Supertramp – Breakfast In America review by Neil Partrick

Album cover of ‘Breakfast in America’ (released on A&M Records; artwork by Gothic Press, London)

I wrote a review of the LP ‘Breakfast in America’ 40 years on.

Supertramp’s ‘Breakfast in America’ reconsidered Perhaps it’s a matter of age, temperament, and the amount of your adolescence that you spent hiding from your parents. Confident ‘rock’ albums of the 1970s, whether by pre-punk behemoths Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin or punk posers like The Clash, are these days widely accepted in polite, white, male, middle-class circles. However Supertramp’s ‘Breakfast in America’ (released March 1979) had what for some was a more appropriate soundtrack to ‘suburban’ bedroom angst than the shed-load of pop platitudes that still pervaded about rebellion, ‘frontlines’ and class conflict (including from Pink Floyd). Such bourgeois issues usually didn’t penetrate the minds of those living in net-curtained semis, where entertainment was of the family variety and politics was what two parties usually only did every four or five years.

To be fair, Supertramp had, since ‘Crime of the Century’ in 1974, been chronicling, among other things, late teenage fears and, sometimes, coping mechanisms. On ‘Breakfast in America’ however we get the band’s principal singers and songwriters, Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies, in two set-piece lyrical and vocal contests over meaning and materialism in the west. On ‘Goodbye Stranger’, Rick Davies semi-ironically trumpets every young man’s apparent desire for personal freedom of a decidedly non-political kind, while Roger Hodgson’s backing vocal offers some salutary ripostes on the essential emptiness of such a lifestyle. On ‘Child of Vision’ it isn’t so much America that is being taken down by Hodgson with a Christian disdain for hedonism and other sins of Mammon, but the west in general.

This connected to a me as a schoolboy in Sussex, England who was beginning to question the values he had been brought up on, but who didn’t relate to those for whom calls to ‘destroy’ or ‘revolt’ had provided an effortless, and essentially meaningless, release. Unlike the Sex Pistols’ single, ‘God Save the Queen’, which was banned two years earlier, ‘Logical Song’ was a Top Ten UK hit that actually addressed the stigma that anyone who sought to articulate their social disconnection could be made to feel, rather than moronically equating an economically-struggling social democracy with a ‘fascist regime’. Hodgson expressed what some school kids were feeling, using adjectives shocking to a BBC Radio 1 audience and that admittedly ‘O’ Level English students would be more comfortable with. However he wasn’t being pretentious. When Pink Floyd celebrated illiteracy, and got a surprise Christmas Number One on the backs of working class kids from a north London primary school, they most definitely were.

Above all perhaps, ‘Breakfast in America’ is strong on ‘hooks’, big on ‘catchy’, and shows a band at the peak of its powers. It was to be a pretty abrupt downward trajectory after this album, but then Supertramp’s ability to melodically sing about insanity, adolescence, and loneliness was more at home in the 1970s. At the time that ‘Breakfast in America’ came out, the American rock critic Robert Christgau begrudgingly conceded its musicality but then held it against Supertramp when he claimed that tuneful vocals and beat weren’t the same as feeling and rhythm. Perhaps these things are in the ear of the beholder. However there is emotion aplenty on this album – in voice and subject matter – and ‘Child of Vision’ positively swings. ‘Take the Long Way Home’ chronicles personal alienation; ‘Lord Is It Mine’ has Hodgson laying himself emotionally bare. Alone and in need, he thanks God for giving him hope and teaching him humility, but wrestles aloud with his inability to sustain his faith. Using the ugly language of today: this ‘impacted’ me at the time. The whole of ‘Breakfast in America’ still does, forty years later.

It’s Hard – The Who – revisiting the 1982 album review by Neil Partrick

Neil Partrick… Why is one of The Who’s most diverse, most accomplished albums, so unknown and so often disregarded? Perhaps because it wasn’t understood in the time it was released in. Townsend was decidedly out of favour with rock’s self-appointed literati who saw the band as a middle-aged rock stadia irrelevance. Yet listening without prejudice reveals some of their best ever songs; songs with relevance then and arguably even more now. Who, in the realm of popular music at least, has ever tried to take on the subject of manhood (‘A Man is a Man’) and successfully captured the absurd expectations, contradictions and, sometimes, quiet bravery that it can encompass? ‘It’s so hard’, as a line in the title track notes, to be true to yourself, to be honest, to be consistent. Perhaps if men (and this is a man’s record) could adopt Townsend’s advice in the song ‘Cry If You Want To’, then failure could really be success. This track is part male rock bombast (check out the sonic guitar solo) and part emotional advocacy. Cry, because your childhood illusions have been destroyed – as we now know Townsend’s were – and the sloganizing political simplicities of adolescence cannot capture global complexities. In a further example of the song-writing thread running through this album, ‘I’ve Known No War’ contrasts the then (and still) very topical abhorrence of nuclear weapons with experiencing war, and in whose wake The Who and others railed against the very notion of gratitude for past sacrifice. This song (and ‘The Green Fields of France’) should have found a place amongst the war memorialisation that yesterday marshalled the masses in an echo of 1930s regimes but with even less historical or political context. There are a few non-classics too, though the danceable ‘Eminence Front gets close while ‘Cooks’ County’, ‘Dangerous’, etc ain’t filler. One of the most extraordinary tracks is the short but overwhelming ‘One Life is Enough’. It could have been an imagined Townsend/Lloyd-Webber partnership in its stagey-ness, but is almost operatic in the lyrical and vocal ambition that Townsend-Daltrey bring to bear.

