Dave Mason: DM
RS: I was reading that in 1963 you were a member of a guitar combo called
DM: Oh that was my very first band.
RS: And you had a single out in 1963 called...
DM: Opus To Spring.
RS: Speaking just for a minute of 60s pop instrumental music,
were you influenced early on by Hank Marvin and The Shadows?
DM: When I started I used to think the vocals got in the way.
RS: So The Shadows were a big influence.
DM: Oh, huge. Shadows, Ventures, The Hunters...Rhett Stoller.
Can you mention any of your other early musical influences growing up?
the get-go my musical influences come from hip pop, popular stuff. And
then I backtracked into the blues, jazz and classical. I always had
a pop sensibility. I mean Im making records to sell em!
(laughter) Otherwise I would just stay at home. (laughter)
RS: Any other early influences growing up?
DM: The Shadows and The Ventures. Walk Dont Run, Rambunctious,
Perfidia by The Ventures. The Shadows...F.B.I.,
Man Of Mystery, Apache. There were other more
obscure things. A guy called Rhett Stoller. The Outlaws was a great
instrumental band that Joe Meek produced some great instrumental records
for. Great sounding records.
RS: I remember Joe Meeks song Telstar and his work
with The Tornados.
DM: Tornados, Johnny & The Hurricanes, Duane Eddy. Well Duane Eddy
was the first thing I ever wanted to be because the first thing I ever
played on the guitar was Peter Gunn. (laughter)
The Jaguars you and Jim Capaldi were in an early band called The Hellions.
Did that change the sound?
DM: That was a little more jazz. We were doing stuff like...it was musically,
very eclectic. We were doing Beatles, Martha & The Vandellas, Oscar
Brown Jr. It was pretty eclectic. And the The Deep Feeling was the next
band. Actually that was the first recording we ever did. And actually
the first song I ever wrote was song with Jim. Its on the flip
side of a record...as The Hellions we did a record for Pye Records with
Kim Fowley as the producer. (editor- for an interesting website discussing
this band go to: www.brumbeat.net
DM: He was the guy who did Theyre Coming To Take Me Away!
(Ha Ha). We did this Jackie DeShannon song called Daydreaming
Of You and the song on the flip side of it was the actual first
song that Id written, Jim and I wrote, called Shades Of
RS: Another highlight of both the 40,000 Headmen and, the Live
At Sunrise DVD is your cover of All Along The Watchtower.
Youve been playing All Along The Watchtower for quite
DM: Now I understand everybody does it! (laughter) Dave Matthews does
it. A whole bunch of people.
RS: I know youve probably told this story a thousand times by
the story I heard is you played the song for Jimi Hendrix at a party
here in NYC and he freaked out and you recorded it with him that night.
DM: No, no...Jimi and I were with some small group of people at some
girls apartment in London. Viv Prince was there with this band called
The Pretty Things. Viv Prince was there and he had spiked everybodys
drinks, cause everybody was going, whoa! new album.
And somebody had a copy of John Wesley Harding. So we were listening
to John Wesley Harding and Watchtower came on and
Jimi and I were listening to it and at some place he said, We
gotta cut that song. Cause at the time I wasnt with
Traffic anymore. Mostly because the others really didnt believe...they
just didnt want me in the band anymore. So I was out and there
was a point actually where Jimi had started playing the bass on most
of his recordings and Noel (Redding) was kind of on the way out and
I was going to join The Experience.
RS: And thats how you came to record All Along The Watchtower
DM: See, my whole thing with Traffic was, or my thoughts about it were
that we had a unit that could come together. And I was still learning.
I was still young. So I used to seek out my contemporaries, all my peers.
Jimi was at a club. See, the thing about the 60s in London...youd
go out to the clubs, and the clubs were kind of private clubs. Blazes,
The Bag O Nails. But youd go in there and some nights thered
be Jagger or Lennon and McCartney, thered be Hendrix. Theyd
just hang out! So Id made it just a point of sitting down and
just saying, Hi! Im Dave and I really dig your music
and thats basically what I did with Jimi. I mean, we kinda hung
out a little bit. Theres actually some recordingsI have
no idea where they arewhere Im playing bass and sitar with
him. And out of one of those sessions was Watchtower.
RS: Do you remember the acoustic guitar you played on All Along
The Watchtower with Hendrix?
