Traffic – John Barleycorn (Must Die)

Music video by Traffic performing John Barleycorn (Must Die). (C) 2005 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT


Traffic operated on the cutting edge of the late-sixties music scene at a time of rapid and remarkable evolution, and expanded rock’s sonic palette. But whereas most progressive British bands were based in London, Traffic retreated to a secluded cottage in the countryside. A key component of Traffic’s mythology is their communal stone cottage in Berkshire. It was here the group wrote and rehearsed material for Mr. Fantasy, and Traffic, among the more remarkable albums of the sixites.

The group’s first single was the Winwood/Capaldi composition “Paper Sun” followed in August 1967 by Mason’s “Hole in My Shoe” which hit number two in the U.K. Mason also appeared in the debut album, Mr. Fantasy. His whimsical melodies and goodtime feel, incorporating simple yet rich lyrics, ensured a delightful contrast. His vocals adding a mellower texture to Winwood’s, and an extra interest. His three tracks, “Utterly Simple”, “House for Everyone”,  and  ‘Hope I Never Find Me There” having instant appeal. The latter relating more closely to the group’s contributions. Mason became recognized for his obvious virtuosity on sitar, vocals, and guitar.

Artistically Mason had started the process of establishing himself. Like Winwood, he was a musical perfectionist, but their approaches were different. Rather than follow his ideals which would estrange him from the band, he decided to quit, even before the first album was released in December 1967 he left the band. He recorded a solo single, “Little Woman”, released by Island in early 1968. The B side “Just for You” subsequently appeared as the opening track of “Last Exit”. In pursuit of a solo career, Mason moved to the US, an environment particularly conducive for his creative talents, but when Traffic arrived there for their first tour in March, he rejoined Traffic with a handful of songs.

“Feelin’ Alright” was released as the first single off the second album, Traffic in October 1968.  Mason’s journey with Traffic was fitful, yet fruitful. Not quite a month after the release, Mason left the band again and it broke up shortly afterward. Steve Winwood joined the band Blind Faith, Mason Capaldi, and Wood teamed with Mick Weaver in the short-lived Wooden Frog.

Traffic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

Traffic Discography:

Mr. Fantasy – 1967

Traffic – 1968

Best of Traffic – 1969

Last Exit – Traffic 1969

Welcome to the Canteen – Traffic 1971

Smiling Phases – Traffic 1991