“Dolby’s Rupees: Supertramp – ‘Take the Long Way Home’”

Supertramp is one of those bands that seems so singles-oriented that you’re tempted to ask, What kind of band ARE they? I mean, even Electric Light Orchestra, for all their spotlight-leaning proclivity for radio drama, have a slight history in hard rock, or at least in the impetus for centering things on guitar which would have been considered thick and heavy in the early ’70s. 

The first sound on the first song on the first Supertramp album comes from a  harmonica, which amusing in general and also pertinent to this post as that instrument graces “Take the Long Way Home,” as well, the first song on side B of Breakfast in America, Supertramp’s most high-profile album. Actually, if not for the barely-audible whine of what I believe to be a pump organ, you’d think this might be a Neil Young song, with harmonica and a sturdy, gorgeously projected piano encompassing the song’s opening sonic foundation. Perhaps this seemingly displaced sense of style runs hand in hand with the band’s name, in a sense, in terms of a “tramp” being something which has no place and whose success, when it comes, seems like an accident or a fluke.

But I think we’d all agree they are “super,” indeed, as “Give a Little Bit” would likely indicate, the band’s first big hit single. The feel-good anthem comes from Even in the Quietest Moments (1977), the album that directly preceded Breakfast in America (1979), and, presumably, gave them the requisite success needed for touring America. And yes, this is the album that emancipated the band from confinement within those evil artsy album covers, for which I think we’re all thankful.

In terms of style, anyway, “Take the Long Way Home” is stock Supertramp and perhaps even somewhat given to ceding attention the “Goodbye Stranger”; “The Logical Song” and the title track, three singles each of which have more Spotify streams than the aforementioned. The primary reason I want to mention “Take the Long Way Home,” anyway, in addition to being a song that’s really grown on me and whose droll subject matter eventually uncovers some really catchy hooks, is the incredible British sense of humor at work here. You might know what I’m talking about from goofy issuings like the Beatles’ “Lovely Rita”; in which Paul McCartney relates a tale of dating a “meter maid” named “Rita” as follows: “Got the bill / And Rita paid it / Took her home / I nearly made it / Sitting on the sofa / With a sister or two”. 

I mean, it’s HUMOR in the greatest sense — self-mockery, and a little less sexual, refreshingly, than certain American permutations like “Peaches” (to say nothing of Afroman, who kind of just sets up a KKK straw man [1] and then issues a bunch of puerile bullsh**). Oasis got their hands in the pot with “Mr. Snitker sold his songs / When I was just 16 / Now he stops at traffic lights / But only when they’re green” but I think Supertramp do it to the absolute best: “And your wife seems to think you’re part of the furniture / Oh it’s peculiar / She used to be so nice”. I mean, did he really say “your wife seems to think you’re part of the furniture”? That has gotta be the funniest line in history of any song not by Modest Mouse [2]. Does she ignore him like he’s not there and then climb on top of him any of various coital acts? Regardless, the mission statement of “Take the Long Way Home” remains as true as anything: feelin’ good all the time. 


[1] Here I’m referring to the “straw man fallacy” of constructing a fake opponent and then combating it… whadya mean you’re not obsessed with logical fallacies???


[2] Read: “Right after I die / The dogs start floating up toward the glowing sky”; in reference to the character dogs in “Wild Packs of Family Dogs” responsible for dentally slaying said narrator’s sister. 


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