Popular music has had several phenomenal songwriting partners, though none of them are quite as well-known as the tandem of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Most of them, like the main combination behind many of the greatest songs by The Beatles, end up splitting because of built-up tension.
It happened to Johnny Marr and Steven Morrissey of the Smiths at the end of the eighties, and the two have been estranged ever since. Although Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook did eventually reunite, the two slain composers in Squeeze spent several years at odds.
In most cases, the friction between the song rewriting team cannot be readily detected from the songs themselves. The Let It Be album’s “Two of Us” did give us some insight that The Beatles leaders were finished with one another, but the sweet nostalgia of the lyrics hardly indicate bitterness.
The collaboration of the songwriting pair for the group Supertramp, however, could not have been made clearer than it was on the group’s biggest album, Breakfast in America. Every song on that album, including smash hits like “The Logical Song”, “Goodbye Stranger” and “Take the Long Way Home,” points to the tension between Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson.
While a similar tension caused by two divorces within Fleetwood Mac (Lindsay Buckingham-Stevie Nicks, John and Christine McVie) resulted in the multi-platinum Rumours album, the songs came after the breakups. Supertramp’s huge release, on the other hand, predated its demise, in spite of the obvious animosity between their two leaders.
In past interviews, Roger Hodgson has clearly insinuated that the songs on Breakfast in America serve as dogs from one of the lyricists to the other. This back and forth is evident by simply examining just the first line or two of each of the songs on the album.
The opening line here, sung by Rick Davies, summarizes his attitude toward his songwriting partner and their band: “It’s just a heartbreaking, I should have known that it would let me down”
The Logical Song
The opening of this enduring classic is “When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, it was beautiful, magical,” and its focus is on a happier past and dreaded present.
“It was early morning yesterday, I was up before the dawn, and I really have enjoyed my stay, though I just be moving on,” sings Rick Davies in an obvious desire to be free from Hodgson.
This song opens with a direct indictment from Davies, who says “Will you ever change your mind, I’ve been feeling left behind, like a shadow in your light.”
Take the Long Way Home
On this single it is Hodgson addressing Davies, opining “So you think you’re a Romeo, playing a part in a picture show.”
Lord Is It Mine
“I know that there’s reason why I need to be alone, I need to find a silent place that I can call my own,” sings Hodgson, obviously longing for a break from the group.
Just Another Nervous Wreck
Davies simply says, “I’m feeling so alone now,” which is yet another plea for a split from his collaborator.
Here Davies points out his frustration with Hodgson, claiming that “It doesn’t matter what I say, You never listen anyway, Just don’t know what you’re looking for.”
Child of Vision
The last track on Breakfast in America begins with the most pointed message, when Hodgson asks, “Well who do you think you’re fooling? You say you’re having fun, but you’re busy going nowhere.”