"Traffic Get Their Heads Together in the Country", Q Magazine (date unknown)
This is from the Eyewitness Series:
Rosie Roper (villager): "I was 15 when Traffic arrived in the village. Everybody was very worried about it at first. I worked in the village shop where they came every day to collect their letters. They were very strange-looking. Chris Wood had these high-heeled boots painted purple. We'd never seen anything like it. My dad reckoned they were a sweaty, smelly lot, but I got such a crush on Chris. Whenever I saw them coming, I'd take off my glasses and hide them under the counter. My dad warned me to keep away from them because of the sex and drugs and that."
Chris Welch (journalist): "It was the first 'getting our heads together in the country' cottage. It was on Sheepcott Farm, which belonged to a wealthy landowner and socialite, William Piggott-Brown, who part-owned Island Records with Chris Blackwell. He rented them this cottage with roses rounf the door for 5 pounds a week."
Linda Eastman (photographer, now Linda McCartney): "I came to England in 1967 to do a book of rock photographs and I was a huge Winwood fan so I wanted to do him. He had left The Spencer Davis Group and moved to the cottage, but Traffic hadn't been publicly announced yet, so I got the opportunity of doing their first pictures. It was a cold but beautiful day, and all the trees were blooming, so I did the pictures outside, starting with them running towards me down the slope behind the cottage."
Timothy White (journalist): "Mr Fantasy was the first album they worked on there, and the song 'House for Everyone' is about the cottage. You came upon a deeply-rutted chalk track, and hidden in the centre of a copse of hazelnut and pine trees was a two-storey wisteria-draped, white brick dwelling with a slate roof and a squat red chimney."
David Dalton (journalist): "There were beehives, and the ground in front of the cottage was strewn with boxes, bags of cement, a brass bedstead, newspapers, an old cartwheel, cans of paint and a big psychotic-looking dog leashed to the fence."
Chris Welch: "Including the kitchen, there were three rooms downstairs and four bedrooms upstairs. They had oriental rugs on the floor but otherwise it was quite bare, almost spartan, like a camp rather than a home. A typical all-male scene."
Linda Eastman: "They seemed very happy there. In the evening, after we'd done the pictures, they played in the front room, jamming on the Tim Rose song 'Morning Dew'. I had taken The Beatles' Sgt Pepper down there, because it had just come out, and it stunned them a bit, because a lot of what they were planning to do, The Beatles had done first. I also took The Doors' first album with me, and I know Jim Capaldi got very turned on to Jim Morrison because of that."
Muff Winwood (member of The Spencer Davis Group and Steve Winwood's brother): "The whole idea was to be very low profile and inconspicuous but one Sunday Steve invited me up because he'd got into riding. He had this big yellow horse, exactly like Trigger, with no saddle, just a bridle. I watched him leap up on to its back, full of confidence, but it took off like a rocket, with Steve hanging on for dear life. Next thing, it does a flick and throws Steve off. So he's on the ground moaning in agony, and it runs out into the main road, causing a car to skid and a lorry to run into the back of the car. Me and Capaldi went running into the road trying to stop this mad horse. It was pandemonium. That's how inconspicuous it was."
Rosie Roper: "It was creepy. My dad had lived in the cottage years before and the story was that a young man had hanged himself by the well and you could still hear the ghost of his dog howling for him. The band said there was a spirit that moved things around. It never hurt anybody, it was just mischievous. One day, Chris Wood and I sat there all afternoon waiting for it to do something, but it never did."
David Dalton: "I went to write about them for Rolling Stone, and I was struck right away by how wonderfully naïve and optimistic Steve was. He really made me feel welcome. Chris, by contrast, was very sharp-tongued. At first, I wished he's just shut up. Then I began to realize he was very amusing. For example, in the local pub, The Boot, the villagers would be making comments about the boys looking like girls, and Chris would be the one to say, Yes folks, the girls are here again. He voiced what the others wouldn't have the nerve to say and that released the tension. He was our court jester."
Rosie Roper: "One day, Chris came into the shop and said how he really missed home-made apple pie. So me and my sister Marion made two apple pies and took them up to the cottage that Sunday. The next day they came back with the plates and said it had been delicious. I went all red in the face."
Mike Kellie (Spooky Tooth): "We were living on a farm just a few miles away, so we drove over quite regularly. It became a real gathering place. Trevor Burton from The Move had grown sick of being a 'pop' star and wanted to make more 'serious' music, so he moved up to the cottage and virtually lived there as well."
Trevor Burton (The Move): "One person who seemed to hate them was Piggott-Brown's game-keeper. They had a running war with him. The worst was when he put a log across the drive with nails sticking out of it to burst the tyres on their Jeep."
