The lyrics are about how the innocence and wonder of childhood can quickly give way to worry and cynicism as children are taught to be responsible adults. It makes the point that logic can restrict creativity and passion. Supertramp keyboard player Roger Hodgson, who wrote this song and sang the lead vocals, said in our 2012 interview: "I think it was very relevant when I wrote it, and actually I think it's even more relevant today. It's very basically saying that what they teach us in schools is all very fine, but what about what they don't teach us in schools that creates so much confusion in our being. I mean, they don't really prepare us for life in terms of teaching us who we are on the inside. They teach us how to function on the outside and to be very intellectual, but they don't tell us how to act with our intuition or our heart or really give us a real plausible explanation of what life's about. There's a huge hole in the education. I remember leaving school at 19, I was totally confused. That song really came out of my confusion, which came down to a basic question: please tell me who I am. I felt very lost. I had to educate myself in that way, and that's why California was very good for me to kind of re-educate myself, if you like.
But it's interesting that that song, I hear it all the time, it's quoted in schools so much. I've been told it's the most-quoted song in school. That may be because it has so many words in it that people like to spell. But I think it also poses that question, and maybe stimulates something with students. I hope so." (Here's our full interview with Roger Hodgson.)
To accentuate the "d-d-digital" line in the lyrics, the band borrowed a Mattel handheld electronic football game from an engineer named Richard Digby-Smith, who was working next door. This device, which predated Nintendo, provided an unusual sounding, layered bleep. The specific byte occurs near the end of the song just after Hodgson sings the word "digital." The sound itself indicated a player had lost control of the football.
Like the Lennon/McCartney partnership, most of Supertramp's songs are credited to their lead singers Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies, although in many cases one writer was entirely responsible for the song. "The Logical Song" was written by Hodgson, but it shares some themes with a song Davies wrote on Supertramp's 1974 album Crime of the Century called "School." Speaking of the connection in 1979 at a time when the songwriters were at odds, Davies said to Melody Maker: "'School' was a device, in some ways. I don't know whether Roger would be able to associate too much with that, although I can see the connection with 'Logical Song.' Roger went straight from public school to a rock group, so his personal experience is a bit limited in that area. He's very public school."
Hodgson often writes songs by singing over his keyboard riffs. He'll try different words and phrases to get ideas for his lyrics, which is how the title of this song came about. Said Hodgson: "From singing absolute nonsense, a line will pop up that suddenly makes sense, then another one, and so on. I was doing that when the word 'logical', came into my head and I thought, 'That's an interesting word'."
This was a very personal song for Roger Hodgson, he would work on the song during soundchecks, and completed it long before bringing it to the band. Said Roger: "I had actually finished the words and the arrangement six months before I proposed it to the band for the album - I didn't think anyone would like it. Interestingly enough this song has the distinction of being one of the most quoted lyrics in schools."
Like another famous song from 1979, "Another Brick In The Wall (part II)," this song rails against English schooling. "What's missing at school is for me the loudest thing," Hodgson said. "We are taught to function outwardly, but we are not taught who we are inwardly, and what really the true purpose of life is. The natural awe and wonder, the thirst and enthusiasm and joy of life that young children have, it gets lost. It gets beaten out of them in a way."
In 1980, Hodgson won the Ivor Novello Award from The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, who named "The Logical Song" the best song both musically and lyrically of that year.
The German dance music band Scooter did a techno version of "The Logical Song," which was wildly popular across Europe and hit #2 in the UK. It has been certified gold by the BPI, selling over 400,000 copies and was the 15th best selling single of 2002.
In 2004, a Supertramp tribute band called Logicaltramp formed in the UK. Supertramp members John Helliwell and Roger Hodgson have given the band favorable reviews, and Helliwell has joined them on stage.
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France
At a concert appearance, Roger Hodgson said of this song: "I was sent to boarding school for ten years and I definitely emerged from that experience with a lot of questions, like What the hell happened to me? What is life about? And why a lot of the things I had been told didn't make any sense. 'Logical Song' was really a light hearted way of saying something pretty deep. Which is they told me how to conform, to be presentable, to be acceptable and everything but they didn't tell me who I am or why I m here. So, it s a very profound message and I think it really resonated with a lot of people when it came out."
Dudie from IllinoisSome people are rather uptight by nature. They follow all of the rules with an urgency and do not feel comfortable without a full compliment of rules around them to help them know what to do. The educational system seems to favor them. Then there are the artistic type. They aren't as impressed with the rules. They take a look around and breath in deeply and admire nature. They take the long way home. This was probably Roger. They have a hard time developing their personality because society keeps trying to cram it's values down their throats. It is not that Roger wants to be called a Liberal' it is likely that he feared that a bit and knew it was a consequence of following his heart and thinking for himself. But in the end, after all the asking, "tell me who I am," he developed his own firm convictions. There is nothing that I see in the music that trumpets "I am a liberal," except maybe, "Give A Little Bit". I am a conservative and I love him. So what on the politics bit!!!
