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Peter Green

Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie on Peter Green: “Every guitar player adores him”

The latest issue of Uncut celebrates the mercurial guitarist – and discovers what he’s up to now

Ahead of a major tribute concert at the London Palladium, the latest issue of Uncut – in shops now or available to buy online by clicking here – celebrates the brilliance of blues-rock guitarist Peter Green. Christine McVie, Jeremy Spencer and John Mayall are among the friends and former bandmates who help Rob Hughes chart Green’s course from the British blues boom, through Fleetwood Mac’s early success to the wilderness years and his low-key comeback. Plus we discover what Green is up to now…

Every three months or so, Bernie Marsden makes a two-hour drive from his home near Oxford, heading south-west. He’ll arrive at his destination – an unremarkable house in a quiet residential street – feeling a little nervous. A short while after he rings the bell, the front door opens. “I go, ‘Hello Pete’,” says Marsden. “Or sometimes I’ll call him Pedro. Then he invites me in and makes me a cup of tea. Mentally, I still pinch myself as I walk through the door.”

As former songwriter and guitarist with UFO, Paice Ashton Lord and Whitesnake, Marsden isn’t normally given to starry-eyedness. But these visits are different. The person he comes to see is Peter Green, his idol as a young guitarist growing up in the late ’60s. The fanboy, it transpires, has never quite left him.

Before too long, Marsden and Green move to the front room with their guitars, where they are joined by Green’s neighbour, Paul. “He makes sure Peter plays every other day,” says Marsden. “I think they go fishing together, too.”

The three of them begin playing – a loose jam between friends, with no agenda. Marsden sets a tape running to record what they do: “Last time around we did ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’, Little Richard’s ‘Lucille’, ‘The Young Ones’ by The Shadows and The Beatles’ ‘Help!’ Then we’ll start rolling into ‘Oh Well’.”

“Oh Well” is the only concession made to Green’s own legacy. Originally released in 1969, it arrived at the commercial peak of early Fleetwood Mac, the band that Green founded during the British blues boom. As singer and lead guitarist, Green was a formidable figure back then – blessed with a preternatural talent that enabled him to assimilate American blues into his own distinct vision.

“All of us in the band realised that Peter was very gifted,” says Jeremy Spencer, fellow guitarist in the original Fleetwood Mac. “I learned so much from him, especially when it came to less is more.” For Christine McVie, who joined the group just as Green was departing, “Fleetwood Mac were like a bluesy Beatles. Each of them carried an amazing charisma, yet Peter stood out. You could tell that Peter had a talent way beyond most other people. He was the one who created the genius behind it all. I thought he was just unbelievable.”

Green left the band in May 1970, less than three years into Fleetwood Mac’s career. His life has taken many turns over the ensuing decades, yet his influence endures. His prowess as a live performer has recently been documented in Before The Beginning – a collection of live Fleetwood Mac recordings from 1968 and 1970 – while his debut solo album, The End Of The Game, is reissued next month. Also in February, Mick Fleetwood hosts a special celebration of Green’s music at the London Palladium on behalf of the Teenage Cancer Trust, joined by a host of famous friends and ex-bandmates – Billy Gibbons, David Gilmour, John Mayall, Christine McVie, Steven Tyler, Bill Wyman and more. “For a man who was only really performing for a total of maybe four years – and you’re talking 50 years ago now – every guitar player I talk to adores him and how he developed his magic,” says Christine McVie.

The only thing missing from the Palladium, in all likelihood, will be the master himself. On his most recent visit to Green’s place, shortly before Christmas, Bernie Marsden took with him a bootleg of Fleetwood Mac recordings, circa 1967–68. “It’s BBC sessions and two American concerts,” he says. “Really good quality. When I mentioned that one section sounded particularly good, Peter just went, ‘Bit messy!’ I imagine that’s what he was like to be in the band with at the time – really tough. But he admitted, ‘Yeah, we were a good little band.’”

Rob Hughes / Uncut (UK) / Friday, January 31, 2020

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Fleetwood Mac Peter Green

Mick Fleetwood announces Peter Green tribute

Mick Fleetwood announces concert to honor Peter Green and early Fleetwood Mac

Mick Fleetwood will host a one-of-a-kind concert honoring the early years of Fleetwood Mac and its co-founder Peter Green on February 25th at the London Palladium.

Fleetwood has enlisted an all-star cast of musicians to perform, including Billy Gibbons, David Gilmour, Jonny Lang, John Mayall, Christine McVie, Zak Starkey, Steven Tyler and Bill Wyman.

“The concert is a celebration of those early blues days where we all began, and it’s important to recognize the profound impact Peter and the early Fleetwood Mac had on the world of music,” Fleetwood said in a statement. “Peter was my greatest mentor and it gives me such joy to pay tribute to his incredible talent. I am honored to be sharing the stage with some of the many artists Peter has inspired over the years and who share my great respect for this remarkable musician.”

Fleetwood will act as the house band alongside Andy Fairweather Low, Dave Bronze and Ricky Peterson, and producer Glyn Johns will be the executive sound producer for the concert. The event will be filmed for eventual release and directed by Martyn Atkins.

Exclusive pre-sale tickets go on sale Wednesday November 13th at 10 a.m. GMT while public tickets go on sale Friday November 15th at 10 a.m. GMT via Ticketmaster. A donation from the event will go to Teenage Cancer Trust, a U.K. charity dedicated to providing specialist nursing and emotional support to young people with cancer.

Green co-founded Fleetwood Mac in 1967 alongside Fleetwood, John McVie, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan. Fleetwood told Rolling Stone in 2017 that there was little possibility of the original lineup of the band reforming down the road.

“I went there many years ago,” he said. “We got into it and we were going to put a whole thing together at the [Royal] Albert Hall. This is years and years and years ago. Probably about 15 years ago. And right at the last minute, Peter, in the world that he lives in, just suddenly pulled out. … Suddenly it was not a good idea. And we had put a whole bunch of things together, I had even booked the venue. So I would never do that again.”

Emily Zemler / Rolling Stone / Monday, November 11, 2019

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Peter Green

Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac

PETER GREEN IS, arguably, the most underrated lead guitarist of the British mid-’60s blues boom, consistently relegated to a position somewhere below the holy triumverate of Clapton, Beck and Page. He deserves better.

He would write some of the most memorable blues-based songs of the ’60s, create some of the genre’s most imaginative guitar licks and establish a band that, by the end of the decade, was out-selling the Beatles and the Stones.

Born in London’s East End to a poor Jewish family, he had been turned on to the possibilities of guitar at the age of eleven, in the mid-fifties skiffle era. His brother Len acquired a cheap Spanish guitar and showed young Peter a few chords. Before long, it was Peter’s guitar.

This is the story of how it all began for Peter Green, his first recordings and the creation of Fleetwood Mac.

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August 11, 1965: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, featuring Eric Clapton, play at the Pontiac Club, Putney, London, UK. Shortly after this gig, Clapton unexpectedly disappears to Greece for a two-week holiday.

John Mayall: I guess Eric just became bored with it. So he decided to get some friends together and go off to Greece. For me, it was panic stations because we’d come to rely on him so much and there were so few people to choose from as a replacement.

I got a lot of replies to an advert I put in the Melody Maker, so I was auditioning different players every night, letting them sit in to see how they worked out. Then Peter came up to me during a gig at the Flamingo and was fairly forceful, very insistent that he was better than the guy I had on stage that night, so I gave him a shot and he was quite right, of course.

Mike Vernon (producer): Peter was pretty much an unknown quantity at this time. He had played in several local bands, the best-known of which was perhaps the Muskrats, but he was not a well-known name.

Peter Green: John said I could play a little bit and he said, ‘You’ve got the feeling’, or something like this. Anyway, he let me on the train.

August 25, 1965: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, featuring Eric Clapton, newly returned from Greece, play at the Pontiac Club, Putney, London, UK.

John Mayall: Unfortunately, it was only a couple of weeks before Eric came back from Greece. Eric came back with a tan and Peter was out again. Peter wasn’t very pleased about that, but that was the way it was.

Peter Green: I was only there for a week, and then I went with Peter B’s Looners…

December 24, 1965: Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames, supported by instrumental band Peter B’s Looners, led by organist Peter Bardens, play at the Flamingo Club, Soho, London. As well as Peter Green, the group also includes drummer Mick Fleetwood, both of whom will become founder-members of Fleetwood Mac.

Mick Fleetwood: He came to audition … we were a very simple instrumental band, a lot of Booker T., Mose Allison. He had a great ‘sound’ as they say, but me and Dave [Ambrose, bassist] didn’t think he knew enough about the guitar. He only played a couple of licks, variations on a theme, Freddie King. And to Peter Bardens’ credit, he pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re wrong, this guy’s special’.

April 29, 1966: Peter B’s Looners play at the Carousel Club, Farnborough, UK, with an augmented line-up including vocalists Rod Stewart and Beryl Marsden. They have been brought in, at the behest of Flamingo Club owners Rik and John Gunnell, hoping not just to expand the band’s musical range, but to create a white soul “supergroup”.

Dave Ambrose: When Rod Stewart and Beryl Marsden came in as singers, the band changed to Shotgun Express, doing mainly soul and Tamla Motown songs.

May 6, 1966: Shotgun Express play at the Beachcomber Club, St. Mary’s Gate, Lace Market, Nottingham, UK.

Beryl Marsden (vocalist): The music hadn’t happened organically. We had been manufactured. There was a lot of money out there to be earned in the clubs we played, like The Flamingo in Soho, and the Ram Jam Club in Brixton, but we didn’t see big wage packets at the end of the hard week’s work, and that led to discontent too.

Dave Ambrose: We did a single which was a minor hit but, shortly after a lot of soul searching on his part, Peter left the band.

Jun 17, 1966: With Eric Clapton having abandoned Mayall’s Bluesbreakers once more, Peter Green is drafted in to replace him again.

John Mayall: When Eric had taken off for Greece we’d had Peter Green playing for a week, then Eric came back with a tan and Peter was out again. But with Peter back in the band, the way we played stayed pretty much the same. As long as you have the same rhythm section then things don’t change that much – it’s when you lose a bass player that you’re in trouble.

Peter Green: I bumped into John Mayall on the road and he said, ‘Eric Clapton’s going to form the Cream, with Ginger and Jack, do you want to come with me and get some experience? And be a blues band again instead of Booker T. and the MGs and soul sections?’

John Mayall: He was a little hesitant at first because he’d been offered a job with Eric Burdon which entailed going to America, which Peter had always wanted to do, but the music Burdon was playing wasn’t as attractive to Peter as playing blues, so he opted to come back with me.

Jul 22, 1966: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers release a new album, Blues Breakers: John Mayall With Eric Clapton, which had been recorded before Peter Green replaced Clapton.

John McVie (bassist, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers): It was done at Decca Studios in West Hampstead, England, in less that a month. We played together a lot as a band, so we’d just go in and do takes live, with no overdubs. And as soon as the session was finished, we’d be out to gig.

After the album came out a strange situation developed, because this upstart guy named Peter Green started playing with John. There were guitar style wars going on between them – all that stuff about “Clapton Is God” being sprayed on the walls was real!

Jul 24, 1966 : John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers play their first gig with Peter Green, at the Britannia Rowing Club, Nottingham, UK.

Mick Fleetwood (drummer, Bluesbreakers): He went immediately for the human touch, and that’s what Peter’s playing has represented to millions of people – he played with the human, not the superstar touch.

Oct 11, 1966: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers are in Decca Studios, Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead, London, with producer Mike Vernon recording A Hard Road. The sessions take five days spread over a month.

Mike Vernon: All three Decca studios were custom-built by Decca boffins.  No.2, the smallest, was used primarily for pop and group sessions, and had a really cool vibe … it was compact and vision between the control room and the main studio area was excellent.

The equipment was mostly built by Decca engineers and as a result, unique … not only in styling but also in sound. The sound achieved was never less than great but it did depend largely on the engineer.   Working with engineer Gus Dudgeon made sense to me as he was very much into the music.

I am reasonably sure that I had not met Peter prior to his arrival at West Hampstead. Me and Gus were looking at him and thinking, ‘Who the hell is this? Where’s Eric?’ John Mayall just said, ‘Oh, he’s Eric’s replacement.’ I hadn’t even heard that Eric had left The Bluesbreakers. John said Peter was as good as Eric, which was a bit hard to believe until he actually plugged in and then we thought, ‘Ummm, he can play a bit!’

Initially, Peter seemed like a very quiet and somewhat reserved kind of guy … not outspoken or aggressive in any way.  He must have felt somewhat awkward, though, following in Clapton’s footsteps.  As the sessions progressed, Peter became a little more certain of his role as a Bluesbreaker … especially when he was given the chance to exercise his vocal chords.  He certainly was not as reluctant to sing as his predecessor had been … he seemed to really enjoy that role and he was very good.

When I heard Peter sing ‘The Same Way’ for the first time.  “Wow!” was my reaction. Here is a great blues singer, no inhibitions about singing with an English accent, expressive and individual. I had a feeling that Peter was destined to make his mark in the music business.

John Mayall: Peter was every bit as good in the studio as he was on the road. He just nailed it. I didn’t need to give him any instructions. I chose him for his individuality, for the way he played, so why would I try to direct him?

The only piece he actually wrote for the album was the instrumental, ‘The Supernatural’, but that was a great piece of music.

Peter Green: Mike Vernon came up with the idea for ‘The Supernatural’. He said he’d seen this guitarist who’d played a high note, sustained it and then let it roll all the way down the neck. But I played it and I decided on the sequence.

Mike Vernon: That was a major departure in sound and feel from anything we’d done with Eric. The fluidity of his playing was quite awe inspiring.  He seemed to have a natural ability to string together notes and phrases that worked straightaway. There was little time spent on working out what he was going to play, either because he had already figured out what he was going to do in advance or the ‘moment’ took over and it just happened!

In my own personal estimation, Peter Green was just the very best blues guitarist this country has ever produced.

Feb 17, 1967: John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers release the album A Hard Road.

John Mayall: People often ask me about the differences between Peter and Eric, but I don’t judge guitarists by the number of notes they play. I just want them to have something moving and original to say. On a personal level, though, Peter was a much easier guy to work with than Eric. Very easy-going and fun-loving, great to be around. He became a really good friend.

Apr 19, 1967: John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers record ‘Double Trouble’, in London, but the song will not appear on the next album, Crusade, because of Green’s departure from the band.

Mike Vernon: John really rated Peter’s playing as well as his vocal prowess. Peter kept telling me he was fed-up with the Bluesbreakers set-up and wanted to put his own unit together.

Mick Fleetwood: From the beginning he was a stickler about it not being all about him, but all about the band. That spirit was so important.

Mike Vernon: It just sort of snowballed, to the point where Peter was going to leave John Mayall and form his own band. He said to me, ‘I want you to record our records and I want them out on your label, Blue Horizon. I don’t mind if we’re with Decca, but I don’t want it on any other label but Blue Horizon.’

Mick Fleetwood: We had no manager, so we did everything ourselves, and Peter did all the negotiations with Blue Horizon.

Jeremy Spencer (guitarist, Fleetwood Mac): In early spring of 1967, I was playing guitar in the Levi Set, in Lichfield, Staffordshire. Unbeknownst to me, my friend Phil had answered an advertisement in Melody Maker, which said that Mike Vernon was scouting Britain for blues talent.

Mike came up, and we did a thirty-minute set and he was impressed and enthusiastic. He later arranged a session at Decca Records for us to record about four tracks. While there, Mike told me that Peter Green was quitting John Mayall in order to form his own band and wanted to find another guitarist. Mike then arranged for us to play for half an hour between the sets of an upcoming John Mayall gig at Birmingham’s Le Metro club, so Pete could see and hear me play.

June 11, 1967:John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers play at Le Metro, Birmingham, supported by the Levi Set.

Jeremy Spencer: I walked up to Peter to introduce myself. He said ‘Jeremy? Jeremy Spencer?’ before I said anything. I said I was and asked him if he listened to Elmore James. He said, ‘Yes, all the time. Do you listen to B. B. King?’ I said I did, and we chatted until it came time for their set. I had seen John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Peter Green some months previously and had enjoyed it.

Anyway, we, the Levi Set, played for about half an hour between Mayall’s sets. I was happy that a good time had been had, but I pretty much discounted any idea of Pete wanting me in his new band. To my surprise, however, Pete asked if I wanted a drink, and as we stood by the bar, he talked as though I was already in it! He was saying stuff like, ‘Well, you can do a couple of Elmore things and then I do a couple of B.B.’s and so on like that…’

I finally said, ‘Are you serious? Do you like what I play? He said I was the first guitarist that made him smile since Hendrix! Knowing that Pete disdained speed freak guitar playing, I said, ‘But he’s fast. I’m not.’

He said, ‘It’s not the amount of notes you play. It’s what goes into the notes.’

Then he showed me a page that he had written in his notebook on his way up to Birmingham. It was like a prayer that said something like, ‘I can’t go on with this music like it is. Please have Jeremy be good, please have him be good.’

Peter Green: I could see he was a little villain, you know? I thought I’d give it a try.

June 15, 1967: Peter Green quits John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

John Mayall: I was disappointed when Peter left, because he was really a special player, but his heart wasn’t in it so much, because we were leaning more towards jazzier elements.

Mike Vernon: I don’t think Peter found it that easy to be the “boss” of Fleetwood Mac.  There were a lot of issues at the onset. He couldn’t get John McVie to leave Mayall and so Bob Brunning took the bass player spot. I do think that Mick also played an important part in holding the unit together.  He had a keen sense of how things should be done and, in that area, he and Peter usually agreed.

Mick Fleetwood: Peter and I came from very different backgrounds. He was an East End lad with a very definite chip on his shoulder – a Jewish boy who got beaten up. He got away from it, but it caught him up in the end when it all went wrong.

Aug 14, 1967: Fleetwood Mac make their debut on the third day of the National Jazz and Blues Festival, Windsor, UK. The Cream, Donovan, Al Stewart, Jeff Beck, P.P.Arnold, Alan Bown, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Chicken Shack, Blossom Toes, Pentangle and Denny Laine play on the same bill.

