Tuesday, 12 April 2022

He Took It All Too Far, But Boy Could He Play Guitar - Peter Green: 25 Top Tracks




He Took It All Too Far, But, Boy, Could He Play Guitar
Peter Green: His 25 Greatest Tracks, Ranked!  

by Stuart Penney

I met Peter Green only twice.  The first time was at a May 1967 Bluesbreakers’ gig in the picturesque Derbyshire spa town of Matlock Bath.  It was towards the end of his tenure with John Mayall and, with Fleetwood Mac only weeks away from formation, he had the world at his feet.  In the regulation bluesman’s uniform of well-worn brown leather jacket, hooped rugby shirt and faded Levi’s, topped off with an impressive head of thick black curly hair, he looked sensational and carried himself with the swagger of a man secure in his position as one of the most revered guitar slingers in the land.


It was a much sadder story the last time I ran into Peter.  It was a chance encounter in 1982 outside an Oxfam charity shop in Richmond, Surrey on the outskirts of London.  To misquote William Cowper, fifteen years earlier Green had been the lord of all he surveyed, but now he was reduced to a shambling wreck.  An overweight acid casualty at the lowest point of his mental health trauma, he looked unkempt and unwashed and could easily have been mistaken for a homeless drifter.  It was beyond heartbreaking to see him in this state.  Mercifully, he was later rehabilitated somewhat and while the Peter of old was gone forever, his life did return to some kind of normality, or as normal as it was possible to get.  I wrote about those meetings HERE

Peter burned brightly for just five years between 1966-1970, leaving behind a remarkable body of work.  During that short period he produced music the equal of virtually anything his 60s contemporaries had to offer.  He was not just an incredible guitarist, but he had a tremendous voice too.  Unlike some, Peter never overplayed.  He left just enough space between the notes so we could fully appreciate how tasteful and melodic his soloing was, a rare thing among guitar heroes then and especially now.  His legacy may have been clouded a little by some of the substandard work he was cajoled into recording after his breakdown, but even that has not overshadowed the timeless music he gave us when he was fit and well.

Here are 25 of what I consider to be his greatest tracks, cherry-picked from his time with John Mayall and Fleetwood Mac during 1966-1970.  These are my personal favourites, and I expect your list will almost certainly differ. Don't forget to check out the Spotify playlist down at the bottom of the page.


 
25: Rollin’ Man (1968) 

Recorded April 1968 at the CBS studios in New Bond Street, this powerful Mr. Wonderful track is typical of Peter’s up-tempo contributions to the second Fleetwood Mac album.  Opening with a call and response motif between the horn section and guitar, it continues in similar vein into a killer solo before shifting to an up-tempo shuffle at 2:08 which takes it to the fade.  The horns are played by Steve Gregory and Johnny Almond, while Christine McVie provides the piano.



24. Evil Woman Blues (1967)

An outtake from the October 1966 Bluesbreakers sessions, this slow blues first appeared on the various artists compilation Raw Blues in January 1967 and was unavailable elsewhere until the CD era.  Peter sings his own composition backed only with plaintive, echo-drenched guitar and John Mayall’s piano.  In 2003 the song was added to the extended CD version of A Hard Road.



23. Out Of Reach (1967)

Recorded in October 1966, this minor key slow blues was left off A Hard Road and ended up on the B-side of the January 1967 Bluesbreakers single “Sitting In The Rain”.  Another darkly atmospheric Peter Green composition with powerful guitar and vocals by the man himself, it features Mayall on 5 string guitar, plus the usual backline of Aynsley Dunbar and John McVie.  

Trivia: As with so many of Mayall’s non-album tracks, “Out Of Reach” found its way first onto the 1971 album Thru The Years and was later included as a bonus track on the expanded editions of the A Hard Road CD.


22. Watch Out (1969)

This song was first recorded in November 1967 but sat unreleased until 1971 when it appeared on the album The Original Fleetwood Mac.  Two years later it was reworked in a much slower tempo for Blues Jam At Chess (aka Blues Jam In Chicago and Fleetwood Mac In Chicago) and that’s the version I’ve chosen here.  

