Traffic logo Hidden Treasure: The Unreleased Music of Traffic

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As with any musical group that has recorded over a number of years, Traffic created a wake of officially released material as their legacy - the best that they had to offer. Left behind for obscurity was music that for one reason or another never found a proper format in which to be released to the public; outtakes, jams, rehearsals, and live performances.

The case has been made that "outtakes are unreleased for a reason - they aren't good enough !". In some cases that may be true, but the success of outtake filled anthologies by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and many others show that today's audiences are interested and willing to pay for the material that was once seen as unworthy of official release. In contrast, to date, there has been no outtake material by Traffic to be released - "The Finer Things" box retrospective, while providing three Blind Faith rarities, had nothing in that vein. The obvious step would be to conduct a thorough vault search and a produce the definitive Traffic rarities anthology.

In some ways, it's Chris Wood's legacy that has the most at stake in a project of this sort. He was never able to complete his planned solo album, and in the long period since "When The Eagle Flies" release his crucial contributions to Traffic and rock 'n roll have been somewhat forgotten. Since many of the outtakes feature Wood, a quality anthology would re-establish his stature, and perhaps provide royalty income for his family. The time for action on this is now, before crucial material is lost forever.

-- Dan Ropek

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Below is an overview, gleaned from magazines, ads and audio tapes; of what has, does or might exist as unreleased material from Traffic. A few things turned out to have a story of some sort associated. This is certainly only the tiniest glimpse of the hidden treasure still to be found.

  • The Cottage Tapes: Berkshire; 1967/68 - Two track stereo recordings of the infamous jams, rehearsals and demos made during the period when music poured forth essentially non-stop. This is certainly the 'Holy Grail' of unreleased Traffic; although what actually exists and where the tapes are seems to be a mystery. Even Winwood and Capaldi seem to have no idea where the tapes are today. In the Nashville '92 interview with Timothy White, all SW could say was "They do exist somewhere I suppose". Although it seems farfetched to think that any of this will turn up, the bootlegging of some of the Blind Faith rehearsals gives some reason for hope.

  • "Giving To You": an instrumental song from the first Traffic LP. Performed live with complete lyrics during Traffic's second ever live concert (Koncerthaus, Stockholm Sweden; 9/12/67). Also notable is Dave Mason's sitar solo number that precedes "Hole In My Shoe" - although rather tentative (perhaps serving as a warm-up for "Hole..."), its quite an amazing feat for a live performance. The entire concert - a fantastic example of early Traffic - was broadcast, and exists in high quality tapes and CD's.

  • "Blind Man" (5:13): BBC studios, London; 2/24/68. Although a sizable number of songs were performed exclusively for the BBC, and can therefore all be considered "unreleased Traffic", this song is especially noteworthy since it is the only known studio version (otherwise found in 'live' form on "Last Exit"). A seeming homage to Ray Charles; this song, while an excellent R &B cover, seems more at home as a Spencer Davis track than Traffic - perhaps explaining why an official studio version was never put out. (cassette tape)

  • Instrumental prelude to "Coloured Rain" performed in concert, Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco; 3/18/68. Perhaps improvised, but interesting in its own right. This piece is primarily a showcase for Chris Wood, who starts the tune on flute then switches at midpoint to saxophone. Also broadcast, this track is found on live tapes along with one other song: "No Face, No Name, No Number". This appears to be from the same concert as the live tracks on Last Exit. If so, then the tracks should have a high quality master tape in the vaults that should still exist - bringing up the possibility of an official release for the entire concert. Why not ?

  • Two reels of 1/2 inch reel to reel master outtake tapes from Olympic Studios, London. Recording labels state dates of 7/20/67 and 1/3/68. Known songs include: "Mr. Fantasy", and "40,000 Headmen". Sold via an advertisement in Record Collector to an unknown person in 1989, these tracks have not been bootlegged. The alleged story here is that Olympic Studios "cleaned house" and threw away a huge stash of master tapes. A number of these were dug out of a dumpster and sold by the finder to the highest bidder - maddening, eh ?

    The tracks that have been circulated as "Mr. Fantasy" outtakes (bootlegged along with some BBC tracks as Perfumed Garden) are about thirty minutes of either true rough mixes (unlikely) or fraudulently 'remixed' tracks - involving recording of only one of the stereo channels to produce a 'different' sound when played in mono from both channels. Either way, it's pretty unenlightening stuff, and a great disappointment for those looking for magical outtakes form Traffic's first LP.

  • "Little Woman" - Dave-Mason-penned tune that SW raved about in the 5/3/69 Rolling Stone article. A version was released as a Dave Mason solo single, but it also seems to have been recorded either at the cottage or in studio sessions for Traffic album. Winwood described the song as "really beautiful, like an old English folk song". This is interesting because it was about this time that Traffic (or more rightly Chris Wood) discovered "John Barleycorn", another old English folk song that became a trademark of the group. Chris called it "The Killing Of The Corn", and saw the tune as a retelling of the crucifixion/resurrection myth. Was "Little Woman" the unknown predecessor to the more famous song ?