John McVie (bassist, Fleetwood Mac): I was the bass player that night; I was playing with John Mayall, who was headlining. Peter Green was harassing me to join the band, and I said, “No, I’m fine playing with John”.

Stan Webb (guitarist, Chicken Shack): Peter and me were talking about the price of beer. Peter was wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans, and Eric came over to us wearing a bed spread, rings on every finger, his frizzy hair sticking out six inches, and said to Peter, ‘You’ll never be a star if you dress like that’. Peter just smiled. And that sums it up.

Jeremy Spencer: Peter was straightforward, intuitive and a deep thinker. I think I brought to the band a kind of happy-go-lucky bawdiness, I suppose, but we related on musical and even what could be termed mystical wavelengths. We still do in a similar way during our infrequent interactions on the telephone.

Aug 28, 1967: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers play at the Marquee Club, London. This will prove to be John McVie’s last gig with the band.

John McVie: At the time John had horn players in the band, and we were rehearsing at some club when John turned to one of them and said, “Okay – just play it free-form there”. I said, with typical blues snobbishness, “I thought this was a blues band, not a jazz band!” I immediately went across the street, called Peter, and asked if he still wanted me to join up. I joined Fleetwood Mac in September ’67.

Sep 9, 1967: Fleetwood Mac secretly record ‘I Believe My Time Ain’t Long’, ‘Rambling Pony’ and ‘Long Grey Mare’ at Decca Studios, New Bond Street, London.

Mick Fleetwood: Mike used his key to the studio to record us after hours.

Mike Vernon: We recorded it extremely late at night, in the big studio at Decca. We shouldn’t have been there, when nobody at Decca knew we were doing it.

Sep 19, 1967: Fleetwood Mac plays at Klook’s Kleek, West Hampstead, London, UK.

Mike Vernon: I spent many hours following them around the club and university circuits.  Seeing them working in front of an audience and gauging the latter’s reaction to new and old material helped in deciding what to record.  In summary, I would say that Peter had to work at being the ‘boss’…once he was at ease with that situation, everything moved forward at a faster pace and with better results.

Mick Fleetwood: Peter would come over and whip me! ‘It ain’t fuckin’ swingin’! You ain’t puttin’ it where it should be!’ He would treat me like a dog, but that’s all it took. ‘I know you can do it, just do it.’ ‘Just feel it, buddy!’ Everything I am musically I owe to Peter. I am more capable technically than I appear, but that’s a lesson well learnt from this man: less is more, more is less.

Nov 3, 1967: The first UK single by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, ‘I Believe My Time Ain’t Long’, is released on Blue Horizon Records.

Mike Vernon: The very first demos had been offered to Decca, and they weren’t rejected, but they wouldn’t put the record out on the Blue Horizon label so we offered it to CBS, who took it and took the label identity as well. But once that record came out and was something of a success, I got the dreaded phone call from the seventh floor at Decca, got called in and was told, ‘You can’t produce records for other record companies!’ I said, ‘Well, I did offer it to you and you rejected it, so I took it to someone else’. And they said, ‘OK, fair enough, but you can’t do these two things at once, so you either have to resign or we’ll fire you!’ So I said, ‘Right, I resign as of now,’ went away, and about three weeks later I came back and signed an independent production deal with Decca.

Mick Fleetwood: Peter saved my bacon on more than one occasion. One night at the Marquee, we’d had a few drinks, we were jamming, and I’d got over-adventurous and came out of it the wrong way. I’d lost track of whether I was on the off-beat or the on-beat, but Peter always knew, so he was laughing at me. I was completely lost, but I kept going of course, until Peter came back, grabbed my wrist and put me back in time.

Nov 22, 1967: Fleetwood Mac is in CBS Studios, New Bond Street, London, UK, recording ‘Merry Go Round’, ‘Hellhound On My Trail’, ‘I Loved Another Woman’, ‘Cold Black Night’, ‘The World Keeps On Turning’, ‘Watch Out’, ‘A Fool No More’, ‘You’re So Evil’ and ‘Mean Old Fireman’. Most of these tracks will appear on their debut album.

Mike Vernon: I don’t think Peter was very interested, at that time, in the recording process. That was my job, along with the engineer.  He fully understood the basics though.  I think he felt that his job was to create the music and the atmosphere that was essential to get the best results. If I had any qualms it would only have been that they could sometimes be infuriating with their persistent ‘messing around’.

Mike Ross (engineer): The first time I met Peter was when they walked into our studio, on the first floor above a fashion shop. It wasn’t a great studio, but we made it work. It had been a ballroom in the early 1900s, so it had very high ceilings which we’d had lowered, otherwise drum sounds would just bounce around everywhere.

As a staff engineer for CBS, I was doing pop bands like the Marmalade and the Tremeloes, so this was my first real exposure to blues.

Peter was obviously the boss, he was very verbal. The two people I remember doing most of the talking were Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green. They were the guys in charge. The others were more quiet, a bit laid back. Mick and Peter used to give me lifts home after sessions because I lived at Holland Park and they were in Shepherd’s Bush, and that’s how I started to realise what good friends they were. They were very close.

Those sessions were mainly recorded live, with the band DI’d straight into the mixing desk. We were using a four-track recorder, but they wouldn’t let us record them separately, which I would have preferred, to achieve a better sound. Peter didn’t want a ‘better’ sound. He wanted it to sound as near as possible to the way they sounded on stage. So they would all play at once, with Peter singing and playing simultaneously. As a result, there was quite a lot of spill across the tracks, which I think did add to the roomy sound. It was absolutely live, but it wasn’t dirty enough for them.

There were lots of conversations about how Chess Records sounded. They even brought in a couple of Chess 78s to illustrate the sound they wanted.

In fact, when they heard the tapes they were really not happy with them, but there wasn’t much we could do about that except maybe re-mix them a little by changing the levels on the tracks. They wanted it to sound rougher, but Mike Vernon was able to talk them out of that, so we didn’t really get close to what they wanted until the second album, Mr. Wonderful, where we got them to bring their stage amps and speakers into the studio and play through them.

Dec 5, 1967: John Mayall is in recording studios in London, UK, working on the tracks ‘Jenny’ and ‘Picture On The Wall’, with Peter Green on guitar.

John Mayall: Even after Peter left, we remained great friends, so I would go out to see him playing live in Fleetwood Mac, which was a very exciting band – mostly my old band – but you can’t stand in the way of progress.

Dec 11, 1967: Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac is in CBS Studios, New Bond Street, London, UK, recording ‘My Heart Beat Like A Hammer’, ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ and ‘Leaving Town Blues’. The first two of these tracks will appear on the band’s debut album, Fleetwood Mac.

Mike Ross: I was impressed by the quality of their songs, and also by the speed at which they worked. Most of the songs would be just two takes, or even one in some cases.

They took it all quite seriously, no messing around once they got down to work. Mike Vernon was quite a strict producer. I think they knew better than to mess around with him being there.

The only one who was a bit of a humorous character was Jeremy Spencer. He just wanted to be Elvis Presley and he’d come out with a bit of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ or something in the middle of a session. He wanted tape echo on everything. He was a rock’n’roller at heart, more so than a blues man, but his Elmore James guitar style was amazing.

Jeremy Spencer: Peter had asked me on the band’s onset if I ever wrote my own material and I had told him that I didn’t. The problem was that I was uninspired with getting anything new. No wonder he eventually welcomed Danny Kirwan’s creative addition!

Feb 16, 1968: Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac release their debut album, Fleetwood Mac, on Blue Horizon Records. It will peak at No. 4 and remain on the UK chart for 37 weeks.

Mike Vernon: Peter was able to really put good melodies together within his playing, probably more so than Clapton who had a much more rhythmical approach, he never got out of the groove. Whereas Eric had energy in his playing, Peter had a deftness, a touch and a more melodic style, and actually at that time he probably had a deeper blues than Eric.

Melody Maker (review): The is the best English blues LP ever released.

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WHAT HAPPENED NEXT…

Seeking to expand the band’s musical horizons, Green drafted in a third guitarist, Danny Kirwan, and the major hit singles started to come in 1969 with ‘Albatross’, ‘Man Of The World’ and ‘Oh Well’. Green’s well-documented and disastrous encounters with LSD tragically brought the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, but the remnants re-located to the USA where they eventually, with a drastically changed line-up and new musical direction, were reincarnated as one of the most successful rock bands of all time.

Johnny Black / Blues / January 2014

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Peter Green

Peter Green: Now Play On…

“I’ve never been on a plantation but I have been on a kibbutz.” Peter Green completes the Robert Johnson songbook, tours with John Mayall and spends two hours talking to Harry Shapiro.

About seven years ago, I wrote a two-part article on Peter Green for Record Collector magazine. In the course of the research, I had the opportunity to interview him. I declined. My mind went back to a horrible night at the Mean Fiddler in North London and a dreadful band called Kolors. Clothed in what can only be described as deck-chair chic, Peter mumbled a few lyrics and aimlessly strummed some indistinct chords before shuffling off. As far as I was concerned, Peter needed to be looked after but left alone.

So it was with some trepidation that I viewed the much-lauded Peter Green comeback. And those first few gigs in 1996 served only to confirm my worst fears, compounded by a later television documentary. There was one scene in particular at the office of the record company with a lot of banter and debate as to whether this or that track should be included. And in the middle of the rock-biz-talk, there’s Peter slowly closing his eyes as if to say, ‘Jesus, not this all over again’.

But since then, we have had the Robert Johnson Songbook which last year won a W. C. Handy Award for best comeback album. And also Destiny Road, produced by Pete Brown, an album about three songs from being a real comeback – no Peter Green lyrics, but some vintage licks brimming over with taste and subtlety. So, on the strength of music clearly gaining in strength, I went to meet Peter – in my view one of the finest exponents of modern blues guitar – at the home he shares with his manager Mitch Reynolds.

Peter is a rambling pony by way of East End Jewish wide boy. He talks in metaphors, tangents and time loops, speaking to me at one point of a “recent” Danny Kirwan song when in truth it has been many a sad year since the curse of Fleetwood Mac struck that frail musician with alcoholism and destitution. Peter Green is also seriously self-deprecating, his sentences peppered with laudatory references to Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, as if the three major guitar heroes of the sixties were still slugging it out. Peter slipped through his schooling with barely a backward glance, “absolutely hated it; I didn’t have a clue what they were going on about.” Music was a different matter, “skiffle is close to the blues – ‘Alabama Bound’ by Leadbelly. That was one of the Lonnie Donegan things I was playing when I was ten or eleven. I was completely crazy when I first saw guitars, tea-chest basses and washboards. I thought, this is gonna be good. I want to have a go at this.”

Kicking off on guitar, he would stand thoughtfully watching Eric Clapton with the Yardbirds at the Crawdaddy Club (in Richmond). As a performer he played bass, but quietly honed his skills as a guitarist until he came to the attention of John Mayall, eventually taking Clapton’s place in the Bluesbreakers.

In June 1967, Peter was thinking about moving on, “they were a bit too powerful for me, too powerful. I had to have my guitar up loud to keep up. Also John had this jazz thing and he couldn’t entertain me with that at all. We’d done this song, ‘Leaping Christine’ (on the Hard Road album) and I thought, ‘this ain’t nothing to do with the blues.’ I thought it was a joke. If he’d laughed at the end of it, I would have been happy.” John had given Peter some studio time as a present and he had used it to record three tracks with Mayall band members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, including ‘Looking for Somebody’, and Fleetwood Mac’. “I did think then that if I ever had my own band, I would call it Fleetwood Mac.”

What he actually wanted to do was to leave Mayall and go play on the South side of Chicago. “But Marsha Hunt put me off that. She said if I did it, some copper would pull me off the stage and ask to see my work permit which of course I wouldn’t have. Then instead I thought I might become the house guitarist for Blue Horizon which was just starting out then. Like Buddy Guy was for Chess, although that didn’t ring true for me. How could you have Buddy doing every solo; it would just become the Buddy Guy story.”

Today, Peter balks at the idea that it was the pressure of being the main man in Fleetwood Mac that pushed him over the edge, “A lot of people ask me about that and perhaps I had a different answer at the time. You can’t really say what it was all about – it’s Just ‘Showbiz Blues’ (a track on Then Play On), that’s the song that says it all. The rest of them looked like clowns, and I’m not part of the circus. Whatever Fleetwood Mac had become, I just didn’t want to play whatever it was.” The seventies and the eighties have been written off entirely as Peter’s lost years, although amid the gloom, there were odd glimmers of light on the early eighties PVK albums.

As Peter tells it, guitarist Nigel Watson finger-picking some Robert Johnson songs rekindled his sustained interest in playing. The nails were cut, the guitar dusted down and Peter began the slow haul of rediscovering that molten talent crusted over by years of illness and neglect. Peter went back to basics and it was probably natural for him to record the songs of the blues well-spring from which so much has come. Through playing Johnson’s songs, “I almost felt that I knew him,” although he typically brushes aside any comparisons between the hellhounds that dogged Johnson’s tracks and the green manalishis that lurked in the corners of Peter’s disintegrating sense of reality all those years ago.

The new album, Hot Foot Powder completes the Johnson canon. In his Radio 2 interview with Peter and Nigel Watson, Paul Jones asked the question why do another Johnson album, didn’t the first one say it all? Nigel began to launch into the “dedicated to the music” schtick, when Peter mischievously cuts right to the point with “the record company…” He didn’t need to finish the sentence. Peter’s refusal to buff up his work with a PR sheen even made it to the album cover itself. The record features guest appearances from Buddy Guy, Honeyboy Edwards, Dr John and Hubert Sumlin. Producer Roger Cotton says, “how proud and flattered they were that somebody like Peter would choose them for this album”; “Er, yeah,” says Peter, “but they were only being nice. What did you expect them to say?”

But, self-effacement notwithstanding, Peter gives a strong sense that there is a wealth of unfulfilled musical intent waiting for the right environment. He says he told the rest of Fleetwood Mac back in 1970 that he wanted to leave to learn the cello and compose classical music “and I still want to compose a symphony”. Interesting too, might be a situation where, instead of carrying the expectations of the Splinter Group, (“they won’t let me fall back, it’s hard, they want to stick me up the front all the time”) he was part of an all-star line-up. But so entrenched is the legend of Peter Green, chances are that the memory would still get in the way whoever was up there with him. Peter needs time to get to the place he would have been but for the long absence. Destiny Road may be the start of the journey. After all, nobody these days expects Eric Clapton to play 25-minute acid-blues guitar solos. And you can bet your boots Hendrix would not be setting fire to Strats.

So what are Peter’s expectations now? What does he want from those around him? In truth he doesn’t really know, “whatever it is, I haven’t found it yet.” And here is where a reservoir of high ambition leaks out from under the Hoover Dam of modesty, “just being professional ain’t gonna get you far with me. That’s just one of the 21 things you need to be to be a complete artist. I think I need to play with Jewish musicians because I’ve never been on a plantation, but I have been on a kibbutz.” So if you’ve got those ‘matzo ball, wailing wall, wide boy, no goy blues’, give Peter a ring. But you probably won’t pass the audition!

Harry Shapiro / BluePrint / June 2000

Categories
Peter Green

Peter Green: Still got the Greens…

The Peter Green Splinter Group: Splinter Group

Giant step back to the world for the best of the ’60s Britbluesers.

CSM meets Peter Green and Nigel Watson

YOU DON’T NEED AN ENCYCLOPEDIC KNOWledge of Peter Green’s tortured personal history to realise, within the first few bars, that you’re listening to a Major Somebody to whom an awful lot – emphasis on “awful” – has happened. The exhilaration of ’60s Britblues come from the intensity with which stroppy young geezers stormed the battlements of the blues to batter their way in from outside: the extraordinary poignancy and emotional power of this low-key, low-budget but by no means low-intensity album derives from the weatherbeaten fervour with which Peter Green sings and plays the music from the inside out, rather than from any overt displays of megawattage or fast-finger firepower.

Apart from a couple of curtain-raising acoustic studio tracks, Splinter Group was cut live with Green on vocals, guitar and harp working out on a repertoire of blues standards – three by Robert Johnson, two by Otis Rush, two by Freddie King and no Green compositions, either old or new – alongside Nigel Watson (guitar/vocals), Spike Edney (keys), Neil Murray (bass) and Cozy Powell (drums).

It’s the band’s restraint which makes the music so classy – the terms “Cozy Powell” and “light touch” never having previously appeared anywhere in the same sentence – but that restraint is absolutely necessary: the ectoplasmic fragility of Green’s performances on the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Help Me’ would simply be crushed beneath the wheels of standard-issue Britblues bashing. Soulful and sensitive, swinging and passionate, ‘deep’ blues in the most honourable sense of the term: this is a staggering return to the arena by the man who was always the best of the 60s Britblues guys. May it soon be eclipsed by its successors. In the meantime: listen, marvel and groove like a muthafucka.

Why did YOU choose to make a live album?
PG: 
We wanted to go to Japan. That’s what I thought the album was about, so we could go to Japan. I wanted to go to Japan to see the girls. They’re in fashion, aren’t they? Africa was in fashion for a while, now it’s Japan.

NW: We wanted to get something out, straight off the stage, to put us on the map and get more gigs.

Why did you pick these particular songs?
NW: 
We’ve got new songs we want to do, but we’d rather do ’em in the studio first. It would be a waste to put out new stuff live when it hasn’t had a chance to be put together in the studio. Peter respects those artists, that’s the reason.

PG: There’s no sad stuff on there, it’s all rockin’ along. What I call blues is all sad songs. It’s a bluesish album…blues-ish. Blues artists put all these songs down, and they’re all quite famous songs.

NW: We didn’t want to fall back on old Fleetwood Mac songs for the album, but on our live gigs we do a couple. Peter wrote ’em, they’re his songs, so we do ’em with the feel we’ve got now…

PG: We do ‘Black Magic Woman’ because Santana were so successful with it. I like to do our version looking towards their version.

It’s nice to hear you playing harmonica again.
PG: 
I had to start everything all over again. I stopped practising, that’s what my problem was.

