Odds are, you’ve probably heard “The Logical Song” by Supertramp a gazillion times. But have you ever really listened to it?
Just to pique your interest; you didn’t know the Pop-O-Matic Bubble was in it, did you?
That’s what that “pop-pop” noise is, during the B-section. Also, over the coda, there’s the unique early-digital whistle of Mattel’s Electronic Football game.
These two objects were so omnipresent when I was a lad, I never noticed their guest appearances in “The Logical Song”. Supertramp, electronic sports, kitschy plastic board games- throw in a dirt-bike ramp, and that was childhood in the 1970s.
The production of “The Logical Song”, as on all of Breakfast In America, is phenomenal. That’s the best that Roger Hodgson has ever sung, or sounded, and he wrote the lyrics, based on his personal experience of being shipped off to boarding school for ten years, as a boy. He accompanies himself on the Wurlitzer electric piano, beautifully, as he sings the most brilliant words ever written.
When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful
Oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily
Joyfully, playfully watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Clinical, intellectual, cynical
Friends; that is literature in song. You are hearing the first act of a play that will be utterly impossible to follow. Every word in every lyric is perfectly chosen not just for its meaning, but for its plosive rhythm. Hodgson matches the stammer of his keyboards with his voice, rising and falling in unison. No wonder this song won the 1979 Ivor for “Best Song Musically and Lyrically”. It is.
Next comes the B-part, where the Pop-O-Matic Bubble can be heard. More clearly than the “Beatles influence” some people claim, but that’s just my opinion.
There are times when all the world’s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please
Please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am
This is pretty existential stuff, man, and we used to hear it in pizza parlors! It was like a subliminal note from Roger Hodgson that said it’s alright, lads. Ev’rything will be bloody well right.
Read the following verse, and remind yourself that this was written in the late 1970s:
Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re
Presentable, a vegetable
Then we get a repeat of the B-section, plus some sexy sax from John Helliwell, and I don’t know about you, but this fucking song could go on forever as far as I’m concerned.
Castanets play a strong role in “The Logical Song”- they’re heard prominently throughout, clackity-clacking away. That’s Bob Seibenberg on percussion and drums, the sole American in the otherwise British Supertramp. He now coaches Varsity Baseball at Yosemite High School in California, and is the source of this wonderful quote:
“Gentlemen, if you cannot throw the ball ninety feet, you cannot play baseball.”
The waitress on the cover of Breakfast In America is actress Kate Murtagh (b.1920). She played “Mom” in the awful, awful fake-pimp comedy Doctor Detroit from 1983, a shithouse year for film in general. “Mom” was the mob boss to whom Dan Aykroyd proclaimed, “Mom, I will rip off your head and shit down your neck.” Or words to that effect.