DM: No. It was a 12 string. He did such a great version of it. I find
it amusing when people tell me, I like your version much better
than Hendrixs. (laughter) I go, well thats really
nice of you to say!
RS: Well you play it in the spirit in which it was made.
DM: I dont know. I just did it the way I did it. But musically
if I was going to pick a version it would be his version.
RS: One last question about Traffics Last Exit album. Do
you remember the instrumental track Somethings Got Hold
Of My Toe?
DM: Kind of.
RS: It credits you and Steve and Jimmy Miller as the writers.
DM: Yeah, okay. (laughter)
RS: But for me the best song on Last Exit was the lead off track,
Just For You.
DM: (pointing to the CD cover of Last Exit) The thing about this
is its just a label compilation of stuff that was laying around.
RS: But Just For You was actually a b-side of a single you
was the b-side of Little Woman.
RS: And all the other guys from Traffic were on it.
DM: They were all on it, yep. It was a solo thing but it was all them
playing on it. (laughter)
RS: Any other memories of Just For You?
DM: Its like asking me about sessions on Alone Together. If
you asked me I couldnt recall one of them. Vaguely, certain parts
of it I can remember.
RS: The albums you made on Columbia are all out of print now?
DM: No. Some of them you cant get. Let It Flow is not out
RS: I called One Way in Florida and they said theyre no longer
in their catalog.
RS: (Ramesh Sawhney) Some of Davids records are no longer available
and there is some negotiation or preliminary negotiation with Blue Records
to try to retrieve that, repackage it, put some bonus tracks on it and
reissue it. And in that special format, which would make it a special
collectors edition it will be represented. Now is the time because
people are now seriously looking at Davids music and saying, wow.
Not only is it history but youll listen to George and youll
listen to Eric...youll listen to Dave just as easily. You pick
up All Things Must Pass youll see, whos on
guitar? Its George, its David and its Eric. And that
tells you who are the three leading guitarists in the opinions of most
people in my age group, which is the 40+ age group. I want to listen
to Dave, I want to listen to George and I want to listen to Eric.
RS: It would be great to see Alone Together come out as a
mini box set with bonus tracks and maybe an interview.
DM: Yeah, yeah... Actually for long time that album, up till the early
80s, I remember it was on Rolling Stone, Alone Together was
the most valuable collectors album.
RS: The Lp.
DM: Right. The colored one. But then rap came along and that was the
end of that! (laughter)
RS: And they I saw on Ebay that the album you made with Mama Cass Elliot
it going for big numbers.
DM: I just did an A&E biography theyre gonna do on her. Well
they should I spent a long time with her.
RS: Being that the CD is going for fifty dollars it would be nice to
see a reissue that sets the story straight.
DM: Actually, right now if theyre going to do a Cass on A&E
Biography it would be very wise for somebody to have it ready to go...here.
Cass was cool. Cass actually could have been the contemporary Sophie
Tucker. Thats who Cass was. She had a very quick wit. Nobody really
ever saw who she really was, unfortunately.
RS: What about BBC recordings. Did you do anything for the BBC?
DM: Yeah, with Traffic. BBC, Ready, Steady, Go, Top Of The Pops. All
kinds of stuff unreleased somewhere.
You also worked with Family back in the 60s, working alongside
Jimmy Miller and Eddie Kramer on the first Family album.
DM: I produced
the first Family album, Music In A Dolls House.
RS: You played a lot of mellotron on the first Family album?
no...mellotron is on Hole In My Shoe.
RS: Do you still own a mellotron?
DM: I didnt know what we should do. Its great to know what
you should not do.
first Family album was extremely experimental.
DM: Well it was the time and the fact that we did it all on four track.
The main thing about doing things back then is that you had to know
what you were doing before you went in there, in a way. And it was all
experimental. Wed try shit out. Wed do whatever was necessary.
RS: For music, it seemed like the years 1966-71 were impossibly brilliant.
Nothings even come close since.
