Traffic was an English rock band fronted by singer–keyboardist Steve Winwood. They appeared with the 1967 psychedelic album Mr. Fantasy and the hits “Paper Sun,” “Hole In My Shoe,” and “Coloured Rain.” Songwriter Dave Mason, an on-off early member, contributed four songs to their 1968 second album Traffic, including the much-covered “Feeling Alright?” In 1969, Winwood dissolved the band for a brief spell as frontman of the supergroup Blind Faith but revamped Traffic for the 1970 Island release John Barleycorn Must Die.

Traffic is noted for its extended jams, multi-instrumental musicianship, and blend of idioms (jazz, rock, soul, folk). The three mainstays of their original run are Winwood, reedist Chris Wood, and drummer–percussionist Jim Capaldi. They grew to a sextet on two 1971–73 studio albums (The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory) and had seventh members on the concurrent live albums Welcome to the Canteen and On the Road.

Short-term participants include ex-Family bassist Ric Grech, Ghanaian percussionist Anthony Reebop Kwaku Baah, and members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. In 1974, Traffic restored its four-piece configuration with Jamaican bassist Rosko Gee on When the Eagle Flies.

Members: Steve Winwood (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Jim Capaldi (drums, percussion, vocals), Chris Wood (flute, saxophone, 1967-74), Dave Mason (guitar, vocals, 1967, 1968, 1971), Rick Grech (bass, 1970-72), Jim Gordon (drums, 1971-72), Anthony Reebop Kwaku Baah (percussion, 1971-74), Roger Hawkins (drums, 1972-73), David Hood (bass, 1972-73), Barry Beckett (keyboards, 1973), Rosko Gee (bass, 1974)


Steve Winwood formed Traffic upon his April 1967 exit from R&B–beatsters the Spencer Davis Group, which he joined at age 15 and fronted on their two recent transatlantic hits, “Gimme Some Lovin'” (October 1966) and “I’m a Man” (January 1967).

Reedist Chris Wood was an early, pre-record member of Brummie heavyweights Locomotive. Guitarist Dave Mason and drummer Jim Capaldi hailed from West Midlands beatsters The Hellions, which evolved into Deep Feeling (sans Mason).

Winwood named the new band Traffic as they waited to cross the street to their Dorchester rehearsal space. They signed to Island Records, a growing soul- and ska-oriented label that was branching into the British rock underground.


In their first year, Traffic released three standalone singles in advance of their debut album.

“Paper Sun”

On May 19, 1967, Traffic released their first single, “Paper Sun,” a psychedelic Winwood–Capaldi song backed with the group-written “Giving to You.”

Traffic mimed “Paper Sun” on the June 15 broadcast of the BBC music program Top of the Pops, which aired the song amid current hits by Cream (“Strange Brew”), The Hollies (“Carrie-Anne”), Petula Clark (“Don’t Sleep In the Subway”), Procol Harum (“A Whiter Shade of Pale”), and The Supremes (“The Happening”).

Abroad, “Paper Sun” appeared on Fontana (France, Germany, Portugal), Ricordi International (Italy), and Philips (Japan). Most European pressings appeared in unique picture sleeves with group shots, psychedelic typography, and the Traffic symbol: a circular formation of four u-shaped arrows. Chris Wood designed the symbol as a variation of the Celtic fiery wheel of fortune.

“Hole in My Shoe” reached No. 5 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 4 in Canada.

“Hole in My Shoe”

On August 25, 1967, Traffic released their second single, “Hole in My Shoe,” a Mason composition backed with “Smiling Phases,” written by the other three.

Traffic mimed “Hole in My Shoe” on the September 14 broadcast of TotP, which thrice reaired the song amid competing hits by Bee Gees (“Massachusetts”), The Box Tops (“The Letter”), Cliff Richard (“The Day I Met Marie”), The Foundations (“Baby Now That I’ve Found You”), The Herd (“From the Underworld”), The Move (“Flowers In the Rain”), Small Faces (“Itchycoo Park”), and Diana Ross & The Supremes (“Reflections”).

“Hole in My Shoe” reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 4 in Canada.

Traffic played their first concert on September 12 at the Konserthuset in Stockholm, Sweden. Their set (roughly 41 minutes at the stage) featured both sides of their two singles and the upcoming b-side “Coloured Rain,” plus the title-track to their album in-progress and the Anthony Newley cover “Feelin’ Good.”

On September 24, Traffic played their furst UK show at London’s Saville Theatre. The next day, they taped six songs (including the newly written “A House For Everyone”) for the October 1 broadcast of the BBC Radio One program Top Gear.

Traffic embarked on an eleven-date UK tour (Oct. 28 — Nov. 10), playing two shows per night as part of a multi-act package with The Who, The Herd, The Tremeloes, Marmalade, and compere Ray Cameron.

“Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”

On November 24, 1967, Traffic released their third single, “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush,” a group-written number backed with “Coloured Rain,” an organ-laden soul ballad by Winwood, Wood, and Capaldi. This single appeared shortly before their debut album.

“Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” is the theme to a namesake 1968 British comedy about a young man on a mission to lose his virginity in Swinging London. It reappeared on the movie’s soundtrack.

Traffic mimed the song on TotP, which twice aired it during the holiday season amid hits by The Beatles (“Hello Goodbye”). The Dave Clark Five (“Everybody Knows”), Dave Davies (“Susannah’s Still Alive”), Donovan (“There Is a Mountain”), Simon Dupree & the Big Sound (“Kites”), and The Who (“I Can See for Miles”).

Mr. Fantasy

Traffic released their debut album, Mr. Fantasy, in December 1967 on Island. It features “Coloured Rain” and three additional Windwood–Capaldi–Wood co-writes: “Heaven Is In Your Mind,”Berkshire Poppies,” and “Dear Mr Fantasy.” Capaldi lone-wrote “Dealer” and partnered with Winwood on “No Face, No Name and No Number.” Mason, who typically wrote and arranged numbers separately, contributed “House for Everyone,” “Utterly Simple,” and “Hope I Never Find Me There.” The closing track, “Giving to You,” is the album’s one full-group composition.

1. “Heaven Is in Your Mind” (4:16)
2. “Berkshire Poppies” (2:55)
3. “House for Everyone” (2:05)
4. “No Face, No Name and No Number” (3:35)
5. “Dear Mr. Fantasy” (5:44)
6. “Dealer” (3:34)
7. “Utterly Simple” (3:16)
8. “Coloured Rain” (2:43)
9. “Hope I Never Find Me There” (2:12)
10. “Giving to You” (4:20)

Mr. Fantasy was produced by American Jimmy Miller, a rising figure with credits on the two Spencer Davis Group hits, plus singles by The V.I.P.’s (the precursor to Spooky Tooth) and the recent Island signings Nirvana and Chords Five (aka The Smoke). Sessions took place at Olympic Studios in Barnes, West London. The engineer, Eddie Kramer, worked on recent jazz recordings by the Mike Westbrook Concert Band and Spontaneous Music Ensemble.

