David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 55: Supertramp (Hide In Your Shell)

June 20, 2020

I saw this little guy on my walk today.  I was pleased; he wasn't.

Needless to say, by the end of the walk, I had any number of turtle-based songs going through my head: The Boo Radleys' "Tortoiseshell," The Turtles' "Happy Together," and Supertramp's "Hide In Your Shell."  Luckily, he had gotten completely off the road by the time I had turned around and headed back, or I might have started singing The Dickies' "Roadkill" or anything off of Buck Dharma's Flat Out.

I knew when I got back to the house, I would have to bump the planned song blog for the day to tomorrow, so that I could follow through on one of these turtle songs.  The Boos have already been done, The Turtles remind me of too many PBS pledge drives, and so Supertramp wins. Besides those were the lyrics that most came to mind with my little friend hiding in his shell.

I stood there facing Donatello (always the coolest TMNT, as well as artist), after taking this picture of course, trying to encourage him to finish getting off the road. "Get the hell out of the shell and get off the road," I pleaded, and soon I was trying to remember the lyrics to the song. As I began singing, "If I can help you, If I can help you, If I can help you/just let me know," a woman passed me in a black SUV. While I am pretty sure she couldn't hear me, she clearly had a good laugh at my expense. "Let me show you the nearest signpost to get your heart back off the road," I sang, doing my best, poor, Roger Hodgson impersonation.

Then I came home and listened to Supertramp all afternoon, something I haven't done since, well maybe, 1980. I remembered all the fun aspects of the group, especially for this song.

Supertramp songs always feel so uplifting, even when the lyrics aren't. Like ELO, they have a sound that connotes all of the carefree, lazy days of growing up in the 1970's. Also, like ELO, their songs shift keys, musical dramas within several movements. For Supertramp, the signature sound comes from the dual keyboards and the accoutrements they add to their songs. With "Hide In Your Shell," the music, especially at the beginning, sounds like a calliope, as if a carnival is slowly coming to life. That sound is in direct contrast to the bleak opening lyrics: "Hide in your shell because the world is out to bleed you for a ride/what will you gain, making your life a little longer?"

Quickly the quintessential Supertramp elements kick in: multiple distinct voices, ranging from Rick Davies' falsetto to John Helliwell's baritone (I think they are the responsible, respective voices).  Shrill carnival sounds hover, percussion flickers in and out, drums wander into calypso, while organ and horns fill in holes. Even though members of the band were credited with playing guitars on album jackets, during their popularity I spent many years thinking Supertramp used no guitars. On this song alone, album credits show 5 different keyboards being utilized. For someone who saw the guitar as the emblem of music, Supertramp puzzled me at the same time they tickled me. That's the danger of growing up in pre-MTV times; one could create some false images of bands.

I woke up this morning feeling tired (a 3:00 am waking, not planned, on a Saturday is a recipe for exhaustion), fairly beat down by the world, and rather uninspired. My walk was early to beat the heat that was anticipated for the day.  Thank goodness it was, because I saw my friend Donatello here and before long I was coming out of my shell, even if he wasn't.

I wonder how the day would have turned out if I had seen a snake, who have been found before on the same stretch of road where I saw Donatello. Be sure if I had seen a snake, no Supertramp would have lifted me out of that funk, and, well, this post might have been censored.

"Hide In Your Shell." Crime Of The Century. Supertramp. A&M. 1974. Link here.

Day 54: Aretha Franklin "I Say A Little Prayer"

Day 56: The Dream Academy "Life In A Northern Town."

See complete list here.