m (fritz lang, 1931)
music friday: bruce springsteen, roses and broken hearts

music friday: dave mason, "look at you, look at me"

In 1969, Boz Scaggs, who had left the Steve Miller Band, recorded a solo album in Muscle Shoals. The centerpiece of the album was Fenton Robinson’s blues song, “Loan Me a Dime”, which went on for 13 minutes and included some red-hot guitar, with the last 4 1/2 minutes being a jam featuring the Muscle Shoals gang and guest guitarist Duane Allman. Funny thing is, the name “Duane Allman” meant little to me at the time. The Allman Brothers had yet to release their first album, Layla was still on the horizon, and while Allman was already a session man of note, that didn’t make him famous to the general public (i.e., me). Meanwhile, Scaggs had recorded two albums and a soundtrack with Miller, and there was some red-hot guitar there, as well, most notably on “Your Old Lady”. I added all this together and decided that Boz Scaggs was a red-hot guitar player. It took me awhile to realize it was Steve Miller playing those hot licks in his band, and Duane Allman who famously laid down the solos in “Loan Me a Dime”.

(Odd tangent about “Loan Me a Dime”. The one thing that always bothered me was that Allman’s guitar was buried in the mix … he’d be wailing away, and you’d hear the organ vamping louder than Allman. Some years later, I heard it mixed “properly”. I just checked Wikipedia, and sure enough, it was remixed in 1977 to bring Allman’s guitar to the front, just as I always wanted it. If you hunt down that Boz Scaggs album now, you’ll hear the remixed version … the original isn’t available. Except on Duane Allman: An Anthology, which came out in 1972. So if you want to hear Allman’s guitar buried in the mix, you have to listen to Allman’s album.)

But this is supposed to be about Dave Mason. Mason was an on-again, off-again member of Traffic, and in June of 1970 he released a solo album, Alone Together, which drew immediate notice because the vinyl was like multicolored marble. The last song on the album was “Look at You, Look at Me”, a mid-tempo shuffle with Mason’s usual serviceable, somewhat inscrutable lyrics. There is a fine guitar solo in the middle, and then, at the end, comes a three-minute solo that blows just about any guitar solo you’ve heard out of the water. I wish I had the words to describe it. It’s not complex, drawing on repeated figures, but everything is perfectly placed, and the flow is psychedelic. In fact, I have always said the solo personifies the psychedelic experience to me more than any music I’ve ever heard (and I spent more than one session on acid listening to it).

I was listening to it the other day, and decided I’d make it this week’s Music Friday entry. So I went surfing the Internet to gobble up trivia on the song, thinking I might even find Mason commenting on the solo. What I found was a lot of praise … I’m not the only person who loves that solo. But I also found a rumor that I had never heard: that Eric Clapton played that second solo.

The notes are the same, I don’t know why it even matters. But this floored me, nonetheless. That wasn’t Dave Mason playing my favorite psychedelic guitar solo?

After a few more days on the Internet, I’m willing to say with some certainty that Mason does indeed play that solo. The style isn’t much different from the solo in the middle of the song, and the kind of fluid phrasing sounds more like Mason than like Clapton, whose style is more stinging to me (I don’t have the right vocabulary for this). I saw Mason in the mid-70s, and his guitar work was fine, although I don’t recall him playing this song. (I saw Clapton a few years earlier, and to be honest, Mason’s show was better.)

Well, let’s get to the song. First, I’ll post an example of Clapton’s work at the time. Then, when you hear “Look at You, Look at Me”, you can decide who plays what.

And “Look at You, Look at Me”: