“When lonely days turn to lonely nights, You take a trip to the city lights, And take the long way home”
To be honest, I really have no idea where to start with this one. It’s almost so brilliant that I didn’t even want to attempt to write about it because there’s no way my words can do it justice, but at the same time I knew I just HAD to write about it because it’s too damn good!!! Let’s start with the basics again and work our way up.
“Take the Long Way Home” is a progressive rock piece composed by Roger Hodgson of Supertramp and was released October of 1979; the cusp of a new decade. It was written by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson and it is probably the best 5 minutes and 8 seconds of music you will ever hear in your life. This track features an extremely enticing mix of piano, harmonica, bass, drums, clarinet and saxophone.
Supertramp created their start in 1969 and, fun fact, were originally named “Daddy.” I don’t know about you, but I am all too relieved they eventually changed their name to Supertramp in 1970. They peaked commercial success with their album “Breakfast in America,” which features “Take the Long Way Home” as well as “Goodbye Stranger” (which you might be familiar with…or more familiar with The Office’s version of “Goodbye Toby” where Michael is all too thrilled that Toby is leaving lol). Davies and Hodgson were like the 70’s version of Lennon and McCartney in terms of song-writing collaboration (I am not comparing or contrasting skills here though). Though Davies and Hodgson shared differences in lifestyle and genre preferences, they worked magic together when creating music.
“Take the Long Way Home” is lyrically and melodically GENIUS. As the song starts, the listener might turn their sound on full blast, thinking their crappy set of headphones have failed them again, but in reality the song takes 20 seconds to eerily build up to a strikingly ominous minor chord. The chord is left lingering as more buildup entices the listener until BAM, 40 seconds in, the most ear-pleasing electrifying harmonica riff (are harmonica riffs a thing??) hits you as the chords, harmonica and drum fills LITERALLY DANCE together and create one of the coolest rhythms I’ve ever heard. Roger’s vocals don’t even start until a minute in and yet the music is so transcendental the listener does not even realize or care (the listener as in me lol but hopefully you, too). The cadence of this song is magical. The piano rhythm flows into the bass which flows into the drums and the organ and I don’t really know how to explain this besides the fact that the musical instruments simply dance with each other in perfect rhythm. The little musical breaks with harmonica and saxophone give the song more depth and variety, and the minor key change in the end adds to the nostalgic and almost piteous ambience of the track.
“Take the Long Way Home” also can be interpreted in many different ways. The phrase “taking the long way home” is vague in nature itself. For instance, I’m sure we’ve all experienced a moment where maybe we were driving home from a family dinner or outing with friends, and we drove the long way back home to nurture the time we had by ourselves and reflect on our day or event. Taking the long way home can be therapeutic, or it can be seen as a way to postpone going “home” and facing the things you don’t want to face. Hodgson said of his lyrics that he’s talking about “not wanting to go home to the wife, take the long way home to the wife because she treats you like part of the furniture, but there’s a deeper level to the song, too. I really believe we all want to find our home, find that place in us where we feel at home, and to me, home is in the heart and that is really when we are in touch with our heart and we’re living our life from our heart, then we do feel like we found our home.”
I interpret this song as the narrator being a dreamer. He loves performing and has always believed himself to do great, successful things, but his dreams of performing differ from the reality of it. He feels a thrill for life and appreciation from others when he is on stage, but on the road he is lonely. He feels more and more distant from his wife, who treats him like “part of the furniture” at home, maybe because she doesn’t approve of him putting his life and dreams before their relationship, or because of the constant strain distance has on them. Eventually, all his fame and success leads him to feel the constant need to impress, and his passion for performing eventually turns into a burden of a job, where he “never gets to see what he wants to see” anymore and is “forever playing to the gallery.” I think the lyric that speaks most to the narrator’s emotions is:
“Does it feel that your life’s become a catastrophe?
Oh, it has to be for you to grow, boy
When you look through the years and see what you could have been
Oh, what you might have been,
If you’d had more time”
His life has not turned out like he thought it would. He could have been something spectacular, but he is running out of time to fix everything, like his relationships and career. Therefore, he “takes the long way home” to wander about his life but also to avoid the looming, inescapable realities of it.
So, what do you guys think? Feel free to comment or message me any thoughts! Also feel free to subscribe if you want to get e-mails whenever I post. If this post did not convince you to listen to this song, then I don’t know what will. Or, if you have heard it, I hope you feel the urge to listen to it again right now. Either way, I hope you allow yourselves that five minutes and eight seconds today to do something nice for yourself.
PS: the original, recorded version of this song is NOT on YouTube, so I don’t recommend looking it up on YouTube because you’ll get some strange fake version. But, listen to it on Spotify!!!!
Great song, great album, great band. Loved their hypnotic sound and coming of age lyrics…
anthems to my youth!