Sunday, January 29, 2017

Dave Mason – "Shouldn't Have Took More than You Gave" (1970)

Shouldn't have took more than you gave
Then we wouldn't be in this mess today
I know we've all gone different ways
But the dues we’ve got to pay are still the same

A few weeks ago, 2 or 3 lines received the following e-mail from a young writer who had decided to follow Ralph Waldo Emerson's advice and “hitch his wagon to a star”:

Hi there,

As I'm sure you're busy, I'll try to be as brief as possible.  My name is Jason Gordon and I'm a young writer looking to make a name for myself.  I recently started a sports blog called USS Sports Machine with a group of like-minded (young aspiring writer) friends from college and am actively looking to grow my audience.

I think I can provide you with some great work at 2 or 3 lines and hope there is an opportunity for me to create some original work for you in a non-paid role.  I am always eager to expand my topical range and write about new things . . . .

I can write about absolutely anything and everything and would greatly appreciate the chance to work with you.

Jason Gordon

I am an extremely busy man, but I am never too busy to respond to someone who offers to provide free content for 2 or 3 lines.  (“Non-paid role” – how sweet the sound!)

Jason and I are obviously kindred spirits.  (I, too, believe that I can write about “absolutely anything and everything.”)  So I replied to his e-mail and invited him to pick a song, any song, and write something about it.

Click here to read Jason Gordon's blog
A few days later, Jason sent me his thoughts on my favorite Dave Mason song, “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave.”

Which was an odd coincidence . . . because I had spent the hour before I checked my e-mail and found Jason’s missive working on a post about a different Dave Mason song.

I was a little surprised that a young whippersnapper like Jason had picked such an old song to write about.

Jason Gordon
2 or 3 lines: “Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave" was released in 1970 -- long before you were born in 1992.  How do you even know about that song?

Jason:  My father was a huge Traffic fan, so I heard the song from him first.  I think Dave Mason is an incredible lyricist, and pay extra attention to songs he writes.

Dave Mason (wearing the hat) and Traffic
2 or 3 lines:  When my kids were younger, it never entered my mind that the music I listened to would have any influence on them.  But when my older son got married a few years ago, the song he chose for his first dance with his bride was “God Only Knows,” by the Beach Boys.  I listened to Pet Sounds a lot when he was growing up, and the songs from that album stuck with him.

Jason:  My earliest musical memory as a child was listening to the Grateful Dead and Phish while I was riding around in the back of my dad’s Saab convertible.  Both of my parents were musical, and had an extensive CD and record collection.  Maybe that’s why the music I listened to in high school – Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Pink Floyd, the Eagles – was definitely a little older than what my peers liked.  

2 or 3 lines: Do you play any instruments yourself?  

Jason:  I play drums, guitar, trumpet, and piano, and I like to think I have a knack for songwriting.  I never sang with any kind of organization because unfortunately I have a terrible voice.

*     *     *     *     *

Dave Mason sacrificed grammar for meter when he wrote “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave,” which was released on Alone Together, his first solo album after leaving Traffic:

The "Alone Together" album cover
Here’s Jason Gordon’s take on that song: 

“Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave,” a song by Dave Mason – who is best known as one of the founders of the Hall of Fame sixties band, Traffic – is like an Aesop’s fable fed through a psychedelic filter.  

The composition is hazy, with progressive guitar licks dominating much of the track.  The drums are full-bodied and counterbalance the experimental sound of the guitar nicely.  Mason's singing possesses a hazy wonderment and tranquil aura that always puts me in a happy place.     

The song as a whole feels like an exercise in balancing long-standing morals about fairness while acknowledging the surreal nature of life.  Mason isn't delivering a diatribe to the listener; if it feels like he is, that impression is offset by the nimble guitar solos and groovy aesthetic that dominates the composition. 

It's a song that feels bound to Earth in terms of lyrical content, while simultaneously out-of-this-world in terms of instrumentation and musical arrangement.  However, it never feels like a tug-of-war, because Mason is able to pull off both elements.  

Listening, you feel bound to reality and understand the plight that he is talking about, but also are able to escape into the dreamy atmosphere he conjures up.  On repeated listens, the anticipation of the instrumental breakdowns makes for an even more satisfying experience; you really appreciate how much control Mason has over the whole affair.

Dave Mason then and now
Mason allots his words nicely, allowing for the impact of his lyricism to be felt rather than overstuffing the track with too many words and not enough meaning.  The opening lines [which are quoted at the beginning of this post] are the most powerful and set the tone of the song very well.

From the start, Mason is casting blame onto another person.  However, it's not entirely clear what the offense was.  This allows for different listeners to affix the meaning to different scenarios they themselves have gone through.  Mason also acknowledges how people take different routes in life, but ultimately, everyone has to follow the same general guidelines in life if we want to live together in harmony.

Many real-life lessons can be drawn from Mason's lyrics here.  If you stray off the beaten path, that is your absolute right.  However, too many people believe that the freedom to be unorthodox excuses you from responsibility.  You might think it's not cool to stay in school and choose to drop out.  However, by doing so, you may initiate a domino effect that will be detrimental to you and those around you.  Life is all about taking chances, but that comes with the understanding that if you take chances on certain things, it will likely come back to haunt you.

My favorite thing about “Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave” is that it imparts lessons without feeling like it is doing so.  It's like a wise friend who always has good advice, but who never delivers that advice in an overbearing manner.

Here’s “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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