Originally published on dolphinmusic.co.uk Mon July 14, 2008
One day, in the late 60s, a weekly music paper coined the term "guitar hero" and, amongst the handful of players deemed worthy the accolade (Hendrix, Clapton, Page...) there was Peter Green, who never achieved the same level of fame of those other guitarists...
In the late 60's, a weekly music paper published an article highlighting a handful of hot new guitarists who were setting the Swingin' London on fire. They were the original "guitar heroes", as the article labelled them: amongst them Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend...and Peter Green. A name, back them, at least as revered as "god" Eric Clapton, but whose name doesn't seem to have become as widely known as those other guitarists.
Peter Green first claim to fame was in 1966, when he had the very tough job of replacing Eric Clapton in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. Clapton had just recorded his legendary Bluesbreakers album, the "beano" one, which set new standards for guitar players in the UK and earned him the nickname "God" - spraypainted all over London. But he left John Mayall's band to form Cream, and a replacement guitarist was needed...but how to follow that!? Enter unknown Peter Green, who quickly earned fans of his own, thanks to his class and style as a player, and unique sound - his playing was marked with a distinctive vibrato and economy of notes, as well as a unique tone from his 1959 Gibson Les Paul - a result of the guitar's neck pickup magnet being reversed to produce an 'out of phase' sound.
Green, like Clapton, only recorded one album with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, "A Hard Road", which didn't achieve the legendary status of Clapton's album but is still something of a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Peter Green didn't want to be just a hired guitarist, he wanted his own band. And thus, he founded,,,Fleetwood Mac.
Yes...one thing that not everyone seems to know, is that Fleetwood Mac, one of the biggest "Middle-Of-the-Road" bands of the 70s was originally not only a cutting-edge blues rock band, but also belonged to Peter Green, and was initially called Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, eventually shortened to Fleetwood Mac.
Back in the 60s, there was no sign of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, it was all about Peter Green: he was the leader, main songwriter, leading singer and lead guitarist. Back then, when Jimmy Page was barely out of his session musician days and first achieving fame with the soon-to-be-over Yardbirds, Peter Green was the ace, ripping heavy blues player in London, adored by his fans, who saw in Feetwood Mac and band more edgy and faithful to the blues than bigger names such as The Rolling Stones.
Not to say that back then Fleetwood Mac weren't successful - their self-titled debut album was a huge success in the UK and reached #4 in the charts. It also featured hit single "Black Magic Woman", written by Green. The song was later covered by Santana and became a worldwide smash. Just like the later success of Stevie Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac eclipsed the Peter Green-fronted Mac, so the success of Santana's version of "Black Magic Woman" eclipsed that of Peter Green's...and few people realised Green had written it!
But Fleetwood Mac had more to offer. Songs like the delicate instrumental "Albatross" (Fleetwood Mac's first number one hit), "The Green Manalishi" and the proto-heavy "Oh Well" (which sounds almost like Led Zeppelin) helped the Peter Green-fronted Mac to become one of the most popular rock'n'roll bands in Europe by 1969. In fact, in July 1969 Fleetwood Mac were the headliners of a festival in Central Park, New York, playing above Chuck Berry, The Byrds and Led Zeppelin!
Even The Beatles wanted a piece of Fleetwood Mac, and invited them to sign to their Apple label, but it was not to be.
But worse was to come. Peter Green was very uncomfortable with all the acclaim, and as his mental stability deteriorated, he wanted to give all of the band's money to charity! When the rest of the band didn't agree with the idea, Peter Green decided to leave Fleetwood Mac and the music business altogether.
While Fleetwood Mac carried on, to become one of the biggest bands in the world, Green was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a mental illness commonly characterised by hallucinations and paranoia, and spent time in psychiatric hospitals undergoing electroconvulsive therapy in the mid-1970s. Like Syd Barrett, he was the great lost rock star of the 60's, burned out, forgotten by most.
Only in the late 1990s, almost 30 years after last playing with Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green surfaced again, with his Peter Green Splinter Group. Healthier, jovial and chubby like a little blues buddah, Peter Green is still out there playing the blues now. His place in rock history is undeniable. Those "in the know", still love and respect him as one of the great guitarists of all-time...and he doesn't seem to care that he never reached the same wide audience as Clapton or Page.
THE PETER GREEN GUITAR:
Many guitarists (including Noel Gallagher) still name Peter Green as their hero. Green is a true guitarists' guitarist, and this guitar is a great tribute to the legend. Vintage recently released this magnificent "Icon Series" recreation of his 1959 "out-of-phase" Les Paul, which is widely regarded as one of the best Les Pauls available at the moment - for a price that makes it possibily one of the best Les Paul deals you'll ever find! View Page
And here's a few Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac videos for you. Check how versatile Peter Green was, and enjoy!