Mike Kellie: "We'd play through the night and I'd eventually nod off, but Steve never seemed to sleep. He and I grew up together in Birmingham, and we still meet, and in all that time I have never seen him asleep. I'd wake up at 5am in front of a roaring fire with bodies sleeping all around me, and I'd look over and Steve would be wide awake."
Trevor Burton: "We were always jamming. There was a sort of stone patio on the front of the cottage and if the weather was good, we'd play out there. Any musicians who were around would join in. Clapton came by several times and played with us. A lot of Traffic's early songs came out of those jams."
Mike Kellie: "The standard of playing in those jams was fantastic. People just seemed to turn up, like Ritchie Furay and Steve Stills from Buffalo Springfield. We didn't really play songs, it was just pure improvised music making, and out of that music came ideas for songs."
David Dalton: "A lot of songs for the first album were written and demoed in the cottage, or were at least inspired by the experiences of being there. 'Berkshire Poppies' is an obvious one. Dave Mason's song 'Little Woman' was inspired by a poacher who hunted near the cottage, using a bow and arrow. The song is a sort of fantasy about the poacher shooting a girl with his bow."
John Glover: "They would play literally all night, then in the early hours of the morning, they'd wander off on to the downs. A lot of lyrics got written lying in the grass. Mr Fantasy was actually an Alsatian owned by Albert Eton, the roadie who lived at the cottage with them. The Dealer is about Chris Blackwell, who lived in a bungalow about half a mile away."
Muff Winwood: "The record producer Guy Stevens once turned up at 3am to collect some bongos he'd left behind. He just assumed everybody would be still up and about. As it happened, we'd all gone off somewhere, so Guy crawled in through a window, found his bongos and was heading off down the track when the local bobby arrests him for burglary. Chris Blackwell had to go down to Wallingford the next day to bail him out."
Tony Vass (estate maintenance officer): "I was up at the cottage painting the outside for several days. There were little scraps of paper lying about with words on them, very strange words, as I thought, about an elephant's eye and bubblegum trees and such. And they were constantly playing this one song, which is where I picked the tune up, and I'd be humming it as I went home because it was very catchy. Weeks later, of course, it came on Top Of The Pops, and it was 'Hole In My Shoe'."
John Glover: "I used to deliver supplies, but it was usually afternoon before they'd get out of bed, so I wouldn't arrive until lunch-time. I'd bring everything from cash to guitar strings to bread and milk, and of course, lots of apple yogurt."
Rosie Roper: "If there was any drugs around, I never saw it. One day I was offered a cigarette and, quick as a flash, James Capaldi dives into his pocket and insists I have one of his. I always wondered why that was ..."
John Glover: "We used to enter the dope into the petty cash receipts book as apple yogurt. The accountant found that very amusing."
Rosie Roper: "James took care of us girls, always making sure we didn't get into mischief. He would send us away before it got dark, and always got me to phone my dad and tell him where I was. It was like brothers and sisters. One nigh when they were going out, I washed Chris' hair for him and I noticed he was going bald on top. I said he needed hair restorer like the old men use and he just laughed."
David Dalton: "They didn't seem very organized about food. I recall one time there was nothing to ea except peanut butter and bread. There was a bowl of peaches and cream in the fridge but it had dead moths and gnats in it."
Rosie Roper: "The place was always a mess. They tried to make some stew once and ended up burning all the saucepans. James Capaldi rang me up and asked how to get all this burnt stuff off the pans. I went up there, boiled up some rhubarb in the pan and left it for 24 hours. My granny taught me that and it works. The band were amazed."
David Dalton: "Steve was quite fearful of the way Chris drove the Jeep down the track, because it was very rutted. He was a reckless driver, and Steve would try and get him to be more careful."
Trevor Burton: One night we were going off to a party at Piggott-Brown's. I'd dropped a tab and I was standing on the back mudguard of the Jeep. The driver didn't know I was there, and he was showing off to a couple of birds, so he suddenly shot forwards, turned right very sharply and stopped. Unfortunately I didn't. I hit the ground at about 50 miles an hour, rolled over and dislocated my shoulder."
Rosie Roper: "I remember they all went black-berrying one day. You'd see them flying through the village in their cars and they'd toot and wave, which always impressed my girlfriends."
David Dalton: "It really was such a magical place. One night, Eric Burdon's wife Angie arrived with a couple of girls just as the evening was getting started. The band set up their gear on the patio. The front of the cottage became a screen for a light show with two sets of six different coloured lights, a bubble screen, a liquid light show and the only overhead projector in England, which they'd got from Zoot Money's band. Steve, Chris, and Dave were jamming with the sound booming out across the valley. This went on until five in the morning when they stopped for sandwiches, bowls of Weetabix and a smoke while we listened to the dawn chorus."
-- Johnny Black