supertrampbreakfastinamerica.jpg

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, reads the inscription on a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty. Dedicated in 1886, it welcomed immigrants as they arrived by ship and fast became a potent symbol for the ‘land of opportunity’.

Visitors arrived by air in 1979 and it’s through a plane window that we see Supertramps’ re-imagined New York. Manhattan is now a giant diner – it’s buildings replaced by ketchup bottles and egg cartons; its famous icon a matronly diner waitress who holds aloft a glass of orange juice.

Breakfast in America was the band’s first LP after moving to the US and it would go on to sell 11 million copies worldwide (4 million in the States alone). It also won the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Recording Package

Art Director Mike Doud took his inspiration from the title and worked up various sketches of surreal images and visual puns. One of the rejected concepts involved giant Cheerios rolling down Arizona’s Monument Valley in a flood of milk. Just imagine.

monumentvalley.jpg

If Doud had the vision and ambition, cover designer Mike Haggerty had the chops to pull it off. He assembled the cornflake box, ashtray, cutlery, eggboxes, vinegar, ketchup and mustard bottles and spray painted them all white. Haggerty’s original instinct was to cast a busty young stunner as the waitress but the band preferred Kate Murtagh, whose bingo-wings and manic smile contribute so much to the cover.

It’s the first time I’ve thought about what an important American archetype the diner waitress is, almost as ubiquitous as the cowboy, the cheerleader and the policeman. Sometimes she’s beautiful and sometimes she’s motherly – but she’s always street smart and careworn.

l6063.jpg

sandythedinerwaitress.jpg

extreme_body_changes_10_l1.jpg

While Kate Murtagh’s advancing years are key to the cover’s success, it was a strange and cautious kind of vanity that kept Supertramp off their own record covers. “We wanted to be around a long time, and we didn’t want people watching us getting older” says keyboardist Rick Davies. It’s an interesting concern and one that makes more sense when you realise that back then record covers were a band’s primary form of self promotion. As it is, fans could check the band out on the back cover, being served at “Bert’s Mad House.”

breakfast_in_america_back_cover.jpg

Photographer Aaron Rapoport captures the long-haired band in a relaxed moment, seemingly unaware of the time warp that has transported them back to the American fifties. It’s a nice touch that they all read newspapers from their home towns in Britain, even though they were never as popular in the UK as they were overseas. In many ways they are just another group of immigrants, finding rich inspiration and a warm welcome in the creative and popular culture of America.

Supertramp: Breakfast in America

supertrampbreakfastinamerica.jpg

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, reads the inscription on a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty. Dedicated in 1886, it welcomed immigrants as they arrived by ship and fast became a potent symbol for the ‘land of opportunity’.

Visitors arrived by air in 1979 and it’s through a plane window that we see Supertramps’ re-imagined New York. Manhattan is now a giant diner – it’s buildings replaced by ketchup bottles and egg cartons; its famous icon a matronly diner waitress who holds aloft a glass of orange juice.

Breakfast in America was the band’s first LP after moving to the US and it would go on to sell 11 million copies worldwide (4 million in the States alone). It also won the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Recording Package

Art Director Mike Doud took his inspiration from the title and worked up various sketches of surreal images and visual puns. One of the rejected concepts involved giant Cheerios rolling down Arizona’s Monument Valley in a flood of milk. Just imagine.

monumentvalley.jpg

If Doud had the vision and ambition, cover designer Mike Haggerty had the chops to pull it off. He assembled the cornflake box, ashtray, cutlery, eggboxes, vinegar, ketchup and mustard bottles and spray painted them all white. Haggerty’s original instinct was to cast a busty young stunner as the waitress but the band preferred Kate Murtagh, whose bingo-wings and manic smile contribute so much to the cover.

It’s the first time I’ve thought about what an important American archetype the diner waitress is, almost as ubiquitous as the cowboy, the cheerleader and the policeman. Sometimes she’s beautiful and sometimes she’s motherly – but she’s always street smart and careworn.

l6063.jpg

sandythedinerwaitress.jpg

extreme_body_changes_10_l1.jpg

While Kate Murtagh’s advancing years are key to the cover’s success, it was a strange and cautious kind of vanity that kept Supertramp off their own record covers. “We wanted to be around a long time, and we didn’t want people watching us getting older” says keyboardist Rick Davies. It’s an interesting concern and one that makes more sense when you realise that back then record covers were a band’s primary form of self promotion. As it is, fans could check the band out on the back cover, being served at “Bert’s Mad House.”

breakfast_in_america_back_cover.jpg

Photographer Aaron Rapoport captures the long-haired band in a relaxed moment, seemingly unaware of the time warp that has transported them back to the American fifties. It’s a nice touch that they all read newspapers from their home towns in Britain, even though they were never as popular in the UK as they were overseas. In many ways they are just another group of immigrants, finding rich inspiration and a warm welcome in the creative and popular culture of America.





9 Comments

  1. Just love Supertramp…pity some people just know about Rolling Stones and alike.

  2. Ah yes. The back sleeve of “Breakfast in America”. I was always thinking how cool it was that the city of Glasgow was getting a sneak mention on a worldwide best selling album. I think we made it again with a lyric mention in Abba's “Super Trooper” – Original Lyrics:
    I was sick & tired of everything when I called you last night from Glasgow. Both were at terrible times in the city's past. Now it's pure Glasvegas.

  3. Ah yes. The back sleeve of “Breakfast in America”. I was always thinking how cool it was that the city of Glasgow was getting a sneak mention on a worldwide best selling album. I think we made it again with a lyric mention in Abba's “Super Trooper” – Original Lyrics:
    I was sick & tired of everything when I called you last night from Glasgow. Both were at terrible times in the city's past. Now it's pure Glasvegas.

  4. Terrible cover; causes me to question the premise of host site

  5. THE WAITRESS LOOKS IDENTICAL TO MYSELF. I CANT BELIEVE IT I NEED TO KNOW HER NAME.

  6. Kate Murtagh is her real name – she’s had several bit parts in movies and tv shows over the late 20th century. Her name as a waitress, though its hard to see her nametag clearly, is Libby, appropriate as she depicts the Statue of Liberty on the album cover.

  7. Kate Murtagh is her real name – she’s had several bit parts in movies and tv shows over the late 20th century. Her name as a waitress, though its hard to see her nametag clearly, is Libby, appropriate as she depicts the Statue of Liberty on the album cover.

  8. Kate Murtagh is her real name – she’s had several bit parts in movies and tv shows over the late 20th century. Her name as a waitress, though its hard to see her nametag clearly, is Libby, appropriate as she depicts the Statue of Liberty on the album cover.

  9. Just a correction. Bob Siebenberg (or C. Benberg, you choose) was reading a newspaper from his hometown of Los Angeles (well, really born in Glendale, CA). The drummer was the only American in that very British band.

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