"Still Another Stop Sign for Traffic"
Rolling Stone, August 5, 1971
A band is playing on Saturday night in a college cafeteria to maybe 700 people. Pretty nice band. Their name is Traffic. There's this guy with carrot hair and a sweet smiley face doing whatever he wants on acoustic and lead guitar. Pretty nice voice. His name is Dave Mason. Dave Mason playing his farewell gig with Traffic (again). What with Stevie Winwood as right and fast on guitar as ever, stretching vocals and pushing changes at the organ, Chris Wood blowing sax and lyric flute, and the addition of Jim Gordan at drums and Rebop on congas and bongos freeing Jim Capaldi to shake and shout and bang his tambourine as Ric Grech burbles away on bass back at the amps, Traffic, with Mason, is maybe the best band in britain this summer.
So naturally, it's breaking up.
"I've tried to get Traffic together," Mason said. "I've tried to work in units and it's obvious, for some reason, they don't work. So I must go and develop me, as myself, and have it accepted for whatever it's accepted for. I hope it won't be Dave Mason 'ex-Traffic.' It would be nice to drop that."
Mason has played with Traffic six times on their brief tour and the split would seem to be a fairly permanent one even though he had hoped his return might be permanent.
As for the gigs they've played, he said, "There was always the feeling of uncertainty when you'd walk on stage." Perhaps. On Saturday night, they were excruciating doing everything they knew. "Forty Thousand Headmen," "Means To An End," "Dear Mr. Fantasy," "John Barleycorn Must Die" (acoustic) and "World In Changes" from Mason's Alone Together. Capaldi sang Mason's "Looking Back At You" and then Dave and Stevie jammed on each other in "Mr. Fantasy." The crowd stood up when they left and made them come back for a long twirling intro that led into "Gimme Some Lovin'." Everyone danced, sweated, screamed and just generally denied the fact that they were in England. "It was a good trip," Mason says, but he is disappointed the band didn't work more. "Ever since Traffic began four years ago," he says, "we've tried to do things fresh. That's why I play with a lot of people. I like the instant thing that comes from starting something, the magic, the little buzz, you know. It's good."
He'll be going to California now to start a band with Ginger Baker on drums and a bass player named Wolfgang Mautz. Nicky Hopkins may be along for keyboards. "What I'd like to do this time is start, and follow through by doing an album, going on the road, just building it. I just want to take my trip to some sort of climax, that's all. Otherwise I get frustrated and go wandering off along the road again."
Mason, who has jammed with just about everyone who can lift a Fender and a pick, thinks that the finest work he has ever done was with Mama Cass at their Fillmore East gigs. "It was like someone else playing."