Fleetwood Mac is rock music’s resident feuding dynasty. Akin to a musical House of Tudor or Borgia, aside from the iconic music, they are known for their perpetual state of infighting. A tempestuous group that has established itself as one of rock’s most celebrated families, their history is an extensive one. It has seen many comings and goings, with the most iconic lineup, the one featuring Buckingham and Nicks, only baring two of the band’s original members.
Founded in 1967, Fleetwood Mac started off with two feet firmly placed in the musical mode of the day, the blues, long before they went on their soft-rock path to stardom that was signalled with the release of their tenth album, 1975’s Fleetwood Mac. It’s staggering to think that by this point, after eight years in existence, they had established a mythos that is begging to be adapted into a series or film.
The band had already given us many classics such as ‘Albatross’ and ‘Oh Well’, but by 1975 only drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie – the Fleetwood and Mac section of the band’s name – would have survived the fallout from its earlier iterations. Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan, Bob Welch, Bob Weston and Dave Walker had all come and gone before the release of the band’s tenth album.
However, there is another figure who is the most significant of all who had departed – Peter Green, the band’s founder and former frontman and lead guitarist. He penned all off the band’s early singles and became known as a pioneer of the six-string. Just like his contemporaries, he was well-versed in the arts of the blues and jazz, but his guitar playing diverged from the norm as he placed emotion ahead of technical forethought, making him an early pioneer in this new way of playing. Guitarists such as Metallica, Noel Gallagher and Radiohead have all cited him as a huge influence on elements of their playing.
This is a staggering testament to a man who only played in the band for three years. Before the purists get all hot and bothered, it is worth mentioning that he did briefly return to the band for a string of American shows in 1971 after Jeremy Spencer abruptly left to join a religious cult. Critically though, Green’s recording career with the band ended in 1970.
Much like his contemporary, Pink Floyd’s original frontman Syd Barrett, Green’s life has become a source of intrigue and discussion owing to the substance abuse and mental health issues that culminated in his departure. In fact, his talent often gets overlooked because of the staggering off-stage stories. However, he is remembered by those who truly matter and lives on through his music.
In December 2020, in an op-ed for The Spectator, Mick Fleetwood simply said: “Fleetwood Mac would never have existed without him” and that over their musical career’s, which extended to the years prior to the band’s formation, the duo “formed an incredibly special bond.”
Fleetwood then proceeded to make a bold statement, and one that is rather divisive: “I’ve never played with anyone who comes close to him: he was the greatest guitarist ever.” Fleetwood didn’t end there with the praise either, he opined: “He also had the most wonderful voice. Peter might not necessarily be a household name, but if you were to ask the best guitar players in the world ‘Who is Peter Green?’, they would all tell you that he is one of their idols.”
Whilst Fleetwood’s statement may be true, this is deeply ironic as, at first, he was critical of Green’s musical ability. In the days before Fleetwood Mac’s formation, whilst playing in their earlier band, Peter B’s Looners, Fleetwood first came across Green at an audition when the Looners were looking for a new guitarist. Not keen on Green’s playing at all, Fleetwood really wanted band leader, Peter Bardens, to choose someone other than Green as he felt his playing was repetitive and overly simplistic.
How wrong he was. Bardens would opt for Green, and the rest was history. It kicked off a chain of events that would culminate in the formation of Fleetwood Mac, and Green, over his brief tenure, would inspire generations of guitarists. At least Fleetwood admits his folly though, and in March 2021, he told Classic Rock, “The irony of the story is that I’m the hugest advocate of Peter Green. So thank God I got side-whacked and told to shut up.”
Listen to Mick Fleetwood discuss Peter Green, below.