Traffic recorded the album and its preceding singles between April and November 1967, concurrent with Olympic sessions by The Rolling Stones (Their Satanic Majesties Request) and the Jimi Hendrix Experience (Axis: Bold as Love). Mason plays Mellotron (Mk II), sitar, tambura (an Indian string instrument), and shakkai (a West African gourd percussion), in addition to guitar and bass. Winwood handles harpsichord, guitar, and bass in addition to organ and vocals.

Mr. Fantasy sports a red-tinted gatefold photo of the band in hippie regalia, seated lotus style on a Persian carpet beside a shaman (playing acoustic guitar) next to a fireplace. Photographer John Benton-Harris captured the image for CCS Advertising Associates Ltd., the design firm behind 1967/68 album visuals for Nirvana (All of Us), John Martyn, and Tramline. Wood’s Celtic wheel symbol appears to the left of the band name.

Mr. Fantasy was issued differently in each market. In Sweden, the album appeared on Island as Coloured Rain with “Paper Sun,” “Smiling Phases,” and “Hole In My Shoe,” in lieu of “Heaven Is In Your Mind,” “Utterly Simple,” and “Hope I Never Find Me There.” This version sports a black-framed photo of Traffic performing on a hilltop. The Celtic wheel appears enlarged with green in-lines.

In Germany, the album appeared on Fontana as Hole In My Shoe with a photo of the group standing by a door-front with psychedelic framework. In Italy, the album appeared on Ricordi International as Traffic with a white-framed picture of the group seated lotus style. In Canada, the album appeared on Island and Stone Records as Reaping with the group situated on a big red tilling machine. All three pressings use the Swedish track sequence.

In France, Fontana released the album as Traffic Avec Stevie Winwood with a variation of the door-front photo, surrounded with bubble fonts (purple nameplate with green Celtic wheel) and a psychedelic multi-hued framework. This version contains eleven tracks, adding the recent a-side “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” to the Swedish tracklist.

In Australia and New Zealand, Festival Records issued the album as Traffic with the same tracklist as the UK Mr. Fantasy and the original cover zoomed on the shaman under a blurred font.

Traffic marked the album’s UK appearance with a set at the All Night Christmas Dream Party, a December 22–23 event (Friday 8:00 pm – Saturday 6:00 am) at the Olympia Exhibition Center in West Kensignton. The ten-hour event featured sets by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Burdon & the Animals, The Move, Paper Blitz Tissue, Pink Floyd (their final show with Syd Barrett), Soft Machine, Tomorrow, and Graham Bond. Traffic weren’t on the bill but appeared as a fill-in for The Who.

Traffic also cut a second BBC Studio one session for the December 24 broadcast of Top Gear, on which they played “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” and the Mr. Fantasy songs “Heaven Is In Your Mind,” “No Face, No Name, No Number,” “Dealer,” and “Hope I Never Find Me There.”


Mason left Traffic shortly after the UK release of Mr. Fantasy. They played their first documented show as a trio on January 30, 1968, at London’s prestigious Marquee Club with support by Island label-mates Spooky Tooth, who’d just adopted that name (with the addition of American Gary Wright) after a brief spell as Art.

On February 23, 1968, Island lifted “No Face, No Name and No Number” as the first Mr. Fantasy a-side, backed with “Roamin’ Thru’ the Gloamin’ with 40,000 Headmen,” a new Capaldi number.

The same day as “No Face,” Island released Dave Mason’s debut solo single: “Just for You,” an uptempo acoustic strummalong (in F) with flute, organ, Mellotron, and tablas played by Traffic. For the b-side, “Little Woman,” Mason employed Family, who had him produce their 1968 debut album Music In a Doll’s House.

That month, Traffic played the Middle Earth in Covent Garden (2/16) and taped their third Top Gear segment, performing “No Face,” “40,000 Headmen,” “Mr. Fantasy,” “Heaven Is In Your Mind,” and the Bobby Bland cover “Blind Man” (broadcast March 3).

In the US, Mr. Fantasy first appeared in March 1968 on United Artists as Heaven Is In Your Mind, repressed the following month as Mr. Fantasy. Despite Mason’s presence on the album, both American pressings present Traffic with their current trio lineup, seated lotus style against an olive green backdrop (front) and standing apart on a park trail (back). The US tracklist features twelve songs, including the three singles sides added to European pressings and retaining “Heaven Is In Your Mind.”

Most tracks on the US Mr. Fantasy are linked by a short snippet of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.” The song itself appears on the 1968 soundtrack to the corresponding movie with two additional Traffic songs: a re-recorded “Utterly Simple” and the new group original “Am I What I Was or Am I What I Am,” an exclusive track. The soundtrack also features eight songs by Winwood’s prior band, the Spencer Davis Group, which continued with singer–organist Eddie Hardin.

UA’s release of Mr. Fantasy coincided with Traffic’s first US tour, which commenced in San Francisco with shows at the Fillmore West Auditorium and the Winterland Ballroom, supported by HP Lovecraft and Blue Cheer (March 14–16). Traffic, in turn, supported Moby Grape at both venues (3/21–23) along with Spirit and The Lemon Pipers.

In South California, Traffic supported Quicksilver Messenger Service (3/29–30: Shrine Exposition Hall, LA) and played a triple-bill with Steppenwolf and the Electric Flag (April 6: Earl Warren Showgrounds, Santa Barbara). Traffic played four straight nights and at the famed Whisky-A-Go-Go in West Hollywood (4/7–11), then headed East for shows with a latter-day Yardbirds (4/25: Palace Theater, Cleveland) and Iron Butterfly (4/26–27: Fillmore East, NYC).

In Europe, Traffic played Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens but cancelled their appearance at Primo Festival Internazionale In Europa Di Musica Pop, a four-day event (May 4–7) at Roma’s Palazzo dello Sport with sets by The Association, Brian Auger & Trinity (with Julie Driscoll), The Byrds, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, Donovan, Fairport Convention, Family, I Giganti, Grapefruit, The Move, The Nice, Pink Floyd, and Ten Years After. (Other acts that cancelled included Blossom Toes and Soft Machine.)

Back in London, Traffic headlined a second time at the Marquee (5/14), supported by Irish blues-rockers Taste. As work began on their second album, Traffic lured Mason back into the fold.

On June 22, Traffic partook in the “First Holiness Kitschgarden for the Liberation of Love and Peace in Colours,” a two-day event at the Houtrusthallen in The Hague, Netherlands, with sets by Cream, Groep 1850, The Moody Blues, The Move, Pink Floyd, and Small Faces. Two days later, Traffic performed four songs from their upcoming album — “You Can All Join In,” “Feelin’ Alright,” “Pearly Queen,” “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring?” — at BBC Studio One for the June 30 broadcast of Top Gear.

