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Take The Long Way Home

by

Supertramp



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

At the press meeting when Breakfast In America was presented, Roger Hodgson explained that this song is about a guy who thinks he's really cool ("So you think you're a Romeo playing a part in a picture-show"), but it seems that he's the only one who thinks that. This implies that our hero avoids getting home because when he's on the road he has a few more moments of being alone with his dreams, and in his dreams he's a superstar.
Written shortly before Supertramp went in the studio to record the Breakfast In America album, Hodgson said the song was "a last-minute surprise." He added that the song operates on two levels. Said Roger: "Talking about not wanting to go home to the wife, take the long way home to the wife because she treats you like part of the furniture, but there's a deeper level to the song, too. We all want to find our home, find that place in us where we feel at home. Home is in the heart and that is really, when we are in touch with our heart and we're living our life from our heart, then we do feel like we found our home."
More lyric analysis:
"But there are times that he feels he's part of the scenery, all the greenery is comin' down" - It seems that in real life he's "the joke of the neighborhood" ("why should you care if you're feeling good" is him trying to rationalize) and his wife "seems to this that he's a part of the furniture." In real life he "never sees what he wants to see."

"When he's up on the stage, it's so unbelievable, unforgettable, how they adore him. And then his wife seems to think he's losing his sanity... Does it feel that you life's become a catastrophe? Oh, it has to be for you to grow, boy." - This is the phase of our lives when we accept the fact that we'll never be what we wanted and become ordinary, we take it very hard, but we grow into it.

"He looks through the years and see what he could have been, what might have been, if he'd had more time." - Time is always to blame when we want to do something, but don't. This guy always wanted to be someone, but he got stuck taking the long way home so now it's even difficult for him being ordinary: "So, when the day comes to settle down, Who's to blame if you're not around? You took the long way home." (thanks, Harry - Netanya, MO)
The band refused a $5 million offer from the Greyhound company to use this song in bus commercials. (thanks, Mike - Mountlake Terrace, WA)
Roger Hodgson's debut solo DVD was titled Take the Long Way Home, Live in Montreal. It was released in Canada in 2006, where it went to #1 and sold over a million copies. The DVD was released worldwide in 2007 and is Gold in France.
"Take The Long Way Home" has endured as a favorite: it was chosen as the #5 favorite song in Mojo magazine's readers' poll in 2006.
Supertramp
Supertramp Artistfacts
More Supertramp songs
More songs about regret

Comments (30):

On December 9th, 1979, "Take the Long Way Home" by Supertramp peaked at #10 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart and stayed on the chart for 15 weeks...
It reached #4 on the Canadian RPM Top Singles chart...
The song was track one of side two of the group's 1979 album, 'Breakfast in America', it peaked at #1 (for 5 weeks) on May 13th, 1979 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
This is such an amazing song. I interpret it as the personal struggle Roger was feeling with the pressure of being an elite rock musician versus the responsibility of being a husband and father. The vocals, and emotion of Roger's vocals combined with the clarinet, and keyboards really strike a chord-a great song! In an interview with a Danish tv network, Roger cited the need to be a regular father as the reason he decided to leave the band in 1983. Nowadays, we have the Supertramp camp saying Roger is stealing Supertramp songs for his use on tour. Roger wrote his songs and Rick Davies wrote his songs - it would be nice if the side could come to a reconciliation but it doesn't look promising. Anyway, enjoy the songs, they are amazing works of art.
- David, HAZLET, NJ
I always thought the meaning of, "take the long way home" was another way of saying, "take time to smell the roses". Don't worry about impressing others; don't worry about what your wife thinks of you; don't worry that your life's a mess; just relax and enjoy the little things in life - the things you only notice when you slow down and take the long way.
- Jake, Panama City, FL
Griffin, from San Antonoi TX, that's an interesting view - but I read the meaning of the song completely differently. To me, it's not about being a star, it's about a regular guy who's NOT a star, but dreams about it. While he's dreaming, he's taking the "long way home" back to his reality. But I guess you could take the lyrics either way. I don't go for the "suicide" metaphor though!
- KAT, Adelaide, Australia
Really don't like this song or the entire album. They did much better in previous albums.
- Julie, Marquette, MI
Damn good song! Harmonica, piano, everything! They create that great sound of longing but the song keeps its movement...to me it wouldn't matter what the lyrics were if they couldn't create that feeling with the music! all the little pieces add to it, I always hear that little organ bit after he sings "take a trip to the city lights." This song always reminds me of a long night's drive and you still have so much further to go... I've never really paid that much attention to the lyrics before reading this page :)
- Kelly, Durango, CO
I've never been a fan of Supertramp. This is a whiny song, I don't care for the vocals or the lyrics. I just think it's pointless.
- Camille, Toronto, OH
Suicide song? Give it up..
Griffin has a good point. Especially with words that can be interpret as a person being loved by many who dont really him, and enjoyed the crowd's praises. Outside of that arena he has to deal with the realities of home life and his harshest critics. Too long being in one place doing the same thing for years makes one wonder if you could have been someone other than yourself - a much better you.