Charles Shaar Murray / MOJO / June 1997

Categories
Peter Green

‘I’m Peter Green’

OUTSIDE IT’S RAINING, THE KIND OF slick, greasy rain you only get in cities. The atmosphere is oppressive. Inside the Brewer’s Inn, Wandsworth – a one-time haunt of Peter Green back in the days when he frequented the DSS building opposite – it’s warm and relaxed. Green slips in unnoticed, following in the wake of his manager, Stuart Taylor, who scopes the place out Secret Service-style before settling Green into a chair and disappearing to the bar.

“Hello, I’m Peter,” says Green, his face cracking into a nervous semi-smile. For a brief moment it’s just me and Greenie, the living legend, face to face, staring blankly at each other. “You used to come here in the ’80s, didn’t you?” I say, for want of anything better to break the ice. Green looks confused momentarily and you can see him casting back through memories of that earlier person for any vague recollections.

“Might have done, it’s difficult to say, but I reckon it’s all changed in here from the olden days. Used to have a big fire in the corner and a jukebox that had Little Richard on it.” Green has the tone of a genial but somewhat distracted pensioner recalling the days of music-hall, nutty slack and chips at tuppence a bag.

“He’s great on the ’60s. Last week’s more of a problem,” Taylor had told me. As Peter talks you realise there are great chunks of his life that simply made no entry in his memory Sitting back on his chair he stares around the room like a child. No-one stares back. But then why should they? Green today is far removed from the sinewy, bushy-haired man of old: portly balding, wisps of wiry, grey hair shooting out from either side of his head and long, deep furrows across his forehead tell their own story.

Two things strike you immediately once you’ve got over the change in Green’s physical appearance. The hands, feminine, alabaster white and without a single gnarled vein or knot are unlike any hands I have ever seen; long and elegant nails perfectly manicured, tapering to fine delicate little arcs. These are the hands of an artist. Green periodically uses them to gesticulate for wild periods as some idea floats back, but for most of the time they lie inert on the table top.

The other striking features are the eyes. Piercing, olive discs, clear and bright and seemingly giggling in their sockets. Peter Green is a funny man; it’s a twisted, often unfathomable, internal comedy logic that occasionally borders on the painful. But for the most part, Green is at ease with himself and his own troubled past. There are no barriers and he has nothing to hide. Even when talking about the most painful moments, as when describing his LSD experiences and the madness they triggered, he is charming and self-deprecating. In fact, as he talks away, it strikes you that he appears to find his own past curiously amusing. He seems as relaxed and contented as any man who has been through the mental wringer can be.

Half an hour in, he stands up suddenly and asks if he can have a bottle of stout. “They don’t call it stout anymore, Peter,” says his manager. “Oh, don’t they? I used to like a nice bottle of Mackeson’s meself.” He peels a fiver from a fat little bankroll in his pocket and insists on buying everyone a drink. “You have no problem with carrying money about you these days?” I venture. “I never really did,” he cackles. “I just thought I did. I like money now; I want to have a lot more of it. I wouldn’t give it all away anymore.” His face breaks into a wily grin that says, ‘Don’t take me too seriously’, and he settles back into his chair, bottle of ale clutched in his long white hand.

Every now and then, for the briefest of moments, Green’s face takes on a hunted look and you can see the fear enter him. Most of the time, however, he is just good company: a deeply passionate, sensitive man who still believes that music is the reason he’s here. “Words get in the way. The music is actually a more precise way of telling someone something. Music is the words, that’s the way I speak…until it gets too deep into your soul then you just have to stop and go to bed. But even there it doesn’t go away…”

Who made you first want to play guitar?

Hank Marvin was my first guitar hero. In fact, I should be playing on a tribute album to him soon. It wasn’t how you think of The Shadows now. They were very, very hip then. I listened to his playing because it was very lyrical, his phrasings were melodic and I’ve always liked a nice melody. Hank made the guitar into an instrument that talked colours. I know Cliff was meant to be England’s Elvis but we were all looking at Hank, to be honest.

I also used to enjoy that bloke [Cliff Gallup] from The Blue Caps, Gene Vincent’s band. Good, solid but very simple player. I don’t like too much complication; it’s like unnecessary words. I don’t use the word ‘lick’ – I hate that word, actually – because I don’t play licks, I play phrases or riffs. A riff is a short thing that you repeat and a phrase is a group of notes for your melody. I’m big on melody, I am. I’d like to do the standards one day, the kind of stuff that people can sing down the pub or to their bird.

Hendrix was special ‘cos he had everything. He was worthy on every level, wasn’t he? He tickled your soul with his playing. He had the understanding. Someone like me didn’t have nothing of what he had. I was just a working-class kid who lived in Putney.

Sumlin and Wolf had it. No-one knew what he was on about half the time but it made sense on another level. Sumlin’s playing was what we all wished we could be like, not just for what he played but where it came from. You can just tell the people who understand the blues.

I was playing some Wolf just the other day, ‘Spoonful’, ‘She Gave Me Water’. I mean, what does that mean? I didn’t understand the blues well enough to play it, so I stopped. The blues was too deep, it was too painful. See, the guitarists who copied them old black players were doing an interpretation but they couldn’t get to the feeling behind it because none of us had that experience. It sounded OK for a while, until you started to realise that the blues is something you spend a lifetime in. There’s levels that most people, including me, never got anywhere close to.

It got much too deep for me and I got lost; it ended up hurting my soul so I stopped it and started to make stories up instead. All my songs after I stopped playing blues were stories.

How does it feel to be playing again after such a long time without a guitar?

Good. Very good. I’m starting to learn again now, which makes me happy. I had to start from the very beginning. I am going to work and record again. I think I could do it now. I’ve been playing for six months and I’m picking up a lot of things that I overlooked before. I couldn’t practice for a long time ‘cos the strings were rusty or I didn’t have a guitar. Guitars have a real personality and some you get on with, others you just want out of the way.

I’ve been checking out some guitars, new ones. I’ve got three Fenders now – a Tele, a Strat and a Tele hollow body which I just got today. It’s beautiful. I also got a Howard Roberts Fusion from Gibson, the semi-acoustic with the sharp cutaway. It’s coal-black, beautiful, with two humbucking pick-ups.

I practise all afternoon, sometimes all day. I sit in front of the telly and watch the country music channel CMTV and play along. It’s great fun again, and some of them country players are fantastic.

Does it feel the way it used to?

No. No, not at all. Definitely not. The guitar used to speak for me in the olden days but I can’t let it do that for me anymore because I can’t let it break my heart again. The whole thing was that it used to be a bit of a show and I could get up and sing those sad songs. I meant some of it but not all of it.

What about ‘Man Of The World’? It has some pretty heavy lines in it like, “I just wish that I’d never been born.”

Yeah, I know what you’re saying, but that was a light–hearted sadness. It wasn’t a piss-take, I wish it was, but I had to make it light-hearted or else I would have been too sad to go on. I originally wrote it for the B-side, never expected it to be a hit at all. Don’t you laugh when you hear it? I think it’s a bit corny, don’t you?

I used to forget about Jeremy Spencer for some reason. I used to let [the rest of the band] do whatever they wanted and say whatever they wanted, to speak boldly. I probably owe them some money, now I come to think of it. I used to forget about Mick Fleetwood too. He just used to bop along with what you do. They weren’t getting broken by making the music, which was good because they lasted. I saw Mick recently. He put a record on the jukebox…one of mine, which was very nice of him…

You’re working on new songs. Is your approach different now that you have had to start again?

I see guitar sounds as colours and shades, pastels that you might use to paint a picture. It’s a melodic story. Usually it has a verse, maybe two, a middle, an instrumental break, sax or guitar. I’d put a movement over to the middle section, then back again to your original rift with a second break, then end. Simple idea, but it wasn’t enough. I went a bit crazy trying to do it.

But your classic tracks like ‘Oh Well’ and ‘Man Of The World’ have no choruses or middle eights as such, no sax breaks and are uniquely structured.

The thing about ‘Oh Well’ is that it was meant to be Parts 1 and 2 and people didn’t realise that the best bit was Part 2 on the other side of the record. You miss the best bit, the Spanish guitar break. The first side was what we played on stage. I didn’t think it would be a hit and I used to hate playing that one because we played the part that wasn’t as good. I wanted a bit of moody guitar playing. They wanted the bit that was easy to do, that everyone knew.

Does music frighten you still? You said in early interviews that music was often so complex that it frightened you into artistic paralysis.

That’s probably the difference now – I’m not afraid anymore. Music doesn’t scare me the way it used to. I don’t know if that’s good or not. I’m just beginning to learn.

I think the blues terrifies me still and I won’t do it and that’s certain. No blues, because it scares me.

You are supposed to have listened to Mark Knopfler’s playing once and commented how he made “so many mistakes”. Do contemporary guitarists still miss the mark for you?

Who’s Mark Knopfler? Oh, the bloke from Dire Straits. Well, I never said that, ‘cos I like him and his music. I might have said that as a joke, ‘cos I like a joke, but I think his playing is great. That’s the point, he doesn’t make mistakes does he? He’s actually one of the few players around I do like because he’s cheeky, isn’t he? Very saucy player.