Peter excels on both, but the 1967 recording is taken rather too fast, while the Chicago version (featuring just the four-piece band, with no guests) has a nicer, laidback feel.

Trivia: The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967–1969 box set features two early takes of “Watch Out”.  Take 2 appears on The Original Fleetwood Mac album, while the equally frantic Take 1 is previously unreleased.


21. If You Be My Baby (1968)

Peter’s legendary 1959 Gibson Les Paul “Greeny” never sounded better than on this Mr. Wonderful mid-tempo shuffle.  The guitar parts are economical but played with surgical precision and every note is in exactly the right place.  Backed by the same piano and twin saxophone ensemble heard elsewhere on the album, this is a masterclass in electric blues.

Trivia: This is one of five Mr. Wonderful tracks co-credited to Peter Green and the mysterious “C.G. Adams”.  Clifford George Adams is the real name of Clifford Davis, the man who acted as Fleetwood Mac’s manager from 1967-74.  It seems he changed his name to avoid confusion with the leader of the schmaltzy easy listening vocal group the Cliff Adams Singers. 

In late 1973 when the band was in disarray and temporarily off the road, Davis brazenly recruited a bunch of new musicians and assembled a bogus version of Fleetwood Mac to fulfill tour commitments in America.  Naturally, legal proceedings soon followed and that was the end of Davis’s involvement with the band. 

This song was covered by Gary Moore on his 1995 album Blues For Greeny using the same 1959 Gibson Les Paul Peter had played on the original track.


20. So Many Roads (1966)

If it seemed like a blatant attempt to outdo Clapton and his brace of epic slow blues on “The Beano Album”, it probably was.  It might have worked too were it not for a somewhat fussy production.  As usual, Mayall’s high-pitched vocals are an acquired taste and the horns are perhaps a little intrusive, but Peter is in absolutely blistering form here and his solo is a thing of wonder. 

Released in October 1966 as the B-side of the single “Looking Back” this track didn’t appear on album until the 1969 compilation of that name.  The classic Bluesbreakers line-up of Mayall, Green, John McVie and Aynsley Dunbar is augmented here by the horn section of Nick Newall (tenor), Johnny Almond (baritone) and Henry Lowther (trumpet).


Trivia: First recorded in 1960 by Otis Rush with the title “So Many Roads, So Many Trains”, this song is credited to “Paul Marshall” (sometimes shown as “Marshall Paul”), an alias for Marshall Chess, son of the famous blues label founder Leonard Chess.  Marshall became president of Chess records in 1969. 

For an even wilder version of “So Many Roads” check out the Bluesbreakers official bootleg album Live In 1967 (Forty Below Records FBR 008).  Showcasing the short-lived John Mayall, Peter Green, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood line-up, what this amateur recording lacks in sound quality is more than made up for in energy and the sheer power of Peter’s playing.  Recorded on a domestic tape recorder in May 1967 by a Dutch fan at the Manor House in North London, it was unreleased until 2015.

Joe Bonamassa covered “So Many Roads” in Mayall/Green style on his 2006 album You & Me and it’s long been a fixture of his live set.


19. Drifting (1967)

Comprising mostly previously unissued Blue Horizon material deemed not worthy of release at the time, The Original Fleetwood Mac is now viewed as one of the best Fleetwood Mac albums of all (despite the unimaginative title).  Recorded between August 1967 and October 1968 it didn’t see the light of day until May 1971, by which time Peter and Jeremy Spencer were gone and Mac was a very different band indeed.  Green is on top form throughout and his fearsome guitar work on “Drifting” holds up against anything Mac recorded during their peak blues period.  


18. Under Way (1969)

Sounding not unlike like Wishbone Ash meets the Grateful Dead, this dreamlike Then Play On track was apparently one of Peter’s personal favourite Fleetwood Mac recordings.  The album cut clocks in at around three minutes, but for the full-length 16-minute experience check out The Vaudeville Years retrospective collection released in 1998.

Trivia: The painting used for the Then Play On LP sleeve is a mural by the English artist Maxwell Armfield (1888 - 1972). It was featured in the February 1917 edition of The Countryside magazine, which noted that the mural was originally designed for the dining room of a London mansion. Armfield lived to see his painting used for the Fleetwood Mac album sleeve, but his opinion of the music was not noted.


17. Curly (1967)

Another track recorded on February 16, 1967 by the power trio of Green, Aynsley Dunbar and John McVie, this lumbering instrumental workout is as heavy as anything Cream was turning out at the time.  Credited only to The Bluesbreakers (John Mayall doesn’t appear), it first appeared as the A-side of a March 1967 UK single (Decca F12588) and was later mopped up on the 1971 Decca leftovers LP Thru The Years.  More recently “Curly” was included as a bonus track on the A Hard Road CD. 



16. Sugar Mama (1969)

“Sorry lads, half of it wasn’t on tape” says Mike Vernon sheepishly over the studio talkback.  Presumably he’d forgotten to press the "record" button at the start of the take.  “It’s always the same with your bum producing, Vernon”, laughs Peter Green.  “I shall ignore that, thank you” replies the producer, feigning indignation.  And so, Take 3 of “Sugar Mama” gets under way, only to break down again seconds later.  

It’s all good-natured, of course.  Green and Vernon were the best of pals and one of the joys of the Blues Jam At Chess double album is hearing the jokey studio banter between producer and band members.  He chivvies them along when studio time is running out and is not afraid to kill the take and admonish them when someone plays a duff note.  It’s all taken in fun and Green gives as good as he gets: “Can we turn the lights out, so I won’t see Jerry’s stupid face looking at me?” quips Peter as yet another take breaks down. 

As with so many old blues songs, opinions vary as to who wrote this one.  Some say Sonny Boy Williamson, Yank Rachell or Tampa Red, while others claim the tune is traditional.  Meanwhile, the sleeve notes to Blues Jam At Chess credit slide guitarist Homesick James Williamson who was, coincidentally, a cousin of Jeremy Spencer’s favourite player Elmore James. 

Whoever wrote the song, they could never have imagined it performed with the fire and aggression Fleetwood Mac gave to it in January 1969.  Green and Danny Kirwan’s twin guitars almost strip the paint from the walls, and I don’t believe I’ve heard Peter deliver a stronger vocal performance.  The great Otis Spann provides the authentic blues piano backing here. 


15. Merry Go Round (1968)

If fans were expecting a surfeit of guitar histrionics from Peter on the first Fleetwood Mac album, they were disappointed.  Much of the record was given over to Jeremy Spencer’s Elmore James bottleneck routine, with Green’s guitar taking an uncharacteristic back seat.  He really unleashes on this stripped-back blues, however.  With no effects or distortion pedals and the simplest of productions from Mike Vernon, “Merry Go Round” is pure, undiluted electric blues guitar with a clean guitar sound and a tremendous vocal from Peter. 

Trivia: It's Take 2 we hear on the “Dog & Dustbin” album, as the debut Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac became known. But the shorter Take 1, which breaks down after only a minute, can be found on the 1999 box set The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967–1969

This song was covered by Gary Moore on his 1995 album Blues For Greeny using the same 1959 Gibson Les Paul Peter had played on the original track.


14. Jumping At Shadows (1970)

Even if Anthony “Duster” Bennett had only ever written one song, his immortality would be assured, thanks to “Jumping At Shadows”.  This tremendous eight-bar blues shuffle with its unusual chord changes is a gilt-edged British Blues Boom classic which was picked up by Fleetwood Mac for their late 60s live set.  It appears on several Mac concert albums, notably volume three of Live In Boston, recorded at the Boston Tea Party venue in February 1970 (other versions are available).  Listen as Peter’s guitar goes from a whisper to a scream and back again.  

Trivia: Bennett was basically a one-man band, which is how he performed in concert, playing a gold top Gibson Les Paul (a gift from Peter), harmonica and assorted percussion.  In the studio, however, he was sometimes backed by Green and other Fleetwood Mac members, making the albums he recorded for Blue Horizon hugely collectable today.  Duster sadly died in a car crash in 1976 aged just 29.


13. Lazy Poker Blues (1968)

Another up-tempo shuffle in the style of “Stop Messin’ Round”, this Mr. Wonderful cut really motors along with added backing from Johnny Almond and Steve Gregory on saxes and Christine McVie on piano.  This was probably just meat and potatoes material for Fleetwood Mac at that time, but the two solos Peter takes here are worth the price of admission alone. 

Trivia: In 1970 Status Quo covered “Lazy Poker Blues” on their third album Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon.





12. Searching For Madge/Fighting For Madge (1969)

This is complicated.  It’s probably true to say that the two “Madge” tracks do not appear in the same place twice on any of the countless released versions of Then Play On. They have appeared separately and together, consecutively and split over different sides of the individual (and different) UK and US vinyl LPs.  And that’s before we get to the endless CD reissues with their bonus tracks etc.  So, it’s much simpler if we view them as one track, which is how they started life. 

“The Madge Sessions” as we shall call them, began as a series of jams kicked off by John McVie and Mick Fleetwood (hence the writing credits), before Peter and Danny joined in, creating a ferocious guitar duel.  What were considered the best bits were selected, a short section of a string orchestra and some arbitrary vocal noises were edited in just to add to the mystery, and the result was split into two tracks with a total running time of just under 10 minutes.  These were placed seemingly at random on Then Play On.  Depending on which version of the album you have (and there are many) will determine where “Madge” appears for you.  It was about as far from the blues as the early Fleetwood Mac ever got.  

Should the 10 minutes of “Madge” on Then Play On not contain enough wild and crazy guitar for you, why not seek out the rare double CD The Vaudeville Years Of Fleetwood Mac 1968-1970 where you’ll find the full-fat 17 minute version.  Psst: it’s on YouTube.  

Trivia: According to an interview Mick Fleetwood gave around the time Then Play On was released, “Madge” was the name of a hardcore Mac fan - “the ultimate groupie” as he put it, who followed the band around Europe.  So, it’s somehow fitting that she has been immortalised with the title of her own album track.

“Underway” also originated from the same series of jams which produced “Madge”.


11. Greeny (1967)

Although recorded in February 1967, this seemingly throwaway instrumental first surfaced in April 1969 on the UK budget sampler LP The World Of Blues Power (Decca SPA 14).  It was one of four Bluesbreakers’ tracks cut without John Mayall and featuring just the power trio of Green, John McVie and Aynsley Dunbar.  Beautiful in its restrained simplicity and yet powerfully executed with Peter’s razor-sharp technique on display, this is a masterclass in low volume electric blues guitar.  It later appeared on both the UK and US Thru The Years compilations and has been included as a bonus track on several versions of the A Hard Road CD. 

Trivia: The name “Greeny” was later applied to Peter’s legendary 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, a guitar subsequently owned by Gary Moore and then sold to Metallica’s Kirk Hammett for a reported seven figure sum.


10. Albatross (1968)
In 1969 Fleetwood Mac spent more weeks in the UK top 50 singles chart than the Beatles (59, compared to 43).  Mac spent 23 of those weeks in the UK top 10, compared to 19 weeks for the Fabs, the first time anyone had achieved that feat since 1963.  

Released in late November 1968, the dreamy instrumental “Albatross” was responsible for much of that success, spending 20 weeks in the chart overall and becoming the biggest selling UK instrumental of all time along the way.  Fleetwood Mac’s last Blue Horizon single (reissues excepted) also gave Mike Vernon’s label its first and only number one hit. 


 

Thought to have been inspired by Santo & Johnny’s 1959 Hawaiian guitar instrumental classic "Sleep Walk", Mac’s fourth single in turn directly influenced the Beatles’ “Sun King” on Abbey Road.  It was all a very long way from the blues, but Peter Green and Danny Kirwan’s beautiful harmony guitar lines (Jeremy Spencer did not play on the record) provided the surprise crossover hit of 1969.


Trivia: This was almost certainly the last occasion a record in 12/8 time reached the top of the UK charts.

Those 1969 top 50 chart statistics in full: 

Fleetwood Mac: 

Albatross (20 weeks) #1 

Man Of the World (14 weeks) #2 

Need Your Love So Bad - reissue (6 weeks) #32 

Need Your Love So Bad - reissue (re-entry) (3 weeks) #42 

Oh Well (16 weeks) #2 

Total: 59 weeks

The Beatles: 

Get Back (17 weeks) #1 

The Ballad of John & Yoko (14 weeks) #1 

Something (12 weeks) #4

Total: 43 weeks


9. Rattlesnake Snake (1969)

“Turning Japanese” - The Vapors.  “Muscle of Love” - Alice Cooper.  “Holding My Own” - The Darkness.  “Dancing With Myself - Billy Idol.  Yes, they’re all songs about masturbation.  Earlier (and arguably better) than all of them, however, was Fleetwood Mac’s “Rattlesnake Shake”.  One of the stand-out tracks on Then Play On, this ode to onanism ticks all the boxes:  bawdy, semi-comic lyrics, lashings of heavy guitar riffage from Peter and Danny and a tremendous vocal performance.  

This song was released as the US follow-up single to “Oh Well” which had failed to sell in America, but did only marginally better there, reaching #30 in the Billboard chart.  In concert, however, “Rattlesnake Shake” soon developed into a crowd-pleasing extended jam, sometimes running 20 minutes or more.  The 13-minute live version on the 3CD set Before The Beginning 1968-1970: Live & Demo Sessions is especially worth seeking out as it contains sections of “Fighting/Searching For Madge” amid the endless guitar soloing.  

The song later became a heavy rock favourite, covered by Aerosmith, who regularly played it in concert.  Erstwhile Mac members Bob Welch, Rick Vito and yes, even Mick Fleetwood, the subject of the song himself, have recorded versions on their own albums. 

Trivia: Other than a few piano parts, Jeremy Spencer did not appear on Then Play On.  The original plan was to include a bonus five song EP of his rock & roll pastiches with the album, but this didn’t eventuate.  Those tracks later turned up in 1998 on the Mac retrospective double CD set The Vaudeville Years.  A full solo LP titled, simply, Jeremy Spencer, containing a mix of blues, rock & roll, doo wop and comedy, featuring every Fleetwood Mac member in some capacity, was released in January 1970.


8. The Stumble (1967)

Freddy King’s influence on the British blues scene is incalculable, with many big-name guitarists covering his songs and instrumentals, including Eric Clapton, Stan Webb, Dave Edmunds, Mick Taylor and, of course, Peter Green.  “The Stumble” first appeared on Freddy’s album Let's Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King in 1961 and it was released as a single the following year.  It became Peter’s showcase instrumental with the Bluesbreakers both on the A Hard Road album and in concert, with live versions stretching out to seven minutes or more.  

Trivia: BBC Radio 1’s The Friday Rock Show hosted by DJ Tommy Vance used the A Hard Road version of “The Stumble” as its theme music for many years during the 80s.

The sound quality may not be the best but check out an amazing version of “The Stumble” on the 2015 Bluesbreakers official bootleg album Live In 1967 (Forty Below Records FBR 008). 

“The Stumble” was recorded by Gary Moore during the sessions for his 1990 album Still Got the Blues.  It later appeared as a CD bonus track and on a CD single.

7. The Super-Natural (1967)

Coming directly after “The Beano Album”, John Mayall’s third LP had some big shoes to fill.  But with Peter Green on board in place of the departed Eric Clapton, and Aynsley Dunbar taking over on drums, A Hard Road remains one of the truly essential blues rock albums of the 60s. 

Mayall recognised the value of his new guitarist and Peter was given acres of space to show off his skills.  He contributed two timeless guitar instrumentals to the album - a masterful version of Freddie King’s “The Stumble” and his own composition “The Super-Natural”.  The latter an ethereal minor key workout drenched in echo and controlled feedback.  Peter was barely 20 years old when he recorded this spine-tingling proto-Santana style piece, yet it stands as arguably the best thing on an already great record.

Trivia: This song was covered by Gary Moore on his 1995 album Blues For Greeny.  Moore played the same 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitar Peter had used to record the original track.


