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The story of Peter Green, the man who formed Fleetwood Mac


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The incredible story of Peter Green, the man who formed Fleetwood Mac

Probably not everybody knows Peter Green by his name. Well, he is the co-founder of British – American classic rock band Fleetwood Mac. They have sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the world's best-selling bands. Fleetwood Mac was founded by guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarist Jeremy Spencer. Bassist John McVie completed the lineup for their self-titled debut album. Danny Kirwan joined as a third guitarist in 1968. Keyboardist Christine Perfect, who contributed as a session musician from the second album, married McVie and joined in 1970.

Peter Green is the author of some of Fleetwod Mac’s emblematic songs, such as "Albatross", "Black Magic Woman", "Oh Well", "The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)" and "Man of the World", which appeared on singles charts, and several have been adapted by a variety of musicians.

Rolling Stone ranked Green at number 58 in its list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". His tone on the instrumental "The Supernatural" was rated as one of the 50 greatest of all time by Guitar Player. In June 1996, Green was voted the third-best guitarist of all time in Mojo magazine and is regarded by some fans as the greatest white blues guitarist ever, Eric Clapton notwithstanding.

Born Peter Greenbaum but calling himself Peter Green by age 15, he grew up in London's working-class East End.  He originally played bass before being invited in 1966 by keyboardist Peter Bardens to play lead in the Peter B's, whose drummer was a lanky chap named Mick Fleetwood. The 19-year-old Green was with Bardens just three months before joining John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, when Eric Clapton, the guitarist of Mayall’s band, split for an indefinite vacation in Greece. Green sounded great and, as Mayall recalls, was not amused when Clapton returned after a handful of gigs, and Green was out. When Clapton left the band for good six months later to form CreamMayall persuaded Green back. In the beginning fans were openly hostile because Green was not God, although they appreciated Clapton's replacement in time.

Delta Record’s producer Mike Vernon was aghast when The Bluesbreakers showed up without Clapton to record the album A Hard Road in late 1966. He recalls “As the band walked in the studio I noticed an amplifier which I never saw before, so I said to John Mayall, ’Where's Eric Clapton?’ Mayall answered, ‘He's not with us anymore, he left us a few weeks ago.’ I was in a shock of state but Mayall said, ‘Don't worry, we got someone better.’ I said, ‘Wait a minute, hang on a second, this is ridiculous. You've got someone better? Than Eric Clapton?’ John said, ‘He might not be better now, but you wait, in a couple of years he's going to be the best.’ Then he introduced me to Peter Green.He was won over by Green's playing. “On many tracks, you'd be hard-pressed to tell it wasn't Clapton playing.” With instrumentals of his own compositions, "The Same Way"  and "The Supernatural," he demonstrated the beginning of his trademark fluid, haunting style. So proficient was he that his musician friends bestowed upon him the nickname "The Green God".

In 1967, Green decided to form his own blues band and left The Bluesbreakers and he took he took John McVie on bass, Mike Fleetwood on drums and Jeremy Spencer on guitar to found “Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac featuring Jeremy Spencer”, soon shortened to “Fleetwood Mac”.

Green was at his peak.  His instrumental "Albatross" was the band's first British number one single and "Black Magic Woman" was later a huge hit for Carlos Santana. But Green had been experimenting with acid and his behavior became increasingly irrational, especially after he disappeared for three days of rampant drug use in Munich. He was taking large doses of LSD, grew a beard and began to wear robes and a crucifix; and well that was really weird, because Peter Green was Jewish!

His bandmates resisted Green's suggestion to donate most of their money to charity. "I had conversations with Peter Green around that time and he was obsessive about us not making money, wanting us to give it all away.” recalls Mick Fleetwood. “And I'd say, 'Well you can do it, I don't wanna do that, and that doesn't make me a bad person.”

Peter left Fleetwood Mac in mid-1970 after writing a harrowing biographical tune called "The Green Manalishi" and recorded a jam session released by Reprise Records as The End of the Game. Rather than explicitly recalling Fleetwood Mac, however, the free-form nature of The End of the Game was characterized by an improvisational style. Green essentially did away with song structure and, for that matter, songs. In their place is an album of sonic experimentation. Songs were all born out of an open-ended jam session and assembled as individual pieces after the fact. Despite his fragile mental state and any difficulties with drugs, Green was able to summon some of his best guitar work here. Sadly, that was almost all we would hear from Green in the decade to come. His solo career was then put on hold because of his faltering mental state.

Green left Fleetwood Mac in 1970 and stepped out of the spotlight, but his behavior grew even more erratic while his drug use continued. After a particularly explosive acid trip, Peter said he "started acting strange ... strange things started happening." His brother Len added, "he was hearing voices telling him to do nasty things." He began giving his guitars and his money away, and took on a series of odd jobs, including gravedigger. During these years, he spent time in various psychiatric hospitals, at times undergoing electro-shock therapy.

By the mid-'70s, as Fleetwood Mac entered a new, very prosperous era, new fans began to dig through older Mac recordings, and the royalty checks really began to roll in. Green wanted no part of his past, including the money, while trying to lead his new simple life. Frustrated, Green contacted a former Fleetwood Mac manager about his financials. "I phoned up and asked him if he had any money," said Green “And he said, 'The accountant's got your money.'"

So in January 1977, armed with a shotgun he had smuggled in from a trip to Canada, he paid his accountant, David Simmons, a visit and threatened to shoot him. However, the twist here is that Green was not upset about lack of money, but rather was distraught because the royalty checks kept coming. The police were called and Green was arrested and thrown in jail. "I was quite happy in prison, so I thought I'd be alright," Green said. "But they said, 'You failed the psychiatrist test.'"

Green was committed to a mental institution and placed under heavy sedation. He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, but after a period of time was released to live with his family, the doctors believing the environment of the hospital was more detrimental than it was helpful.

Green's next album, In the Skies, wouldn't surface until 1979. Since then he had his highs and lows but he never should recover his earlier self. In 1988 Green was quoted as saying: "I'm at present recuperating from treatment for taking drugs. It was drugs that influenced me a lot. I took more than I intended to. I took LSD eight or nine times. The effect of that stuff lasts so long.... I wanted to give away all my money.... I went kind of holy - no, not holy, religious. I thought I could do it, I thought I was all right on drugs. My failing!"

As for Fleetwood Mac, there's really never been any substitute for the band's original lineup, and drummer Mick Fleetwood understands why. He was unequivocal in his belief that the first version of the group had unfinished business when Green departed. "I think it would have been really profound," he mused when asked what might have been if Green had been able to stick around. "I have no doubt what was missed. I think we would have had a place sort of like Led Zeppelin in America."

In 2009 a TV movie was released: THE PETER GREEN STORY: MAN OF THE WORLD, directed by Steve Graham, featuring  Peter Green, John Mayall, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Carlos Santana, Jeremy Spencer, Keith Altham, Noel Gallagher and some more, telling the incredible story of the man who formed Fleetwood Mac.

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Man, by the title I almost thought he died or something!

 

Spooked me a bit, especially after Dr John's passing.

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