I’m starting from scratch. I got forced to play for a group called Kolors. They were called White Sky at one time which was because of my album White Sky on PVK. My brother Mickey wrote most of that. It’s quite a good album, quite raw, very bluesy, not funky. Ronnie Johnson, he’s a good guitarist, plays Teles. I tell you who I like a lot and that’s Jesse Ed Davis. Played with Taj Mahal, played in Redbone, played with Lennon. I liked him. Red Indian bloke.

What’s your own view on spirituality and your own religious quests that had you wearing crucifixes and sandals in the late ’60s?

Jesus! I became a Jesus person. Yes, I believed.

Do you still?

No, not anymore. I was a Jesus person for a couple of weeks. I guess the angel of the Lord is a double blank.

You seem to dismiss your early work.

‘Man Of The World’, the lyrics are corny, hammy. Shall I tell you about my life?… My life! That’s Jewish for a start, isn’t it?!

I find it suspicious that they say things about my songs because I’ve never been anywhere like this before. How can they say it’s good when I’m just learning? I know now that my playing in the past was restricted. Compared to Wes Montgomery, I’m restricted.

John McLaughlin, now he’s good.

Good as Mclaughlin is, his playing is coming from a completely different place to you. It’s more technical, less passionate. Or am I wrong there?

But you can’t say that to a musician. You’re brave if you’d say that to him. Jazz is a scientific interpretation of the soul with some players. In others it’s just soul.

The soulfulness of your work is what people pick up on.

Hmmm, soul. My playing wasn’t about that, I don’t think. Otis Redding – he had a soulful guitarist, Steve Cropper. I was into Stax.

Do you still feel unable to express musically what you are? Are there still things that you want to say but can’t?

That’s a very good question. Yeah, I do. I’m still restricted and I can’t learn fast enough to say what I have inside. That was the problem in the beginning. I couldn’t play the things I heard in my head. It makes you want to give up sometimes. But now I’m learning better to do all the things I should have learned in the first place. I play every day.

You recently played your first gig in a decade at Frankfurt music fair. How do you find performing again?

I didn’t enjoy it too much. I had a funny feeling on the guitar when I went out. The rehearsal was beautiful, I could hear my voice perfectly and I’ve never been able to do that before. I didn’t have to sing loud, I could whisper. When we came to do the actual thing I couldn’t hear so well and I had to sing louder than I had to in rehearsal.

You did ‘Green Manalishi’, one of the songs that chronicles some of your mental problems. I thought you had vowed never to play it again.

Yeah, but I was persuaded to do it. I won’t do any of the old stuff, but I was persuaded to do it for just one show.

What’s your objection to the old stuff?

It’s past tense to me. Those are old, dusty songs. I did ’em enough times in the olden days and I should be allowed to move on.

Isn’t this just churlish when the world thinks they are classics?

No, because the new stuff will be better. Actually, it’s funny ‘cos on New Year’s Eve I was at a party and someone put on ‘Green Manalishi’ and this girl come up and asked me to dance. Dance to ‘Green Manalishi’!? But I got out there and you could dance to it. It has those heavy old African drums and it’s great but it’s not what I want to do live anymore. It’s that tribal ancient Hebrew thing I was going for. Ancient music. It’s heavy but it doesn’t tickle your soul much. At least it doesn’t tickle my soul anymore.

But ‘Green Manalishi’ is so haunting.

That wasn’t about LSD, it was money, which can also send you somewhere that’s not good. I had a dream where I woke up and I couldn’t move, literally immobile on the bed. I had to fight to get back into my body. I had this message that came to me while I was like this, saying that I was separate from people like shop assistants, and I saw a picture of a female shop assistant and a wad of pound notes, and there was this other message saying, “You’re not what you used to be. You think you’re better than them. You used to be an everyday person like a shop assistant, just a regular working person.” I had been separated from it because I had too much money. So I thought, How can I change that?

Now I don’t want to be with shop assistants so much and I know I wasn’t being true in those days, because I never was a shop assistant type of person. I thought they were a type when in fact they are just people who happen to earn their living being shop assistants. I never was a butcher or a French polisher. I did what I did, which was playing the guitar and singing. At the time I was worried. It wasn’t guilt; I was worried about me, which was wrong.

Is that why you gave all your money away?

I didn’t give it all away. I thought I’d come down off the trip when I was a Jesus person and that would be OK. But I’d left Fleetwood Mac and Clifford Davis [manager] said, “I’ve got money of yours and if you want I’ll set up a film so you can see what happens to the money when you give it to War On Want”, which is what I wanted to do. It was Africa or India and they were planting seeds and they had a tractor. I gave away all the Warner Brothers money, all our advance. Last thing at night they used to put pictures on telly of starving people and I used to sit there eating a doughnut and thinking, Why have I got this big stash that I don’t need when probably I’m going to die with it and all this is going on? Anyway, I got worried about what I was becoming, and it got to the newspapers and I was boasting about being righteous because I was on mescaline and I was feeling holy and compassionate. I had a vision of Biafra and gave the money away. I had what they needed. You know, why not give a little bit?

The Green Manalishi is the wad of notes; the devil is green and he was after me.

What kind of music will you make once you’ve learned how to play again?

All kinds of anything and everything. I like standards, Nat King Cole, nice melodies. I’ll probably end up there, I think. It probably won’t be the blues because I’m a bit too young for the blues, really.

Too young?

Yeah, I could do it at 22 but that doesn’t mean I was any good. I can listen to Hubert Sumlin but can Hubert Sumlin listen to me? Buddy Guy and Willie Dixon won’t listen to me. They don’t need to.

B.B. King said that while Eric Clapton and his ilk were good, you were the only white guitarist who ever sent shivers up his spine.

(Laughs) Oh yeah. That’s nice of him. I guess he’s talking about the tour we did with him back in the ’60s. I always thought that I was like a metal worker who should have been doing woodwork instead (laughs). I go in the ladies when it should be the gents. Life’s like that.

What do you remember about the time when you were sick? How bad was your mental anguish back then.

Anguish. Who told you that? It might not be true, you know…

What was the truth?

I dunno. I was kind of sick, I don’t know what it was. It was foreign, something that wasn’t me but lived in me. I felt very off-colour, very tired, under the weather really… (Long pause) I couldn’t put my finger on it. I felt seriously ill, I couldn’t get up. I was recording for PVK then, and it was terrible. My brother got a job as promo man for PVK and he said if you come on the label it will secure my job, so I did. They wanted me to sign a contract and they gave me an E-type Jag as my advance, but I pronged it on a bollard in the rain. I decided to get married to this girl, don’t know why. It was a very bad time. We went to Richmond for our honeymoon – which was where I lived…but we stayed in a hotel.

Does playing music again help you explain things better?

I relate to people through my playing. I relate better with the guitar than with words and I find it very hard sometimes to talk to people. Without knowing it, I relate to music people, people who know music and understand it, because it’s more subtle than words. There are no words for it and that is where all the difficulties come in.

Did you feel there was an artistic barrier you’d reached when you gave up playing?

Yes. I was frustrated by what I didn’t know and couldn’t do with my music. So I stopped. But the other side was that I had money or I was told I had money coming in and I didn’t have to work if I didn’t feel like it. I felt sick, so I didn’t do it anymore. Santana did ‘Black Magic Woman’ and the Fleetwood Mac royalties were good and Aerosmith did ‘Rattlesnake Shake’ so there was money. Then Gary Moore did one of mine.

Gary Moore still has the Les Paul you reputedly gave him. Do you want it back?

No, I don’t like Les Pauls anymore. Too jazzy for me. Too Parisian, too French. He’s welcome to it.

Why did you give your guitar away?

I had to go to hospital ‘cos I took too many LSD trips. I wanted the wisdom of LSD but I couldn’t quite get back again. I took one trip too many and I think it was the sixth one I took actually.

Why did you take the risk, having taken the drug a couple of times?

I didn’t take it out of choice, really. Someone just offered it to me and I took it. I should have refused it; I wish I had. I didn’t have the heart to refuse because they ask you in such a way that you can’t say no. It’s like you’d be saving a child from dying if you take this drug. It was very clever – would you take this, no money attached? I never paid for LSD. I rarely paid for any drugs. But I could take LSD and get very detached on it.

What did LSD do for you?

It took me somewhere where I wasn’t Peter Green and I had no cares at all, it was great. I wasn’t Jewish but I wasn’t not Jewish either. I couldn’t play around with being Jewish – which is what I was doing. It wasn’t that I was glad I was Jewish because we were God’s chosen people or anything, but it was OK.

Was being Jewish a big problem for you, then?

Yeah. People would call you names. They’d say stuff like
And God said unto Moses,
All Jews shall have long noses
Excepting Aaron,
And he shall have a square ‘un.

I was only about three but it stuck there with me and kept with me.

So you took LSD to escape…

Escape from Aaron (laughs).

But you never quite made it back.

No (laughs and pulls mock-paranoid expression).

You don’t feel back in the real world now?

No. Sometimes I make it back with the help of this girl who’s a spirit guide. They call it that but it isn’t really spiritual. She’s just into my head and knows its ways. It’s a secret of mine, we had an affair but I had to throw her out and she smashed a window, but it’s OK now.