On July 17, Traffic played the South Parade Pier in Southport, supported by Family, Spooky Tooth, and Top Gear D.J. John Peel. On the weekend of July 27–28, they headlined a free concert event at Hyde Park, which also featured The Action, Juniors Eyes, The Nice, and The Pretty Things.

On August 31, Traffic appeared at the Eston Recreation Ground in Middlesbrough for Tees Pop ’68, a twelve-hour event (noon–midnight) compered by Long John Baldry with sets by the Alan Bown Set, The Amboy Dukes, Ben E. King, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Joe Cocker, and Tramline.

Meanwhile, “Coloured Rain” inspired 1968 covers by Al Kooper, Eric Burdon & The Animals, and New York psychsters The Hassles (with a young Billy Joel).

“Feeling Alright?”

In September 1968, Traffic released their fifth UK single, the Mason number “Feeling Alright?” backed with the Capaldi–Winwood song “Withering Tree.”

In France, Fontana substituted the a-side with “You Can All Join In,” another Mason song from the upcoming Traffic album; also backed with “Withering Tree,” an exclusive track for the time being.

On Saturday, September 3, Traffic played the Marquee with support by East of Eden. Next, they headed stateside for a Sept. 21–22 engagement at New York’s Fillmore East. That fall, Traffic did three-nighters in Cleveland (Oct. 29–31, La Cave) and Manhattan (Nov. 5–7: The Scene). As the release of their second album loomed, Mason left Traffic a second time.

Meanwhile, Winwood and Wood contributed to the Electric Ladyland, the October 1968 double-album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Steve plays Hammond organ on the lengthy rocker “Voodoo Chile.” Chris plays flute on “1983….(A Merman I Should Turn to Be). 


Traffic released their self-titled second album in November 1968 on Island (UK, Europe) and United Artists (US). It includes “Feelin’ Alright?” and the alternate a-side “You Can All Join In,” plus two additional Mason songs: “Don’t Be Sad” and “Cryin’ to Be Heard.” In a rare collaborative act, he co-wrote “Vagabond Virgin” with Capaldi but doesn’t play on the album’s balance of Capaldi–Winwood numbers: “Pearly Queen,” “No Time to Live,” “Means to an End,” and the earlier b-side “Roamin’ Thru’ the Gloamin’ with 40,000 Headmen” (credited on the Island “No Face…” single as a Capaldi lone-write). Wood helped the pair write “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring.”

1. “You Can All Join In” (3:34)
2. “Pearly Queen” (4:20)
3. “Don’t Be Sad” (3:24)
4. “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring” (3:11)
5. “Feelin’ Alright?” (4:16)
6. “Vagabond Virgin” (5:21)
7. “Roamin’ Thru’ the Gloamin’ with 40,000 Headmen” (3:15)
8. “Cryin’ to Be Heard” (5:14)
9. “No Time to Live” (5:10)
10. “Means to an End” (2:39)

Apart from the January session for “40,000 Headmen,” Traffic recorded the album in May 1968 in London (Studio Olympic) and New York (Record Plant) with Jimmy Miller, who produced Traffic amid albums by the Rolling Stones (Beggar’s Banquet) and Spooky Tooth (It’s All About…). Traffic credits four engineers: Record Plant soundman Eddie Kramer (Graffiti, Hendrix, Blue Cheer, Beacon Street Union) and Olympic engineers Glyn Johns (Children of the Future, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake), Brian Humphries (Story of Simon Simopath, 2 Ozs. of Plastic), and Smoke soundman Terry Brown, a later heavyweight in the Canadian rock industry (Rain, Rush, Wanka, Max Webster). The Record Plant sessions coincided with Electric Ladyland, hence Winwood and Wood’s involvement.

Unlike Mr. Fantasy, all versions of Traffic use the same tracklist and cover art. The album is housed in a gatefold with a posed cover shot by veteran photographer Gered Mankowitz (Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithfull). On Traffic, Winwood (red pants) reclines before a closely seated Mason (cowboy hat), Capaldi (pink socks), and Wood, who points to the Celtic wheel. UA copies contain a ten-page gatefold booklet with monochrome outdoor pics by Island’s new in-house photographer Richard Polak. Miller wrote the album’s liner notes. Mankowitz also has visual credits on 1968 albums by The Nice, PP Arnold, Spooky Tooth, and Giles Giles & Fripp.

Traffic reached No. 9 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 17 on the Billboard 200.

“Medicated Goo”

On December 6, 1968, Traffic released “Medicated Goo,” a Winwood number backed with the group-written “Shanghai Noodle Factory.” Miller co-wrote the lyrics to both songs. “Shanghai” also co-credits American writer–producer Larry Fallon, who arranged 1968–69 recordings by Jimmy Cliff, Nico, The Rolling Stones (“Gimme Shelter”), and Van Morrison (Astral Weeks).


Winwood, seeking new pastures, dissolved Traffic shortly into the new year. His decision came shortly after the second departure of Mason, who co-wrote and played on three songs — “Rough Dried Woman,” “Sun Down Lady,” “Hello Little Girl,” and the self-referential “Dr. Mason” — on the 1969 Capitol double-album Word of Mouth by Merryweather, the namesake band of Canadian bassist–singer Neil Merryweather. Mason briefly teamed with Capaldi, Wood, and organist Wynder K. Frog in Wooden Frog, which cut a four-song BBC Top Gear session (Feb. 25, 1969; broadcast March 2) but collapsed with no proper recordings.

Winwood plays organ on two songs — covers of Bob Dylan (“I Shall Be Released”) and Honeybus (“Do I Still Figure In Your Life?”) — on With a Little Help From My Friends, the 1969 debut album by Joe Cocker; recorded in tandem with Traffic in the spring of 1968 at Olympic. The album opens with Mason’s “Feeling Alight,” which also inspired 1969–70 covers by Three Dog Night, 5th Dimension, David Ruffin, Lou Rawls, Lulu, Mongo Santamaria, Rare Earth, and Rochester soul-popsters Rustix. (Cocker’s version charted twice on the US Billboard Hot 100.) Meanwhile, Blood Sweat & Tears cut an agressive version of “Smiling Phases” on their self-titled second album

In early 1969, Winwood reconnected with onetime Yardbirds and Bluesbreakers guitarist Eric Clapton, fresh off a thirty-month stint in Cream. The two first collaborated in early 1966 in Powerhouse, a studio supergroup with Paul Jones and Jack Bruce that cut three songs for the Elektra compilation What’s Shakin’. Now freed from pre-existing band obligations, they formed Blind Faith with Cream drummer Ginger Baker and Family bassist Ric Grech. In August, they released a self-titled album with three Winwood numbers: “Had to Cry Today,” “Sea of Joy,” and the popular ballad “Can’t Find My Way Home.” After a brief stateside tour with Delaney & Bonnie, Blind Faith dissolved over creative differences.

