Before Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac had the blues guitar maestro Peter Green at the helm. Through his very singular stylings, they established themselves as Britain’s premier blues-rock outfit of the late 1960s in a hurry.
However, his time in the band was fated to be tempestuous. LSD and illness would bring about Green’s early exit as the band’s prominence began to wane, but through gilded guitar riffs, he ensured that his legacy would endure. As Mick Fleetwood said himself, without Peter Green, there would be no Fleetwood Mac. Green laid the foundations for what was to come by embodying that groups ethos that the heights of musicianship are to be juiced down to their pith in search of an emotive blast. This central tenet of Fleetwood Mac is typified by Green’s guitar work, which is unbelievably skilled, but only ventures into the extremes if it fits the sentiment of the song.
Below we’re looking at five moments in his music career that exemplify Green’s sui generis talent. Despite his short career, he still resides among the blues-rock greats, and these collated moments should go a long way to illustrating why.
Six times Peter Green proved he was a guitar hero:
6. The ‘Someday Soon Baby’ improvised intro
During a recording session with the classic blues pianist Otis Spann, you can hear him yell the following direction at Green: “I want you to start playing, I want BB King shit.” Now inciting BB King style playing from anyone on a whim is a lofty demand, but Green wilfully obliges, and he does so with aplomb.
For over a minute, he rips through a maelstrom of crisp improvised blues scales. In the process, he displays two things; the unbridled joy of simply playing music and absolute inventiveness underlined by a strictly disciplined grounding.
5. ‘Man of the World’
Green wrote this song about how he achieved everything he wanted to with a set of his good old pals, but despite loving his bandmates and all the good times he was having, he still felt incomplete. In this sense, the guitar work is his own literal version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.
By his usual blistering 12-bar standards, the song is tender and mellowed, and his rare spaced-out strumming lends it a heart-wrenching sincerity. Despite the melancholy overture, the track is still equal parts an ode to his friends and good times, and his ability to reflect that in his playing is second to none.
4.‘Jumping at Shadows (Live in Boston)’
Talent is one thing, but knowing how to deploy it is another matter entirely. With this version of Duster Bennett’s classic song, Green shows dances emotion softly upon the strings. He doesn’t blitz through the bars, he simply plays them as they come, adding intonation were needed to paint a musical picture.
He was only 23 years of age when this was recorded, but already he clearly had enough musical ability to be able to leave some in the tank when there’s no need to be speeding. During the live set, he crafts a scintillating sound that wails and whispers alike.
3. ‘The Green Manalashi (With The Two Prong Crown)’
‘The Green Manalashi (With The Two Prong Crown)’ is the perfect paradigm of the highs and lows that Peter Green endured in Fleetwood Mac embodied in one song. It displays imaginative excellence, technical proficiency, and yet the Mescaline-induced delusion that inspired it hints at a darker undertone that comes out in the music that he and Danny Kirwan crafted.
The fact that this song later became a staple for Judas Priest and Melvins, shows the underlying proto-metal tones of the band in the 1960s. The song is a swirl of musical genres, cutting the whispy bullshit of some of the more aloof elements of psychedelia out of the picture and relishing in seeing what you could do with it. The track is never boring and always very listenable fun.
2. ‘Oh Well, Part 1’
‘Oh Well Part 1’ is another track composed by Peter Green, and once more, it shows off his guitar bravura with epic aplomb. On the surface, the song is turbocharged blues music, but it is so fast and frenzied that calling it “blues” is like comparing a horse with a car.
Now, the song resides as a Promethean piece of music that in some ways heralded the forthcoming wave of heavy metal. With call and response vocals and an intricate syncopated ascending chromatic, there is a lot of ‘Oh Well Part 1’ in many songs that followed, and Green’s subtly innovative guitar work is at the heart of that.
Produced by Peter Green, this guitar-led track is probably one of the most famous instrumentals of all time. While it doesn’t often appear on the band’s Greatest Hits compilations, there’s no other track like it. And there’s no better representation of where and how the band started and the vibrancy of inspiration they dished out to their contemporaries, with The Beatles famously riffing on the track in their latter stages.
Imitating the aura of the seaside, Mick Fleetwood’s drum-playing is a sloshing lull of contentment, which Peter Green compliments with a tour de force guitar piece that sounds like a gathering sonic storm. The result is a thrilling day out that couples expert musicianship with cleverly crafted artistry. Dynamic phrasing, refined tone and imaginative unison bends are all deployed with such artistic intent that the track resides amid the greatest lessons in guitar playing that music has ever doled out.