Friday, June 1, 2018

Traffic – "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" (1971)

If I gave you everything that I owned 
And asked for nothing in return
Would you do the same for me?

Surely you're not serious.

*     *     *     *     *

The two most notable things about Traffic’s fifth studio album, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, are its title track – which is eleven minutes and 35 seconds long – and its cover, which is a two-dimensional hexagon that looks like a three-dimensional cube:

There are very few rock songs that are more than ten minutes long.  Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (17:05) is probably the most famous.  The Doors’ “The End” (11:41), Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” (11:07), and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s cover of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (11:05) are three other well-known ten-minute-plus songs that got a fair amount of play on album-oriented rock stations back in the seventies.

“The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” doesn’t feel eleven minutes long.  It has long instrumental passages, but they aren’t pointless or repetitive.  The song’s tempo is leisurely, and the verses are longer than the verses of most rock songs.  It’s naturally long, not artificially long – like ultra-long rock tracks that feature unimaginative instrumental solos or jams that drag on forever and ever.

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys was released late in 1971, when I was a sophomore in college.  I probably bought it the next year, after hearing the title track on the radio a few times.  

John Barleycorn Must Die, the previous Traffic album, was better – but “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” holds up very well.

In case you’re wondering, the song’s title is taken from a phrase that actor Michael J. Pollard coined when he and Traffic’s co-founder and drummer, Jim Capaldi, were in Morocco working on a proposed movie that was never filmed.  

Pollard was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Bonnie and Clyde, but lost out to Cool Hand Luke’s George Kennedy.  (All five of the featured actors in Bonnie and Clyde – Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, and Pollard – were nominated for Oscars.  Only Parsons went home with a statuette.)

Pollard, Dunaway, Beatty, Parsons, and Hackman
Click here to hear “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.”

Click on the link below to buy the album from Amazon.  (Amazon doesn’t sell just the song.  Apparently they think $1.29 isn’t enough for an 11:35 song, so they make you buy the whole album if you want it.)

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