Wood plays flute on one song (“All Night Drinker”) on Fat Mattress, the eponymous debut by the folk-rock band formed by guitarist Noel Redding while he still served as the bassist in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Elsewhere, Wood and Capaldi (along with Clapton, Bruce, and Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell) partook in sessions for Fiends & Angels, the 1969 debut album by American singer Martha Velez. Meanwhile, all of Traffic appears on Thinking Back, the Mason-produced singular album by (ex-Deep Feeling) guitarist–singer Gordon Jackson.

Last Exit

In May 1969, Island issued Last Exit, a collection of Traffic outtakes and non-album tracks from their initial formation. Side one contains both sides of the “Medicated Goo” single and the 1968 b-side “Withering Tree,” plus the Traffic-backed Mason solo track “Just for You” and the instrumental oddity “Something’s Got a Hold of My Toe,” an outtake from the Traffic sessions co-credited to Mason, Winwood, and Miller. Mason only appears on the latter two tracks. Side two contains two elongated setlist covers, “Feelin’ Good” and “Blind Man,” from Traffic’s March 14, 1968, concert at the Fillmore West Auditorium.

3. “Something’s Got a Hold of My Toe” (2:14)
6. “Feelin’ Good” (10:40)
7. “Blind Man” (7:06)

UK copies appeared in a gatefold sleeve with a collage of live and outdoor images (front) and a grainy, barren downshot of Winwood and Wood standing far apart. The back cover shows a closeup of Winwood chewing with the Celtic wheel (green) in two pieces, perhaps to symbolize the band’s split. In the US, United Artists issued Last Exit appeared in a black single sleeve where the outlines of the Celtic wheel partially reveal a fish-eye group photo. This version has the same chewing back-cover and broken Celtic wheel (red).


On January 15, 1970, Winwood and Wood reunited through their mutual involvement in the post-Blind Faith ensember Ginger Baker’s Air Force, which recorded live debut album that night at London’s Royal Albert Hall with participation by Grech and onetime Moodies guitarist–singer Denny Laine. Winwood commenced work on a solo album under the working title Mad Shadows.

Elswwehere, Capaldi partook in the sessions for Alone Together, the 1970 debut solo album by Dave Mason, who remained in Traffic’s orbit amid session work with folkie Bruce Murdoch and R&B singer Bobby Lester. Mason, along with Clapton, toured with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends and appears on their 1970 release On Tour. The same group of players appears on the triple-album All Things Must Pass, the first post-Beatles album by George Harrison. A spinoff from these projects, Derek & the Dominos, briefly involved Mason, who left after their first session.

Meanwhile, Winwood laid tracks for two songs (“Stranger to Himself,” “Every Mother’s Son”) with soundman Guy Stevens, who produced the 1967 pre-Spooky Tooth album Supernatural Fairy Tales and recently worked with Mighty Baby and Free. Though concieved as a self-performed solo album, Winwood yearned for like-minded musical input, so he invited Capaldi and Wood. The project became a full-scale Traffic reunion with the album retitled after an folk standard about John Barleycorn, the personification of barley, the source of alchohol. (Stevens passed the title Mad Shadows onto his main client, Mott the Hoople, who used it for their 1970 second album.)

Tour, Festivals

On April 18, 1970, the reformed trio embarked on six weeks of UK shows, first at Birmingham’s Mothers club with openers Bronco (fronted by Jess Roden). They partook in Pop Proms ’70, a week-long event at London’s Roundhouse with sets by Elton John, Fairport Convention, Fleetwood Mac, Fotheringay, Hookfoot, Jody Grind, Juicy Lucy, Toe Fat, and Tyrannosaurus Rex. Traffic headlined Day 1 (Monday the 20th), supported by Bronco, Mott, and brass-rockers If. They closed the month with a set at the BBC’s Paris Cinema for Radio One’s In Concert series (May 10 broadcast). 

On May 24, Traffic played the Hollywood Rock Festival, a two-day event at Newcastle Under Lyme with sets by Black Sabbath, Colosseum, Demon Fuzz, and the James Gang. Traffic headlined the evening of Day 2 (Sunday), supported by Quintessence, Titus Groan, and Trader Horne. Traffic played four subsequent shows with If, who released their first two albums in 1970. On the 30th, they did a triple-bill at Portsmouth’s Guild Hall with Free, then on the brink of their Fire and Water breakthrough.

Traffic employed Grech as a live fourth member and commenced a month-long US tour on June 4 at SUNY Gymnasium in Stony Brook, NY, supported by Mott. The ensuing week included shows with Third Power (6/6: Eastown Theater, Detroit) and three nights with Fairport (June 7–9) at the Boston Tea Party and Philly’s Electric Factory.

On June 13, Traffic appeared at Braves Stadium in Atlanta for the Cosmic Carnival, a fourteen-hour event (10:00 am – midnight) with sets by the Allman Brothers, It’s a Beautiful Day, Mountain, Third Rail, and Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention. That same day, Traffic flew north for an 8:25 pm set at the Cincinnati Summer Pop Festival, which also featured Alice Cooper, Bloodrock, Damnation of Adam Blessing, Michael Quatro, Savage Grace, The Stooges, and Zephyr. Portions of the event — marked by an infamous stage-dive by Iggy Pop — were nationally broadcast and FM silmulcast.

On June 19, Traffic played Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom, supported by SRC and the Bloomsbury People. After three Texas shows with Mott and Mountain, Traffic did a two-nighter at Capitol Theater in Port Chester with Silver Metre.

On Sunday, June 28, Traffic appeared at the CNE Stadium in Toronto for the Transcontinental Pop Festival, a three-day event with sets by the Ides of March, Janis Joplin, Mashmakhan, Mountain, Miles Davis, MRQ, and Ten Years After. Traffic wrapped the tour in California with a three-nighter (June 30–July 2) at the Fillmore West, supported by Lamb and Leon Russell; followed by a July 3 show at San Bernardino’s Swing Auditorium with Blues Image.

John Barleycorn Must Die

Traffic released their third proper album, John Barleycorn Must Die, on July 1, 1970, on Island (UK), United Artists (US), and Polydor (Canada). It opens with “Glad,” a Winwood instrumental that showcases Wood’s saxophone, also heard on “Freedom Rider,” one of four Winwood–Capaldi numbers along with “Empty Pages,” “Stranger to Himself,” and “Every Mother’s Son.”

The title track features lyrics culled from “A Ballad,” a 1782 poem by Scottish bard Robert Burns about John Barlycorn, a folkloric figure who intoxicates his killers. Must Die refers to man’s struggle with addiction.

1. “Glad” (6:59)
2. “Freedom Rider” (6:20)
3. “Empty Pages” (4:47)
4. “Stranger to Himself” (4:02)
5. “John Barleycorn (Must Die)” (6:20)
6. “Every Mother’s Son” (7:05)

Sessions occurred between February and April 1970 at Island and Olympic Studios. Winwood and Stevens co-produced the first-recorded numbers, “Stranger to Himself” and “Every Mother’s Son,” which both received Capaldi’s input when he joined the project. Winwood co-produced the remaining songs with Island founder Chris Blackwell.

