite a memorable album cover.
HODGSON: Yes, the album cover. It was a great album cover. It was the New York skyline or us flying over New York. I remember the first time we actually flew to America, we flew into J.F.K. and saw that skyline out of the plane window and it was such a thrill. So here we are, you know, six years later, doing a kind of a mockup with breakfast or cooking items representing the New York skyline, but I think one of the most wonderful things about that album cover is Libby, the waitress, who we chose. I know the friend who was doing the album cover, Mike Doud, the initial mockup, he had a way more sexy, full-breasted waitress on the cover and we looked at her and we went, “No, that’s not us.” So we looked through this model book and we found this wonderful middle-aged lady with a real twinkle and we said, “That’s her, that’s her,” so that was Libby (laughs).
ACOUSTIC STORM: That’s great. From “Crime of the Century,” I love “Dreamer” and “School.”
HODGSON: “Dreamer” flew out of me one day. It was in my mother’s house. We had just bought our first Wurlitzer electric piano and it was the first opportunity I had to play it, and I took it home and I set up in a back room of my mother’s house and I just started playing this thing and I think “Dreamer” was the first thing that just flew out of me. I made a demo right there and then on this two-track tape recorder that was so magical that when we tried to record the song five years later with the band, we couldn’t match the magic on this demo at all. So we ended up putting the demo on two tracks of the multi-track and literally duplicating everything that I had created on this demo but in a much higher quality, obviously, and I think that’s maybe why there was no click track, nothing. So I think that’s part of the reason why it does have a wonderful feeling. I love playing this song in concert because it just brings out the dreamer in everyone. I mean there is a dreamer in everyone and so often we let go of that side of ourselves and it kind of reminds the audience and reminds me when I’m singing it, too, to keep that place in us alive.
ACOUSTIC STORM: It’s uplifting.
HODGSON: Yeah, it is very uplifting.
ACOUSTIC STORM: How about “School?” Was that based on your experience at boarding school?
HODGSON: Yes. I’ve always had kind of strong feelings about school and our education and what is lacking in it, so yes, “School” was very much some of my thoughts on my school experience and was obviously the beginning of what we intended to be a concept album, “Crime of the Century.”
ACOUSTIC STORM: You know, ever since I started listening to that song, even when the album first came out, I noticed some subtleties at the beginning of it. You can hear the kids playing in the playground as I imagine them and then just before the music kicks in, you hear this girl screaming and I think it’s got a double meaning. It’s like, is she screaming because she’s having fun, or because of the awfulness of what she is about to embark on in terms of the ironclad educational system.
HODGSON: You’ve got it (laughs).
ACOUSTIC STORM: Do you think of it that way, as having a double meaning?
HODGSON: Yes. Nothing is accidental. I mean, when I arrange my songs, nothing is by accident. Everything, especially that scream that you’re talking about just before the band comes in, does represent a lot, so what you’re feeling is right. I mean, you know, school is a wonderful place. Obviously, it’s a school playground but that scream does represent a lot more.
ACOUSTIC STORM: “Fool’s Overture” is just a grand piece of music, so you’ve got to give me at least a nutshell description of that song’s inspiration.
HODGSON: (Laughs) “Fool’s Overture” is one of my favorite pieces that I’ve ever written. It was very magical the way it came together. It was actually three separate pieces of music that I had for a few years and then, one day, they kind of all slotted together in what I think is a magnificent, kind of epic piece of music. I always imagined it with an orchestra, so when I did start playing with orchestras back in the ’90s, it was such a thrill to play this song. I mean I get goose-bumps still to this day every time I get an opportunity to do that. Boy, there’s so much in this song. It’s very hard to pin it down into one direction. I mean Churchill is in there. You know, I’m talking about Jesus in the second verse. It’s very much about the fall of mankind, “history recalls how great the fall can be, while everybody’s sleeping, the boats put out to sea.” I mean it was very much the way I was perceiving life, you know, that the people weren’t seeing and still kind of happening today, maybe less so today, but people were in denial of the way we were heading and the way the planet was heading, so I don’t know. I don’t want to get too conceptual over it but it was like a collage of different concepts and ideas that just really stimulate the imagination.
ACOUSTIC STORM: Would you say that “Give a Little Bit” is one of your most personal and most emotional songs?
HODGSON: With “Give a Little Bit,” I think the song has really taken on a life of its own. Funny enough, when I wrote it, I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t even play it to Rick or the band for a good four or five years. So it’s really interesting that, you know, who am I to know what I’ve written, but the song itself is such a pure, simple message that I think is really especially even more powerful today when the world has even more problems and it’s even more difficult sometimes to be compassionate and caring because we’ve got to put up all these barriers to survive. It’s a song that really inspires people to give a little bit, not give a lot, just give a little bit and see how it feels and show that you care, and I know for me, every time I play it in concert, there’s something about that song. I look out and people just start smiling straight away and sometimes they hug each other and they start singing with me. It’s a very unifying song with a beautiful, simple message that I’m very proud of and really enjoy playing today.
ACOUSTIC STORM: It’s been adopted as a theme song to help raise funds for many worthwhile causes as well.
HODGSON: It’s the most requested song of mine for all kinds of causes and I’m very happy to lend it to any worthwhile fundraising or disaster relief and, yes, you’re right, for Hurricane Katrina, it was used a lot and for the tsunami also and for many others, so it’s very wonderful to have a song that can be used in that way. Very gratifying.
ACOUSTIC STORM: And, of course, for an international icon from England who backed many causes and charities, Princess Di, “Give a Little Bit” was one of her favorite songs. It must have been quite a thrill to perform that at the Princess Diana tribute concert in 2007 in Wembley Stadium.
HODGSON: It was. I was kind of sad that I never got to actually play for the princess while she was alive, but I was very, very happy that the princes invited me to play for her honor 10 years after her death to celebrate her life in Wembley Stadium. Actually, I was very nervous and I had some laryngitis going on, so it was okay and my voice cracked a few times. It was quite nerve-wracking but it was very wonderful when the audience all stood up, and the princes also, to sing “Give a Little Bit” with me. That was a magical moment.
ACOUSTIC STORM: So is there any one song that you would say would be the one that connects with you the most, or am I putting you on the spot? I mean, all these songs are your children, so I suppose I can’t ask you which is your favorite.
HODGSON: You know, they’re very much like children. No two are the same (laughs), and I love them all for different reasons because they all reflect and ignite a different place in me. I think one of my favorites is “Lord is it Mine,” one of the lesser-known songs on “Breakfast in America,” but that came from such a deep place when I wrote it and it transports me to that place whenever I sing it, but you know, it’s amazing. I have a deep appreciation for all of these songs and I’m just very grateful for my life, to tell you the truth, that I can sing such wonderful songs and make people happy. I mean, how can a man ask for more? I mean, I’ve really lived a very blessed life and I’m very grateful for it.
For more on “Mr. Supertramp,” check out Roger Hodgson’s Web site .
The audio version of The Acoustic Storm’s exclusive interview with Roger Hodgson of Supertramp is now available on You Tube.