Wednesday, December 5, 2012

mr. fantasy

Traffic took a daring on ramp into the progressive music scene with the eclectic jams of this whimsical intersection of  psychedelic rock and jazz fusion.  The members of the band first played together at Elbow Room in Aston, Birmingham.  Steve Winwood says:  "It was at the end of my Spencer Davis Group days, and we all used to go to this drinking-gambling club where Jim used to play, and like we used to get up and play with him and jam.  And we just got together."

Dave Mason recalls:  “He was in The Spencer Group and The Hellions use to play up in Birmingham, which is twenty-five miles from Worcester, and through that we met Steve and Chris Wood. Basically, we just hung out for a year or so, just run into each other, and then at one point Steve had decided he was going to leave The Spencer Davis Group. During that time, during that break, I’d sung on a couple of their recordings, 'Somebody Help Me' and most of Traffic was on, 'Gimme Some Lovin' and it’s pretty much all of us singing in the background of, 'I’m A Man'. I kind of played Roadie for a couple of months with them and then we formed Traffic.”

They rented a cottage near Aston Tirrold, Berkshire to go rehearse and compose.  Jim Capaldi considers:  "The four of us ... went back to the country to abandon the urban distractions and get into the music set a definite trend."

Chris Wood explains:  "Our point in going into hiding, as people said, was to get the best conditions to create our own sort of music.  There’s this social scene in London and you have to be very strong as individuals not to get caught up in it. We prefer to get outside London.  In the city you can’t just make noise whenever you want to.  It’s important, to us anyway, to be able to do what we want just when we all feel like it."

Capaldi adds:  "I sometimes look back and feel that we were an experimental group that went out into the natural wilds just to hammer it all out.  Back then, all the rock music was anchored to the city life."

The band secured deal with Island Records and they had immediate success with their first three singles: 'Paper Sun', 'Hole in My Shoe',  and 'Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush'.  Mason says:   “Well, Steve already had three, four, top ten records so he had kind of an entree in that way. Then I started writing and Jim and Steve started writing. And my writing I pretty much did on my own. Then the problems started to happen when the stuff that I was writing was the stuff picked for singles. And their biggest hit at the time was the first song I’d ever written, kind of a fantasy tune called, 'Hole in My Shoe' and that got to number two in England and was really their biggest single hit. After the first album I left, and the reason I left was because I couldn’t really deal with the fame so quickly, it was just a little overwhelming for me. So, I actually left and did a couple of things, worked with starting to produce an album for a group called Family, Music in a Dollhouse and then I got to know Hendrix and spent a little time recording with him ...and some of it was on Electric Ladyland."

'Mr. Fantasy' was recorded over seven months at 
Olympic Studios in London with producer Jimmy Miller and engineer Eddie Kramer.  The sessions included Jim Capaldi on drums, percussion, and vocals; Dave Mason on guitar, mellotron, sitar, tambura, shakkai, bass guitar, and vocals; Steve Winwood on organ, guitar, bass guitar, piano, harpsichord, percussion, vocals, and arrangements; and Chris Wood on flute, saxophone, organ, percussion and vocals, and sleeve design.

Winwood would explain:  "It started actually with a big hang-up with Dave over a year ago, it was before Traffic had started, but it really had started.  Dave got this paranoia that he couldn't play his instrument, you see, because we went through this scent of knowing each other before we got into playing, because all the time I was playing with Spencer we used to go around together but we never got a chance to play together and Dave got this hang-up about not being able to play, and this is really how the 'Fantasy' them came about.  Like to us music was a fantasy because we used to think in terms of it but we never got to play together so playing was a fantasy." 

Mason revealed:  "Steve played most of the guitar on the early Traffic stuff. And then the second one came out. I didn't really start playing anything worthwhile on guitar until I did Alone Together, actually."

'Mr. Fantasy' was initially released under the title 'Heaven Is In Your Mind' in the US with a completely different track listing, adding two of the singles.  The album went to number eighty-eight in the US and eight in the UK.

"Dear Mr. Fantasy"  
 "It was done on impulse with practically nothing worked out, because it was almost jammed. The initial spirit of the whole thing was captured on record - which is very rare. That was one of the things, because it is not specifically an outstanding melody or an outstanding chord sequence or anything. It's basically quite simple. They're very simple lyrics and they're repeated three times...Actually how it started was that Jim did a drawing during the time when we were thinking about cover ideas for the first LP. And Jim drew a picture of this guy who was Mr.Fantasy with hair like the Statue of Liberty, he had on a long robe and he was playing a guitar with strings coming from his fingers, and by the side of it Jim had written: "Dear Mr. Fantasy, sing us a tune / Something to make us all happy / Do anything, take us out of this gloom / Sing a song, play guitar make it snappy". Just these four lines scribbled out at the side, just a single poem for the front cover. And then Jim flaked out and Chris and I stayed up all night and then got the thing together. And we set a live mike on a stage in the studio. We tried sitting in the little boxes and cans, but it just didn't work for this number. It wasn't half so strong after we'd done it. It was time that gave it a lot of meaning."

Dear Mister Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar
Make it snappy
You are the one who can make us all laugh
But doing that you break out in tears
Please don't be sad if it was a straight mind you had
We wouldn't have known you all these years


"Heaven Is in Your Mind"

"Paper Sun" was the band's first single and charted at number ninety-four in the US, twelve in the Netherlands, and number five in the UK.

"Hole in My Shoe"  twenty-one in Germany, nine in the Netherlands, and number two in the UK.

"Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush"  went to number thirty-four in the Netherlands and eight in the UK.  It also became the soundtrack and title of a British film.

'Mr. Fantasy' 

full album:

1. "Heaven Is in Your Mind" Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood, Chris Wood Winwood and Capaldi 4:16
2. "Berkshire Poppies" Capaldi, Winwood, Wood Winwood 2:55
3. "House for Everyone" Dave Mason Mason 2:05
4. "No Face, No Name, No Number" Capaldi, Winwood Winwood 3:35
5. "Dear Mr. Fantasy" Capaldi, Winwood, Wood Winwood 5:44
6. "Dealer" Capaldi, Winwood Capaldi and Winwood 3:34
7. "Utterly Simple" Mason Mason 3:16
8. "Coloured Rain" Capaldi, Winwood, Wood Winwood 2:43
9. "Hope I Never Find Me There" Mason Mason 2:12
10. "Giving to You" (album version) Capaldi, Mason, Winwood, Wood None 4:20

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