There was more to Supertramp’s Even in the Quietest Moments than ‘Give a Little Bit’

Share this:

Even in the Quietest Moments, released in April 1977, set the table nicely for Supertramp’s career-making successes on Breakfast in America. Yet, as popular as its Top 20 hit single “Give a Little Bit” will always be, the project was still dotted with longer-form examples of Supertramp’s roots in progressive rock — most notably “Fool’s Overture.”

At nearly 11 minutes long, the song is the lengthiest Supertramp would tackle until the title track of 1985’s Brother Where You Bound, and by then Rick Davies was leading the group without the departed Roger Hodgson. And if “Fool’s Overture” is not the very best, it’s certainly among the most audacious.

Populated by an episodic collage of sounds, the original album-closing tune began under the working title “The String Machine Epic.” Featured are excerpts of Winston Churchill’s legendary “Never Surrender” speech to the House of Commons in 1940, a flash of Gustav’s Holtz’s “Venus,” a reading from Blake, even a snippet of Supertramp’s own track “Dreamer.” Listen closely, too, and you’ll hear whispers of the Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill,” as well. As the song unfurls, composer Roger Hodgson’s muse is set free.

“‘Fool’s Overture’ was a pretty magical piece of music that came together out of three different pieces that I had for about five years,” Hodgson tells us, in an exclusive Something Else! Sitdown. “One day, they all kind of stuck together and became the piece that I called ‘Fool’s Overture.’ It’s still gives me goosebumps, playing that piece on stage.”

That it stands in such stark contrast, both conceptually and in its ambitious use to space, was all part of the way Supertramp worked back then. Songs went where they wanted to go, Hodgson says, whether that meant to the top of the pop charts or to some unnameably inventive place on the far edge of prog.

“I’ve always written longer songs, but then shorter ones, too — ‘Breakfast in America’ is under three minutes,” Hodgson notes. “I don’t think, when I’m writing a song, that time ever enters into it. The song will be whatever it wants to be. I know that, when I start writing. I just have a natural feeling of where it needs to go, or how long it needs to be.”

Still, Even the Quietest Moments would become Supertramp’s first gold-selling album not on the strengths of songs like “Fool’s Overture,” Rick Davies’ “From Now On” (with its brilliant turn by John Helliwell on the melodica) or the title track (a moving Davies collaboration) but instead on “Give a Little Bit.”

An album-opening, sing-along paean to the Golden Rule, Supertramp’s “Give a Little Bit” stands today as something of a personal anthem for composer Roger Hodgson, the song he’s perhaps most associated with — and his concert closer. He says that would have been the case, though, even it hadn’t shot to No. 15 on the Billboard pop singles chart.

“I’ve always believed in love,” Hodgson tells us. “I’ve always longed for love. It was written at the end of the 1960s, when there was a lot of hope. The whole movement was very powerful, back then. The Beatles had written ‘All You Need is Love,’ and that might have influenced me, too.”

“Give a Little Bit” made Even in the Quietest Moments and, in some ways, Roger Hodgson, too. Moreover, it boasts a message that still resonates. The song has since found a home in countless movies (including the original 1978 version of Superman), in a string of Gap commercials in 2001, as part of numerous charitable causes, and all over the radio yet again when the Goo Goo Dolls produced a mid-2000s remake that went Top 40.

“I think the wonderful thing about ‘Give A Little Bit’ is how it’s stood the test of time,” Hodgson adds. “It’s still a song that’s in such great demand, from charities and fundraisers. It captures a much-needed spirit, right now, in a world where we are facing so many problems. We really do need to pull together, and give more than take. We need to share what we can, and that’s basically what the song says.”

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
Share this: