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Jim Capaldi started writing this in Morocco, where he was getting ready to make a movie called Nevertheless with actor Michael J. Pollard. The film project fell through, but did lead to one of Traffic's best-known songs. Said Capaldi: "Pollard and I would sit around writing lyrics all day, talking about Bob Dylan and the Band, thinking up ridiculous plots for the movie. Before I left Morocco, Pollard wrote in my book 'The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.' For me, it summed him up. He had this tremendous rebel attitude. He walked around in his cowboy boots, his leather jacket. At the time he was a heavy little dude. It seemed to sum up all the people of that generation who were just rebels. The 'Low Spark,' for me, was the spirit, high-spirited. You know, standing on a street corner. The low rider. The 'Low Spark' meaning that strong undercurrent at the street level." (thanks, Adam - Lake Forest, IL)
Never released as a single, this did very well on AOR stations in America, which didn't mind playing all 12 minutes and 10 seconds of the song (it provided a nice cigarette break for the DJs). The album sold over a million copies in the US, but didn't fare nearly as well in their native UK.
Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood are the credited writers on this song. Dave Mason had left the band at that point, but Traffic added some new members for the Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys album, including former Derek & the Dominoes drummer Jim Gordon, which allowed Capaldi to focus more on vocals. Original member Chris Wood played the prominent saxophone parts on this track.
When Traffic toured in 1972, this was a highlight of their live shows. For that tour, they brought along two of America's finest session musicians: bassist David Hood and drummer Roger Hawkins from Muscle Shoals Sound Studios (Traffic would record their next album with these guys).
The colorful percussionist was Rebop Kwaku Baah, a Ghana native who played on the studio version as well. According to Steve Winwood, Baah was later fired for being "too outrageous." Said Winwood: "He insisted on going onstage and singing – and he can't sing!"
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