Subscribe to our newsletter

Credit: Alamy

Music

The song Fleetwood Mac wrote about the evils of money

@SamWKemp

From 1967 onwards, Fleetwood Mac dominated the music industry. Like the biggest bands of the day (Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones) the group had managed to establish themselves as a factory of pop songcraft, releasing hit after hit. From ‘Dreams’ to ‘Go Your Own Way’, their music not only defined the sound of rock and roll in the 1970s but has come to define our retrospective image of the decade as a whole. Fleetwood Mac’s success, as you would expect, made the group’s members a hell of a lot of money. However, that same wealth haunted Fleetwood Mac’s founding guitarist, Peter Green.

‘The Green Manalishi’ is the last song Green ever wrote for Fleetwood Mac, and like so many classic songs from the 1970s, it was inspired by a particularly disturbing LSD trip. The track was written after Green experienced a series of terrifying nightmares about the evils of money. Contrary to popular belief, the titular ‘Green Manalishi’ was not a type of acid – rather it is the devilish personification of a wad of cash.

As Green explained to Mojo in 1996: “I had a dream where I woke up and I couldn’t move, literally immobile on the bed. I had to fight to get back into my body. I had this message that came to me while I was like this, saying that I was separate from people like shop assistants, and I saw a picture of a female shop assistant and a wad of pound notes, and there was this other message saying, ‘You’re not what you used to be. You think you’re better than them. You used to be an everyday person like a shop assistant, just a regular working person.’ I had been separated from it because I had too much money. So I thought, How can I change that?”

While it’s quite hard to sympathise with a man whose main problem was having too much money, Green did in fact end up donating most of his earnings from Fleetwood Mac to charitable causes. He gave much of his savings to War on Want, a London-based charity that provided aid to developing nations, with an emphasis on famine in the African continent.

As Green went on to recall: “Last thing at night they used to put pictures on telly of starving people and I used to sit there eating a doughnut and thinking, Why have I got this big stash that I don’t need when probably I’m going to die with it and all this is going on?”

Green died in 2020, having left behind the world of fame to become a hospital porter on $50 a week. He became an inspiration to so many; not only for his innovations in music but his authenticity, integrity, and commitment to helping those less fortunate than himself.