You come back from your first few trips and it’s OK, but when you do six or seven and you have a few under your belt it gets more intense. Something happens to you so you’re not in control anymore. Someone else is.

Did you regret it or do you think you were going that way without drugs?

Yeah, oh yeah, and I wish I could go back to where I was before. One day I’ll punch that girl who gave me that acid. On the nose, two punches, very hard. Just to show her that it was you did this to me and I know it. Drugs are anti-violence but what they do to you can be ultra-violent. Heroin addiction is like that. I had friends who were addicts. People act and pretend about drugs, pretend it’s something it’s not, for effect.

(Pause) I’d like to try a Gretsch ‘cos I liked Eddie Cochran and Charlie Gracie. I like everything. I like melodies for all ages. I want to make music for all ages. Most people don’t want to hear the blues, they want a happy melody to make them feel good. East 17, I like them. That one that goes, “This is a record for my children/Deep deep down”, that’s a great record. Saw the video on TV (starts rapping lyrics).

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are good. I like their bass player, good guitarist too. He’s got a lot of energy. I like that one by that girl group where they sing ‘I Got Five On It’ [The Luniz – Ed]. They don’t wear much, do they? I like Toni Braxton too. It’s songs I like best. Something everyone can sing.

What about Oasis? Does their music go down well chez Green?

No. No, they haven’t got to me yet…Remember Suede? I didn’t like them either. ‘Animal Nitrate’! (Roars with laughter) I used to laugh me head off when that singer came on the telly. Was that a joke, do you think? Perhaps it was, in which case it was quite funny. Whatever happened to them? They just disappeared. (Sings) “Animal Nitrate whooooo whoooo.”

Soundgarden are great, their guitarist is something else, and I thought Nirvana were good, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was my favourite, but mainly because of the video which was really fast. I do like Bjork She’s amazing. Her first album was great from what I heard on MTV but I could only get a duff discotheque version when I went to the shops. It sounded nothing like it did on television. It had a good picture of her on it. I like that one, ‘Human Behaviour’. I don’t understand people who don’t like that record.

But I watch VH-1 now because MTV got sick with all the artwork. It was making me feel sick.

What did you think about The Egg And Potato Man who impersonated you?

He was a practical joke. He almost took EMI for a quarter of a million in an advance, but they called his bluff.

How do you prove your identity now?

I don’t have to because I am Peter Green.

*A WEEK OR SO LATER I MEET PETER AGAIN, ON THE SECOND day of his first proper studio sessions in nearly a decade, taking place at Francis Rossi’s state-of-the-art home studio. Overseeing Peter’s recording of The Shadows’ ‘Midnight for Twang’, the Hank Marvin tribute album, is Cozy Powell, a long time Greenophile.

Green looks tired, dark rings around his eyes and he stares blankly down at his empty beer glass. He talks to no-one and no-one talks to him. “It’s been a long day” whispers his manager.

I notice some copies of Razzle, Parade and other top-shelf monthlies spread out over the sofa. “They’re not ours, honest,” says Cozy, briefly embarrassed as he follows my glance. “Jesus, we don’t need that stuff, but it was very useful because Peter is such a perfectionist that he’d listen back to the track and say something like, ‘It’s not worthy enough, I want to do it again.’ Those of us with hair left were fucking pulling it out. You can’t argue with Peter if he doesn’t think it’s right, so we had to find him, er, well, a distraction.

“Basically, once he’d done a take we’d wave the mags under his nose and he’d be engrossed, meaning we could then listen back and work out which sections we wanted to keep and which we were going to have to drop in for. Peter won’t do drop-ins, he wants to always do the perfect take straight through and that isn’t going to happen. What we eventually got was a compilation of two takes and it sounds fantastic.”

Listening back to the mix it is immediately obvious that it’s Peter Green playing, even if it’s a straight copy of Hank Marvin’s original solo. Green makes it sound electric, unfathomably soulful and heartfelt. Towards the end of the track Green starts to stretch out and that melancholy sound, the sound that freezes you mid step, kicks in.

“That’s it!” cries Cozy “The Peter Green sound, right there…and I defy anyone to imitate that.”

Cliff Jones / MOJO / September 1996

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Peter Green

Peter Green committed

CHRIS SALEWICZ details the sad story of PETER GREEN, which last week culminated in a court-order committing him to mental hospital…

APPEARING UNDER his real name of Peter Greenbaum, former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green (30) was last Wednesday, at Marylebone Court, committed for treatment at a mental hospital.

This followed an incident last month when Green was arrested following a row with accountant Clifford Adams at his Westbourne Park address over Green’s demands that royalty payments from his hit records be stopped. Amounts involved are in the region of £30,000-a-year.

Green admitted having a pump-action rifle without a firearms certificate, but denied threatening to damage windows at Adams’ West End offices.

In his defence David Bray told the court that since his client left the group in 1971, “it appears there have been some difficulties… and his attitude is that he wishes to make his own way through life rather than make use of any royalties from his past records.”

Making the hospital order Sir Ivor Rigby told Green: “I hope you understand that I am really only interested in trying to help you.”

SINCE GREEN decided to quit Fleetwood Mac and announce that he intended to give away all his earnings from both past and future — there have frequently been “some difficulties'”. This is not the first time that he’s been committed to a mental home.

In 1973 he spent some time in one at the instigation of his father, who spoke to the Daily Express last week.

“The magistrate made the right decision. Peter definitely needs help. He must have given away tens of thousands. He would help the whole world if he had the money. He lives in an Alice-In-Wonderland world of his own.”

Close associates of the guitarist have intimated to Thrills, however, that they believe relations between Green and his father are not perhaps as perfect as they might be.

The stories that have filtered out into the media about Green’s existence since he left Mac have been appropriately colourful: Green going to work as a grave-digger; Green playing in a pub band in Southend; Green flying out to JA with only a one-way ticket, getting sent back, buying another ticket (return this time) in London, and going back again.

The reality, as might be expected, is less romantic. As old associates of Green’s who have still remained in touch with him tell it, a picture of the man emerges that is considerably different from the legend. Apart from the odd days when he’d return to stay at the home near Southend he bought his former postman father, his life has been one of dossing around London sleeping on music business acquaintances’ floors.

Always penniless — he apparently considers his royalty money to be “unclean” — he is apparently well into passing off demands that he should run up large phone bills and ask friends to buy larger homes so that he may live there as part of his “hippy” philosophy. Tales emerge of Peter Green standing around in people’s pads in the nude, uttering strange noises.

OF LATE, in addition to having declared that a coalman’s life was the one for him, Green has been becoming even more obsessed with his “Jewishness” than he was in the years immediately after leaving the band. It was then that he changed his name back to Greenbaum and visited Israel.

Lately, as well as being more insistent than ever that his money should go to Jewish charities, Green has apparently been engaged on something of a desperate search for the perfect Jewish wife. He has also been particularly anxious to maintain links with other Jewish musicians.

For a while he stayed with Marc Bolan. Bolan, presumably in an attempt to help Peter get himself back together, gave him a guitar. Green left it in the boot of Peter Bardens’ car.

At the time that he was arrested at his accountant’s, a warrant was also out for his arrest for various petty motoring offences. Only the other week he was so impecunious that a journalist from Sounds lent him ten pounds.

“People,” comments one person with whom he’s been staying recently, say “that Peter’s just suffering from San Frandsco-itis — that he just did too much dope — but that’s not true at all. He doesn’t smoke anything or drink at all.”

Chris Salewicz / New Musical Express / 5 February 1977

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Fleetwood Mac Peter Green

Fleetwood Mac: Falling victim to an epidemic

Group splits have become the foot-and-mouth disease of pop. And this year the splits have become almost endemic with British bands.

The raging epidemic has destroyed many fine bands – Joe Cocker’s Grease Band, the Nice, Spooky Tooth and even, would you believe, the Beatles.

Fleetwood Mac are the latest victims. Peter Green left the band at the end of May, just as the Mac made the Top Twenty with “Green Manalishi,” one of Peter Green’s own songs.

But Fleetwood Mac lives. Instead of falling to bits, the band have taken two months out of their schedule to work out their future in the depths of Hampshire.

With the loss of P. Green the band will have to adjust to a new line-up. More pressures are now going to be placed on Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan, who now take over as the band’s focal points.

In the past it has always been one-third Peter, one-third Danny and one-third Jerry. But now the band have got to cut out the Green contribution entirely. Thus the two months retreat.

At his Kensington flat, drummer Mick Fleetwood described the change in the band: “Peter left the band mainly because he wanted to be free – personally free that is – to be just Peter Green. Not Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac.

“Originally, of course, Fleetwood Mac was Peter’s band but now Danny and Jerry have emerged as individuals and Peter’s contribution is limited to one-third of the front line.

“So we’ll be carrying on as usual except we won’t be doing any of Peter’s numbers. But it’s only a break as far as the group is concerned – it’s not a break as far as the people are concerned. It’s a completely amicable split.

“It’s exciting really. The decision was made for us – we haven’t had to throw anyone out, or anything. So now we’ve been forced to face our futures by ourselves.”

Peter Green’s last contribution to the band has been their latest hit single, “Green Manalishi.”

The trail of hit singles for the Mac started, of course, with ‘Albatross’ early last year. Which makes the band different from most other ‘progressive’ – for lack of a better name – bands.

