- On 10 December 2010
- Hits: 1976
Crisis! What Crisis!
caption: High spirits - but appearances are deceiving: Bob Siebenberg, Rick Davies, Roger Hodgson, John A. Helliwell and Dougie Thomson (from left) were torn by success at the end of the seventies.
It could be the reunion of the year - that is if it were a reunion. But what is going out on "40th Anniversary Tour" this fall is not Supertramp but Rick Davies with backing band. And that will take place in that line-up despite the efforts of Roger Hodgson and Dougie Thomson (the ex-colleagues) to participate. During the "eclipsed"- conversation the two consequently make some unflattering statements.
The setting has an air of depression about it: Roger Hodgson gives a guest performance at the North Rhine-Westphalia horticultural show in Hemer in front of an audience of 500 - at a venue which holds up to the quadruple amount, but the continuous rain and the out of the question promotion are inhibiting a possible run. The usual territory of the attending audience seems to be the local "Schuetzenfest" (German "marksmen's festival"), they don't even know the titles of the Supertramp hit songs which Hodgson intones - except for "It's Raining Again" which the 60-year old presents in a well-behaved way, just as his other successful hits from the seventies: "Take The Long Way Home", "Give A Little Bit", "The Logical Song", "Breakfast In America", "Dreamer", "Fool's Overture" or "School". Pieces which - you have to acknowledge - have not suffered any loss of class to this day, pieces which still put a spell on you with their intense melodies and their playful arrangements. And Hodgson still presents them with the same passion, just as if it was 1983 - just as if he was standing up on stage at Dortmund's Westphalia-stadium. It is this resilience, which sometimes appears to be verging on masochism, which is Hodgson's very own method of proceeding against his former friend and partner Rick Davies: playing Best-of-Sets in the provinces, demanding comparatively small entrance fees, thus very adeptly undermining Davies' position. Because the latter's opulent two-month tour of the biggest venues in western Europe, where ticket prices are between 69 and 85 Euros (between 56 and 70 GBP / 88 and 109 USD), up to this point proves to be a financial fiasco with disastrous advance ticket sales, zero PR, but advertisement which makes use of Hodgson's songs and image and thus Hodgson declares this to be cheating the fans: "I have no problem with Rick going on tour as Supertramp but I get the feeling that he is deceiving the public in his way of bringing this to market. Because I'm hearing my songs and my voice in radio spots announcing their concerts - but I won't be there. That's pretty uncool. And the other thing which bothers me, is that he once again plans to have my songs sung by another singer, which is very clearly a breach of our agreement.
The name for you, the songs for me
In 1983, when Hodgson declared that he was parting ways with Supertramp to have more time for his family, there was a genuine gentleman agreement between the two band founders: Davies got all the rights for using the name Supertramp and in return he agreed not to play those pieces which his colleague wrote. Hodgson wanted to keep his songs as basis for his subsequent solo career. But Davies did not stick to the bargain - which in the end led to the quarrel with bass player Dougie Thomson as well as to the long lasting dispute with Hodgson. "Back then we shook hands, looked each other deep in the eyes and made this agreement. We were friends who parted ways with all due respect and in complete harmony. And it hurts quite a lot that he broke the agreement. With hindsight, I would wish I had it all put down in writing. But back then I simply did not think that would be necessary - I wasn't very good at business stuff. I trusted him. And now that is how it turned out." And yet both parties sat down at a table once again back in 2008 and they talked about a joint project and a tour, a conversation which according to Hodgson was very constructive - even if those talks did, at the time, not comprise the other members of the classic Supertramp line-up like John Helliwell, Bob Siebenberg and Dougie Thomson because they had this lawsuit against Davies about outstanding royalties. "He was really hurt due to that legal stuff which was going on but I was hoping that he would soon get over that and we could do something together again. But then something incredible happened: He simply stopped talking to me and he didn't answer my phone calls. Instead I was told to talk everything through with his lawyer and his wife Sue who is also his manager. At that point I realized that this project would not come about." And that is why he (Hodgson) is no more part of the current Supertramp line-up than bosom buddy Dougie Thomson. Messrs. Siebenberg and Helliwell are only going along because they need the money, not because they are best friends with Davies - that's what Thomson shares with us, he now is manager for the metal-band Disturbed. "For me Supertramp is a closed chapter, once and for all" explains Thomson, born in 1951, he was the youngest in the former team. "I believe we had a great time, we've achieved tremendous things, but it's not the same band anymore. It's no longer those five guys, who go through all the ups and downs together and are at the same time best friends. It's all about egos and about the money - I don't want to cope with stuff like that. I want to remember it as something beautiful."
"Rick does not have any relationship with the fans"
Hodgson looks at things completely different, he still expresses interest in maybe joining Davies for a few special concerts during the tour: "If my schedule allows, I would immediately take part - he just has to let me know." But that is very unlikely to happen. Because at the same time he (Hodgson) cannot refrain from directing aplenty pointed remarks towards Long Island, where Rick Davies has settled in his retirement home. "Rick does no longer have any relationship with the fans - and he is totally unaware of what Supertramp means to the people. I believe that it has definitely grown into something much bigger than the two of us. This music is making so many people happy in all parts of the world for thirty, forty years now. And whereas I cherish that and try to maintain that with my shows, he rather looks at it as a trademark and a way to make more money - as if he didn't have plenty. And what is the most saddening, is that he plays my songs and he does not even like them. He never did. And most of them, he doesn't understand - because we stand for very different beliefs and philosophies. I mean, I have always been on a crusade, a spiritual quest for Love, happiness and the deeper meanings of life - he on the other hand wanted safety and steadiness. In that regard it is particularly sad that he does not show integrity here and is almost abusing my songs."
The question remains why Hodgson does not defend himself and put an end to the "Anniversary tour"- which is threatening to ruin Supertramp's reputation - via court order. "Because life is too short. And because I am a peaceful man - and he (Rick) knows that as well. So: Even though many people have advised me to consult a lawyer and file an injunction suit, I do not want to follow that path."
Instead - and he not only proves that in Hemer but also at many other festivals which he plays this summer - he is looking out for the sporting challenge - by presenting the same songs as Davies and in that discipline - he knows that very well - he can hardly be beaten: "I am older, wiser and a much better artist than ever before. And I wrote songs which have stood the test of time, songs which still sound fresh today."
Now it's for Davies to obliterate those arguments. Hopefully by giving us the interview, which "eclipsed" has requested for the next issue. But Hodgson is pessimistic about that: "I believe he will take cover - the way he always does. So: I wish you luck with that!" Says he and vanishes to meet mayor, Chief of Police, press and fire department of Hemer. That's what you call guerrilla marketing. And it works.
by Marcel Anders