Supertramp – Breakfast In America
A&M Records 1979
Design & Art Direction by Mike Doud
Design by Mick Haggerty
Photography by Aaron Rapoport
The rough idea for this iconic album design was the bands. They wanted something that represented the upheaval and change they had all gone through when they relocated from Britain to Hollywood in search of greater fame and fortune in 1977. Supertramp’s John Helliwell explains:
“Mike Doud’s realisation of the cover expressed with wry humour the group’s mental and physical place at the time. Although the title song was written years before we went to the US, the imagery appealed to us, living in the “Land of Dream and Ambition”. The image of flying into New York, substituting the English transport café for the friendly diner. We were growing up in a materialised world and had begun some spiritual searchings. It all came together in our music.”
Mike Doud, Art Director at record sleeve print company AGI, was a personal friend of Supertramp’s manager Dave Margereson and when the band were given total freedom, by the record company, to do what they wanted on the sleeve, they knew that he would be able to translate their ideas into reality who bought in young designer Mick Haggerty to help out.
The picture shows a recreation of downtown Manhattan as a breakfast table. A large waitress in the foreground represent The Statue of Liberty, the flame replaced by a glass of orange juice. The band originally wanted an airbrushed illustration on the cover but were persuaded by designer Mick Haggerty to it would be best done photographically. The attention to detail, from the designer Haggerty, is incredible – the name label on the waitress reading Libby for example.
Another original idea for the waitress was for her to be a more glamourous, all-American, cheesecake type model but the band ended up choosing “Libby” from the Ugly Model Agency. The model ended up going on tour and opening the show for the band. The image was shot in four parts – the New York skyline created from white china crockery, Libby the waitress, the glass of orange juice and finally the aeroplane window.
The back cover design of the album is also interesting, showing the band sitting in a diner with each one reading a local English or Scottish newspaper from his respective area.
The album went on to sell in excess of eleven million copies but would certainly have gone onto to be one of the most iconic album covers despite this. In 1980, it was awarded Best Recording Package at the Grammy’s.
Mike Doud was a hugely prolific designer. He moved from the United States to London to work as an Art Director at A&M records in 1970. He returned to the States just a few years later. Before Breakfast in America his best known work had been Led Zeppelin’ Physical Graffiti.
My dad had this album and I used to love it because it was different to any others I’d seen. It wasn’t until years later though that I started to notice the detail and realised that things weren’t as they seemed – I didn’t notice the the buildings in the background weren’t buildings at all and it was years before I noticed it was shot as if through a plane window or that the woman was representing the Statue of Liberty!