Said Mick: “We went into the studio and ‘Albatross’ came out. We thought it was a good idea to issue it as a single. And since then we’ve found singles are good for prestige value. As far as money for gigs is concerned it didn’t make any difference – our prices certainly didn’t soar.

“And ‘Albatross’ altered people’s opinions of the band. Before we were more or less a straight blues band, but now people have had to get used to us playing what we feel like – and not necessarily the blues.

“We’ve always played what we’ve wanted to. And it seems to have worked. Other bands have fallen into the trap of playing to a formula – which might be successful to start with, but might do the band harm when the formula ran out. We have no formula. We just roll on.

“So, I think singles are very important because it exposes the band to a wide audience. But first and foremost the band are a stage band.”

Which brings the Mac to the problem of how to create their stage atmosphere on record.

The usual way out is to produce a live album. It has worked for the Who and Delaney and Bonnie, and it looks as it is going to work for the Rolling Stones with Get Your Ya-Yas Out – their official live album of last year’s American tour.

Fleetwood Mac are also thinking along the same lines.

So all seems to be happy now that the big break has been made. Peter Green is busy giving free concerts and unloading all his money. And Fleetwood Mac carry on as a rock band.

The epidemic has been halted.

Rob Partridge / Record Mirror / June 6, 1970

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Peter Green

Sold Out? Gerroff!

Peter Green defends Fleetwood Mac

While Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac played to enthusiastic Stateside audiences, British blues fans accused the group of deserting the music that made them.

“Oh! How could you, Fleetwood Mac,” they screamed. “You’ve sold out, jumped on the commercial bandwagon, deserted the blues….”

Peter Green read the Mailbag headlines, sipped a glass of champagne, and replied: “Sold out — that’s just a stock phrase, we’re still playing the same stuff on stage and whenever we play ‘Albatross’ it just brings the place down every time.

“These are just narrow minded people. I’m going to play what I like, when I like. We’ve always been commercial. Blues is commercial — before we made ‘Albatross’ we drew crowds and crowds.

“It seems that people are trying to keep us down as much as possible. ‘Albatross’ got very few plays even though it made number one.

“I don’t think we lost any fans through ‘Albatross’ — these people who don’t want us or John Mayall or Aynsley Dunbar to get success aren’t thinking about us, they’re just thinking about their own personal pleasure which is a bit sad.

“People should want the best for everyone else. I want to get some land — a farm — and grow crops and vegetables. It would be an open house, no locks on the doors, which is surely the way things should be. I want people to be happy.

“The main thing I want to do is to make good records that musically satisfy. We just want to make good LP’s and singles. We won’t make anything for the charts but we will pick something out of a bunch that’s best for the charts. We’d be silly to pick out something that would make a bad single.

“‘Albatross’ will never date. It’s like one of those great old instrumentals like ‘Apache’. It might even become a standard.

“Our new single will be called ‘Man Of The World’. It’s in the same vein as ‘Albatross’ but it’s a song. It’s a sad song so it’s a blues but people will say it’s not because it’s not a 12-bar.

“It’s got a really great melody and I’ve got some good ideas to make it more complete. It’s very sad, it was the way I felt at the time. It’s me at my saddest.

“It’s a blues record but because it’s my own melody, my own chord sequence, people won’t take it as blues but if it doesn’t make a hit, it doesn’t really matter. If we wanted to make a lot of money, we could live out in the States, but none of us are bothered about making money. We just want to be musically satisfying.

“We’ll have a new British LP out in the middle of April. I’d rather record in the States because they seem to be in it more, they’re more advanced. The best sounds are on American records, no-one’s ever matched Phil Spector or Tamla. The sound they get is really something.

“I don’t think I’m influenced by anything in particular when I’m writing. Sometimes I just get a line in my head, write it down and then come back to it later. ‘Albatross’ started with just three notes but that number was such a big thing it just had to be the single, it was so powerful and peaceful.

“The title? No, I wasn’t thinking of an albatross, something else. I don’t really know what. Something very peaceful.”

Royston Eldridge / Melody Maker / March 1, 1969

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Fleetwood Mac (1968) Peter Green

How to upset the blues purists

Among Britain’s young blues fans Eric Clapton was once hailed as a god, then discarded by the ethnics when he left John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for the Cream. Taking his place in their affections was Peter Green, a 21-year-old from Bethnal Green hailed as the true voice of the blues guitar and symbol of dedication.

Shock

Peter left Mayall to form his own group, the Fleetwood Mac and it may come as something of a shock to his fans to learn that he is not a raving blues purist and started life as a rocker.

“The group has been very successful since we formed it last August. There is a big interest in blues in Britain, although not what I call real blues, more progressive stuff from Jimi Hendrix and the Cream. But it’s definitely spreading. There are only two places in the whole country where we don’t go down — a couple of dead universities.

Chocked

“John Mayall has been the spearhead in reviving interest in blues. He’s really done a lot for it. I’ve been playing blues guitar for about three years, and before that I was playing bass.

“When I left John, I didn’t want to form a group. I wanted to go to Chicago, but it was difficult to be sure of being safe and I ended up dropping the idea. I was happy doing nothing, but Mike Vernon said ‘Why not?’ and he talked me into it.”

Peter has been featuring rock ‘n’ roll a lot in his act. What did he think of the current revival?

“I’m a bit chocked about it. I hope people don’t think we’re doing it because of the revival!

Picture

“I was first interested in rock ‘n’ roll and Bill Haley when I was ten years old. It has a big place in my musical heritage. I had a picture of Haley on my bedroom wall. We’re all big rock fans in the group.

“We started out doing ‘At The Hop’ as a joke, then we did ‘Ready, Teddy’, and ‘Lucille’ and we really enjoyed them.

“A lot of so called blues purists are against us doing it, but I don’t care what they think. We play what we like — we’re not just playing for purists.

“I’m not a blues purist. I don’t know every record ever made, or their numbers, and I’m not interested in talking about the blues all night. I just play blues — and rock ‘n’ roll.”

Chris Welch / Melody Maker / March 16, 1968

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Fleetwood Mac (1968) Peter Green

Rock’n’Blues via Peter Green

The big beat bug bites bluesman Peter

The big beat rock’n’roll bug is biting everywhere.

Think of the most unlikely place for it to bite. No, not Des O’Connor. Not even warm. Think of a dedicated musician NOT in the rock’n’roll field who has spent a long long time building up a reputation as a blues guitarist… you got it, baby — Peter Green.

If you go and see Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and you hear “Jenny Jenny” or “Keep A Knockin’,” don’t run away and grab your bicycle chain to hit them with. Stay and listen and you’ll hear Peter and the boys play some pure blues numbers. Then the similarity between the two kinds of music will be apparent to you — and you’ll be able to see how the early primitive rock’n’roll developed from the blues. And remember that the Sun studios (who first recorded Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison) were recording blues artistes — some of the best — many years before the rock’n’roll craze started.

NO NEGLECT

“I’ve always liked rock,” confessed Peter to me, while he was sipping a glass of Mackeson. “And it’s a pity in a way that everyone is going on about the rock thing because it seems as though we’re just being ‘in’. Actually I’ve always wanted to do this kind of thing on stage — but it doesn’t mean we’ll be neglecting the blues.

“We’re still doing the same kind of numbers as we always did — but I’m playing more to the audiences nowadays. For instance — when we started we used to play to please ourselves, and didn’t bother too much about the audience. Now — I play numbers that are requested —like ‘Going Down Slow’ for instance which they like be cause of the guitar sounds we can get into it. Funny about guitar playing — the people in the audience think you’re great if you play fast, but that just isn’t so. Now I only play fast when I want to, which isn’t THAT often.”

On stage — if you’ve never seen the Fleetwood Mac — they wear no stage clothes, amble on stage, and tune up before the audience. A necessary part of the “white blues” stage ritual perhaps, but effective. It makes them seem dedicated. And when the group starts playing the audience really get into the music.

Peter talked about his new LP out on the CBS label Blue Horizon. “It really represents what we first started doing when the group was together. I think that ultimately we will think all the time in LP’s, but of course I’d like a hit single.”

I told Peter that I thought it was difficult for a British studio to get the “hard” sound that blues studios in America get — take Howlin’ Wolf or Elmore James records for instance.

“Yes, that’s true,” admitted Peter. “I asked our producer Mike Vernon if we could do a ‘live’ LP but he said no. I’ve always wanted to play straight through the LP — no stopping for mixing and reductions etc. On a new LP we’ve just recorded with Eddie Boyd we’ve done almost just that. It’s all recorded in mono but it is played just how I wanted it to be. I’m very excited with it. Our own LP I’m not fully satisfied with, but I don’t think I’d ever be satisfied with our records — it’s already sold quite well so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

EFFECTIVE

“Talking about studios I was talking to Marshall Chess who was over here and he said that if we were ever in America we could use his Chess studios. I’d love to take him up on that offer.

“Some of the tracks on our LP are very exciting — ‘Shake Your Moneymaker’ for instance and I think that the echo effect and the dropped voice used on ‘I Loved Another Woman’ is very effective.”

Norman Jopling / Record Mirror / March 9, 1968