Andy Johns engineered the Olympic sessions amid work on albums by Dada, Blodwyn Pig, Free (Highway), Ginger Baker’s Air Force, and Mott the Hoople’s Mad Shadows. Brian Humphries engineered the Island sessions in sequence with titles by Bronco, Black Sabbath (Paranoid), Patto (self-titled), and the King Crimson spinoff McDonald and Giles, whose sessions ran simultaneous with those for John Barleycorn Must Die. Winwood, who dropped in on the duo, plays the piano solo on the McDonald and Giles cut Turnham Green.”

Winwood plays all keyboards and guitar parts on John Barleycorn in addition to bass (“Empty Pages”) and assorted sundries. He performs “Stranger to Himself” alone save for backing vocals by Capaldi, who drums on the remaining tracks. Wood plays flute, sax, and electric sax on the first two songs (“Glad,” “Freedom Rider”) and flute alone on the title track. Those same three songs feature all three members on percussion.

John Barleycorn Must Die is housed in an unlaminated gatefold designed by UA–Island illustrator Mike Sida (Tons of Sobs, Spooky Two). It shows a barley impression (front) and a sketch of John Barley (back) with a brief background on the tale, dated as far back as 1465 and salvaged in modern times by Victorian folklorist Cecil Sharp. The vertical inner-gates show a candid outdoor group shot by Richard Polak, who also photographed 1970 covers for Billy Preston and Ringo Starr. First-press US copies have a beige burlap background.

John Barleycorn Must Die reached No. 11 in the UK, No. 14 in Australia, and No. 5 on the US Billboard 200. Traffic promoted the album with shows in Germany, the Netherlands, England, and the States.

On July 11, Traffic played the Euro Pop ’70 A-Z Musik Festival, a two-day event at Munich’s Eissportstadion with sets by Atomic Rooster, Amon Duul II, Black Widow, Brinsley Schwarz, Can, Deep Purple, Edgar Broughton Band, Hard Meat, Out of Focus, Status Quo, Steamhammer, and Van Der Graaf Generator. Mid-month, Traffic played shows in Hamburg, Den Haag, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam, supported by Free and Bronco.

On October 10, Traffic played the 53k-capacity Liverpool Stadium, supported by Mott the Hoople, Quintessence, and If. Their month-long US tour commenced on October 30 at Port Chester’s Capitol Theatre, supported by Brethren and Jake & The Family Jewels. On November 7, they played Detroit’s Eastown Theater, supported by Mylon, May Blitz, and Power of Zeus. Surrounding shows included dates with Hammer (11/4: Hara Arena, Dayton), Siegel-Schwall Blues Band (11/6: Syndrome, Chicago), Teegarden & Van Winkle (11/8: Eastern Michigan University), Buffy St. Marie (11/14: Curry Hicks Cage, University of Massachusetts), and Cactus (11/15: Georgetown University).

The final stretch included six dates with Cat Stevens, bookended by two-nighters at the Fillmore East (Nov. 18–19) and the short-lived Pirates World theme park in Dania, Florida (Nov. 27–28). 


Traffic reconvened as a six-piece with Ghanian percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah and American drummer Jim Gordon. Baah’s resume included backing stints with Wynder K. Frog and American jazz pianist Randy Weston. Gordon played in Delaney & Bonnie & Friends and its post-Blind Faith spinoff with Eric Clapton, Derek & the Dominos.

On January 14, 1971, Traffic commenced a three-week UK–German tour at Warwick University, supported by High Broom, a renamed Jason Crest. In Glasgow, they played Greens Playhouse, supported by Scottish post-psychsters Beggar’s Opera (1/20). They closed the month with college dates, supported by Cochise (1/27: Imperial College, London) and Amazing Blondel (1/ 29: Lancaster University). Capaldi drums on “Seige of Yaddlethorpe,” the closing track on Blondel’s 1971 third album Fantasia Lindum.

In early February, Traffic stopped in Nuremberg, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Munster. That spring, Winwood reconnected with Mason, who played on 1971 albums by Delaney & Bonnie (Motel Shot) and the solo debut by Graham Nash (Songs for Beginners). Mason rejoined Traffic, which toured that spring as a septet.

On May 5, Traffic and Soft Machine partook in a benefit show at London’s Central Polytechnic for the raunchy Australian counter-culture magazine Oz, then embattled with obscenity lawsuits. On June 6, Traffic played Croydon’s Fairfield Hall, supported by Head, Hands & Feet.

On June 22, Traffic appeared at Worthy Farm, Pilton, for the 1971 Glastonbury Festival, a five-day event with sets by Arthur Brown, David Bowie, Gong, Hawkwind, Linda Lewis, Pink Fairies, and Terry Reid. Family appeared with Grech’s replacement, bassist–violinist John Weider (ex-“New” Animals), who soon cleared out for Mogul Thrash bassist John Wetton. On July 3, Traffic played a second Central Poly Oz benefit, this time with Alexis Korner.

Dave Mason enjoyed this Traffic lineup and was eager for a US tour. Winwood, however, needed a break. Mason left Traffic for the third and final time. He backed jazz legend Dave Brubeck on the 1972 Atlantic title Truth Is Fallen and resumed his resumed his solo career with the Blue Thumb Records release Headkeeper, a live album of group and solo numbers, including the Capaldi–Winwood song “Pearly Queen.”

Welcome to the Canteen

On September 10, 1971, Island issued Welcome to the Canteen, a live album recorded at the Fairfield Hall show and the second Oz benefit. Though accepted as a canonical Traffic release, the album is billed to its seven individual players: Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, Dave Mason, Ric Grech, Reebop Kwaku Baah, and Jim Gordon.

Side one contains two older Traffic numbers (“Medicated Goo” and “Forty Thousand Headmen” — modified from its longer, numerical title) and two Mason-sung solo songs from his recent Along Together album (“Sad and Deep as You” and “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave”). Side two contains elongated renditions of an early Traffic classic (“Dear Mr. Fantasy”) and Winwood’s earlier signature with the Spencer Davis Group (“Gimme Some Lovin”’). Of the old Traffic numbers, only “Dear Mr. Fantasy” features Mason on the original studio version.

1. “Medicated Goo” (3:34)
2. “Sad and Deep as You” (3:48)
3. “Forty Thousand Headmen” (6:21)
4. “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave” (5:39)
1. “Dear Mr. Fantasy” (10:57)
2. “Gimme Some Lovin'” (9:02)

Winwood shares organ duties with Wood and plays guitar on “Forty Thousand Headmen” (acoustic) and “Gimme Some Lovin'” (electric). Humphries engineered Welcome to the Canteen amid work on titles by East of Eden (self-titled), Patto, and the Alexandro Jodorowsky score to the 1970 Mexican acid Western El Topo.

Welcome to the Canteen is a housed in a monochrome sleeve by the Island–Chrysalis design firm Visualeyes. It shows the seven musicians grouped around a table at an eaterie (front) and a closeup of the condiments on the back cover, which presents the credits on a faux menu sheet and shows the Celtic wheel on a beer bottle label.

Welcome to the Canteen reached No. 26 on the Billboard 200 in the US, where the album appeared on UA, which lifted an edit of “Gimme Some Lovin'” as a single.

Traffic — trimmed to the sextet of Winwood, Capaldi, Wood, Grech, Baah, and Gordon — greeted the album with five UK shows, including dates with John Martyn (9/17: Gaumont Theater, Worcester) and Seatrain (9/23: Royal Albert Hall). On October 1, Traffic embarked on a 24-date US tour with Fairport Convention, including select triple bills with the J. Geils Band (10/23: Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston) and the Chicago jazz-rock-soul trio Madura (10/30: Convention Center, Anaheim).

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

Traffic released their fourth studio album, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, on November 26, 1971, on Island. It features four Winwood–Capaldi numbers, including the lengthy “Rainmaker,” “Many a Mile to Freedom,” and the title track. Capaldi sings lead on “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” (a rare sole-write) and the Grech–Gordon submission “Rock & Roll Stew.”

1. “Hidden Treasure” (4:11)
2. “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” (11:41)
3. “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” (4:48)
4. “Rock & Roll Stew” (4:23)
5. “Many a Mile to Freedom” (7:16)
6. “Rainmaker” (7:52)

Sessions took place in September 1971 at Island Studios. Winwood produced the album, which Humphries engineered ahead of titles by Who bassist John Entwistle and Scottish folksters the JSD Band. British actor Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde) suggested the album title.

Winwood plays piano, Hammond organ, and guitars on Low Spark. Grech plays violin on select passages. Wood sticks to saxophone and flute. Gordon drums on everything apart from “Rainmaker,” which features on-off Spooky Tooth drummer Mike Kellie (then in Three Man Army).

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys is housed in a die-cut sleeve designed by Island art director Tony Wright. The art depicts three-dimensional panels (clouds, marble, check tiles), cut at two corners (upper right, lower left) to resemble a cube. Polak took the back-cover group shot in which Grech and Gordon huddle behind Wood and Baah. A three-dimensional cube (blue, red, brown) appears on the inner-sleeve.

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys reached No. 7 on the US Billboard 200. Island Records, now an international label, released the album everywhere apart from Canada, where it appeared on Polydor. Traffic cut an alternate version of “Rock & Roll Stew,” split across both sides (Parts 1 and 2) of a US Island single. Later CD reissues of Low Spark contain the split single version as one song (6:07).


In December 1971, as Low Spark climbed the charts, Winwood fired Grech and Gordon for exdcessive drug use. He replaced them with two Americans: bassist David Hood and drummer Roger Hawkins, both part of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the backing band on numerous sessions at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, including 1968–71 recordings by Aretha Franklin, Box Scaggs, Clarence Carter, Etta James, and Tamiko Jones.

The Hood–Hawkins rhythm section appears on Oh How We Danced, the 1972 debut solo album by Jim Capaldi, recorded in part at Muscle Shoals Sound. Free guitarist Paul Kossoff plays on four tracks, including two (“Big Thirst,” “Don’t Be a Hero”) that also feature Dave Mason. One track (“Open Your Heart”) is from a 1971 Island session with the Low Spark Traffic lineup. Chris Blackwell produced the album, which also features MSRS organist Barry Beckett. Winwood plays guitar on “Love Is All You Can Try” and organ on the opening ballad “Eve,” which reached the Billboard Hot 100.

On January 11, Traffic embarked on a 21-day, 14-city US tour at the New Haven Arena, supported on thirteen dates by JJ Cale. Select dates featured third acts, including Commander Cody (Jan. 13–14: Academy of Music, NYC), Jo Jo Gunne (Jan. 21–22: Winterland, San Francisco), Mother Earth (1/27: Spectrum, Philadelphia), Edgar Winter (1/28: Civic Arena, Pittsburgh), and Redbone (1/29: William & Mary College Hall, Williamsburg). On January 16, Traffic played Detroit’s Cobo Arena, supported by Livingston Taylor, brother of James Taylor.

On February 21, 1972, Traffic played a 64-minute set at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica. The show was filmed in color with multi-track sound and later released as VHS and DVD as Live at Santa Monica ’72. It features eight songs: “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” “Light Up or Leave Me Alone,” “John Barleycorn,” “Rainmaker,” “Glad,” “Freedom Rider,” “Forty Thousand Headmen,” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy.”

After the Santa Monica showcase, Winwood paused Traffic to recover from a bout of peritonitis. Upon recovery, he focused on session work. He plays organ on “Parisien Plight II,” a thirteen-minute song on the 1972 A&M release Faces, the sixth album by American singer-songwriter Shawn Phillips.

Elsewhere, Steve’s older brother (and onetime Spencer Davis Group bandmate) Muff Winwood proliferated as as Island in-house producer. His 1972 credits include Lifeboat, the second album by the English rustic-folk duo Sutherland Brothers. Steve Winwood plays organ on the Lifeboat cut “Where Do We Go Wrong.”

Baah made his solo debut with the 1972 Island release Reebop, a jazz-rock Afrobeat album with backing by trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, Hanson organist Jean-Alain Roussel, and Jamaican bassist Rosko Gee. Chris Wood plays flute on the track “Zagapam.” Winwood plays bass and organ on “Softly Weeping.”

Meanwhile, Winwood partook in the London Symphony Orchestra version of the 1969 Who rock opera Tommy. David Measham conducted the all-star project, which features Stone the Crows frontwoman Maggie Bell as the boy’s mother; ex-Skip Bifferty singer Graham Bell (no relation) as her lover; and Steve Winwood as the missing (presumed dead) father who resurfaces years after WWI and kills Graham’s character in front of Tommy, played by Who frontman Roger Daltrey. (In the 1975 movie, where events shift to a 1940s–60s timeframe, the lover — played by Sir Oliver Reed — prevails over the boy’s father.)


Winwood proliferated as a sessionist on 1973 albums by Amazing Blondel (Blondel), John Martyn (Inside Out), and Lou Reed (Berlin). He has four piano spots on the Columbia release On the Road to Freedom, a collaborative album between Ten Years After guitarist Alvin Lee and Christian singer Mylon LeFevre. Winwood also partook in Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert, a January 13 event organized by Pete Townshend and fellow English rock royalty to help Clapton (waylaid since the Dominos) reemerge from his two-year, drug-induced catatonic phase.

Elsewhere, Capaldi and Baah partook in sessions for the 1973 Island release Broken Arrows, the debut solo album by John “Rabbit” Bundrick, a recent Free auxiliary (and sessionist on Inside Out, Lifeboat, and Reebop). Baah and Chris Wood also reconnected with fellow Rebop participant Jean Roussel on Now Hear This, the 1973 Manticore debut by the London-based multi-national funk band Hanson.