6. Stop Messin’ Round (1968)

This hard rocking blues shuffle is one of the strongest and most representative of the early Fleetwood Mac recordings, featuring Peter’s guitar and vocals at their powerful best.  If the debut Mac album was somewhat light on guitar pyrotechnics from Green, all that changed with their second outing Mr. Wonderful.  Alongside the inevitable handful of generic Elmore James slide workouts from Jeremy Spencer, Peter really made his presence felt with some killer lead work.  The band is augmented here by Christine McVie’s piano, Steve Gregory (alto sax) and Johnny Almond (tenor sax). 

The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967–1969 six CD box set contains five takes of “Stop Messin’ Round” comprising three (almost) full versions and two false starts, all seemingly recorded live in the studio.  Take 4 is the Mr. Wonderful album version, while Take 5 turned up as the B-side of the “Need Your Love So Bad” single.  Take 3 motors along amazingly well before one of the saxophones plays a bum note, causing producer Mike Vernon to call a halt.  This triggers loud protests from Peter (who apparently hadn’t noticed the off-key honks from the sax), resulting in a magnificent shouting match between Green and Vernon, complete with expletives almost worthy of The Troggs Tapes

Trivia: A year later Steve Gregory played sax on the Rolling Stones’ hit single “Honky Tonk Women”. 

This song was covered by Gary Moore on the CD version of his 1990 album Still Got the Blues


5. Black Magic Woman (1968)

The second UK Fleetwood Mac single was their first brush with the pop charts, peaking at #37 in early 1968.  The Latin-tinged minor key rocker was later included, along with Mac’s other early non-album singles, on the compilation LPs The Pious Bird Of Good Omen (UK) and English Rose (US).  Ironically, “Black Magic Woman” went on to become Peter Green’s biggest money earner after Santana covered it on the 1970 multi-platinum album Abraxas, turning it into a massive worldwide hit. 

 

4. Man of the World (1969)

In the nine months between December 1968 and September 1969, Fleetwood Mac released three singles on as many different labels: Blue Horizon, Immediate and Reprise.  “Man of the World” was the second of the trio and the band’s sole release for Andrew Oldham’s Immediate imprint (the label folded only months later, after releasing just four more singles).  This poignant, introspective ballad was the first indication that all was not well with Peter Green and while it would produce some incredible music, his mental health would soon give cause for alarm.  By contrast, the B-Side was one of Jeremy Spencer’s rock & roll comedy spoofs.  “Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonite" was credited to Earl Vince and the Valiants, a continuance of Spencer’s onstage 50s pastiche.


3. The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) (1970)

In a cruelly ironic twist, as Peter’s mental health deteriorated, so his final months with Fleetwood Mac produced not only some of his finest work but also a bunch of the greatest blues rock singles of the late 60s.  Green’s final recording with Mac was this May 1970 single.  It reached #10 in the British charts, which would prove to be their highest UK placing until the Buckingham Nicks line-up hit #6 with the “Tusk” single nine years later 

The song grew out of a drug-induced dream Peter had in which he was visited by a green dog which he took to represent the Devil warning of the evils of money.  He tried to convince the other band members they should give all their money away but, predictably, the suggestion didn’t go down too well with McVie and Fleetwood.  Even so, it was a fabulous record and probably the heaviest thing Mac ever recorded - producer Martin Birch went on to work with Iron Maiden and a host of other UK metal bands. 

Trivia: When performed live “The Green Manalishi” could last up to 20 minutes with Peter playing extended solos on a Fender VI six string bass.



2. Oh Well Part 1 & 2 (1969)

Released in September 1969, this was Fleetwood Mac’s first single for the Reprise label which (as a subsidiary of Warner Bros) would be the band’s home for the next 40 years.  Starting with that familiar hard-driving blues riff played in unison on Dobro and electric guitar, Part 1 powers along with several stop/start unaccompanied vocal sections before grinding to a halt a little over three minutes later.  