Esskayess from Dallas, TxShould have called it 'The Adjective Song.'
Angelmarie from Pleasanton, CaI love this song. It's one of my all time favorites, though I don't really know why since I was made to logical, responsible, and practical, at all times from birth almost. I think it's the, "please tell me who I am" that strikes the cord in people. Without "The Logical Song", people wouldn't be who they are now. I mean that in a good way (thinking about how some people are...).
Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationFormer Supertramp keyboardist and singer Roger Hodgson : "I had the chords to 'Logical Song' and I used to use them in soundcheck with Supertramp. I used to start playing them. And it's funny, I didn't think much of them. And then one day, I started singing and the first word that came in was 'liberal.' And then the song took shape from that. And I didn't realize what I was creating or what had been created, really, until it was finished. Luckily, probably for me, I didn't realize what I was creating at the time. If I thought, 'Boy, this is going to be a monster hit,' I probably would've frozen up and stopped the magic from coming out."
Camille from Toronto, OhWas never a Supertramp fan, never understood their popularity, don't particularly care for this song. I turn the channel if it comes on the car stereo. Too much other good music I could be listening to.
Gregg from East Rockaway, NyI agree with tod, how dare you liberals say it's nice to be young and enjoy life! You should be old and hateful and be glad about it!
Tod from Las Vegas, NvA typical liberal mantra - acting responsible and logical means you are a vegetable. This is such hogwash from a truely rediculous band.
Frankie from Galveston, Txeven though this song was released after the Vietnam Conflict was over i believe that this song has references to the draft and men going off to battle. how life was so wonderful and beautiful and so on and so forth, and then how they were sent away to be sensible and such. but thats just my take on it.
Wayne from Crockett, TxGreat song, "bought" the Breakfast album through the Columbia Music Club when I was just a kid. And by the way, I believe the 'tweeting' game sound toward the end of this song was made by the handheld Mattel Football game, which I and every other kid had back in the late 70s.
Mjn Seifer from Not Listed For Personal Reason, EnglandWhen I first heard this song; I was facing a dificult desision; I had left school and I needed to further my education, and had a choice of doing another year at my previous college or moving away to live-in school very far from my family and friends - I even spent the night there once to see what it was like, but when I came home I was still undecided as to what I should do - and every time my parents would ask me, I would avoid the conversation.
One night I was lying awake in bed with the radio playing, and this song came on; at first I didn't really notice it, but then I heard the line "But then they sent me away..." and I realized how appropriate this song felt. I listened closley to the song, and suddenly eveything just fell into place for me. I hade made my desision - I was going to stay put, I cared about my friends and family, I was going to stay and get my education here. I am doing a lot better, and I don't think I would have come this far if I had gone to the boarding school (or what ever it was).
I love this song now, not just 'cause of that, but because it's a great song - I also love Scooter's song "RAMP!" - it contains a sample of this song.
Lee from Huntsville, Al1-2-3-5,lol
Mary Beth from Level Pebble, Mii love this band they are so original.
Glenn from Auckland, New Zealandyes, you can tell a Roger Hodson Penned song, it is typified by his high pitched voice, I remember when this song came out in 1979. I was 11. I took an instant liking to the song, but it wasn't until I really "got" into Supertramp did I really understand the lyrics. Sadly Supertramp weren't the same when Roger Hodson left.
Livia from Schaffhausen, SwitzerlandThis song is really true if you listen to the lyrics. I'm 17 now and soon I reach the adulthood. I remember, when I was a child, you had no sorrows or problems, it was truly "a miracle, beautiful, magical"! But suddenly you have to carry responsibility and suddenly this world you thought its wonderful, you see this world can sometimes be really hard. So you asking yourself: "Who am I?" in this world. Where's my place, where should I go? He sings: "Please tell me what we've learned" could be he wants to remember how exactly the life as child was... don't know. It's normal that children say what they want and think, but when you're gettin older you have to "watch what you say". Even my mother told me that when I was about 6 or 7, cause many adults don't like to hear the truth. But if you "sign up your name" in the world of the adults, you will be acceptable, respectable, presentable... but I'll not gonna be a vegetable, I'll take care ;) So you see, that's what I think about the song and it's my song to grow up. Someday I'll maybe play this song to my child when she/he is at my age ;)
Stefanie from England, United KingdomThe song lyrics also suggest signs of suggesting mental illness and confusion about how real things are.
Wonderful song, one of my faves!
Ali from Tripoli, Libyan Arab JamahiriyaWhat a song,...as we grow up we begin to search for the truth. who are we? who made us? what does he want from us? where we are to? we need to know the answers.the answers came with the prophets, among them are Noan, Ibraha, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.