DM: Listen, 1960 was 14 years after...youre talking about two
major world wars and youre talking about kids that were born...parents
who had children who came out of that era. And you had major stuff going
on. You had a man, named Hitler, and the free world was fighting for
a sense of freedom as we are having to do right now. All too quickly,
America seemed to get sloppy with their thinking. Its become like
9/11, maybe that was just another disaster movie. In other words, its
just getting too easy for everybody to forget here in America. Freedom
is a responsibility. Its not just a God-given right. Lets
face it, 9/11 was the first time this countrys ever been attacked,
physically attacked, okay? And I sit here in amazement watching certain
factions of philosophers and politics backpedaling here. And Im
watching people backpedal and backpedal. And the reality is if you dont
do it now youre gonna have to do it eventually. Because we have
a certain lifestyle. We have a lifestyle that weve made for ourselves.
We have alot of wonderful toys (laughter) and have alot of nice living
and we need to defend it. And alot of people are very resentful about
that. Cmon, I mean Americans every race. I mean the comments
made by...I was listening yesterday about this thing with Columbia (the
ill-fated space shuttle) and some comments that were made on Canadian
radio about Americas arrogant with this and with that. The fact
is that there was an Indian woman on that shuttle. There were about
four or five different nationalities for Gods sake. America is
a melting pot. Every nationality in the world makes up America. There
was an Israeli on there. So the point being to go back to your question
is that the 60s were, youre talking about something that
came out of two major world wars. And of course people wanted a better
world and a better life. We were sort of the forefront of all those...Im
one of those war babies. I was born in 1946. My father was in the 1914-18
war. My father was born in 1898. So when I came to America and we talk
about history...most people here have no sense of history whatsoever.
And as they say, those who do not study history are doomed to repeat
it. Basically thats that whole thing with the 60s. There
was great world-wide communal sense of making something better of the
RS: I interviewed Mike Pinder, the founder of The Moody Blues, and he
said the blues had a big influence on the kids born in England during
the WWII years.
DM: Just as an aside here, basically we turned you back on to your own
music. See I regard rock and roll as basically an American folk music.
The black guy taught the white guy how to clap on the backbeat. White
people dont clap on the backbeat, trust me. If you ever played
in Germany when you were 16 years old, they were all on the one and
the three. Thats a white people clap. So, theres a whole
rhythmic thing that you got from African-Americans who were born here.
Basically the English turned you back on to your own music. Back in
the 60s pop radio wasnt going to play R&B artists. It
was very white bread, milquetoast stuff. Thats what American radio
was for a long time. So we discovered all that back then.
RS: In essence, Mike Pinder told me that after WWII, the English identified
with the suffering the blues spoke of.
DM: I dont know whether it was that or not it was just the feel
of it. Maybe for him, yeah. I never really got into it that much. Thats
a whole other discussion. (laughter) Its for another time. But
the music, the blues, especially R&B stuff...I mean Motown for Gods
sake! We had to turn you back on to Motown.
RS: Well The Beatles turned me on to Motown.
RS: Before The Beatles I was listening to The Beach Boys and The Four
DM: And we were listening to all that too. We all dug a little deeper.
Someone like Mike Pinder, or myself, or Eric or all those guys...you
gotta understand. We grew up in a country where there was basically
one TV station that didnt really start doing any real broadcasting
till 6 oclock at night and then you had the epilogue at 12 and
that was the end of that. And there was one radio station, the BBC.
And thats what we all grew up listening to and frankly, you wanted
to scream. So you had to go really search for things like the blues,
like R&B. So it became like a personal quest when we were young,
cause we didnt have it. And the first time we came to America
when I was 13 or 14, it was like wow, theres more than one TV
station here. Wow, theres more than one radio station. This is
cool! (laughter) Now, theres just too much. Too much and its
too easy. For us, when we were kids we had to go really out of out way...if
you wanted to do this...it was dedication.
RS: Anything else you can add about the 60s group Family. You
told me theres something new coming about them?
DM: No, the wild thing is out of the blue this guy from England whos
doing an article on Family started emailing me about two weeks ago...questions
RS: Music In A Dolls House is such a great album. Its
sort of reminiscent of Mr. Fantasy.
DM: Well, its sort of that same era.
RS: In 1969 Steve Winwood stunned the music world by leaving Traffic
to join Clapton and Baker in Blind Faith? I saw Blind Faith at Madison
Sq. Garden that show they played in early July, 69 with Free opening
and Delaney & Bonnie second on the bill.
DM: So you saw me playing guitar.
RS: So you were with Delaney & Bonnie that night?
