The birth of the Traffic was this year after months of planning and searching and getting themselves together. Stevie, Chris, Jim and Dave finally reached their goal. So perhaps in a way it is fitting that as the year draws to an end, the group should find themselves taking a new look and a new stand in the musical field with the news that Dave Mason, composer and singer, is to quit and Traffic will be three. "It's a funny feeling playing on stage with Dave knowing that by Christmas he'll be gone" said the group's splendid drummer, Jim Capaldi, from his usual retreat - in bed - this week.
"It gives you a feeling of Old Lang Syne. We're like old comrades and it's a bit of a sad thing, but it's making everyone play like crazy and the dates we've been doing lately have been the best yet because of it." Dave's decision to leave after six months comes about because he wants to move into the production field. "The way things were going on something had to happen. Dave leaving is like the guy who leaps out of the boat to save that boat from sinking thereby saving the others. Dave was never really part of the group thing like Stevie, Chris and I were. He was part of the group's music but that's all he was interested in. If he could have had his way all we'd have done was sit in a studio recording and never done any live dates. Dave said to me 'I don't want to leave because the LP is so nice and the music is great but I want to stay in the studio and produce and record' and I just said ‘Look man, you know we can't compromise, you must just do what you want to.' The door is open for him to re-join, that's one of the reasons that we're not replacing him. Dave is a very restless guy. Most people will probably find it strange that he should quit at this moment with the LP out and the film music just getting under way, but he's the kind of person that has to chase one thing after the next. I can understand that."
In the future, then, the Traffic will be seen as a trio. Does Jim think this fact will make a big difference to the group, the sound of the group and its approach to audiences? "It will certainly mean a tighter, neater, more together thing. But as far as audiences go, well, really, we're trying to get our own following together rather like the Cream and Hendrix. We discovered on the tour that we were very uncertain about how to approach that kind of audience. A compere came on and then the curtains parted and we didn't know what to do. I thought, ‘well, do we sex it up or do we play straight and let them try to work it out?' Really, playing to university audiences is more our scene. People sit and listen and know what you're doing they can appreciate it."
So 1968 will bring a new Traffic with a beautiful, complete LP behind them and the promise of more film scores to write after their successful venture into Round The Mulberry Bush. "We wrote that stuff over six months ago before Traffic was even formed. We were in the cottage working on the score. We wrote the single - the first thing that we'd ever done - and we were going to release it as our first record, but we had to wait for the film."
And Jim, who had only just woken up, went to play in the snow he had just discovered was there.
-- Richard Green