By Steve Newton
On June 28, 1985, the Georgia Straight newspaper published my interview with Supertramp drummer Bob Siebenberg. That’s no big whoop in the grand scheme of things, but at the time the band has just released its first album without original member Roger Hodgson, Brother Where You Bound, so there was interest in how it would sound (and sell) without the guy who’d written and sung its biggest hits.
I remember the local A&M Records rep drove me out to Vancouver airport to interview Siebenberg at a bar there. That was pretty unusual. I was impressed when the drummer told me that his brother-in-law–who plays guitar along with David Gilmour on the title track–was Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy fame.
If I recall correctly, the album didn’t do much for me, though. Tweren’t no Crime of the Century.
“Roger wanted to do his own thing for quite a while,” says Supertramp drummer Bob Siebenberg, “and the rest of us wanted to get back to our earlier sound. After Breakfast in America–which was such an obviously big album–we tried to decide whether we should do Breakfast in America again, or come back a little heavier.
“We came back with Famous Last Words, and it wasn’t really what we wanted to do. That was obviously the beginning of the end there, you know.”
The “musical differences” that surfaced between Supertramp’s co-leaders Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies around the time of Famous Last Words eventually led the rest of the group to side with Davies. And though Hodgson stuck with the band through their 1983 World Tour, it was common knowledge–among band members and fans alike–that he was on his way out. In 1984 he cut the ties for good with the release of a successful solo album, In the Eye of the Storm.
“Roger’s a neat guy,” claims Siebenberg, “and we miss him from that point of view. But internally–in terms of getting on with the business of being a group–everybody’s happier now.”
Supertramp’s recently released their ninth album, titled Brother Where You Bound. Davies is clearly the man in control now, having written all the music and lyrics on the latest LP. “He knows what he wants, says Bob, “and we’re only too happy to go for that.”
And what is it like recording as a four-piece band now?
“Well, it’s a pretty slick machine. The four of us play all the time anyway, just around at Rick’s house. We go in and have a few beers and play Fats Domino and stuff. And we groove pretty well together. We could probably do two 45’s [45-minute sets] in a local club, you know.”
When Roger Hodgson left, Supertramp lost not only a major songwriter and vocalist, but also a guitarist. For Brother Where You Bound they hired session player Marty Walsh, who had done stints with both Eddie Money and Christopher Cross. And on the 16 1/2-minute title track, there also appearances from Scott Gorham (Siebenberg’s brother-in-law, formerly with Thin Lizzy) and Dave Gilmour (late of Pink Floyd). According to Siebenberg, the idea of using Gilmour for one song came about on the spur of the moment.
“We tried Marty doing a solo, and we tried Scott doing a solo, and it just wasn’t the ticket. So we were sort of going, ‘Well, a Dave Gilmour-kinda thing would be neat here.’
“And Norman our engineer went, ‘Well why the…don’t you just call up Dave Gilmour?!’ And we went, ‘Duhhh!’ So we sent him a cassette, and he came back to us in a couple of days and said, ‘When?’
“And he was just great to work with. I mean you don’t have to do anything at the desk. He works out there with his roadie for a couple of hours, and fiddles with all his stuff, and it’s like ‘Ready!’ You just slip the fader up and it’s just there–like a trademark sound.”
“Brother Where You Bound” is the showpiece of the new album (which is currently #8 on the Straight’s Top 50). It is one song that ‘s been a long time in the making.
“It was slated for Famous Last Words,” explains Bob, “but it looked a bit silly up against some of the lighter tracks on that album, so we saved it. We anticipated it being the backbone of the next effort, knowing that Roger would not be around.
“People would always come up to us and say that they really like the ‘Crime of the Century’ song, and the ‘Fool’s Overture’ kinda thing–the big piece where it stops and there’s effects and musical pictures. So Rick stuck ‘Brother’ back someplace and just worked on it over the years, to come out with something like that himself.”
The “musical pictures” of “Brother Where You Bound” have been put together in the form of an 18-minute video, filmed in L.A. by Dutch director Rene Daalder. The clip is currently making the rounds on both MTV and Canada’s MuchMusic.
“It’s controversial,” says Siebenberg. “People aren’t really sure whether they like it or not. And I’m kinda the same way–I’m not quite sure that I like it or not either. But the whole point of the thing is that people are talking about it. It disturbs people, and makes them think.
“It’s kinda violent. I mean there’s guys on fire. But it’s not as bad as the news. I’ve said I wouldn’t let my kids watch it, but I don’t let them watch Magnum P.U. either. And it’s certainly nothin’ like Friday the 13th or anything like that.
“But we didn’t make it for the kids. It’s like a political kind of thing that’s a statement against violence. It’s directed at people who are supposed to be taking care of all this and that’s older people.”
Lyrics: from ‘Brother Where You Bound’
There’s a red cloud hanging over us/And it’s so big and it’s gonna burst/All you people with your heads in the ground/Hey brother, where you bound?
And they’re no good and they’re everywhere/Try to tell you, but you just don’t care/Try to hear you but you don’t make a sound/Hey brother, where you bound?/Hey brother, where you bound?
And you don’t know what they’re gonna do/And you don’t know how they feel/And you don’t know what they’re tellin’ you/Is it a lie or is it real/And the next thing that you know is/That they walk out on the deal
And the message that they’re giving you/Is the same old alibi/If you don’t quite see their point of view/Then they treat you like a spy/And the phone rings and you disappear/In the middle of the night
Can’t you see they’re on the move/Don’t know what you’re trying to prove/But you sit there oh so cool/Like they never broke no rules
And the cat flies and the crow walks/And the ghost dies and the sow talks/And they tell us that they’ll be good as gold/Believe nothing that you’re told/Hey brother, where’s your soul?
Make a move in one direction/Try to make some compromise/But they greet you with rejection/ Makin’ out you’re tellin’ lies/Then they turn around and tell you/Better get down from the sky
For the sake of all that’s holy/Listen good to what I say/I can feel them all around me/They could be here any day/But you act like you don’t know me/Why d’ you look at me that way/
If there’s one thing that is clear/We gotta get away from here/We’ve gotta leave this place/It’s just a hopeless case/Ain’t no one else to blame/We’re gonna lose this game
Hey brother get off my back/I gotta tell you, you’re way off the track/They got a hatred deep down inside/Ain’t gonna let them take me alive/I’m gonna burn them down, just wait and see/Ain’t gonna let them walk over me/Boy you ain’t got no heart and soul/And your mind is weak and your blood’s runnin’ cold
You better move, you better hide/They’re gettin’ in, they’re gettin’ inside/If you get caught you better know/They’re gonna reap, you’re gonna sow/Don’t be a fool, we gotta go/Ain’t no place safe for us to stay/We better move on, we better move on