Traffic is now on the move again but as a trio. So it was that I scaled the eight flights to drummer Jim Capaldi's Earl's Court flat (never sure to knock or stick a Union Jack in the ‘summit' door mat) to discover how concerned they were over Dave Mason's departure.
"It was a blow," admitted Jim "but one that we will recover from. Chris has taken over bass guitar - he's got blisters already to prove it and we've been at the cottage this week working and rehearsing. You could say that the major difference will be that we will now have an act where there was none before. It was a surprise when Dave said that he wanted to quit; but he has always been out on his own in a way. If you listen to our Mr. Fantasy album you can tell that there are two kinds of songs: those that we wrote together and those that Dave wrote on his own. It's rather sad that the last track we did, "Hope I Never Find Me There", is the only exception and the first time we really all got together on the same wave length!"
It was decided not to replace Dave as they all felt it would take too long to ‘clue-in' a new member. The musical problems of a trio should be greatly relieved by the multi-instrumental talents of Chris Wood and Stevie Winwood, who appear to be able to play anything you can pluck, pedal, thump or suck. But what of the other problems? It has been said, not unkindly, that Traffic are a difficult group to interview. In spite of their friendly, co-operative attitude, journalists have found it difficult to personalize the group and Stevie tends to say more in four bars of music than he does in a one-hour interview.
"Stevie lives inside his music. That's the way he communicates," smiled Jim. "He's like an absent minded professor. I rang him up about his brother Muff's marriage on Monday and he was absolutely convinced it was Saturday he was getting married." And so it was that Chris Wood arrived, wearing a gray army coat down to his ankles, which looked as though it might have previously belonged to Herman Munster. With Chris was "Count" Albert the performing road manager. A knock at the door and an attractive girl with tawny hair tumbling about her shoulders, tight black leather trousers and a huge white hairy coat entered carrying armfuls of clothes. She was from the Fly-by-Night clothes designers. There was a beautifully embroidered blue jacket for Chris to wear on stage and some other silks and satins ordered by Jimi Hendrix. Jim Capaldi admired a white ruffled shirt. "That's mine," she cooed sweetly.
Conversation became spasmodic. We batted the Beach Boys about the room and out the window as a subject. "They're just moving into new things," said Jim. "I liked ‘Smiley Smile' because you got the impression that you were hearing them as they really were, just playing in a room and grooving to themselves." Magical Mystery Tour came under discussion. "I thought it was really clever," said Jim. "Everything the Beatles do now takes you back in time. That little Fair Isle pullover that McCartney wore through the film that was the kind of thing I wore when I was about eight years old."
The Zodiac sign of Taurus got into the act somehow. "Dylan is a Gemini-Taurus and so is McCartney," informed Jim. "Stevie is a Taurus and so is Dave Mason. One of their major characteristics is supposed to be their unpredictability."
So I helped myself to a copy of Jim's book Bob Dylan by Daniel Kramer (very good it is too) and left abruptly. We Gemini-Taurans have to live up to expectation!
-- Keith Altham