Sitting this Sunday morning listening to some Fleetwood Mac "1960-1970 Rare Live and Demo Sessions" ... Peter Green's death was announced yesterday and I wanted to marshal my thoughts of this extraordinary Man of the World. An iconic musician anecdotally described by his black contemporaries as the only white guitarist to GET the blues.
Paraphrasing Jimi and various other luminaries, blues guitar is less about the notes you play than about the gaps between the notes. In my opinion, it also needs to have that raw element that earns it the name "Blues". Yeah, yeah, I know purists may well argue but; do yourself a favour and catch some old live recordings. Try to imagine yourself in the audience and being transported by the emotional energy right there beside you.
I was lucky enough to see Peter Green in the New Theatre, Oxford 20 years ago. His Splinter Group was paired with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers for the evening.
This was obviously post breakdown and PG was very much amongst friends, on the stage and in the audience. He was obviously struggling to concentrate for more than a couple of minutes so he and another supremely proficient guitarist would share a number. PG would start playing lead and at some point into the song would drift away. His fellow guitarist would sense what was happening and pick up the riff. I could say it was seamless but I'd be lying. Not that there was a discernible pause. The second guitarist was too good for that. Perhaps even technically better than Greeny himself. But it was as if the song had suddenly lost something.
To me that was what defined Peter Green. The playing came from somewhere deep inside.
I first heard Fleetwood Mac as a relative latecomer. I remember where it was. In the middle of the Transkei in South Africa in 1969. I was driving with Gorgs and Marshall to Cape Town and the song was Oh Well. I bought the single (Part 1 and 2) and still have it. In those days it was way out man, way out.
Any blues fan will know that Fleetwood Mac went on to become one of the most successful money making machines in pop after Greeny departed the group he had initiated only three years earlier. Mick Fleetwood described his friend and their parting with some reverence in a BBC interview in 2017 (see below for the link). Commercial success seemed irrelevant to Greeny to the extent that many music lovers may be surprised in this day and age that he wrote Black Magic Woman. I didn't know that when I was first blown away by Santana's Abraxas in 1970. He also wrote a good many other great songs that stir one's memory.
Sadly, for obvious reasons, none of the accounts I have read over the past 24 hours has consulted Gary Moore (1952-2011).
Moore may have been Greeny's number one fan. One of the all time must-have Blues Albums is GM's Blues For Greeny, released in 1995. This was played on PG's '59 Les Paul. Initially Greeny had loaned the guitar to Moore, his teenage protégé. Later, when PG was seriously out of pocket, he persuaded Gary to buy it from him.
I could swear I heard an interview* with Gary Moore on the car radio back in the 80s/90s in which he related a car journey with Peter Green.
"I won't be needing that guitar any more," Greeny said.
"Oh no," replied Gary, "what'll you do with it?"
"I'd like you to have it. Would you buy it from me?"
"It must be worth thousands," Gary responded, "I could never afford it."
"How much can you afford?" Greeny came back.
Gary came back with an amount much close to a hundred than thousands of pounds.
Always an admirer of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, this elevated the man to godlike status for me.
BBC link https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-53540860?fbclid=IwAR1d8CznofiYi3XBmZHWiRvkzRTVi_j4dbsfr7dDf4vzmixOzbT9HVPbYoA
* I have a pretty good memory for things like that but I could gave heard incorrectly. Please comment if you violently disagree ...
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