I had always imagine this song as being two guys friends whom decided to get away from home to do some activity together. After sometime one guy reveals to his friend that he is just unhappy with his life, and realize "..is this how its suppose to be?" Never expecting the dulldrums of middle age and marriage life, and tries to escape it by being among the crowd who appreciates him on the surface. The narrative of the song would by his friend who knows him well, tries to console him, as best as a guy could. Not having any real answers to his problem he gets to enjoy their moment together - in the now. Not to worry about anything else. Making the day go on longer, by taking the long way home.
- Jerry, Sussex, NJ
The most straightforward interpretation is the one most often given here. It is about a man, probably in the midst of a mid-life crisis, realizing that he is never going to achieve the goals he had when he was younger, and how different, and unsatisfying, even humiliating these failures are. Not only that, but he is in a loveless marriage with a woman who no longer respects him. That he may have been a success at his job, even as a performer, gives him no satisfaction or serenity. (It is interesting that children are not mentioned, but I don't know if it is relevant.)

Now that IS a recipe for suicide, even though I agree that there is little direct evidence for this possibility in the lyrics. It is at the very least the recipe for severe depression which can lead to suicide. Suppose your life was totally unsatisfying, and you believed it would always be that way, that there is nothing you can do to change that hopeless, devastated landscape that is your life. What would you do?

He has found that taking the long way home from whatever it is that he spends his day doing does give him some surcease from sorrow, when he can day dream, imagine he is living the life he had planned. And it delays finally arriving at home where facing his wife will destroy that fantasy. Hence "the long way home".

So what about suicide? Surely he must think of it. Like Ron, I feel that the following lines do give some credence to that possibility

"So, when the day comes to settle down,
Who's to blame if you're not around?

You took the long way home
You took the long way home..."

But it may refer to the death of his dreams, of his real self, not his body.

BTW, google the title and you will find that it has been used as the title for at least three movies, none of which fit the song. It is a damn good title for a mystery. I believe Dashiell Hammett has written a short story that would work quite well. Instead of committing suicide, the man just disappears and starts a new life. Ironically, when the Op tracks him down years later, he is leading exactly the same life as before!

In this case, the precipitating event is that he is walking own the street one day and an iron girder from a skyscraper building project falls and just misses him by inches. That causes him to rethink his life and split right at that very moment.
- Richard, Tigard, OR
I'm only nineteen, I've still got time! I promise you guys, I won't let it happen to me!

Catchy tune for such a melancholy song, eh?
- Erik, Los Angeles, CA
This is one of my favorite all time songs. In my opinion it’s about a guy who is probably in his mid thirties. A wife, a couple of kids and a well paying but unsatisfying job. When he was younger he had great dreams and aspirations and thought he would be great, powerful, achieve something, only to find that is life has turned out to be ordinary.

He’s had a hard day at work and the last thing he needs his for his kids to be arguing and his wife ignoring him when he gets home…..so he takes the long way home, chills out and reflects on his life.
- Andy, London, United Kingdom
I love this song. The harmonica/clarinet intro. gives me the goosebumps. Makes me think of something that is so sad that you can't put it into words. Crying notes, literally. This song takes me back to when I was young and free and had none of the responsibilities or regrets of what is now my middle age. This song has become my mantra. As a single person, I can relate to the lyrics, "When the time comes to settle down, who's to blame if you're not around."
- Renae, Minneota, MN
Does anyone else here think the protagonist in this song resembles Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, the main character in John Updike's books "Rabbit Run", "Rabbit Redux", etc.?
- chris, detroit/los angeles, NV
I find it interesting that more than a few of you posting here felt this song was about suicide. That never occurred to me as the main character seems somewhat narcissistic, too much so to consider ending his own life. Rather he seems to look to find surrogates for the things he feels are missing in his life.

