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Mar 24 / Pat

Millennial Buffet: Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America”

Front Cover

I find it interesting that I have landed myself in a position to write for not only this blog, but, really, any blog.  I feel privileged.  The blogosphere is an interesting, scary place, and I think that dipping my big toe in and experimenting with this form will be nothing short of interesting.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked to generate original content focusing on the intersection between, as the blog title, Epicurean Musician, denotes: music and food.  As a guy who belongs to the generation of people who eat out more than any other previous American generation, and a generation that takes its music quite seriously, this intersection is fascinating to me .  This column will look to deconstruct different aspects of the cross-over world between food and music.  Hence: Millennial Buffet

Looking back into my past, I remember sitting on the floor of my parents’ tiny living room, me, dressed in some god awful, striped turtleneck, no more than five years old, with my dad’s whole vinyl collection spread out in front of me.  This is how I started my search to generate content.

I remember only two album covers: 1) The Velvet Underground and Nico, and 2) Supertramp’s Breakfast in America.  What’s funny is how Supertramp’s album cover is lodged in my being.    The anthemic, progressive songs are so catchy.  I loved it then, and I love it now.  And besides the tunes, the cover of the album is absolutely mind-blowing.  Looking out of the airplane window at some vaguely recognizable female figure holding a tray in front of a background of familiar food items.  Talk about food.  This would be the ultimate choice.

Supertramp: Breakfast in America

Supertramp

Breakfast in America [BIA] (1979) was the first time Supertramp had a humongous international breakthrough. The band had gone through a series of in-fights and breakups leading up to this LP (RollingStone). Interestingly enough, to look at Supertramp’s history while writing for a foodish/music blog is strangely satisfying and appropriate. Supertramp is a band that stems from the dream of a Dutch millionaire: Stanley Miesegaes (Rolling Stone; AllMusic.com). They were created to be the perfect dish. But it took them until Breakfast in America to find their stride.

Every part of the album is captivating. The various singles that BIA produced are part of the 20th Century music psyche (i.e. “The Logical Song”; “Goodbye Stranger”; “Breakfast for America”; etc…). The songs take Supertramp’s British prog-rock and gloss it over with pure pop melodies—like candy. “The Logical Song” embodies teenage angst, dreams of progress, and humanity’s constant search for stasis—a perfect bittersweet anthem to digest slowly and frequently.

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The album cover captures a piece of classic Americana of late night dining—the diner.  For Supertramp, coming to America seems to have warranted their next album to have an ironic cover that wields the many nightowls are so familiar with this image, because this is the only venue available at all times to relax and eat cheap, home-cooked meals. The back cover shows the entire band eating at a diner (Bert’s Madhouse) reading newspapers. The album cover won the 1980 Grammy for best recording package.  The album cover itself is worth examination, take a second.

Front Cover

Back Cover

Mick Haggerty

Recently, I had the opportunity to write to Mick Haggerty [MH], one of the artists behind the album cover for BIM. Haggerty is mostly known for his work and not necessarily his name. You will definitely recognize his body of work (http://www.mickhaggerty.com). He’s done covers for some of the best known recording artists of the last 100 years.

On the cover design and initial concepts:

MH: The title comes from the band, and Mike did a sketch before he brought me on board. I did one with Cheerios rolling down Monument Valley in an avalanche of milk and sugar but his sketch won the day. Mike and the band wanted to have the image illustrated which is why I was perhaps involved, but I had no interest in drawing it so I lobbied hard for a photographic treatment. The first designs were more kitsch, using a dyed blonde cheesecake model with plenty of cleavage. The band wanted a “real” character as the waitress and after numerous casting calls we chose the woman I nicknamed “Libby”. I understand she went on tour with the band and opened the show every night with “-Welcome to Breakfast in America!” As a recent immigrant from England I was in love with west coast Americana, and the idea of working with a coffee shop theme with menu’s and uniforms was a dream. I practically lived in Norms. We shot all the elements on the cover separately.

On the cross-sections between Food/Music/Art/Artists/Foodies, Haggerty was more succinct. Most interesting for me was learning that Haggerty believes that every aspect of culture has a distinct opinion of “Food”.

MH: It is my experience that creative people tend to care about, and take an active role in what they eat. Now that can be high or low culture but everyone I know has an opinion about food. Does that make us foodies?

And working in this new medium of blogs, I asked what he thought of the shifting landscape of the media scene. I was impressed that even this little tidbit felt “food-driven”.

I’m constantly challenged and inspired by the ways in which we can communicate and share information. Our brains not only formed our traditional means of communication but were formed by it, so I’m watching, ever curious to see how these fast evolving forms will reshape the way we think and the way our brains function. A strange brew of excitement and dread.

“A Strange Brew of Excitement and Dread”

As we push forward as an artistic culture, watching the scaffolding of the Record Industry shattering, I think it’s interesting to look, in a piecemeal fashion, at the refuse left behind. Supertramp’s Breakfast in America is an iconic piece that deserves re-examination. I think even using the filter of “food” as a means of narrowing our view of the massive collection which is the 20th-21st Centuries’ music

Thanks to Mick Haggerty for being generous enough to write back to me.  All information about the history of the album is thanks to RollingStone.com and AllMusic.com.

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