DM: Yeah. Well they had that big hit with Only You Know And I
Know. I was the guitar player for Delaney & Bonnie.
RS: I remember the stage at the Garden for that Blind Faith show was
in the round and Free were amazing. I was thinking, wouldnt it
be amazing if Clapton, Winwood and Capaldi would join you in a supergroup
based around the Traffic / Blind Faith legacy?
DM: Well, theyre older, theyve got families, theyve
made their money...theyre not hungry in the same ways. Who knows?
I dont know. But I cant answer for them, not them
RS: Can you record when and how you first met George Harrison?
DM: Actually the first person I knew was McCartney. And then I got to
playing with The Stones and those guys on Beggars Banquet.
It was the same thing. I just wanted to be around. I wanted to learn
from everybody. And then I got to know McCartney cause the girl
I was with at the time was designing some furniture for him. And so
I got to know everybody through that. Id go down to Abbey Road.
I used to go to a number of the Sgt. Pepper sessions. And thats
basically, really how I got to know them. And then Id go down
to, what the heck was where George... George had a house down in Esher,
by the golf course. And thats where I first heard the Sgt.
Pepper album when it was just finished. I went down there. And then
George gave me a sitar.
RS: So George Harrison was the influence behind your sitar playing?
DM: I was into it because they started using it and it was new and it
was different. They sort of embraced the whole aspect of the religion,
the whole culture. Me, that was not my thing. But the music...I was
very fascinated with the music.
RS: George was the first one to really explore the sound of the sitar
in pop music.
George was the first one to really use it and make it work. And he was
just a...nice guy. Really Paul and George were the only two that I really...John
RS: Did you ever meet John Lennon?
DM: Oh yeah, yeah of course. I never spoke to him! (laughter) He was
sitting around with a scowl on his face or something. John liked to
intimidate. A couple times I met him though when he was...once in Hollywood
there was a party he was on his way out and I was coming in, he goes,
Ah, Mason, good lets go back in! (laughter) But then,
see, early, early, early on when I came to America I was 23 or 22 and
thats when I got to know all the guys from Delaney & Bonnie.
So I really was sort of one of the first one over here and got to know
all those people and then eventually Eric got involved with them and
everybody got involved with them. And there was a song, there was a
record that Delaney & Bonnie did called Coming Home.
It was a single. And on that single I had played the slide part, not
that I can really play slide but if you give me few minutes to sit with
it I can come up with something. I played the slide part and then I
also actually replaced a Clapton solo on that record. On that single,
Coming Home. For some reason, Delaney said, I dont
like this solo, come down and play another solo. So I played that.
But then anyway, when we came back to England and there was a show at
Croydon Fairfield Hall, which was a live album. And George was there,
and Eric played and I played. And how George started playing slide guitar
is because Delaney said, Play that part that Mason played on the
thing. And thats how he started playing slide guitar. From
learning...and somewhere in an interview he did where he says, I
started playing slide guitar because of Dave Mason. (laughter)
But he had to learn that part and thats when he started doing
all the slide stuff.
RS: I guess you heard Georges Wonderwall soundtrack.
DM: I probably did.
RS: I dont know if you want to hear it. (our trusty interviewer
happens to have a compilation CD of Wonderwall and some Beatles
Mystery Tour outtakes)
DM: Put it on.
RS: Eric played on Wonderwall.
I like stuff George did like Within You, Without You...and
hes sort of the last one to emerge. I used to talk to McCartney,
wed be hanging out and Id say, yknow why does
George keep burying his vocals? Like he was afraid for anybody to hear
him sing? Hed say, I dont know why he keeps
doing it. But then he started getting more...I really loved all
that early stuff. And then he was like that last one to come out with
those great songsHere Comes The Sun and While
My Guitar Gently Weeps. Some really cool songs. (While The Beatles
song Flying is playing in the background and Dave gets a
big grin on his face) This all flows into one big thing for me in the
60s. This sound? This would be very easy for me to confuse with
that Rolling Stones album.
DM: Yeah. That era. The Stones wanted to be The Beatles. Everybody picked
up on all The Beatles stuff. Especially The Stones when they did
that...but that was mostly alot of Brian...Brian Jones.
RS: I just want to ask you a little about recording with George Harrison
on All Things Must Pass.