Mirna from Portoviejo, Ecuadorirony of life
John from Notre Dame, In"At night, when all the world's asleep,/ the questions run so 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/
Maybe many would disagree but I always thought the refrain was religious/spiritual. All the world is asleep and he is facing the deep meaning of life and calls out "Please tell me who I am." That doesnt sound like a man talking to himself. What do others think?
This is an all-time fav of mine. I was 14 when it came out and dealing with a very intense high-pressure school etc. This song got me through freshman year. Many thanks to the band for helping me through.
Jeff from Atlanta, GaOne of the things i love about Supertramp is the duality of the songwriters. Just as u can always tell a Lennon from a McCartney.. or a Henley from a Frey.. u can tell a Hodgson from a Davies. I was ten when this was out. I loved it then.. kind of thought of it as a idealistic person being steadily beaten down by circumstances and those around him. Would love to see a Tramp reunion!
James from Gettysburg, PaI'm with Scott. It was the perfect song for the transition from HS to college. I called myself the man-child at the time.
Scott from Palm Desert, CaThis song was right after my HS graduation and as i was making that transition to adulthood. This entire L.P. reminds me of that time and has a special place in my heart.
Jim from Stonerville, Cait took me forever to figure out who this was by. supertramp is probably the most famous band that no one has heard of.
Jason from Dublin, Irelandthe german electronic band scooter covered this song and it reached no1 in ireland but i think it really was no patch on the original.
Joe from Fort Meade, MdYeah "Electronic Football" was a big deal back then. I remember playing that thing as a kid, it was my Dad's, he's always been big on technology.
As for the song. Like a lot of the posters on here until I was about 18 or so, I liked this song based off the fact that it had a GREAT sound, acoustically pleasing to the ear. Then I listened to the words one time and it clicked that this was the anthem for the teenager. I have liked the song that much more since then.
And yes Phil, I remember that episode. There are a few episodes where Homer makes some GREAT musical references.
Lobstarock from Boston, MaThis song came out the year of my highschool graduation. Hearing this songs brings me back to the summer of possibilities. Hanging out and drinking beers down at my friend's parent's cottage on the Cape, before saying goodbye, to some, forever.
Justin from Albany, Nygreat song by a great band! and eric i agree with you it does sort of sound like this song was written for the giver.
Lynn from Redfield, SdThere was also a parody of this song called "The topical song". It was about the gas shortage of the late 70's.
Eric from Davis, CaHas anyone read the book "the giver"? it really sounds like the song was written about the book, i know that thats probably not true, but ya..
Alan from Akron, OhI remember hearing this song when I was like 10 or something and I thought that the song was about rhyming words that ended with "al's and "ables"(remarkABLE, locicAL, you get the picture) As I was sitting in class one day listening to my radio I heard the song thinking it was that dang rhyming song again. This time I payed close attention to the lyrics, and I realized that the song was about me(not really) but, it was about what kids discover what the world is really like. It isn't just fun and games, its buisness, and every man for themselves.
steph, Ottawa, Canada I have to agree with you that is one of my favorite lyrics too, because ...it's true.
Casey from Pensacola, FlI always loved the sax solo in this song. I heard it was recorded in the men's room of the recording studio.
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScWhat a great song. I'm a teenager so I feel like I can identify with it some.
Donald from Festus, Mothis song is great at capturing the fellig almost everyone has about going from a child to a part of "the machine". I think it is mostly based on the teen years when, in a short time, you go from a fun-loving kid to hard-working adult. It is the song for the word "jaded"
Johny from Somewhere Else, IlYeah, the synth they use is really hot. Must be a whirly or Vintage Electric Piano. defiantly one of the reasons i like the song.
Paul Serrato from Arlington, TxThis Is One Of The Best Bands Of The World!!!
Phil from Niagara Falls, Canadawho rmemeber that one simspons epiisode where homer explains what was lia's firstword "the 80s was a wonderful decade, the rise of supertramp..." and then you see young homer working at a putting range and this onsg is playing
Scott from Chicago, Ilsounds more appropriate today in the "bush" years then it ever did...."the questions run so deep for such a simple man", indeed.....
Ocean from Amsterdam, NetherlandsThere's also a cover version of it by 'Double Date' a Dutch ugly twinsisters act from the nineties. Don't try the find the song; if you hear it, you'll probably die...
Mike from Jacksonville, FlI remember when life was so wonderful, a miracle now I'm just jaded. This song reminds me of my former self. Listen carefully.
Marlow from Perth, Australiaclassic song. classic band!
Charles from Charlotte, NcThis is a song that laments the loss of idealism. The band bought the special organ for the keyboard part just for this song.