'One of those things that fizzled out': Did Roger Hodgson almost take over as Yes' frontman?

Yes bassist Chris Squire recently participated in the all-star Cleopatra Records tribute to Supertramp called Songs of the Century, but it’s not his first intersection with the band.

In fact, at one point, Supertramp legend Roger Hodgson — author of most of the tracks included on that new Billy Sherwood-produced tribute project — was rumored to be a possible replacement for co-founding singer Jon Anderson in Yes.

Anderson had recently left for the late-1980s offshoot project Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe, and Hodgson had earlier departed from Supertramp. In some ways, it would have made a nice transition, since Hodgson’s vocal range would seem to fit the classic Yes style.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Billy Sherwood discusses the new Supertramp tribute, saying his connection with the group goes back to his earliest days on stage.]

It also would have joined together the legacies of two blockbuster rock bands. Supertramp has sold more than 60 million albums — including 1979’s smash Breakfast in America, which represents 20 million of those sales. Yes, meanwhile, has moved an estimated 30 million records, with its commercial peak being 90125. That 1983 project sold three million copies in America alone, and included Yes’ first and so far only charttopper, Trevor Rabin’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

Squire, in a new talk with Anil Prasad of Innerviews, says the Hodgson project actually didn’t function as an audition to replace Anderson, who eventually returned for another stint in Yes.

“It wasn’t so much to be the lead singer of Yes, but a different project,” Squire tells Prasad. “Whether that would have evolved into Yes at some point, I don’t know. We weren’t looking for it to be Yes. Roger is a friend of mine. The band would have been Roger, Trevor Rabin, Alan White, and myself. I stayed at Roger’s house in Northern California once for a few weeks and worked on some material. It was one of those things that fizzled out and didn’t go anywhere.”

The tangible results from this near miss? One track from these writing sessions, “Walls,” eventually appeared on Yes’ 1994 project Talk. Hodgson received co-writing credit, along with Rabin and Anderson, on the song — which reached No. 24 on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Yes and Supertramp. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

BILLY SHERWOOD, CHRIS SQUIRE, RICK WAKEMAN, JOHN WETTON, OTHERS – SONGS OF THE CENTURY (2012): With names like these, with pedigrees like these, you might be expecting this Supertramp tribute project to become a somewhat academic affair. Instead, these guys sound like they’re having a blast — and it’s contagious. Producer Billy Sherwood has collected an amazing collection of fellow musicians — including members and former members of Asia, Deep Purple, Jefferson Starship, King Crimson, Mr. Mister, Peter Gabriel’s band, Rainbow, Renaissance, The Doors, The Zombies, Toto, XTC and Yes, among others. Together, they lovingly recreate, occasionally embellish and generally skip their way through 11 tracks by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, two of the 1970s’ most consistent but somehow underrated hitmakers.

ONE TRACK MIND: YES CO-FOUNDER CHRIS SQUIRE ON “FLY FROM HERE,” “LIFE WITHIN A DAY,” “TEMPUS FUGIT,” OTHERS: Find out what sparked Yes to return to the long-form compositional style of its glory years on 2011’s Fly From Here, and how a failed early 1980s project with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page ultimately led to the inclusion a Squire-sung track on 2001’s Magnification. Squire also talks about the difficulties of returning to music in concert from the underrated Drama album, and how he came to work with Genesis alum Steve Hackett as part of the newly christened Squackett project.

GIMME FIVE: SONGS WHERE SUPERTRAMP, WELL, SUCKED: Supertramp’s golden era is generally understood to have been between 1974-79, spanning Crime of the Century through Breakfast in America. Perhaps predictably, none of our selections come from that period. Before then, Supertramp was still trying to find their way, attempting with varying degrees of success to nail down the winning formula that would give Roger Hodgson, Rick Davies and Co. a pair of gold albums and then a four-times platinum smash in America in the bottom half of the 1970s. After 1982?s Famous Last Words, Supertramp would lose Hodgson to a solo career, and never quite regain its creative momentum. That doesn’t mean Supertramp didn’t manage a hit every now and then. (In fact, “Cannonball” went to No. 30 in the mid-1980s.) It just means we didn’t like too much of it … even, to be honest, “Cannonball.”

YES – FLY FROM HERE (2011): This album is, in many ways, better than it has any right to be. The band even attempts something it hadn’t in decades — a multi-part thematic suite, and to great effect. As always, bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White are compact and versatile, expertly facilitating complicated journeys like “Fly From Here Part III: Madman at the Screens,” which switches back and forth from a crunchy stomp to soaring ambiance. And the new singer acquits himself well.

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: ROGER HODGSON, FORMERLY OF SUPERTRAMP: At the turn of the 1980s, Roger Hodgson and Supertramp were coming off a blockbuster album in Breakfast in America that had just spent 15 weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. By the end of the decade, he was out of music. There had been an on-again, off-again solo career, begun just four years after that 1979 smash — but it had only amounted to a pair of studio efforts before this terrifying accident left the guitarist with two broken wrists, deep questions about whether he’d ever play again, and a newfound focus on constructing a family life away from stardom. Time passed, people forgot. By the time the man who once sang a song called “The Long Way Home” finally began taking the long way back to fame in the early 2000s, he had become an apparition. Supertramp, now led by former writing partner Rick Davies, continued on without Hodgson in the interim — and many overlooked the contributions he’d once made.

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  • Phoebe Cromwell

    Although it would have been very interesting to hear Roger’s creative musicianship with Squire, White and Rabin, I am very happy that he pursued his solo career and established a very talented band that he is currently touring with.

    I had the chance of seeing him earlier this summer and simply WOW. Roger’s voice is more vivacious today than my vinyls of 30 years ago, the whole night I was immersed in phenomenal music.

  • http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/wnyesm.htm Henry Potts

    Why does Something Else! constantly write articles based on taking one quote from someone else’s interview? It’s lazy churnalism. You do your own interviews: why not stick with those rather than this pointless flurry of articles only one step away from plagiarism?

    • http://www.somethingelsereviews.com Nick DeRiso

      I can only guess, Henry, but I imagine it’s for the same reason that you do.

  • http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/wnyesm.htm Henry Potts

    I collate and synthesise interview quotes and other material to create a novel narrative. That narrative is not presented as a news article and not done for profit. I blog infrequently and, when I do, it is with new material: my thoughts or an interview I’ve conducted.

    I do not write articles like the above, articles that, it seems to me, fit Nick Davies’s definition of “churnalism” (see his book “Flat Earth News” and assorted web writings).

    Anil Prasad did a very nice interview with Chris Squire. I hope people go read that. There is a small link to it in the above article. Anil Prasad did the work. Whoever wrote the above did very little work.

    Something Else! does publish some good, original content. What about being clear about what is that good, original content, and what should be just a signpost saying, “Look, there’s a good interview over there.”?

    • http://www.somethingelsereviews.com Nick DeRiso

      I fail to see the difference. You take the interview and reporting work of others and reformulate it for your own purposes, providing a link back to the original content for those who want to read the entire article. That’s a standard followed by a variety of web sites, covering a variety of subjects — including ours.

  • James Januszka

    It would have been an interesting twist of fate to see the great singer songwriter Roger Hodgson help lead a classic band Yes! As it turned out, I do love enjoy following Roger’s solo career from Supertramp. He is a remarkable musician.