I just became re-acquainted with the writing of John Updike (who passed away this year). This protagonist bares more than a passing resemblance to Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom of Updike's books "Rabbit, Run", "Rabbit Redux", "Rabbit Remembered", and "Rabbit At Rest." It would be interesting to find out if Roger Hodgson ever read this series or feels the same way.
- chris, detroit/los angeles, NV
I've always assumed that this song was about him and his failed or about to fail marriage. Whatever the case, i'm sure he has drawn a lot of this from personal experiences.
- russ, baltimore, MD
I've always had a different interpritation:
It's about someone who has success, but hasn't really acheived anything. As he's driving home from work, he literally takes the long way home and sees some of the things that he could have been if he hadn't sold out for money or power or whatever.
- Thomas, Washington D.C., VA
I also always thought the "long way home" was suicide...either that or walking out on one's family...I think a lot of people are being pretty hard on the character in the song, btw--a lot of people who've worked their a**es off all their lives still end up feeling the way the character does--it's not just the people who refuse to grow up (god bless'em). After all, it was a long time before rock and roll when folks like Thoreau started talking about the average man "leading a life of quiet desperation."
- Tom, Branford, CT
This song appeared on an episode of Ashes to Ashes a show about a detective in a coma.Trying to get back home with her daughter.
- Kurt, Evansville, IN
This song is basically the soundtrack to my life....I love it! Also, Lazlo Bane (the guy who wrote the theme song for Scrubs) does a great cover of this song. Personally, I think it's worth listening to.
- Matt, Winter Park, FL
Thinking back to your dreams when you were a little younger. Maybe things aren't too good at home. Maybe your life just sucks! Sometimes it's good just to take a drive...think about everything... Take The Long Way Home
- Tye, Guthrie, OK
This song reminds me of my brother, who excelled at work ( up on the stage ) but because his wife had become unpleasant would try to work all the holidays and overtime he could get, plus he would take the longest route home after work so as to shorten the amount of time he had to spend with her. They have since divorced after she left him.
I also interpret it as being about middle-age, when guys are usually very good at their jobs, but see that there is a limit to how far they can advance given the relatively short amount of time they have left in their working lives. To grow, they have to realize there is more to life than just work.
- Stanley, Macclenny, FL
I'm so very glad that the band didn't sell out and let Greyhound use this song for their commercials. This album (I have the original vinyl) is one of my all-time favorites.
- Mark Koski, Detroit, MI
Having loved this song since it was released, what it speaks to me personally is a sense of needing to 'reset' one's outlook on the often out of control madness in our lives.

We enter much of what we do with our own outlook and great expectations, only to sooner or later, discover certain realities that unmask our naivety.

In essence, it's about the ups and downs of coming of age, and ultimately growing up with some of the successes and failures we each make.

Take the long way home - take time to account, pick yourself back up and continue - learn from the past.
- Mike, Seaside, OR
This song reminds of me of grown-up people I know who have been mild drug users all their lives, you know, true rock 'n' rollers, and well, by staying youthful, never really became anything more than mediocre. Yet there is something to be said for taking the long way home, you get to see a lot more along the road, and it's always interesting. The oohs and the aahs at the end are the best part. Supertramp really knows how to create a mood.
- Matt, New Castle, NH
On a personal note...this song is about every commute you have ever taken. You drive home to your house in the suburbs thinking about all the dreams and aspirations you had before marriage and children.
- Mike, Flowery Branch, GA
I love the harmonica in this song. It's uber cool.
- Max, Laconia, NH
I just love the instrumental part where the harmonica and clarinet exchange solos. It makes me want to learn to play both instuments....oh if I'd had more time!
- Fran, Stockton, CA
I don't know why this song has always struck me as being about suicide for some reason.

"Does it feel that you life's become a catastrophe?
Oh, it has to be for you to grow, boy.
When you look through the years and see what you could
Have been oh, what might have been,
If you'd had more time.

So, when the day comes to settle down,
Who's to blame if you're not around?
You took the long way home"

To me, those lyrics could definately be interpreted as someone who has just given up hope and just decided to "take the long way home". i.e, end his life. Just a different take on the song.
- Ron, Auburndale, FL
This song appeared uncredited, along with "Child of Vision" (also from the "Breakfast in America" album) in the 1984 Richard Lester directed film, "Finders Keepers". The movie starred Michael O'Keefe ("Caddyshack") and Lou Gossett Jr.
- Steve, Torrance, CA
I wonder... Has anybody ever considered the possibilty that the song is about the effects of living life on a stage? The pressures to constantly be "ON", and very rarely having the chance to be something else? So many artists find themselves stuck in the rut of constantly cranking out the same thing time after time, never allowed to be something else. Just a thought.
- Griffin, San Antonio, TX
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