Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac

Feetwood Mac : Mr. Wonderful

 

Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor were the best Blues guitarists to ever emerge from England. They all had different styles and had individual characters. But a single thread ran through these different and separate lives : they all graduated from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

In 1966 Eric Clapton recorded with John Mayall a full LP length session and the session was released in that year under the title of Bluesbreakers John Mayall with Eric Clapton. The recording was one of the best Blues recording by a British group. It was landmark in British Blues history in more than one ways. Before the session, guitar was simply never played that way or recorded that way. The then Eric Clapton was playing like a God; he was perfect and immaculate on the guitar, it was almost inhuman. Eric Clapton was almost perfect to a fault. Bluesbreakers John Mayall with Eric Clapton is an all-time classic. But even before the recording was released, Eric Clapton had left parted company with John Mayall. John Mayall had to find someone to fill the shoes of Eric Clapton and what shoes to fill. As in life, came the hour came the man, John Mayall found Peter Green.

There were stories that at John Mayall’s gigs when the audience found Eric Clapton was not there but his place was taken up by a virtue unknown, they were none to happy and expressed their unhappiness in a rather vocal matter. But soon after Peter Green started playing they watched the whole set with their mouths side opened. Peter Green recorded with John Mayall and the recording was released under the the title John Mayall A Hard Road. This turned out to be every bit of a classic as Eric Clapton’s session with John Mayall. Soon after, Peter Green left John Mayall and John Mayall found Mick Taylor as as replacement.

After Peter Green left the Bluesbreakers, he formed his own band with none other than the John Mayall’s bassist John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. John McVie was very reluctant to leave John Mayall’s band to team up with Peter. John Mayall was at the time a well-established figure in the club circuit through England and with that was the promise of a steady income. John McVie eventually came round and join Peter Green. To complete the band, they found Jeremy Spencer. If Jeremy Spencer was not one of the most eccentric characters in music history, he was certainly one of the foulest and most obscene musicians to have stood on stage. His was uncontrollable on stage, his antics were unspeakable and he often produced a massive dildo in the middle of the show. This line up recorded their debut album Fleetwood Mac commonly known as “the one with the dust bin cover”.

The following year, they released their second LP Mr. Wonderful. The band was augmented by Christine Perfect (later to become the wife of John McVie) and Tony “Duster” Bennett on Blues harp. Mr. Wonderful was really Peter Green’s classic statement in Blues. Songs like Stop Messing Around, Rolling Man, Need Your Live Tonight and Love That Burns are unforgettable. Peter Green’s guitar was gutsy, tasty, classy and seductive. I know it is difficult to compare, but Eric Clapton’s guitar was too clinical when he recorded with John Mayall, it was simply too perfect. With Peter Green you somehow feel he had more bottom, he was somehow “deeper”. Peter did not play with the lightning speed of Eric Clapton, but he had more depth and feel. Peter Green was to later have a mental breakdown. When you listen to Trying So Hard To Forget, you could hear the voice from a trapped soul, you could feel the man’s anguish, the sadness was simply overwhelming.

 

Fleetwood Mac In Chicago 1969

In 1969, Peter Green took his band to Chicago’s Ter-Mar Studio to record with the real Bluesmen. The session featured a host of some of the most famous Chicago Blues players : Buddy Guy, Walter “Shakey” Horton on Blues harp, Otis Spann on piano, J.T. Brown on saxophone and vocal, Willie Dixon on basss, Honeyboy Edwards on vocal and guitar and S.P. Leary on drums. The result was a top class performance. But you could feel that Peter Green and his band were a little nervous in the presence of the real thing. I mean who wouldn’t be. The recording was not as focused as Mr. Wonderful and certainly did not have the cohesiveness of the band sound on Mr. Wonderful. The recording was released as Fleetwood Mac In Chicago 1960. Get your hands on it when you are luck enough to see i, this was a great session.

Peter Green

 

Danny Kirwin

Jeremy Spencer

Mick Fleetwood

John McVie

 

By 1969, Peter had already recruited the then 16 year old genius Danny Kirwan to play guitar in the band. After Fleetwood Mac in Chicago, Peter Green recorded anther LP with his band called Then Play On. Mr. Wonderful and Fleetwood Mac in Chicago 1969 were the last real Blues recordings of Peter Green. On Then Play On, Peter was extending his music boundaries. Peter was no longer restricting himself to the conventinal 12 bar Blues formant. Danny Kirwan made a tremendous impact on the recording. Listening to Then Play On, you could feel the onslaught of anguish and frustration of Peter Green and he sounded like man trying to exorcise his demons . The music on Then Play On was so sad, Peter sounded totally unhappy about life and he seemed to have lost sight of any meaning in life. The atmosphere of the recording was dark and lonely, it was foreboding. Just listening to the songs you could feel in your bones something was very wrong with Peter Green. Shortly thereafter Peter Green quit Fleetwood Mac after a big argument. Peter suggested that all the money earned by the band ought to be donated to charity. The rest of the band was none too pleased about the suggestion. After leaving Fleetwood Mac, rumour had it that Peter Green ended up in a mental asylum. Peter also worked as a gravedigger. He was supposed to have gone to see his manager with a shotgun threatening to shoot the manager if the manager were to send him any more royalty cheques.

Peter Green cut a tragic and melancholic figure, he was one of the most talented musician who was unable to cope with stardom, fortune and fame. At their height, Fleetwood Mac commanded a higher fee than the Rolling Stones. In fact, the other band members fared none the better than Peter. Danny Kirwan left England for a religious cult and there was little news of him after that. The latest news regarding Danny Kirwan is the is sleeping in the streets of London.

In 1982 when I was studying in England, I read a small advertisement in the Melody Maker to the effect that Peter Green was to do a gig at a pub some where in London. I queued up in the afternoon outside to make sure I could get in. A band started playing and after half an hour I was still waiting for Peter Green to come on. The band on stage wasn’t too bad. There was a black guitar left-handed guitarist taking most of the lead and a old, fat and bald guy was playing rhythm guitar, the drummer and bassist were passable but the whole band was entirely forgettable. I asked the guy next to me if he knew when Peter Green was coming on. He pointed at the fat old man on stage and told me that was Peter Green. I held my tears back with great effort and I left before the end of the song. On my way back home, I felt a great sense of emptiness and sadness. Life can be so cruel.