Before they became the omnipresent soft-rockers that we know today, Fleetwood Mac were once one of the hardest rocking blues bands to have ever come from the UK thanks to the contributions of one key member: Peter Green.
A key figure in the second wave of the British blues scene in the '60s, Peter Green was a true maverick on the guitar, and a criminally underrated songwriter to boot. After first gaining recognition as the replacement for Eric Clapton in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Greeny would later go on to form Fleetwood Mac with drummer Mick Fleetwood, and catapulted the band into the critical consensus with his tight-knit fretwork and songwriting contributions.
While Greeny wouldn't kick around in Fleetwood Mac long enough to see them reach the heights of their powers in the 1970s, any good guitarist knows that he's responsible for some of the band's best early works, and is often forgotten in the tale of the group's rise to superstardom. Today, we're paying tribute to his titan of British blues by diving into some of the ` examples of his fretwork caught on tape, celebrating his unworldly talents and cherishing the contributions he made to the canon of British blues in the 1960s.
‘The Supernatural’ - John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers (1967)
After Eric Clapton stepped away from John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers to form Cream in 1967, there was only one British bluesman who was good enough to be considered as a replacement: Peter Green. Although Green’s tenure with The Bluesbreakers wasn’t met with as much acclaim as his predecessor, it did yield some incredibly flashy playing and impeccable songwriting on ‘The Supernatural’.
One of Green’s own compositions, this Latin-flavoured D minor blues belter hints at the direction he’d take Fleetwood Mac into in the future, and features some of the gnarliest amplifier feedback of the mid ‘60s. Truly spine-tingling stuff.
‘Black Magic Woman’ - Fleetwood Mac (1968)
Just as Clapton did only a year prior, Green would leave Mayall & The Bluesbreakers in 1967 to form a blues rock group of his own with fellow Bluesbreakers member and drummer Mick Fleetwood, with John McVie soon joining to complete the earliest phase of Fleetwood Mac.
While the band achieved moderate success with their first two albums, it was ‘Black Magic Woman’ that really put them on the map in 1968, with Green dishing out some trademark guitar acrobatics and one of the most memorably spooky chorus refrains of the decade. Of course, it’s the Santana version that came two years later that really captivated guitarists, but you’ve got to give credit to where it’s due.
‘Albatross’ - Fleetwood Mac (1968)
Is there any greater guitar instrumental than this? Straight off the back of the success of ‘Black Magic Woman’, Green’s next contribution to Fleetwood Mac would prove to be their biggest hit in the UK to date: the tranquil guitar instrumental ‘Albatross.’
Embellished with glistening slide guitar and made all the more washy through Mick Fleetwood’s timpani mallet cymbal playing, ‘Albatross’ is soothing blues noodling at its finest, with Green’s laidback fretwork and melodic phrasings captivating listeners all over the world.
‘Need Your Love So Bad’ - Fleetwood Mac (1969)
A cover of a blues standard originally recorded and released by Little Willie John in 1955, ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ sees Green busting out some classic A blues pentatonic licks over a classic 12 bar progression, stealing the limelight with his stellar lead performance and one again reminding the world of his pedigree nature as an instrumentalist.
Green’s lead playing on this track has resulted in his name being synonymous with this song, with fellow guitar legend Gary Moore famously paying tribute to Green with his own rendition of the song on the 1995 compilation Blues For Greeny.
‘Man Of The World’ - Fleetwood Mac (1969)
Sure, he was better known for his face-melting blues soloing, but Peter Green could certainly churn out a tearjerker from time to time, and there’s no better example than 1969’s ‘Man Of The World’. Considered as a bit of a lost gem by many Fleetwood Mac fans, ‘Man Of The World’ sees Green express his remorse at having everything he could ever want except for the woman he loves, with Green’s melodic playing accentuating his sombre mood in a manner that could only ever be expressed upon an electric guitar.
Fleetwood Mac actually played this for the first time in 50 years last year in Australia at Neil Finn’s request - now, it feels just as poignant a moment as ever.
‘Oh Well’ - Fleetwood Mac (1969)
I bet Led Zeppelin were salty that they didn’t write (or steal) this one before Peter Green did. ‘Oh Well’ is rowdy blues rock at its best: from the boogie-woogie acoustic guitar at the start to the hectic stop-go structure and that wonderfully folky ending, this might be one of the most underrated Fleetwood Mac tunes ever: but nothing beats Greeny’s ridiculously heavy guitar playing in the mid-section.
In his fast but furious guitar solo, Greeny packs in a myriad of unison bends, slides and blues box licks that should be mandatory to learn for any ambitious guitar student. He might’ve been a quiet achiever, but you can’t deny that Green’s legacy is right up there with some of the all time greats, and it’s ‘Oh Well’ that proves why. A truly unparallaled talent - rest in peace, Peter Green, and thank you for the music.
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