DM: I dont remember very much about it. (laughter) Most of
what I did on it was actually just playing acoustic guitar with maybe
two or three other people. But like specifics, its just...Its
like if you asked me the specifics of me being in the hospital for a
year and a half of my life, I couldnt tell you one minute of it.
I was fascinated by people that can actually remember things when they
were that young. I cant. You know what the sad thing about certain
aspects of today is? When Traffic first came over to America and we
played here at The Fillmore East, we asked specifically for The Staple
Singers to open for us. Because thats who we listened to. Those
were the people we listened to. And the sad thing about today is theres
very little heritage recognition. Theres not going to be many
of us left eventually. And thats the legacy. Nobodys tying
legacies together. I dont see any tours being put together where
theres some hip, young act thats actually acknowledging
where it all came from. Cause it all stems from plagiarism. Theres
26 letters in the alphabet and theres 12 notes in Western music
(laughter) so out of that combination...itd be nice to see some
tours like these Lollapalooza tours. But the other part about it is,
the sad thing about it is that, essentially, i.e. the music business,
Im a dead issue. Me and alot of other people. And radio is so
screwed up theres no room for an artist like myself, even though
I may be at the peak of everything Ive ever done. I may be doing
some of the best stuff I ever did. Its just that Ive got
to work with the fact that age is working against me. Except for the
fans, the die-hard fans, the people you already know. To breakout new,
to reignite it is not an easy thing to do at my age. Not because I cant
do it. I mean I can rock and roll one on one with the best of them,
I dont care who you put up there with me, I dont care how
young they are. Its just the perception. Im working against
a constant perception. Its mostly to do with age. Which is ridiculous.
if you could make any record you want...
DM: Im making the album I want to make! The question is, is how?...
Off the bat, Im locked into rock radio. Im locked into classic
radio, okay? Or Im locked into AOR. But to transition over to
the next step is not easy. When we were making music, there were two
or three radio formats. Now its all on carts. There are no radio
personalities anymore. They dont even tell you half the time who
the artists are you just listened to. So youve got to figure out
alternate ways unless youre an Eric Clapton or an Elton John or
those people who manage to keep going and stay on that level. Ive
always constantly been below the radar. But then Im sort of the
reluctant rock guy. (laughter) Im the reluctant rock star.
RS: Well, I keep going back to the 60s for inspiration.
DM: I mean, I dont know whats going to happen. I wrote a
song because I thought it would be a nice idea to try and write something
simple called Feelin Alright. I was just a simple
little song. And then Joe Cocker did a version of it and now theres
80 cover versions of it! I didnt know it was gonna do that. If
Id have known I wouldnt have given Chris Blackwell the publishing
on it! (laughter) I didnt know what I was doing. I was a kid!
I guess everybody has their thing. Our grandparents would go back to
Glenn Miller or whatever. I like Glenn Miller! I like Andy Williams,
I like Frank Sinatra. I like all kinds of music. My whole thing about
playing live is to send them out of there in a better place than when
they walked in. Elliot Roberts said the best description about a concert
when David Crosby said, Yknow, I dont think Im
going to sing Almost Cut My Hair tonight. He said,
let me explain something to you, okay? He said, Lets
see, the guy is in for about 25 bucks a ticket. Hes got his girlfriend.
Thats 50 bucks. Hes probably gone to dinner. Thats
another 40 or 50 bucks. Theres also the parking. Thats probably
another ten dollars. And if you dont sing Almost Cut My
Hair tonight, he aint gonna get laid! You better sing Almost
Cut My Hair. (laughter) Thats the bottom line!
RS: Thats a good way to end the interview! (laughter)
DM: In other words, you want people to walk out feeling better than
they did when they walked in. I mean heres the bottom line about
anything in life...if you can leave things in a better place then you
found them. My stuff has been about more than just music. Im on
a personal journey. I have a personal journey because Im passing
through and I dont aim on coming back. Once is going to be enough
for me. (laughter) My whole journey is not about the music. The musics
just an expression of something that Ive been on since I was very
young. And thats just a personal journey. And every thing that
I do reflects on that.
Thanks to Dave Mason -
www.dave-mason.com, Ramesh Sawhney - www.bluelabelrecords.net,
Spencer Savage and Cliff Greenough @ Image
Entertainment, Thanks to photographers Bill Westheimer @ www.billwest.com
and Richard Cervone: email@example.com