Meanwhile, Winwood collaborated with Osibisa reedist Abdul Lasisi Amao and ex-Air Force percussionist Remi Kabaka in the Afrobeat project Third World. Their album, Aiye-Keta, appeared in 1973 on Island (UK, Spain) and later appeared in the US on the label’s Antilles imprint.

On January 17, 1973, the six-man Traffic (Winwood, Capaldi, Wood, Baah, Hood, Hawkins) embarked on a 26-city US tour, supported by John Martyn (all dates) and Free (24 dates). The tour kicked off at Loyola Fieldhouse in New Orleans and wrapped on February 17 at the West Palm Beach Auditorium.

Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory

Traffic released their fifth studio album, Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory, in February 1973 on Island. It features four Winwood–Capaldi numbers, including “(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired” and “Roll Right Stones,” their longest studio track. Chris Wood contributes “Tragic Magic,” a rare solo composition.

1. “Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory” (6:05)
2. “Roll Right Stones” (13:40)
3. “Evening Blue” (5:19)
4. “Tragic Magic” Chris Wood (6:43)
5. “(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired” (7:31)

Sessions took place in late 1972 in Jamaica at Studio Strawberry Hill Studios, a Blue Mountains facility owned by Chris Blackwell and subsequently used by the Island reggae act Third World (no relation to Winwood’s Aiye-Keta project). Winwood and Capaldi co-produced Shoot Out, which Muscle Shoals soundmen Jerry Masters and Steve Melton co-engineered in sequence with 1973 titles by Bobby Womack, Don Covay, and Gary Farr.

Steve Winwood plays organ and all guitar parts on Shoot Out, the only Traffic studio album with the Hood–Hawkins rhythm section. “Tragic Magic” features additional input by keyboardist Barry Beckett (an Oh How We Danced contributor) and clarinetist Jimmy Johnson, both Muscle Shoals sessionists.

Tony Wright designed the cover to Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory in the same style as its predecessor with two die-cut corners and cubical dimensions. The image depicts two bodiless wardrobes (suits, hats, shoes, gloves) and a third hat adrift in space, as seen through a glass cube. The inner-sleeve has a monochrome group shot by photographer Tommy Wright. A tiny version of the Celtic wheel appears in the white border. The inner-flip repeats the three-dimensional cube of Low Spark.

Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory reached No. 6 on the US Billboard 200. After the initial pressing, Island lost its distribution deal with Captiol Records. Traffic submitted a second mix of Shoot Out with early fades on “(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired” (15 seconds shorter) and “Roll Right Stones” (two minutes shorter). This shortened mix of the album appeared on all subsequent vinyl and CD pressings (despite misleading track-length listings) until the 2003 30th Anniversary reissue.

Traffic on-boarded Beckett for their spring 1973 tour, which covered fifteen cities in England and Europe. The tour commenced on March 20 at Birmingham’s Town Hall, supported on fourteen dates by a recently reformed Spooky Tooth. After stops in Amsterdam, Rome, and Vienna, they swung through seven German cities, starting in Munich (4/3: Circus-Krone) and ending in Hamburg (4/10: Musikhalle). The tour wrapped with an April 12 homecoming show at London’s Rainbow Theatre with support by John Martyn.

On the Road

In October 1973, Traffic released On the Road, a live double-album culled from their April 1973 shows in Germany. The original UK–European release contains six numbers, mostly elongated from their studio counterparts.

Side A is a medley of the John Barleycorn pieces “Glad” and “Freedom Rider.” Sides B and C contain three songs from the recent Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory, including an elongated (by four minutes) performance of “(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired.” Side C also has Capaldi’s “Light up or Leave Me Alone,” rendered here at more than twice its studio length. Side D devotes itself to an extended “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” nearly six minutes longer that the studio version.

1. “Glad” / “Freedom Rider” (20:49)
1. “Tragic Magic” (8:30)
2. “(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired” (10:20)
1. “Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory” (6:40)
2. “Light up or Leave Me Alone” (10:30)
1. “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” (17:35)

Winwood handles all guitar and shared piano duties with Beckett, who plays all the organ parts. Capaldi plays percussion and doubles as drummer on “Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory,” the only number that barely outlasts its studio version (only 40 extra seconds).

Winwood and Blackwell co-produced On the Road, which Humphries engineered amid work on titles by Grimms, Rare Bird, and Spooky Tooth (Witness). Jimmy Johnson did the mixdown.

On the Road is housed in a gatefold with a primary-color illustration of the autobahn by one Ann Borthwick. The inner-gates presents a monochrome performance pic of Winwood, surrounded by color tour-bus pics of Traffic and their entourage by photographer Brian Cooke. The LP labels show a faded German intersection with the Celtic wheel red-circled on a street sign. Cooke also has visual credits on 1973 albums by the Average White Band, Camel, Paul Kossoff, Procol Harum, Sharks, and Traffic associates John Martyn and Hanson.

In the US and Canada, Island issued On the Road as a single album with four numbers. This version omits “Tragic Magic” and the Barleycorn medley and trims “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” by more than two minutes (15:10). Despite these cuts, North America copies sport the UK–European gatefold cover.

U.S. and Canada LP track listing:
1. “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” (15:10)
2. “Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory” (6:47)
1. “(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired” (10:20)
2. “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” (10:45)

After the spring 1973 German tour, Winwood dismissed the Muscle Shoals players and replaced Hood with Reebop bassist Rosko Gee. Sessions began that summer on a new studio album, which took nearly a year to finish. Shortly into the project, Winwood dismissed Baah, who released a self-titled second album on Philips and played on 1973 albums by Free (Heartbreaker) and the Rolling Stones. He later surfaced in Can.


Traffic (sans Chris Wood) appear on the 1974 Warner release Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead, the debut solo album by former Bonzo Dog frontman Vivian Stanshall. It features Winwood (bass, organ) and Capaldi (drums) throughout, plus former bandmates Grech (violin) and Baah, who plays congas on “Prong & Toots Go Steady.”

Winwood plays on four of six tracks on the 1974 Atlantic release E.H. In The U.K., a recent set of London sessions by American jazz-funk saxophonist Eddie Harris. On two songs (“I Waited for You,” “Conversations of Everything and Nothing”), Steve interacts with Yes bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White, plus former Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye (then in Badger) and Heads Hands & Feat guitarist Albert Lee, who accompanies Steve on the other two tracks: “I’ve Tried Everything” (with Grech on bass) and “He’s Island Man” (with Bad Company bassist Boz Burrell), which both feature Jeff Beck and Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice. Winwood also plays piano on “Through It All There’s You,” the twelve-minute closing track on the 1974 Island release Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, the debut solo album by ex-Vinegar Joe singer Robert Palmer.

On February 21, 1974, the new four-piece Traffic (Winwood, Capaldi, Wood, Gee) played the Glasgow Apollo. On March 9, they embarked on a twelve-date German–Dutch tour with the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver. In early April, they landed in Italy for shows at Rome’s Palasport and Torino’s Palazzo dello Sport.

