Traffic: A Fantasy
Our story begins in a magical place… past strawberry fields, by Penny Lane and Arnold Layne, by car and not by aeroplane, yet oddly on an Island. Stevie Winwood, in the service of Sir Spencer Davis, declared one day “I am a man” and off he went to find his fortune in the woods of that happy hamlet, Birmingham, whereupon he fell in with a band of merry men: masters of wind (Chris Wood), of words (Jim Capaldi) and stone (Dave Mason). Their first creation, “Paper Sun,” caught fire in the Summer of ’67 and the band burned brightly, briefly through the year with two more top 10 singles and a top 10 album (Mr. Fantasy to you).
But masons, it seems, were born to be free, and theirs was gone quite frequently. He’d pop in now and then to join them (“You can all join in,” he sang), check how everyone was doing (“Feelin’ alright?,” he’d ask), then leave to make a little record (“Just for you,” he’d coo). And then, one day (in 1969, let’s say), Stevie Winwouldn’t, disbanding Traffic to follow Cream’s Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker blindly, faithfully… for forty minutes anyway.
Blind no more, and after a short stint in the Air Force, Winwood set about making a solo album, when the Island King whispered in his ear: “Wind and words is what you need for your new venture to succeed” and, just like that, Masters Wood and Capaldi found themselves back in Traffic after a brief detour. But here begins a different tale, of cannabis and barleycorn, of empty pages filled and torn, their first progressive fairytale, a remedy for all that ales you. After which the band of three swelled up to six, six sticks the number of percussionists, plus a brother of the Faith who came from a different Family. Well-heeled, sparks flew and praises too; both Barleycorn and Boys rang true as steeples in a storied land. Yet dullness soon betook the band. Shoot Out didn’t score a hit, and Eagles was a piece of sh*t, so once more Traffic went to sleep, to wake no more from dreams sown deep. Except for once when, far from home, a pair did dance long-winded. Mason and Capaldi also toured the world with 40,000 headmen for a time (nineteen ninety-eight and ninety-nine).
There are also albums by Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood hidden in the woods, but that’s a different story…