    Rolling Stone had a transcription of some of the lyrics:

    "Little Woman walk the Downs
    Frightened Partridge fled the ground,
    The wind against its wings the sound.
    Poacher's arrow strikes her down
    Little Woman stands in tears
    It's darker now, but very clear
    Before her lies the path for home
    The arrowed bird behind her moans"

  • "John Barleycorn" (2:55) out take from Olympic Studios, 2/70. Also quite beautiful, although not in terribly high quality and faded before the ending. There are significant differences from the released version including; long enunciations of the ending of alternate lines ("Then these three men made a solemn v-o-o-o-o-w"), and the prominent inclusion of flute and organ in the mix. Has circulated for years on tapes, now apparently on bootleg.

  • Island Studios, Basing street, London; 4/70. Prior to returning to concert performances after the Blind Faith breakup, Traffic warmed up with a concert before three people (!) - Muff Winwood, Jonathon Cott (Rolling Stone reporter), and an assistant who taped the music. Songs performed include: "Glad/Freedom Rider", "Every Mothers Son", "No Time To Live", "Medicated Goo", "Pearly Queen" and "John Barleycorn". Along with these now well known songs, they also played "Parable Of Ramone" by Richie Havens, and "I've Been Waiting for You" by Neil Young, as well as jamming for a half an hour on the impromptu songs "Body Damage" and "Cavalcade" that relate the story of Jim Capaldi's recent traffic accident. Steve is also reported to have played "R and B and rock figures" on guitar for twenty minutes that sounded like "three guitars tuning into and backing each other". (Rolling Stone 4/28/70)

  • Oxford, England concert (4/70?) - With Eric Clapton as guest guitarist. Unknown as to whether this was even recorded, but is included out of the sheer desire and hope that it was. Here is Clapton's take on it: "I went to see them in Oxford and I got to jam with them. It was just Steve, Jim and Chris. And I liked the sound of it. I didn't think that they were any better with me playing with them, but I felt that they needed another instrument. I still think they do. [then an intriguing kicker] I was hoping after that gig that I would be asked (to join the group). If I had been, I would have joined. Just like that. But I wasn't asked, so it didn't happen." (Rolling Stone 10/15/70) On a similar note Rolling Stone also reported that Richard Thompson was to join Traffic in 1971. Shows how easily rock 'n roll history as we know it could have been changed !

  • Nevertheless movie soundtrack recordings - Titduan, Morocco; 9/70. In what must have been a incredible scene, Traffic went on location to a tiny village at the border of the Sahara desert to record music for a film by Dutch director Antione Coyas. The idea was to "compose tunes and melodies right along with him as he's doing the movie" (Winwood, from Rolling Stone 8/6/70). From what little has been written about the experience, it was a wild time - snake charmers, Afghanistani hashish, local drummers with huge tambourine-like drums going nonstop, prostitutes, and rituals that involved killing of bulls. Winwood's last comment on the matter was: " Yeah, it was a number alright"(Rolling Stone 10/14/71) - there's an understatement ! Not surprisingly, the movie was never completed, and what recordings were made or still exist is unknown.

  • Live - November 70: An unreleased live album recorded at the Fillmore East, New York; November 18 and 19, 1970). Made with the transitional lineup of Winwood/Wood/Capaldi/Grech (Jim Gordon and Anthony Rebop Kwaku Baah were added six months later) this is an album that 'almost was'. (See also Traffic's "Lost" Live album.)

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Other high quality live recordings that have not seen official release include:

  • John Peel BBC session, London; early 1970. This showcases the stunningly formidable powers of the trio version of Traffic (regardless of Clapton's comments) - the atmospheric "No Time To Live" is a highlight, as well as one of the first offerings of the paired "Glad/Freedom Rider". Other live BBC broadcasts include a '72 recording of "Low Spark..."(the song) and a '73 "Shoot Out...".

  • The Grateful Dead's recording of Traffic's appearance at the Hells Angels benefit concert at the Anderson Theater, New York City; 11/23/70. Just days after the November '70 recordings, this would give the best approximation of what that album would have sounded like.

  • Santa Monica Civic Center; 2/1/72 (early show). Yes, this is the show that was released as the Santa Monica video; but the soundtrack was never released on CD. This was again a sort of transitional version of Traffic; having added the Muscle Shoals session men Roger Hawkins and David Hood, but not yet Barry Beckett - the lineup that played on On The Road.