On April 23, Traffic commenced a seventeen-date UK tour with Sour Grapes, a collective moniker for the duo of Richard and Linda Thompson. The tour began at the Leeds University Refectory and climaxed on May 16 at Hull University, followed by an exclusive three-night showcase (May 17–19, no opening act) at London’s Rainbow Theater.

In August 1974, Jim Capaldi released Whale Meat Again, his second solo album, recorded with the Muscle Shoals Horns and the Shoot Out rhythm players. Winwood plays organ on “Summer Is Fading” and “It’s All Right,” a Billboard Hot 100 entry with steelpan by Barry Beckett.

On August 24, Traffic played the Fourteenth National Jazz, Blues, Folk & Rock Festival, a three-day event in Reading with sets by 10cc, Barclay James Harvest, Beckett, Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers, Esperanto, Focus, Harvey Andrews, Jack the Lad, Nutz, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Strider, Thin Lizzy, and The Winkies. Traffic headlined Day 2 (Saturday), which also featured Greenslade, Heavy Metal Kids, Trapeze, Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance, and GT Moore & the Reggae Guitars.

When the Eagle Flies

Traffic released their sixth studio album, When the Eagle Flies, in September 1974 on Asylum (US) and Island (everywhere else). It features six Winwood–Capaldi numbers, including “Graveyard People” and “Walking in the Wind.” The longest track, “Dream Gerrard,” is a product of Steve’s collaboration with Vivian Stanshall. On this album, Traffic’s founding core (Winwood, Capaldi, Wood) are joined by bassist Rosko Gee.

1. “Something New” (3:15)
2. “Dream Gerrard” (11:03)
3. “Graveyard People” (6:05)
4. “Walking in the Wind” (6:48)
5. “Memories of a Rock n’ Rolla” (4:50)
6. “Love” (3:20)
7. “When the Eagle Flies” (4:24)

Sessions spanned July 1973 to June 1974 at two studios: Netherturkdonic (Gloucestershire) and Basing Street (aka Island Studios, London). Chris Wood submitted “Moonchild Vulcan,” which Traffic recorded but withheld in favor of “Memories of a Rock n’ Rolla.” (“Moonchild” later appeared on the posthumous Wood compilation Vulcan.)

When the Eagle Flies is their first album since Traffic recorded primarily as a quartet. Percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah, who Winwood dismissed early into the sessions, plays only on “Graveyard People” and the title-track (uncredited). Capaldi shares keyboard parts with Winwood, who expands his arsenal here with Mellotron and Moog synthesizer.

Traffic co-produced the album with Chris Blackwell, who also produced 1974 Island titles by Jess Roden and Bob Marley & the Wailers. Humphries engineered Eagle Flies in sequence with albums by Viola Wills, Barclay James Harvest, and Jonathan Kelly’s Outside. Nobby Clarke, an ongoing Winwood associate (not to be condused with Nobby Clark of the Bay City Rollers), also appears in the technical credits.

When the Eagle Flies is housed in a textured gatefold of varying light-gray tones, designed by one Martin Hughes. It features a landscape ink sketch of the four-man Traffic on a townside hilltop with an eagle hovering overhead. The innergates display lyrics (in cursive) with photo-negative sketches of the eagle and each member (white ink on black).

When the Eagle Flies reached No. 9 on the Billboard 200. Island lifted “Walking in the Wind” as a single, backed with an instrumental version of the song.


Traffic promoted When the Eagle Flies with a six-week US tour, supported first by Lindisfarne, who opened fifteen dates between September 13 (Boston Garden) and October 3 (Winterland, San Francisco). Select dates featured additional sets by Little Feat (Boston), Joe Cocker (9/23: Civic Arena, Pittsburgh), and Rare Earth (9/27: Tempe Stadium).

On October 8, 1974, Traffic played Denver Coliseum, supported by Gentle Giant. For the five-city southern swing (Oct. 11–16), Little Feat opened each night. In the Midwest, Traffic played four shows with Fairport Convention (Oct. 18–23) and two with John Martyn, including an Oct. 27 bill at Chicago’s Auditorium Theater, where Traffic played two shows. This would be their final concert. Traffic cancelled the remaining dates (November 1–6, all Florida) due to Steve’s peritonitis.

Winwood, exhausted by the album-tour cycle, dissolved Traffic to recover and explore new musical avenues. Gee joined Baah in Can for the 1977–79 albums Saw Delight, Out of Reach, and Can.

After Traffic

Steve Winwood plays piano and Moog on Waves, the 1975 Island release by New Age ethno-rock pioneers Jade Warrior. He also backs Toots & the Maytals on two tracks (“Premature,” “Living In the Ghetto”) on their 1976 Island release Reggae Got Soul. Winwood then teamed with Japanese percussionist Stomu Tamash’ta and ex-Santana drummer Michael Shrieve (then in Automatic Man) on the 1976 Island release Go, a fusion of classical, Latin jazz-rock, and space-age electronic music with contributions by Return to Forever guitarist Al Di Meola and German electronic musician Klaus Schulze. Steve composed the album-closer “Winner / Loser,” a percussive soul-jam in the late-period Traffic vein.

In 1977, Winwood launched his solo career with a self-titled album on Island. His 1980 album Arc of the Diver and its Billboard Top 10 hit “When You See a Chance” established his commercial profile, consolidated on the 1986–88 albums Back In the High Life and Roll With It and the hits “Higher Love,” “The Finer Things,” “Valerie,” and “Roll With It.”

Jim Capaldi released his third solo album, Short Cut Draw Blood, in December 1975 on Island. He’s backed on the album by Baah, Gee, and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Winwood appears on four cuts, including the album-closer “Seagull,” where he plays Mellotron and harpsichord alongside Wood (flute) and Third World percussionist Remi Kabaka (drums). The album spawned a UK No. 4 hit with the Everly Brothers cover “Love Hurts,” a recent international hit for Nazareth. Between 1978 and 1988, Capaldi released eight further studio albums and scored a US Top 30 hit with “That’s Love” from his 1983 release Fierce Heart.

Chris Wood plays on one track (“Feel a Little Better”) on 96° In the Shade, the 1977 second album by the Island reggae act Third World. He also plays flute on the 1977 Island release Crawler, the first of two albums by the namesake band spawned from Back Street Crawler, the post-Free band of the late Paul Kossoff. In 1978, he started work on a solo album that remained unfinished at the time of his death from liver disease on July 12, 1983, at age 39. The unfinished work appears on the 2008 Voice Print CD Vulcan.

In 1994, Winwood and Capaldi resurrected Traffic for the UK Top 30 album Far from Home. They performed at Woodstock ’94 and scored a Canadian Top 20 hit with “Here Comes a Man.” In 2004, they planned a second reunion, but this was rendered moot by Capaldi’s death from stomach cancer on January 28, 2005, at age 60.



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