Tim Barton… ditto Face Dances

Robert Searle… Still have my vinyl copy

Live Music From Dr King `Hardship Lane’ – Electric Palace Hastings Friday 21st September 2018

ticket info... https://www.electricpalacecinema.com/whats-on

Dr King was an integral part at the beginning of London’s famous 12 Bar Club, and has worked over the years with three of the true giants of British acoustic guitar: Bert Jansch, John Renbourne & Davy Graham. On Friday 21 September he’ll be accompanied by a few special guests, covering a full suite of raga crossovers with Arabic, Celtic and flamenco influences.

Alan King… I’m returning to Hastings Old Town on Friday 21st September 2018- for a gig at the Electric Palace, High Street, Hastings Old Town TN34 – Tickets £10:00 – 8:00 p.m. It will be my last ever gig.

‘Absolutely brilliant music, a joy to watch’ – Green Man Festival

‘The best gig I’ve seen in Hastings for years’ – Forum post

‘The best gig I’ve seen anywhere for years- – Forum post

‘One of the most remarkable and memorable gigs I’ve ever seen’ – Forum post

‘Exceptional musicianship’, ‘Genius guitar picking’, ‘Fantastic guitar’ – Forum post

‘King provided the platform for Bert Jansch to step out of the shadows and into the sun’ – Bert Jansch Biogrophy

‘King was most of the brains behind Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out’ – Malcolm Hardee

‘King could be as funny as Reeves but wasn’t ambitious’ – Bruce Dessau (Guardian, Time Out, Evening Standard)

‘Shit’ – some fat bloke who lives just off George St

”I’m calling the police and you’ll get nicked’ – some other fat bloke

‘But it’s not even music’ – some old woman with a 2nd hand shop

‘That bloke who plays the Pat Metheney shit’ – overheard in the Dragon Bar

Review from Neil Partrick…  http://oldfolkrebels.blogspot.com

The Prisonaires – Searching for The Old Folk Rebels – Review of Electric Palace Hastings gig 1st July 2018 by Neil Partrick

Photo: Neil Partrick

Alan (left) with Bobby Valentino (fiddle), Les Morgan (drums) and Tony Reeves (right,bass)

The Prisonaires Live at the Electric Palace Hastings

“Is this a supergroup?” asked a friend of mine as we took our places last night in the third row of this tiny, historic, yet barely half-full Hastings cinema. If about 250 years of combined experience playing with some of the most important western musicians of the 20th Century fits the bill, then The Prisonaires are definitely a supergroup. While not household names, any blues, jazz-rock, folk, or rock enthusiast will understand that these gentlemen were pivotal to some of the most ground-breaking music of the 1960s and ’70s. Yet there were plenty of empty seats in a venue that only has 48 of them.

Acoustic guitarist and leader of the band, Alan King commented wryly that scheduling a gig during an international football tournament is always a disaster. But can it be that south-coast music buffs preferred staying at home to watch telly in the hope that Argentina would defeat the French, than attending a gig of this quality? When The Prisonaires finished their set a member of the audience stood up and shouted that it was the finest gig he’d seen in Hastings in years. It was one of the finest gigs I’ve seen anywhere in years.

Musical impresario, Alan King was a doyen of the famed 12 Bar Club, the ‘60s Soho music venue that gives the name to Dr King’s ‘12 Bar Music’, the platform for this and for some forthcoming Electric Palace gigs. King told me outside the Gents – the Electric Palace is so small that the toilets are never far away – that he is lucky enough to have played with his favourite guitarists, Davy Graham and Bert Jansch, and his favourite singer, Miller Anderson For many years King also played with his favourite songwriter, Alan Hull (of Lindisfarne).

The aura of Graham and Jansch hung over proceedings as King opened the set riffing on the rite of passage folk guitar tune, ‘Anji’. What the advance publicity promised would be a hybrid of The Pentangle and Can, “with a touch of Miles Davis’” jazz-rock-funk fusion, was underway. ‘Anji’ went from sounding like The Pentangle were performing it, to something with a lot more attitude. Almost like Fairport Convention’s ‘A Sailor’s Life’, but lifted beyond even that wonderfully free-flowing, folk-jazz hybrid  However I couldn’t detect the influence of Can on this or on any of the other tunes The Prisonaires performed last night. It was undoubtedly an eclectic set though, and The Prisonaires have certainly embraced Can’s determination to kick against the musical pricks.

To read more of this review please click the following link… http://oldfolkrebels.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-prisonaires-live-at-electric-palace.html