Tucked away on the B-side of the single, Part 2 features delicate nylon string guitar, cello and recorder.  It worked beautifully but clearly reflecting Green’s fragile state of mind, it was also very strange and unlike anything else in the charts in late 1969.  Continuing Mac’s dream run of hit singles, it peaked at #2 in the UK, but hardly made a dent in America, where it stalled at #55.  

Trivia: Originally a non-album single, “Oh Well” was added to the revised version of the US Then Play On LP in late 1969 and the full eight minute track later turned up all CD pressings of the album.  Because the two halves of the single were edited together for CD release, it meant that the last minute of Side 1 was heard twice.


 
1. Need Your Love So Bad (1968)

This exquisite cover of the 1955 Little Willie John blues/gospel classic appeared as Fleetwood Mac’s third single in 1968.  Featuring one of Peter’s greatest vocal performances and some heart-stopping guitar, it’s surely one of Mac’s finest moments.

If, like me, you’ve always been sorely disappointed when the “Need Your Love So Bad” single fades out around 3:30, just as Peter is gearing up for the guitar solo, never fear.  The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967–1969 six CD box set contains no fewer than eight takes of this song, running more than 30 minutes.  These include a six-minute extended version which picks up where the original single left off and gives us the entire guitar solo.  Go on, fill your boots! 

Jazz guitarist Mickey Baker, one half of the 1957 “Love Is Strange” hitmakers Mickey & Sylvia, was hired to arrange the string section for Mac’s “Need Your Love So Bad”.  In a wonderful case of happenstance, Baker had also played guitar on the 1955 Little Willie John original.


 

Trivia: This non-album track appeared on a Fleetwood Mac single no fewer than three times.  First in 1968 b/w “Stop Messin’ Round”, then in 1969 b/w “No Place To Go” and finally in 1973 as the B-side to a reissue of “Albatross”*.  The first two releases barely grazed the top 30, while the 1973 with its illustrious A-side peaked at #2.  Like many of Mac’s early non-album singles “Need Your Love So Bad” ended up on The Pious Bird Of Good Omen compilation LP in mid-1969. 

B.B. King recorded "Need Your Love So Bad" way back in the early 60s, but in a different style and tempo to the Mac version.  However, B.B. took to performing it live in the late 60s using a very similar arrangement to the Fleetwood Mac recording, but it’s not clear who was influencing who at this stage.




Sharp-eyed viewers of Peter Jackson’s 2021 Beatles documentary Get Back may have spotted a copy of the “Need Your Love So Bad” 7” single complete with its Blue Horizon sleeve atop Billy Preston's electric piano at exactly 48 mins into part three. This song was covered by Gary Moore on his 1995 album Blues For Greeny.  Moore played the same 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitar Peter had used to record the original track.

* The Albatross/Need Your Love So Bad coupling was reissued on single at least three times in the 70s with different catalogue numbers.


Life After Fleetwood Mac

Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, Skip Spence, Roky Erikson, Sky Saxon - famous acid casualties all.  The music world (and the music press in particular) loves a good “rock star loses marbles” story and Peter Green handed them one of the most newsworthy (and yet saddest) of those stories on a silver platter.  

We’ve examined Peter’s acclaimed records with Mayall and Fleetwood Mac at length elsewhere but his post Mac albums, sad to say, are a very different story.  No matter what some may try and tell you, most of the records he made after 1970 are forgettable, generic affairs, especially when compared to the high-octane delights which came prior to his breakdown, and none come close to matching his best work with the Bluesbreakers and Fleetwood Mac.  But, as is often the case, the lure of the legend far outstripped the quality of the music and Peter Green albums continued to appear in the shops with monotonous regularity well into the new millennium, 40 years or more after the muse had comprehensively deserted him. 

Green’s very first solo album, the aptly titled The End Of The Game, arrived in December 1970, only months after he had quit Fleetwood Mac.  At that stage we had little knowledge of Peter’s mental health situation and the record was fervently anticipated by all.  We were clearly hoping for something along the lines of Then Play On Volume 2, so it came as a shock when the finished product sounded nothing at all like that.  I bought my copy on the day of release and rushed home to play it.  But Instead of the hoped-for guitar pyrotechnics, The End Of The Game turned out to be a collection of listless jams with no direction or fire and, in fact, no songs to speak of at all.  After a couple of exploratory plays just to make sure, it was quietly filed away at the dusty end of my LP collection, where only the brave or the foolhardy dare to venture.  See below for a celebrity guest retrospective of The End Of The Game.

