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The 13th? It’s un­lucky for some. Es­pe­cially if Fri­day-con­nected (it was). But Supertramp didn’t see it that way. For on that date in 1974, A&M re­leased the band’s third al­bum, the one that was to change their lives. I’d fol­lowed the progress of the band since they’d stuck out their self-ti­tled de­but LP in sum­mer 1970. I liked it, as did a Sounds re­viewer who called it “a bril­liant col­lec­tion of rock songs”. Later, in an early piece on the band, I wrote, “I doubt if it did enough to keep [A&M boss] Herb Alpert in bed socks for a week. And the band’s drum­mer had a break­down about that time – which really didn’t help much.” Dis­il­lu­sioned, Supertramp re-emerged in 1971 with In­deli­bly Stamped, an al­bum most only re­mem­ber for its cover depicting the bo­som of tat­tooed lady Mar­ion Hol­lier. Gui­tarist Roger Hodg­son ad­mit­ted that In­deli­bly Stamped was far from mem­o­rable, ad­mit­ting, “we were floun­der­ing”. The band seemed doomed and a split seemed in­evitable. Nonethe­less, they de­cided to try a sin­gle and mix it at Soho-based Tri­dent Stu­dio, where they teamed up with pro­ducer Ken Scott, an ex-EMI en­gi­neer who had since worked with El­ton John and co-pro­duced such al­bums as Hunky Dory, Ziggy Star­dust, Aladdin Sane and Pin-Ups with Bowie. Scott liked what Supertramp were do­ing as he lis­tened to ma­te­rial they had piled up on their Sony tape-deck. He be­gan to work up the kind of re­la­tion­ship that Ed­die Of­ford had achieved with Yes, and opted to lead them on their quest for their per­sonal Holy Grail – an al­bum that would gain them ku­dos of the grat­i­fy­ing kind. A trip to The Who’s Ram­port Stu­dio in Bat­tersea was ar­ranged and the ba­sic tracks were laid down. When deemed ready, the band, then com­pris­ing Hodg­son and co-vo­cal­ist Rick Davies, plus bassist Dougie Thom­son, synth and sax man John Hel­li­well plus Cal­i­for­nia-born drum­mer Bob C. Ben­berg, re­turned to Tri­dent for over­dubs then headed to Scor­pio Sound in Eus­ton for the fi­nal mix. “Ken really be­came part of the band,” re­called Davies, “But he was such a per­fec­tion­ist that when he tried for a drum sound we’d all walk out and leave Bob Ben­berg and him to it. If we came back a cou­ple of hours later, they’d still be work­ing it all out.” Scott’s pur­suit of per­fec­tion ex­tended to the al­bum’s sound ef­fects. To get the sound o f chil­dren’s voices, Scott headed down to his daugh­ter’s school and recorded the noise at


home-time. He spent an evening record­ing buskers in Lon­don’s West End, while on an­other oc­ca­sion he and Supertramp went to Padding­ton Sta­tion where, amid the train-spot­ters, they recorded sta­tion an­nounce­ments for the track Rudy, a semi-bi­o­graph­i­cal song about Davies’s life at the time. With the record­ing com­plete, it re­mained for pho­tog­ra­pher Paul Wake­field and A&M art di­rec­tor Fabio Ni­coli to cre­ate a suit­able cover. Wake­field had the idea of a prison cell win­dow float­ing in space while a pris­oner silently screamed through the bars, the hands grip­ping said bars be­long­ing to Wake­field’s twin brother. The band ap­proved, and then added a fi­nal ded­i­ca­tion “To Sam”, their name for Stan­ley Au­gust Miesegaes, a Dutch mil­lion­aire who do­nated a por­tion of his for­tune to sup­port­ing Supertramp be­tween 1969-1972. When re­leased, I re­viewed the al­bum for NME and en­thused: “Crime Of The Cen­tury, whis­per it not, has the mak­ings of a mon­ster.” Oth­ers agreed, the Sun­day Times claim­ing that the LP was “striking mu­si­cally”, while Sounds added, “There comes a time when you lis­ten to an al­bum and think: ‘Christ this band are go­ing to be bloody big.’” Just so. Crime Of The Cen­tury duly hit Num­ber 4 in the UK and 38 in the US (where it would be de­clared a gold seller on the back of hit sin­gle Bloody Well Right), as well as do­ing nicely in Europe and Aus­trala­sia. The group were on the as­cen­dant, and would en­joy a fur­ther four in­ter­na­tional hit al­bums, in­clud­ing 1979’s su­per­s­mash Break­fast In Amer­ica, un­til Hodg­son quit the group in March 1983. “By the end of the Break­fast In Amer­ica tour the spirit had gone,” he told MOJO in 2007. “We made a fol­low-up but we weren’t uni­fied at all, so what could have been a sen­sa­tional al­bum ended up be­ing very limp and av­er­age. We called it Fa­mous Last Words be­cause Rick and I de­cided we weren’t go­ing through that again.” Fred Del­lar

Get your white suit with flares on, and go for that Roxy Mu­sic/Bill Nel­son look with new-shaped toes! And all on HP.

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