Traffic logo Live - November 70 - The 'Lost' Live Album

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For an album that apparently was only days from official release (with advertisements, promo posters and album covers printed) the circumstances surrounding this recording were, and to some extent still are, confused and mysterious. Two shows at New York City's Fillmore East (November 18 and 19, 1970) were recorded with the intent of producing Traffic's first fully live album. Very soon after the concert performance both the British and American press announced the intended release. Melody Maker described the (sic) "Philmore East" show as being due in stores by December 11, while Rolling Stone noted that the original venue and location - the Capitol Theater in Port Chester had been changed to the Fillmore, but didn't say why. Each also gave a tentative track listing of:

  1. side
    • Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring
    • Glad
  2. side
    • Pearly Queen
    • Forty Thousand Headmen
    • Can't Find My Way Home
    • an additional as yet unidentified track (later I.D.'ed as Dear Mr. Fantasy)>

Also to be included between tracks were backstage recordings of conversation, greetings to friends, etc. So, with a unique approach to the standard 'live' album, an interesting selection of tracks (note the 'Blind Faith' number and what must have been an extremely long "Glad") and newly added band member Ric Grech supplying sorely needed bass and violin, the album was quickly mixed in New York. All seemed to be well, until...

Melody Maker announced that the release date had been pushed back a month. Soon after came the news that a "lost tape" had again set back the release date. The story of the lost tape varies, but it was said to have somehow disappeared on the flight back to England. Did this really happen ? One source went so far as to say that the band actually destroyed the tapes. Regardless, it seemed that the problems were only beginning - Winwood announced in the press his dissatisfaction with the finished product, and indicated that one half of the album might be new material, recorded in his newly built home studio. Now it's going to be only a 'partly live' album, a la "Last Exit ? Any of this could be an adequate reason for delay, and prolonged indecision often lead to an abandoned project in the rapidly evolving rock 'n' roll world of the early seventies. But the most compelling reason for the non-release of "Live - November 70" may have been something else entirely.

May of 1971 saw the release of the "Winwood" album by Traffic's US distributor; United Artists. This album, essentially a 'greatest hits' package, featured cuts from the various bands Winwood had played in from Spencer Davis on. The cover art only said "Winwood" though (with a head shot of Steve), giving no direct indication of the contributions of the other bands/artists involved. The album was released without Winwood's permission, perhaps without even his knowledge, and as titled, could be misleading to many buyers expecting a Steve Winwood solo LP (one had been said to be in the offing for a couple of years). Although the album met with some early critical acclaim - Rolling Stone saw it as worthy summation of Winwood's career to date - Winwood and Chris Blackwell (Island Records owner - Traffic's UK label) were deeply disturbed by the callous and cheap marketing of Winwood's name, as well as technical details such as the use of "rechanneled (fake) stereo" on the early Spencer Davis tracks. Winwood also indicated that a 'career retrospective' was inappropriate at this stage of the game - he was only 22! Blackwell told the rock press: "We are objecting on moral grounds"; meanwhile Winwood sent telegrams to twenty of the biggest radio stations in the US asking them not to play the album - a novel method of anti-record-promotion!

Meanwhile, Traffic owed one more record to U.A. on the current contact. The owed record was to be "Live - November 70", but by now Blackwell was saying that U.A. "would not get another Traffic LP", and finally, "I don't want any more to do with them unless they take "Winwood" off the market". To emphasize the point Blackwell was able to get a "cease and desist" court order aimed at U.A. Apparently, the pressure worked - the album was withdrawn within a month.

By that time the band was working on sessions for "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys", and the incomplete live album was no longer representative of the group (new members: Rebop Kwaku Baah, Jim Gordon and temporarily, Dave Mason). Thus, the contractually owed album became "Welcome To The Canteen", hastily recorded at a benefit concert for Oz magazine during the summer (July) of 1971 with the new Traffic lineup.

A plausible interpretation as to why "...Canteen" was offered to U.A., is that Winwood/Blackwell knew that "Low Spark..." was going to be a quality product and possibly a big hit (which it was), and they wanted to deny that to U.A. Along that same line, another question might be raised as to why the concert was also aired soon after recording as an FM broadcast - wide open to being taped by fans and bootlegged. A means to undercut sales by U.A. ? Regardless, the whole affair seemed to be a prolonged exercise in 'tit for tat'.

Who got the last word in the matter ? Well, U.A. may have indeed gotten in the final slap - true to their modus operandi of inaccurate album attributions (and exactly inverse to the "Winwood" album) , "Welcome To The Canteen" was released lacking the name "Traffic" anywhere on the cover in favor of naming all the individual group members.


Epilogue

In retrospect would the 11/70 show have been a better live album ? Well, who can say ? No known copy of the album has been heard by collectors. One thing that is certain is that it would have been a 'leaner' form of Traffic, and perhaps a 'meaner' Traffic as well. A concert recorded by the Grateful Dead's soundman just days after the Fillmore gig show (Anderson Theater, New York City, 11/23/70) shows a confident and tight group. With Ric Grech aboard both Winwood and Wood were freed from bass playing, and the group combined some of the best elements of exploration and structure. In contrast, the much touted return of Dave Mason on "...Canteen" seems to have been a mixed blessing; he added little of note to most of the standard Traffic songs, and of his own songs, "Sad and Deep As You" seemed weak next to "40,000 Headmen" - leaving only "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave" as a complete success. Also, the music seems only average by Traffic standards , with sloppy moments noticeable in both "Dear Mr. Fantasy", and "Gimme Some Lovin". In reality though, we have nothing to directly compare to "Welcome To The Canteen", since "Live - November 70" remains, perhaps forever, "lost".

-- Dan Ropek

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Bobbie

I thank Dan for allowing me to include his article on this site.
Page created August 27, 1997.
Last updated March 15, 1998.
Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999 by Dan Ropek.