Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Guest: Arnold Stonebrink - Supertramp

Welcome to "The Guest"
Jingle Jangle Jungle’s Guest Blogger Series
Week 9

I have booked some really AWESOME bloggers (and non-bloggers as well), from all over the internet, and I just can’t wait for you to “meet” them all. Each and every Sunday, you will find a new Guest here. Thank you for stopping by today to join us for this week’s "The Guest".

Today's Guest is:  Arnold Stonebrink

Hello! I am Arnold Stonebrink. Writing a blog is intimidating; I admire Mary, who is my old friend, for her bravery in doing this on a daily basis! I do have a little experience writing though; I was the sports editor of my college newspaper. I had a happy upbringing in Idaho, but now live in the high elevation and cool forest of Payson, AZ, where I am a middle school teacher. Next year I will teach English, yearbook, journalism, and Japanese (I served a Mormon mission to Japan). I just finished a career of coaching varsity volleyball—11 years. My hobbies are flying (I have a fun little 1956 Cessna 172 four-seater), and getting harassed by my bride of 12 years, Penni. She and I have 17 kids. You think I’m kidding, don’t you. I wish I was too. It’s a matter of hers, mine, and formerly theirs but now ours. It is a lot of work and often exhausting, but also a blessing and often a lot of fun. I am hopeful adopting several children makes up for my many shortcomings and gets me into heaven.

Supertramp had an origin other fledgling bands can only dream about—the backing of a millionaire.  After Roger Hodgson answered an ad put in by Rick Davies in England’s The Melody Maker in 1969, Supertramp was formed, and received the financial support of Dutch millionaire Stanley August Mieseages.  Unfortunately, the prog rock’s groups first two albums, Supertramp and Indelibly Stamped, failed to capture the public’s attention and money, and Mieseages dropped the band.  

Losing a number of band members, and with Supertramp on the verge of collapse, Davies and Hodgson were able to recruit the talents of Dougie Thomson (bass), Bob Siebenberg (drums and percussion), and John Helliwell (woodwinds and backing vocals).  Davies and Hodgson handled the band’s songwriting, lead singing, and keyboard/piano playing chores (Hodgson also played guitar).  Spending several months in isolation at a farm preparing and rehearsing, Supertramp went on to create Crime of the Century in 1974, which put the group on the map with the public and critics, who often rank it as one of the top 100 rock albums of all time.  The album spawned two hits—“Dreamer” in the U.K., and “Bloody Well Right” in the U.S.

Although Supertramp developed a reputation as a top live performing act, and would play in stadiums to tens of thousands of fans, it was an anomaly, in that many fans knew not their names or faces.   In fact, the two songwriters and lead singers, Hodgson and Davies, seemed to shun the spotlight; woodwind player Helliwell handled the joking and bantering with concert audiences.

Hodgson and Davies were much like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, in that they collaborated much on their early work, but with subsequent writing and success, they worked more and more apart in their songwriting.  And like Lennon/McCartney, most Hodgson/Davies-credited songs are actually penned by either artist alone.

1975 saw Supertramp produce Crisis? What Crisis?, which enjoyed success, but had no hit singles.  The group saw further breakthrough though, in 1977, with Even in the Quietest Moments.  The album is kicked off by the infectious hit “Give a Little Bit”,  which was honored years later by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers as being one of the most played songs in the ASCAP repertoire in 2005--nearly 40 years after its release!   The album finishes with “Fool’s Overture”, an epic exceeding 10 minutes that was Supertramp’s most popular concert offering.  Penned as three songs put together by Hodgson, the song references Jesus, World War II, Winston Churchill, and even Spiderman. 

1979’s Breakfast in America saw Supertramp reach its zenith in popularity and success.  The group had gradually been moving away from its prog rock roots, and Breakfast represented its pop-oriented breakthrough.  The album was a monster hit, hitting number one for six weeks on Billboard, and featured hits “The Logical Song” (#6), “Take the Long Way Home” (#10), “Goodbye Stranger” (#15), and “Breakfast in America” (#9 U.K.).  Critics heaped praise on the album; it won two Grammy awards, and “The Logical Song” won the 1979 Ivor Novello Award for "Best Song Musically and Lyrically".  
1983’s Famous Last Words proved prophetic, as Roger Hodgson announced during the tour supporting the album that it would be his last with Supertramp.  The album featured singles “It’s Raining Again” and “My Kind of Lady”.

After a couple of studio albums, Supertramp was dissolved, but was resurrected minus Thomson.  Since then, Davies, Sienbenberg, and Helliwell have, along with a changing lineup, continued with a few more albums, interspersed with concerts and periods of inactivity.  Davies has taken heat for Supertramp playing Hodgson-penned hits for a couple reasons.  Many fans are disappointed the songs are not sung by the distinct tenor of Hodgson.  Also, Hodgson maintains that Davies broke a gentleman’s agreement that neither of them would perform any of the songs penned and sung by the other.

Hodgson kicked off his solo career by playing nearly instrument of In the Eye of the Storm in 1984.  Just before the release of his second solo album, Hai Hai, in 1987, Hodgson fell off the loft of his house, breaking both of his wrists, and prompting his doctor to tell him he would never play again.  He took a long hiatus from the music business, but did recover from his accident, and was able to release the critically acclaimed Open the Door in 2000.  In 2001, Hodgson performed with Ringo Starr in his All-Starr Band.  In 2007, Hodgson played at the Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium.  Princess Diana was a huge fan, and would often dance, with Princes William and Harry, to Supertramp tunes.  Hodgson has spent the better part of the past three years on tour throughout much of the U.S., Canada, Europe, and South America with his current band (and occasionally, with a full-blown orchestra; and sometimes bare-boned, with just himself and his band mate Aaron McDonald), playing old Supertramp favorites, complemented by some of his solo work.

Please enjoy today's playlist:

Thanks, Arnold!  You did a fantastic job! Thanks for being today's guest!

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