Former Supertramp singer and songwriter Roger Hodgson has spoken exclusively to Undercover to explain his reaction in the past week to news that his former band-mate Rick Davies was going on tour as Supertramp without him and performing songs that he wrote and sang.Roger's main problem with the Rick Davies' Supertramp tour is that Supertramp are advertising the tour using his songs and he says that he had an agreement with Rick that Supertramp would not perform those songs.
In fact, Roger doesn't have an issue with Rick performing as Supertramp. He just has an issue with his songs being played. "To tell the truth if Rick was going out as Supertramp and just doing his music I'd be incredibly happy. I am a big fan of Rick's and it is great to see him get off the couch but it is the way it has come down and the way he is advertising the tour that is not right".
When I last spoke to Roger before the Supertramp tour news was known he talked about how fans had said to him that they didn't want him to reunite with Supertramp. Now in the context of the Supertramp tour, fans were taking that comment the wrong way. "One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you was that the phrase that came back to bite me a little bit when we last spoke which was about fans not wanting me to reunite. I just want to get that straight because it is obvious from the thousands of letters I have received over the years that fans do want us to reunite. I think when I spoke to you I had just heard from two or three fans who said "we are really loving the intimacy of your solo shows and we don't want you to reunite because then you'll be in those big arenas and we won't get that special feeling that we get at your show". You've seen the show and you know it is quite special. I love the connection that I have with audiences in smaller venues like that. That is part of the magic of the show because I love people and I love having fun with them as well as playing my songs".
Roger again emphasized that he is happy for Rick to be playing live again but the pair had an agreement that Rick would get the name Supertramp and Roger would get his songs. "I feel good about Rick going out," he said. "What I don't feel good about is about him breaking an agreement that we had. To tell you the truth Paul, I would never have handed over Supertramp, I am not that much of a fool, to just hand over something I had put 14 years of my life into to Rick for nothing. I really was the driving force in that band for 14 years. I remember very clearly the only thing I cared about when I gave Rick the name was that I would leave with my songs and my voice in tact. That would be my security. For him, his security would be the name, obviously".
Unfortunately for Roger, that agreement was never in writing. "That was where I did not have a good attorney. No, it was not in writing," he admits. "It was a handshake where we looked each other in the eye. I had been with Rick for 14 years. I thought that I could trust him. The first tour he did, the "Brother Where You Bound' tour, he didn't play my songs. He honoured the agreement. Then 5 or 7 years later that is when he started to, for whatever reason, play my songs. I felt very betrayed. That is part of the reason Dougie Thompson left the band. He felt it was really wrong".
There is action Roger could take. He now lives in California and under California law a verbal agreement is as binding as a written one. Would he take Rick Davies to court over this? "No, I don't know. (he pauses) Unfortunately I have heard a lot of opinions on that over the years (pause). I don't want it to go that route. I stayed silent the last few times. Not silent to Rick. I definitely told Rick how I felt about it but I stayed silent to the public. Because of that I have had 6 or 7 or 8 years touring really trying to reclaim my songs as Roger Hodgson songs which really is what they are. That is why I am out on a world tour and now we will be playing in the same countries as they are and I can't stay silent on this one. For Supertramp or Rick to advertise this tour as a Greatest Hits tour and advertise it with my songs ... I've seen ads mentioning "Dreamer', "Give A Little Bit' Logical Song', "Breakfast In America', it is outrageous".
Having witnessed a Roger Hodgson show just a few weeks ago in Melbourne Australia, I can endorse that you get the voice from the record by the man who wrote the songs at one of his show. "Supertramp was a wonderful band for 14 years and I am very proud of the legacy we left," he says. "In a way, I don't want that tarnished. There are a lot of very, very unhappy fans who have gone to Rick's show and have heard Mark Hart singing my songs and obviously the songs get a great cheer but when they realise that it isn't the same singer it tarnished the legacy that I was a part of. I don't like the fans feeling that way. I want to keep the legacy and reputation in tact and I think what Rick is doing doesn't help it at all".
Roger also admits that Rick Davies is an amazing songwriter in his own rite. "The thing is Rick has so many great songs that he doesn't need to do my songs," he says. "I don't know why he thinks he has to do them. Obviously my songs have stood the test of time pretty well and I had most of the hits but most bands go out with only one or two hits. He's got "Bloody Well Right', "Goodbye Stranger', "Rudy', "Crime Of The Century', he has some great songs. I don't think it is doing him any good but that is beside the point. It just feels wrong. I am someone who tries to hang on to my artistic integrity. I think in this business it is really difficult. There are all kinds of pressures from all kinds of directions and what I am really saying to Rick is encouraging him because I love him as a musician and composer. I am just encouraging him to hang onto his artistic integrity under a lot of pressure that he is probably getting from promoters and agents and managers and everything. We'll see".
Roger has never performed any of Rick's songs. In fact at the recent Melbourne show he even made a point of telling the audience that he would only be singing his own songs "so don't request Bloody Well Right". "I wouldn't dream of playing Rick's songs," he says. "Even if I only had a couple of hits, it would be totally wrong. It would make me into a cover band. It just wouldn't be right".
Ironically, Rick doesn't even like some of the Roger songs Supertramp is being advertised to play. "The funny thing is, and I have never told this to anyone Paul, Rick doesn't even like most of my songs," he says. "He is an old jazz and blueser. He fought me like crazy over "Breakfast In America'. He hated the song. I don't think he even played on it. I had to fight for some of my songs because he didn't like them. To do them and not even like them feels even worse".
Roger's comments now are being made to let the fans know that he is not happy with what is going on with the Supertramp name. "I don't want this to become a battle or a fight. I am not bitter. I am just seeing that it is not right for me to hold my tongue at this time", he says. "I am really wanting to appeal to Rick and his artistic integrity really. It will probably go on deaf ears but I am going to try because of the fans sake".
When he heard about the tour he tried to see if he could participate, at least for a few shows so that fans could see Hodgson and Davies together in Supertramp for one last time. "When I heard he was touring and I knew that even if he did ask me there was no way I could be on this tour because I have my own toured planned and I can't go cancelling shows that are already on sale. I thought because so many fans were asking me "why aren't you with Supertramp" for their sake I did reach out to Rick's agent to say "the fans would love it if Roger joined Rick on stage, maybe in a few cities". That would just make fans who wanted to see it for decades really happy. Unfortunately the reaction really stunned me because he said "that's never going to happen. That would not benefit Supertramp, that would only benefit Roger Hodgson". Basically, I was only doing it because the fans would love to see it and make it as last chance for the two of us to do something like this and make the fans happy. It is sad that two people can't get it together. Music is supposed to bring people together".
Roger Hodgson will perform in Babelsberg, Germany on May 6. He will then start the South American leg of his tour in Buenos Aires, Argentina on May 11.
Rick Davies and Supertramp will start their European tour in Halle, Germany on September 2.