  • Winterland, San Francisco; 1/73. Recorded by Bill Graham, probably on two track stereo machine. Essentially the On The Road show (Hawkins/Hood/Beckett/Rebop), but arguably a better performance. Don't blame Traffic for not issuing this; Bill 'kept it under his hat' and the tape didn't circulate until near the time of his death.(cassette tape)

  • "Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys" sessions. By June 1971 the band was said to be halfway through the next studio album. Dave Mason was reported to have worked "on a couple of sessions", but none of his contributions made it to the LP. (Rolling Stone 6/24/71)

  • "Hard To Find A Friend": an outtake (circa 9/71, Island studios, London) from the Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys album, written and sung by Jim Gordon. This song and at least one more Gordon composition ("Molly") were written and recorded originally (in demo form) during the 5/70 Olympic Studios sessions for Derek and the Domino's second (unreleased) album. Although Rolling Stone(10/14/71) reported some of the recording session for the song, it is unclear whether Traffic's version was ever completed. The instrumental track is listed as : "violin, harpsichord, piano, bass, two acoustic guitars, electric guitar and two voices". While this might sound like a finished track, Gordon is described as punching out the recording light while attempting a lead vocal - so it may have ended there. The Domino's version is rather breezy, much more in a demo form; two acoustic guitars, bass, double tracked vocals, and Gordon's distinctive rolling drum patterns - but the lyrics seem complete, and give the only clue to what the words may be to a unreleased Traffic song:

    "I think it's hard to find the right one, you know it's hard to find a friend - no matter what the road or where it ends, you know it's hard to find a friend.

    "Had a love I thought would last for years, and as time passed....(next two lines inaudible)

    "Looking back I see how much you mean to me, what a fool I was I left you broken hearted. Could it be you're the only one I see, could it be myself I'm foolin' ? "Cause I'm down and waitin' on you - you know I'm down I wish your game was through, you'd better watch your step I'll find somebody new - you know I'm down

    "Think It's hard to find the right one, think it's hard to find a friend - no matter what you've seen or where you've been, you know it's hard to find a friend.

    "Could it be you're the only girl for me , could it be myself I'm foolin' ? Tired of waitin' on you"

    (transcribed from cassette tape)

  • "World In Changes", "Looking Back At You" (Capaldi vocals): Dave Mason solo songs from the farewell performance of the summer '71 version of Traffic with Mason (London 7/71). Unknown as to whether these were recorded, but the released Welcome To The Canteen was said to be only a fraction of the two and one half hour shows done with Mason. It seems highly probable that songs such as the above were recorded either at Fairfield Hall in Croydon (from Canteen show), or other venues. (Rolling Stone 8/5/71)

  • "Keep On Moving": Performed live at Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana; 10/20/71. This vocal performance is sung by Jim Capaldi, and may be a Low Spark outtake, or possibly an impromptu, since it follows an instrumentally supported introduction of the band. Still, it's an interesting track; ten minutes long, with a long 'Low Spark'-like organ solo by Winwood - segueing into ten minutes more of "Gimme Some Lovin'" Exists as an audience recording (cassette tape).

  • "Moonchild Vulcan": A nine minute out take from When The Eagle Flies, written by Chris Wood. Wood's interview with Sounds (9/14/74) indicated that the track would be used for his solo album (uncompleted and never released). In this interview he also refers to:

    1. Two more tracks recorded for the solo album, recorded at Winwood's home studio (therefore the assumption of Steve's involvement, at least)

    2. The fact that When the Eagle Flies was fully recorded (Winwood's home studio) and shelved prior to the spring '74 European tour, in favor of using some of the live tracks recorded during the tour, then overdubbed in the studio (four different shows recorded, three tracks from the Rainbow, London, used on the album). The reason given was that versions of songs released on Shootout At The Fantasy Factory were found in retrospect to not be as fully realized as the versions played on the subsequent tour. With this perspective the extended, exploratory 'Eagle' tracks; "Dream Gerard", "Graveyard People" and even "Walking In The Wind" seem more in context - a melding of concert sensibility with the finishing touches of the studio. How the released versions differ from the original recordings is in the realm of speculation and imagination.

  • Four unreleased instrumental songs were performed during the spring/summer European tour in 1974. These can't be called 'jams", since with some variations, they were played with consistent structure throughout the tour. One of these turned out to be "Moonchild Vulcan"; as to whether any of the others even had titles is unknown. Since the shows were being recorded with an eye to post-tour overdubbing, the other 'instrumentals' may have been intended to have vocals (that were not finished as the tour began), to be added at a later date. Regardless, they represent an interesting and significant body of work that has had no official release. By the time of the following tour of North America (Traffic's last), only the unknown instrumental that opened most of the '74 shows was still being played - the fate of the others remains a mystery. (cassette tapes)

  • NOTE: Not included here are any of the numerous unreleased sessions that members of Traffic participated in with other groups/individuals, such as Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Hopefully, that topic can be examined on another day!

    Thanks to Coloured Rain fanzine for the Sounds reprint and to Jan Inge Sommerseth and Ellie Iglio for assistance, and to Steve Smith for editing advice. -- Dan Ropek

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This page was selected as a "Net Find" by Classic Rock at The Mining Company for the week of September 3, 1997. Congratulations, Dan!

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Page created June 25, 1997.
Last updated May 19, 1999.
Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999 by Dan Ropek.