Breakfast In America

Album: Breakfast In America (1979)
Charted: 9 62
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  • Supertramp is a British band whose main songwriters were keyboard player Rick Davies and bass player Roger Hodgson. Although they shared songwriting credits, most of their songs were written separately. Hodgson wrote this one when he was in his late teens and still living in England. The song describes an English youth who dreams of going to America and becoming famous, which is exactly what Supertramp did.

    When we spoke with Hodgson in 2012, he told us that he put himself in character for the song, and was in a whimsical mood when he wrote it. Said Roger: "The line 'playing my jokes upon you,' I think that kind of sums up the song. It was just mind chatter. Just writing down ideas as they came - fun thoughts all strung together. And I do remember the Beatles had just gone to America, and I was pretty impressed with that. That definitely stimulated my dream of wanting to go to America. And obviously seeing all those gorgeous California girls on the TV and thinking, Wow. That's the place I want to go."

    Roger did go to California - he moved there in 1973 and has lived there ever since.
  • Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies were at odds over naming the album after the song. Says Hodgson, "He [Davies] didn't want the album title 'Breakfast In America' either. So I guess I won out on both counts."
  • The Breakfast In America album was very different from Supertramp's previous albums, which were more conceptual and elaborate. Breakfast was designed to have pop appeal, which is why they included this song that Hodgson had written eight years earlier.

    Hodgson and Davies had a specific disagreement over the first line in the song: "Take a look at my girlfriend, she's the only one I got." Hodgson explained to Melody Maker in 1979: "He never liked the lyric to 'Breakfast.' It's so trite: 'Take a look at my girlfriend.' He's much more into crafting a song. He would have been happier if I'd changed the lyric to either something funnier or more relevant. I tried, but it didn't work out, so I was stuck with the original."

    Hodgson added in his Songfacts interview, "I don't believe I had a girlfriend at that time, and if I did it wouldn't have lasted much longer after that."
  • This song was powered by an old pump organ. Hodgson explained: "I think I was 17 when I found this wonderful pump organ - a harmonium that you pump with your feet. I found it in this old lady's house in the countryside near where I lived in England. I bought it for £26, and when I brought it back I proceeded to write all these songs on it: 'Breakfast In America,' 'Two Of Us,' 'Soapbox Opera,' even the beginning of 'Fool's Overture' and 'Logical Song.' It's amazing what this instrument pulled out of me."
  • A dazzling array of unusual instruments were used on this track, including some that rarely are heard on rock songs. Supertramp could be very musically adventurous thank to band member John Helliwell, who could play a number of instruments, including woodwinds.

    It's nearly impossible to identify every instrument used on this track with the naked ear, so we contacted Helliwell to find out. He got in touch with Peter Henderson, who was a co-producer and engineer on the album, and Henderson provided the list. All instruments were played by the band members - Roger Hodgson, Rick Davies, Dougie Thomson, John Helliwell and Bob C. Benberg - except for the tuba and trombone, which were played by session musician Dick "Slide" Hyde.

    "Breakfast In America" song instrumentation:

    Steinway 9-foot Piano
    Music Man 4-string Stingray Bass
    Ludwig Drums with Ludwig Supraphonic 6.5-inch snare
    Harmonium (pump organ)
    Fender Stratocaster guitar, doubled
    Calliope and tack piano to give fairground sound
    Orchestra cymbals on last chorus
    Roger Hodgson lead vocal, double tracked
    Roger Hodgson backing vocals, double tracked
    "Girlfriend" answer vocal - Dougie Thomson or John Helliwell, possibly both
    "What she got - not a lot" backing vocal - Rick Davies

Comments: 21

  • AnonymousWas supertramp's Breakfast in America cover on the album supposed to look like New York?
  • AnonymousI love the klezmer elements of this song. Somebody got creative here.
  • John Roberts from ChicagoJim from Stonerville: "Now here are some of your no-name bands: Supertramp - 71.2 million equivalent album sales. Nine-Inch Nails - 20 million album sales"
  • Seventhmist from 7th Heaven"I never seem to get a lot." Unlike the fellow in "Goodbye Stranger," who got plenty by sowing his oats.
  • Jerry from Sussex, NjFirst of all, the song is not Polka music.. geez! The tuba and styles of the oboe and clarinet capture the music style of Immigration periods of the early 1900s, Italian, Greek, Jewish and other types of Mediterranean sounds. Which is appropriate to the song as many Immigrants of the time dreamed of success, money, stardom in America. Even eating a decent breakfast and full stomach in America was a dream, because where they are they did not have much.
  • Andy from London, United KingdomI havn't a clue what most of these comments are about. What I can say is that this is a great song. Kippers are smoked Herrings. I love them. They are grilled.
  • Eli from Hesperia, CaAm i the only one pissed at gym class heros
  • Ashley from Edmonton, Abdiggin song,
    and i hate how no one
    knows that, that part in gym class
    heros is supertramp
  • Geo from Altoona, Pakippers are smoked and salted herring...
  • Marie-pier from Saint-zotique, QcGym class hero completly destroy this song who used to be so good at the begenning
  • Dogma from Alexandria, LaI'm a DJ on a classic rock station and I love to go down the hall and tell the DJs at our sister (a contemporary hits station) that most of the songs they are playing are either samples or covers of songs that we play on the rock station.
  • Matt from New Castle, NhThere aren't many riffs as achy and expressive as the "na na na, na na na na" parts of this song. For me, it sort of creates an illusion of English life as bitter and empty as Eastern Europe, when compared to American extravagance.
  • Jim from Does It Matter, NcMy friends and i have a list of songs that we joke about and sing this is one of them ahaha
  • Joey from Boston, MaPerhaps the only polka-rock song ever, besides the Weird Al Yankovic parodies of course.
  • Jailene from K-town, WaThis song will forever make me cry a little on the inside, cuz my "ex"/guy I'm taking a break from used to play and sing this song to me all the time. :*(
  • Bob from Oakland, CaJim in Stonerville, you must be pretty young to call Supertramp a band that no one has heard of. They were fairly popular in the 70s and *HUGE* in the early 80s.

    I never cared for them myself.
  • Jim from Stonerville, Cagreat song. samples should not happen, but this was a better sample than most (in chokehold). but original is way better. supertramp is the most famous band that no one has heard of.
  • Rob from Wilkes-barre, PaYea this destroys cupid's chokehold; most artists should be banned from sampling others
  • Shannon from Bakersfield , CaI hate cupids chokehold.It's stupid.
    But this song is the sh!t
    (in a good way)
  • Greg from Strongsville, OhI beleive in the line "Can we have Kippers for breakfast?" That Kippers are fish, Much like a Herring.
  • Rob from Wilkes-barre, PaThis song is sampled in Gym Class Heroes' Cupid's Chokehold.
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