Crime of the Century is the third album by English rock band Supertramp, released in 1974. Crime of the Century was their commercial breakthrough on both sides of the Atlantic, aided by the UK hit “Dreamer” and the U.S. hit “Bloody Well Right”. It was a UK Top 10 album and a U.S. Top 40 album, eventually being certified Gold in the U.S. in 1977 after the release of Even in the Quietest Moments…. The album was Supertramp’s first to feature drummer Bob Siebenberg (at the time credited as Bob C. Benberg), woodwinds player John Anthony Helliwell, bassist Dougie Thomson, and co-producer Ken Scott.
After the failure of their first two albums and an unsuccessful tour, the band broke up, and Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson recruited new members, drummer Bob C. Benberg, woodwinds player John Helliwell, and bassist Dougie Thomson. This new line-up were sent by their record label, A&M, to a seventeenth-century farm in Somerset in order to rehearse together and prepare the album.
The album was recorded at a number of studios including Ramport Studios (owned by The Who) and Trident Studios with co-producer Ken Scott. While recording the album, Davies and Hodgson recorded approximately 42 demo songs, from which only 8 were chosen to appear on the album. Several other tracks appeared on later albums (Crisis? What Crisis?, …Famous Last Words…). Due to a contractual agreement, all the songs are credited jointly to the two writers, but their partnership as songwriters was dissolving and some of the songs were in fact written by one or the other individually. “Asylum” was written by Davies, “Hide in Your Shell” by Hodgson, and both “School” and “Crime of the Century” are actual Davies/Hodgson collaborations. Little is known about which of the two wrote the remaining songs; Hodgson recounted that “Dreamer” began as a home tape he recorded, but is vague as to whether or not Davies had a hand in the finalised composition.
The album was named after the final song, “Crime of the Century”, which the band members felt was the strongest song on the album. Shortly after his departure from Supertramp, Hodgson commented, “I’ve had more people come up to me and say that that song touched them more deeply than any other. That song really came together when we were living together at Southcombe and just eating, sleeping, and breathing the ideas for the album. The song just bounced between Rick and I for so many weeks before it finally took form.” For unknown reasons, in several interviews both before and since, Hodgson has attributed the song as being written solely by Davies. He describes “School” as “my song basically” but admits that Davies wrote both the piano solo and a good deal of the lyrics.
Crime of the Century deals loosely with themes of loneliness and mental stability, but is not a concept albu Davies consciously linked the opening track “School” to “Bloody Well Right” with the line “So you think your schooling is phoney”, and according to Hodgson, any unifying thread beyond that was left to the listener’s imagination.
The sound of the train in “Rudy” was recorded at Paddington station, while the crowd noises in the song were taken from Leicester Square.
Crime of the Century was Supertramp’s first U.S. Top 40 album and was eventually certified Gold in the U.S. in 1977 after the release of Even in the Quietest Moments…. The album also marked the commercial breakthrough for the band in the United Kingdom; Crime of the Century peaked at number four in the album chart in March 1975, and “Dreamer” reached number thirteen on the singles chart in the same month.
In 1978, Crime of the Century was ranked 108th in The World Critic Lists, which recognised the 200 greatest albums of all time as voted for by notable rock critics and DJs. In a 1981 review, Robert Christgau was ambivalent towards the album’s “straight-ahead art-rock”, which he called “Queen without preening. Yes without pianistics and meter shifts.”
Many of the songs on the album are still staples of the band’s shows (“School”, “Bloody Well Right”, “Rudy”, and the title song). Almost all of the album appears on the band’s 1980 live album Paris although the tracks which featured orchestrations on the studio versions (“Asylum”, “Rudy”, and “Crime of the Century”) were replaced by string synthesisers or Oberheim synthesisers, which were played mainly by John Helliwell with some help from Roger Hodgson.
All songs written by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson.
- Side one
|1.||“School”||Hodgson and Davies||5:35|
|2.||“Bloody Well Right”||Davies||4:32|
|3.||“Hide in Your Shell”||Hodgson||6:49|
|4.||“Asylum”||Davies and Hodgson||6:45|
- Side two
|1.||“Dreamer”||Hodgson and Davies||3:31|
|2.||“Rudy”||Davies and Hodgson||7:17|
|3.||“If Everyone Was Listening”||Hodgson||4:04|
|4.||“Crime of the Century”||Davies||5:32|