Incidentally, fact fans, the futuristic font used on the LP sleeve is called "Westminster". Designed in the late 60s by Leo Maggs, it was inspired by the machine-readable numbers printed on cheques and is frequently used to indicate computer involvement.

Apart from a couple of nondescript singles, it would be almost nine years before we saw another album of new material from Peter.  This was the 1979 release In The Skies.  It sounded a little more structured than The End Of The Game, but upon reading the small print we were dismayed to discover that the lead guitar on some tracks was played not by Peter, but by Thin Lizzy/Pink Floyd sideman Snowy White, which rather took the shine off things.   

More low-key albums followed in similar vein until 1984 when Peter again dropped off the radar, this time for more than a decade.  He resurfaced in 1997 with the moderately successful Splinter Group, recording eight albums and playing live shows and making TV appearances.  But it all fell apart again in 2004 when Peter moved to Sweden.

In 2009 further attempts were made to bring him back with the band Peter Green and Friends but this amounted to very little and ultimately, that proved to be the end of the road for the once great bluesman.  

Peter Green may have left us forever in July 2020, but his legacy will live on for as long as people listen to electric blues guitar.  More than 50 years after it was recorded, the music he made with John Mayall and Fleetwood Mac is still considered among the most authentic, hard-hitting and expertly performed blues rock of the late 60s.  He wrote most of the songs, he sang them amazingly well and boy, could he play the guitar.  That’s all you need to remember about Peter Green.


Guest review: esteemed novelist Tim Earnshaw re-visits The End Of The Game

Peter Green was always the most melodic of guitarists, loved a tune, layered one on top of another.  Listen to his astonishing break in “Man Of The World” (before the gear change into “and I need a good woman”) - he’s playing what he couldn’t sing, the notes he couldn’t reach, but it’s a whole song in itself, every note composed to express the yearning he felt.  It’s a theme absolutely worthy of a symphony.  And he brought his melodic gift to the blues, each solo a song.  And there was the unashamed sentimentality of "Albatross", like remembering a perfect summer holiday.  Even riff-based songs like “Oh Well” and “Green Manalishi” are essentially melodic.  So anticipation was high for his solo album, The End Of The Game.

That cover first, because album covers are important.  It looks like a cheap jigsaw box.  It’s shit. Right, that’s the cover discussion over.

I remember listening to each track, trying to avoid staring at that stupid cover and waiting for the tune to kick in, and the disappointment and puzzlement and ultimate sense of betrayal I felt.  Not one tune on the whole wretched album.  Not one sweetly melodic solo.  It was like he was deliberately and perversely denying us what we loved in his playing - debasing it.  If he was expressing anything in his playing here, it was “fuck you”.  I filed it under R for rip off and moved on.

Years later, I went back to it during one of those periods of reassessment, and the first thing I heard was the powerhouse rhythm section of the unpronounceable Alex Dmochowski, and Godfrey Maclean.  Unpronounceable was later picked up by cunning talent-spotter Frank Zappa, who rechristened him Erroneous.  Listening to them play put the album into a different perspective; this was more like a Miles Davis session, jazz-funk with a dirty, raw edge. And I enjoyed it for a while in that shifted context, but Peter Green is no Miles Davis, and he’s no rhythm player.  He didn’t have an idea in his head.  The melodic muse had flown. He was just standing in a studio listening to the beat and unable to do a damn thing with it.  Game over.

Check out Tim Earnshaw’s books on Amazon and read his excellent blog: False Memory Foam HERE








He Took It All Too Far, But Boy Could He Play Guitar - Peter Green: 25 Top Tracks

He Took It All Too Far, But, Boy, Could He Play Guitar Peter Green: His 25 Greatest Tracks, Ranked!    by Stuart Penney I met Peter Green on...