By 1977, British progressive rockers Supertramp had reached a crossroads. Their previous LP, Crime of the Century, hadn’t yielded a successful single and its follow-up, Even in the Quietest Moments…, could only deliver one hit, “Give a Little Bit.”
The band moved to California during this period and it would be two years before their next album was released. The more pop-oriented Breakfast in America became the group’s greatest success, with four hit singles: the title cut, “Take the Long Way Home,” “Goodbye Stranger” and their triumph, “The Logical Song.”
"The Logical Song" by Supertramp
Though credited to keyboardists Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies, “The Logical Song” was written by Hodgson during a break after Quietest Moments was released. Hodgson told Creating the Classics that he reached back to his own childhood for the lyrics.
“For many years I complained about being sent away to boarding school but I have to say that it spawned a lot of great songs and ‘The Logical Song’ was one of them . . .
“I do remember being very, very happy as a young kid, very happy and I see 8mm movies of me and I was just a joy bubble, I was very happy and then I see later 8mm movies after they sent me to school and I’ve got stress on my life and I’ve got stress lines on my face already, so something happened when I got sent away to school. I started getting confused and the joy kind of started leaving me . . .
“They left me with the question, ‘Please tell me who I am.’ I want to remember that joy-filled being that came into this world.”
In 1978, Supertramp entered Village Recorders in Los Angeles to co-produce with Peter Henderson the Breakfast in America LP. Supertramp liked to play together live in the studio. But with Davies on the Clavinet, Dougie Thomson on bass, Bob Siebenberg on drums and Hodgson at the Wurlitzer electric piano, the main room was packed tight.
Henderson told Sound on Sound that space had to be found for John Helliwell to play his saxophone so his sound wouldn’t be heard on another track. Thus the memorable sax solo of “The Logical Song” was played in the toilet.
“Everyone was playing together on the track, and we couldn’t have John’s sax bleeding onto the drums,” said Hodgson. “John kept moaning about his lot, but I think he actually quite enjoyed it.”
One other addition from outside the studio was the sound of a Mattel electronic football game, which punctuated the word “digital” in the lyrics. Hodgson explained in Something Else! how the sound effect was added.
“One of the band, I can’t remember who, was in the sitting room of the studio, playing away on this video game. We’d hear that sound, over and over, coming from the other room. I think, at some point, we decided: Why don’t we put that sound on it? And it worked. We were always looking to create new sounds.”
“The Logical Song” was the band’s most successful single, reaching number six on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979. “I think it was very relevant when I wrote it, and actually I think it’s even more relevant today.” Hodgson explained in Songfacts that students can fall through a “huge hole” in the system.
“They don’t really prepare us for life in terms of teaching us who we are on the inside. They teach us how to function on the outside and to be very intellectual, but they don’t tell us how to act with our intuition or our heart or really give us a real plausible explanation of what life’s about.
“There’s a huge hole in the education. I remember leaving school at 19, I was totally confused. That song really came out of my confusion, which came down to a basic question: please tell me who I am.”
Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever.