Thursday, 31 October 2019

Discovering Black Sabbath - Halloween Special


Mikey G

In early 1970 an album was released that probably shaped my life more than any other. The self-titled album by the Birmingham-based band Black Sabbath. With its grainy picture of a disturbingly eerie woman standing in front of a watermill on the cover. With a musical mix of rock, jazz and blues, sprinkled with a liberal dose of distortion, they managed to create the genesis for what became one of the most enduring forms of popular music, heavy metal. 
In honesty I knew nothing about this whatsoever. As at the time I was only eleven years old.

It wasn’t until about four years later and by way of one of my friend's very cool older brothers that I got my hands on a copy of Sabbath's third album Master of Reality. Very much drawn in by the gothic purple and black embossed boxed sleeve, not to mention the now legendary “cough” intro to the first track “Sweet Leaf”, by the time I got to “Children of the Grave” with its outro of voices surely calling to us from the other side, I was completely and utterly hooked. This was definitely not music my parents would like.

By an amazing twist of fate, a few weeks later a friend approached me with the magic words “my mate's got a spare ticket for Sabbath”. Needless to say, I didn’t have to think about this for very long.  In the run up to the sacred date, I decided to cram in as much Sabbath time as possible, Volume 4 was purchased with an advance on my paper round money and anything else anyone had was devoured. When people found out I was going, one or two, supposedly in the know, tried to frighten me off by saying they were devil worshippers and their gigs, when they don’t go well, can end abruptly with all the gear hauled into the middle of the stage while Ozzy and his cohorts scream mantras to Lucifer. I was only slightly put off but it did linger in the back of my mind.

The tour I was about to witness was in support of the album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath which had been released in December 1973, this was now May 1974 and neither myself or any of my mates had managed to get their hands on it. I remember going into our local record emporium and picking up the sleeve. The image on the front seemed to completely concur with the warnings I was being fed. What if it was all true and they really did release midgets dressed as gargoyles into the crowd and we would have to give ourselves up to Satan if the finger of fate was pointed in our direction? Even in my friend’s dad’s car on the way to the gig I was having doubts about my enthusiasm for snapping up this ticket to the “depths of hell”.

*Ticket To Hell ?
Well, as you all now know, Ozzy has a penchant for biting the heads off things he shouldn’t and the band were bestowed with the “dark lords” mantle by the press, and the members themselves saw it as very funny indeed. The gig itself for this 15 year-old was absolutely brilliant. Having seen my first ever band a few weeks earlier - Deep Purple on the Burn tour, a band much feted at the time for appearing in the Guinness Book of Records as the loudest in the world - even the gut busting power of Tony Iommi’s monster riffs and Geezer Butler’s bubbling bass lines didn’t alarm me one bit. It must have been a good gig for the band themselves as none of the gear was dragged around the stage either.

It’s funny isn’t it, how, now that we have the internet, all the great anticipation and excitement my first Black Sabbath gig engendered has been largely washed away. YouTube lets you see pretty-much any live act you want and it also lets you hear most new albums, in some cases just the key tracks, but often in their entirety. Album covers and even sleeve notes are everywhere. Some might say it's progress but the cynical, and that includes me in this case, would say a lot of the magic that was rock music in the 60s and 70s has long gone. The download and shuffle world we live in has obliterated the sheer joy of going to gigs, sometimes not even knowing what the band looked like, unless you managed to catch a glimpse of your heroes on the back of some completely inappropriate (in rock terms) teen girls’ magazine in the racks of your local newsagent. New songs just passing by on random radio shows or late night television had to be embedded in your memory for later investigation. The joy of finally acquiring an album and taking in every minute aspect of the sleeve, the lyrics and even the perfectly centred label, tracklist, credits and all, just can’t be recreated today. This is before you’ve even heard the music, magically captured within those grooves.

* The Entrance To This Years Excellent 50th Anniversary Exhibition in Birmingham  (2019)
I still listen to those albums today and they still create an atmosphere, albeit completely in my head, of a dark brooding world, where evil is prevalent and giant guitar riffs are the only key to eternal ecstasy. I’ll leave the Spotify playlist in the ether, maybe one day they will work out how to recapture the whole experience. By the time that happens I’m sure I’ll be long gone “Into The Void” .

*Your Handy "Cut and Keep" Metal Guide.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Quintessence – Spirits From Another Time 1969 – 1971

Stuart Penney

If, like me, you file your records/CDs in strict alphabetical order, I’m guessing the section marked “Q” is very sparsely populated indeed.  Only five “Q” names grace my shelves and you can probably guess what they are. That’s right, it’s Quatermass, Queen, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Quiver and Quintessence (those Quarrymen bootlegs are filed under “Beatles”, since you ask).  Of those five, the one that gets the most needle time by far is undoubtedly the magnificent and timeless Quintessence. 
For those of us who were buying records in the late 60s and early 70s our first introduction to the band was almost certainly via the 1969 Island budget sampler LP Nice Enough To Eat. Here, for the giveaway price of 14s/6d (72½p), nestling among new and exciting offerings from Fairport, Tull, Free, Mott and Crimson was the Quintessence track “Gungamai”.  But in their haste to get Nice Enough To Eat into the stores, Island made a few schoolboy errors with the sleeve notes (see footnote for more details). 
Such confusion aside “Gungamai” (or “Ganga Mai” to use the later, correct, title) with its overtly Indian overtones was an attention-grabbing departure from the other prog/folk/blues fodder on Nice Enough To Eat and it was the start of a love affair with Quintessence which outlived the band’s brief five album lifespan and endures to this day.

When I read that almost everything on Spirits From Another Time is previously unreleased I was initially concerned it might turn out to be a ragbag collection of unfinished and/or inferior material.  I needn’t have worried. Most tracks are extended versions of familiar songs, or powerful alternate takes/versions and it all stacks up well up against the band’s official Island catalogue. 
This collection was compiled and curated by redoubtable music historian Colin Harper who also provided the 16 pages of closely typed and insanely detailed sleeve notes.  Harper scoured the archives of Melody Maker, NME and other music papers to come up with a wealth (and I mean dozens) of contemporary ads for Quintessence gigs, showing them rubbing shoulders and sharing stages with familiar (and some not so familiar) names of the day.  Just about every prog/folk/psych band of note is mentioned here and it’s enough to send any early 70s rock historian into a nostalgic tailspin.
Raga rock and Indian music in general enjoyed a brief but significant period of popularity in the late 60s, with everyone from the Beatles down dabbling in meditation and other spiritual pursuits.  Ravi Shankar had long been the darling of the folk and classical music crowd, of course, and things reached an unlikely climax in the summer of 1969 when the Radha Krishna Temple took their George Harrison-produced “Hare Krishna Mantra” Apple single to number 12 in the UK charts.  It’s probably no coincidence, then, that John Barham, the man who produced the Quintessence Island albums also worked as arranger on those Radha Krishna Temple recordings, as well as some of Beatle George’s own albums. 
With their flutes, sitars, tablas and none-more-hippy “Only love can save us” lyrics, Quintessence occupied a similar area of Indian influenced devotional music which tapped into prog rock, hypnotic psychedelia and went on to evolve into electronic dance music and trance.  The main difference being they were much louder with a clearly defined high energy rock sensibility and could often be found playing free concerts in and around Ladbroke Grove. Although based in Notting Hill, Quintessence was also a truly international band with front man Phil “Shiva” Jones and flautist Raja Ram both originating from Australia, while other members hailed from America, Canada, Mauritius and Yorkshire.

The opening track “Notting Hill Gate” sets the mood with the timeless lyric “We’re getting it straight in Notting Hill Gate.  We all sit around and meditate” and the original In Blissful Company recording is extended here by a full minute to include previously unheard references to their home turf of Ladbroke Grove.
The guitar dexterity of Allan Mostert and Maha Dev was always one of the main Quintessence drawcards for me and it’s here in abundance, with almost every track featuring a glut of fierce wah-wah guitar set among the blissed-out flutes and sitars.  Nowhere is this more evident than on “Epitaph For Tomorrow”, an 11 minute plus epic instrumental jam with west coast-meets-live Cream overtones.

More blazing guitar work appears on “Body”, a rare concert track recorded at St Pancras Town Hall in 1970.  This is one of the highlights of Disc One and shows the band were a live act to be reckoned with.
*Quintessence pictured in 1970

Disc Two opens with an alternate take of “Sea of Immortality” from their self-titled second album.  Very different to the released version, it features yet another quite extraordinary guitar solo. “Tree Of Life” is a previously unheard song with modern overdubs, while “Marwa” explores the Indian raga form to the full.  

“Only Love” is perhaps the, ahem, quintessential Quintessence track with every element in place.  Raja Ram’s ethereal flute leads off this alternate take before the “we’re gonna come together” mantra takes over and the song settles into a hypnotic groove of guitar and tabla, gradually speeding up to a frantic and chaotic climax.  If I had to choose one track to represent the sound and style of Quintessence it would be this one. 

While very much of its time, this music is timeless, unchanging and stands up to repeated listening.  Together with the three Island albums Spirits From Another Time should form an essential part of the Quintessence catalogue.

Quintessence played the first two Glastonbury festivals in 1970/71 and were truly representative of the ideals the event was founded on.  You might want to think about that today as you queue for the iPhone charging tent.
Cat No. (Hux 150)
Keen-eyed record collectors with too much time on their hands will have noticed that the label and back cover of the 1969 Island sampler LP Nice Enough To Eat claims ”Gungamai” was taken from album Island ILPS 9113 Quintessence.  That information was incorrect on several counts: 
1. ILPS 9113 was John and Beverley Martyn’s album Stormbringer
2.The debut Quintessence album was Island ILPS 9110Q In Blissful Company
3.The second, self-titled Quintessence album (Island ILPS 9128) would not appear until mid-1970
4.Finally, when the track in question appeared on In Blissful Company it was titled not “Gungamai” but “Ganga Mai”

Friday, 18 October 2019

Frank Zappa – The Crux Of The Biscuit

reviewed by 
Stuart Penney

The Crux Of The Biscuit (Zappa Records ZR20020)

People sometimes ask me “Where’s the best place to start with Frank Zappa?”  With a back catalogue of such daunting proportions it’s a reasonable question, after all.  These days all of Frank’s official albums are numbered on the CD spine in order of release starting with his 1966 Freak Out debut as album #1.  When I tell you that The Crux Of The Biscuit is album #102* you can appreciate the dilemma facing the novice Zappa listener.  
The stock answer to the question is, of course, Hot Rats, or One Size Fits All, or maybe Apostrophe.  Then again, let’s not forget Overnite Sensation or possibly Sheik Yerbouti and… well, you get the picture.  Those were, after all, his biggest sellers from the early/mid 70s when the mainstream rock world finally caught up and we achieved peak Zappa.  But it’s a glib and lazy answer, too. FZ covered so much ground over a three-decade recording career that to narrow him down to just a handful of well-known albums would do the man a huge disservice.  Classical, heavy rock, jazz (fusion, modern and freeform), comedy, avant-garde, musique concrete, electronic, straight rock and god knows what else. Zappa did it all and he did it in style – and sometimes he did it all on the same album.  His records are bursting at the seams with wonderfully diverse musical themes and rich concepts, all of it delivered with jaw-dropping virtuosity. Often, a single song by Frank contains enough information - stops, starts, twists and musical U-turns - to fill an entire album by a lesser artist.  While a full Zappa album routinely features more musical ideas than most bands are likely to come up with during an entire career. And if you think that’s hyperbole, have a listen to, say, “Inca Roads” a track from the One Size Fits All album.  Even if Frank had only ever recorded just this one piece, he’d still be guaranteed immortality.  
Since Zappa died in 1993, leaving a seemingly bottomless vault of unreleased material, the FZ Family Trust has issued a regular stream of archive albums, some of them truly great, others of interest to hardcore fans only and a few not really up to the high standards he set during his lifetime.  Thankfully The Crux Of The Biscuit is a major work.  The title is a line from “Stink-Foot”, a song from the 1973 Apostrophe album and what we have here is a series of outtakes and early, alternate versions of tracks from Zappa’s most commercially successful record in the United States.  An alternate Apostrophe album, if you will.
“Cosmik Debris” appears twice.  In slightly different remixed form and as an instrumental version featuring the basic track minus Frank’s lead vocal, so we can hear exactly what that great band were up to.  I had to listen very hard to spot any differences between this remix and the original album version, but differences there are, mostly in the form of previously unheard backing vocals and sound effects.  The instrumental take is more interesting. It features the backing track from Apostrophe with an earlier guitar solo which Frank replaced before release. The band are doing incredible things on this track, most of which can’t be clearly heard on the released version, but without the vocals it’s all there to be enjoyed. 

When he chose to, Frank could write a catchy pop song as good as anyone and an outtake of “Uncle Remus” really highlights that lilting, hummable melody.  Perhaps fortunately for his fans, Zappa could never bring himself to write radio friendly lyrics to match the tunes.

On a snippet from a 1973 Australian radio interview Frank tells the convoluted story of “St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast/Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” before a live version from Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion brings it all to life.  This is the only concert track on the album. Everything else is studio material of the highest quality.
Jack Bruce devotees will find much to enjoy here, as the virtuoso bass player is all over this album.  In true sardonic Zappa style, Frank once dismissed Jack’s thunder and lightning bass work on the Apostrophe title track as “too busy”.  Well, he can be as busy as he likes as far as I’m concerned, this is great music. Jack takes control of what was essentially a jam session with Frank on guitar and Derek & the Dominos drummer Jim Gordon behind the kit and turns it into a thunderous instrumental tour de force.  The “Apostrophe” and “Down In De Dew” tracks originally started life as two parts of one extended piece titled “Energy Frontier” and there are three unreleased extended versions here, some with a distinct raga rock/prog feel featuring an “unknown” flute player (as the sleeve notes tell us).  Even for non-Zappa aficionados Jack Bruce features so prominently on these tracks that it’s worth the price of admission alone.

The album ends with a spoken track titled “Frank’s Last Words”.  Not, thankfully, his actual final utterances, but a happy sounding Zappa winding up a recording session with studio banter and “OK that’s the take” over the talkback speakers.

If you’re a fan of the Apostrophe album and Frank’s music generally from this period, then I guarantee you’ll love The Crux Of The Biscuit.  It’s the perfect companion to one of his most accessible albums. Who knows, it may even be the ideal place to embark on your Zappa listening experience.

*This review was originally written in 2016.  At the time of this update (October 2019) the number of official Zappa releases has reached album #114 and counting.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Meeting Peter Green, Before And After Fleetwood Mac

Stuart Penney
* Fleetwood Mac 1968

The British blues boom.  There’s a tendency to dismiss it as little more than a bunch of lank-haired white boys from the home counties misappropriating the music of black America.  And not in a good way.  There may be a grain of truth in that but it’s not the full picture by a long way.  In its late 60s heyday the blues boom was a vibrant cultural movement directly linking the beat and R&B groups of the early 60s with the stadium rock bands of the 70s and beyond.  And while it’s true some blues bands took themselves way too seriously, it wasn’t all lumpen 12-bar boogie and “woke up this morning” lyrics by any means. 
As with any genre the biggest and best exponents rose quickly to the top.  Guitarists such as Jeff Beck, Mick Taylor and Eric Clapton became akin to teen idols, each with their own fiercely partisan fan base who would follow them from gig to gig, congregating in front of the stage to cheer on their heroes.  During his short tenure with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Clapton revolutionised electric blues guitar with his playing on the LP Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton (immediately dubbed “The Beano Album”) which rapidly became a genre-defining classic.  So, on July 18, 1966 when it was announced that a little-known guitarist named Peter Green was about to replace Eric in Mayall’s band, the UK blues world was abuzz with expectation.  It was not the first time Clapton had left the Bluesbreakers.  In a blaze of summer madness, he had gone AWOL during August 1965, leaving John Mayall temporarily without a star guitarist.  The story goes that Peter Green approached the stage at a Bluesbreakers’ gig at the Flamingo in Wardour Street and declared “I can play better than that!” indicating Eric’s stand-in.  When he got up on stage and proved he could do exactly that, Green was hired on the spot. He lost the job on Clapton’s return a few weeks later but Mayall kept in contact and after Eric split to form Cream, Peter got the gig permanently.  Peter Green’s first official show with the Bluesbreakers was July 24, 1966 at the Britannia Rowing Club, Nottingham.
*John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, A Hard Road

A Hard Road, the third John Mayall album (and the first to feature Peter Green) appeared in February 1967 and a consensus was quickly reached.  On this evidence Green was not only the equal of Clapton but in certain areas he may have had the edge over the man the London graffiti artists had labelled “God”.  There was only one way to find out for sure. So, on Saturday May 20, 1967, together with Alan, a like-minded school pal, I hitchhiked to the Derbyshire spa town of Matlock Bath where John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers were booked to play at the Grand Pavilion.
*The Grand Pavilion, Matlock Bath. Today the impressive
Edwardian edifice is home to a museum and community centre  (photo: Tim
Matlock is a picturesque country town located roughly equidistant from the urban sprawl of nearby Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham.  Although off the beaten track and outside the 60s concert circuit, Matlock occasionally hosted big-name rock shows and in February 1967, just a few weeks before the Bluesbreakers gig, Clapton’s new band Cream had played at the Pavilion. 

*The Grand Pavilion, Matlock Bath opened in 1910
We arrived mid-afternoon just as Mayall’s van crunched into the gravel carpark.  There were no band tour buses back then and even a well-known recording group such as the Bluesbreakers travelled the country crammed into a mid-sized Ford Transit, equipment and all.  With no other fans around we volunteered to help unload the gear and while the roadie (singular, as I recall) and band members struggled up four flights of stairs with Mayall’s Hammond organ and the Marshall speaker cabinets, we were entrusted with drum cases and guitars.  Precious cargo indeed, especially in light of subsequent events. 
*The stage at the Grand Pavilion, Matlock Bath (photo: Tim
Unlike today’s big-name guitarists who routinely have a clutch of instruments tuned-up and waiting in the wings, I’m sure Peter Green brought just the one guitar with him that day.  But what a guitar it was. The 1959 sunburst Gibson Les Paul nicknamed “Greeny” he used throughout his time with the Bluesbreakers and later, Fleetwood Mac, went on to acquire mythical status.  Following Green’s enforced retirement in the 70s, “Greeny” passed first to Gary Moore and then, more recently, to Metallica’s Kirk Hammett for a rumoured US$2 million, making it one of the most valuable guitars in rock history.
*The $2 million guitar. "Greeny" Peter Green's 1959 Gibson Les

John Mayall was notorious for hiring and firing his musicians almost at will and the Bluesbreakers’ line-up seldom remained the same from one month to the next.  It transpired that Aynsley Dunbar, the drummer on A Hard Road, had recently been dismissed from the band for his so-called “jazz leanings” and by May 1967 the drum stool was occupied by Mick Fleetwood.  So, with Peter Green on guitar and bassist John McVie, this incarnation of the Bluesbreakers brought together for the first time the core line-up of the yet-to-be-formed Fleetwood Mac. Dunbar would go on to success with numerous projects, of course, including the Jeff Beck Group, Frank Zappa and David Bowie, but in 1967 he couldn’t resist a farewell dig at John Mayall: the sacked drummer’s next band would be named The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation. Their differences were evidently quickly forgotten however, since Mayall went on to produce the Retaliation’s 1969 third album To Mum, From Aynsley & The BoysDuring Peter Green’s brief 11-month stint with Mayall, no less than five drummers passed through the band.  As well as Dunbar and Fleetwood, there was “Beano Album” veteran Hughie Flint, who was in situ when Peter joined, and Keef Hartley who arrived just before he quit.  Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart alumnus Mickey Waller was also momentarily a Bluesbreaker in April 1967.
But it was Peter Green we’d come to see, and he didn’t disappoint.  Considering he’d appeared on just a few minor recordings before A Hard Road (including a handful of Mayall’s Decca singles and a UK-only collaboration EP with Paul Butterfield) he arrived fully formed and firing on all cylinders.  Not only was Green an unbelievable guitar player, he also had a tremendous singing voice and was already writing his own material.                                
*John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Paul Butterfield. UK-only 7″
EP released in 1967
With all the confidence of a veteran guitar slinger, the 20-year-old Green replicated Clapton’s parts on the “Beano Album” classic “All Your Love”, a song he grabbed by the scruff of the neck and turned inside out.  The Freddie King catalogue was a rich source of material for the 60s British blues groups with the instrumentals proving especially popular. Clapton had already immortalised “Hideaway”, while Mick Taylor recorded “Driving Sideways” and Chicken Shack’s Stan Webb tackled “Remington Ride”.  Green’s showcase instrumental was “The Stumble” but during 1967 he was also performing another lesser-known Freddie King piece, “San-Ho-Zay” which became a highlight of the Bluesbreakers’ live set. Green utilised every trick in the book on this instrumental, from delicate B.B.King style vibrato to muscular heavy rock with Hendrix overtones.
*Peter Green onstage in 1967
The Pavilion stage was small and during the set Green played partially hidden behind his Marshall speaker cabinets, prompting Mayall to refer to him as “the invisible man on guitar” during the band introductions.  The support group was One Step Beyond, of whom I remember nothing. Perhaps they were a local act who never recorded? If anyone has any information about them, please let us know in the comments below.
How much would John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers have been paid for a show of this size?  It’s hard to say for sure, but we do know that for a December 1966 gig of similar-size (300-400 fans) in nearby Coventry, Mayall received just £85 (approx. US$105, at 1966 exchange rates) so we can assume he pocketed a similar amount for the Matlock concert. 
After the show we spoke with the band as they were packing up.  Green was cocky, garrulous and his conversation was peppered with expletives.  With his tousled curly hair, beat-up leather jacket, hooped rugby shirt and washed-out Levi's 501s (difficult to find in Britain at that time) he couldn’t have looked cooler.  To a couple of 16-year-old provincial schoolboys like us, he was everything we wanted to be.
*The Original Fleetwood Mac LP shows the 1967 line-up
Whether it was teenage bravado, sheer stupidity or simply a rush of blood to the head I'll never know, but at that moment something came over my mate Alan and he did a very strange thing indeed.  He invited the entire band back to a party at his house in nearby Alfreton! Even stranger perhaps, the band (and John Mayall in particular) seemed surprisingly keen to accept. Visibly warming to the idea, Mayall repeatedly asked "Will there be any women there?".  The affable Green, meanwhile, seemed less interested, saying he’d prefer to go back to his hotel with a bottle of Johnnie Walker.
Even allowing for the fact that Alan’s parents were away for the weekend, the prospect of a bunch of hard-drinking blues musicians turning up in his quiet suburban street bent on carousing long into the night simply didn't bear thinking about.  I quietly took my buddy aside and explained what should have been obvious to him already: this was madness and it probably wouldn’t end well. Thankfully the idea wasn’t pursued much further. 
This Bluesbreakers configuration was together for just three months and other than the single “Double Trouble”, very little official material was recorded. But thanks to Tom Huissen, a Dutch John Mayall fan, we can now hear how they sounded on stage. Recorded on a lo-fi domestic reel-to-reel tape recorder at five shows in and around London in April/May 1967, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Live in 1967, Vols. 1 & 2 (Forty Below Records) were released individually in 2015 and, despite the average sound quality, are a good representation of the music we heard in Matlock Bath that night.
*Released June 1967, Double Trouble/It Hurts Me Too

Things moved quickly back then and within weeks Mick Fleetwood was fired for “insobriety”, one of Mayall’s pet hates.  Peter Green quit the Bluesbreakers shortly after and together they formed Fleetwood Mac. With Jeremy Spencer on slide guitar and Bob Brunning filling in on bass temporarily, the new band made its worldwide debut at the National Jazz & Blues Festival, Windsor on Sunday 13th August 1967 (and, yes, I was there, too).  The bill also included Cream, the Jeff Beck Group and, who else but John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, already featuring new whiz kid 18-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor and Keef Hartley on drums.  The “Mac” part of the Fleetwood Mac equation, John McVie, lingered within the financial security of the Bluesbreakers for a while longer until he was persuaded to take the plunge in September 1967.
*From October 1966, Looking Back/So Many Roads
I saw Fleetwood Mac play live several times after that, at festivals and in concert halls, first as the original four piece and then, from late 1968, as a quintet with third guitarist Danny Kirwan in the line-up. This early blues incarnation of the band enjoyed enormous success with hits such as “Albatross", “Man Of The World” and “Oh Well" and in 1969 spent more weeks in the UK singles charts than the Beatles, the first time anyone had achieved that feat since 1963. It didn’t last however and in May 1970 Green left the band, suffering the onset of mental illness thought to be the result of an unsolicited LSD experience in Munich, Germany.  Aside from a few worrying news reports and a couple of low-key attempts to revive his musical career during the 70s, Green gradually slipped from the radar and by the early 80s he was rumoured to be living virtually as a vagrant, his mental health worse than ever. Then our paths crossed again.
One day in 1982 I was browsing through records in an Oxfam charity shop on Sheen Road in the leafy London suburb of Richmond when I noticed that the light-hearted chat between the two old ladies behind the counter had taken on a conspiratorial tone.  "Look, Mabel" whispered one of the women, "there's that strange man again". I turned to see what was happening and there, on the pavement outside, peering into the shop window with hands cupped to his face to cut out the glare was a hunched, yet curiously familiar figure.  Although looking very different to the last time I'd seen him, it was unmistakably Peter Green. 
*Credited just to The Bluesbreakers, the March 1967 instrumental single – Curly/Rubber Duck
I left the shop and followed him as he shuffled along the street.  With his dirty, matted hair and shambling gait he cut a sorry figure.  He was unkempt, overweight and by the look of his clothes he had been sleeping rough.  Unable to restrain myself I stepped in front of him and uttered the immortal words "You’re Peter Green.  You were my hero!". Seeing this brought little response other than an embarrassed shrug and an incomprehensible mumble I made matters worse by insisting on shaking his hand while making small talk about his earlier triumphs.  Gripping the flaccid, seemingly boneless hand, I noticed that his heavily nicotine-stained fingers ended in grotesquely long fingernails which would make playing guitar next to impossible. What had happened to the self-assured, whisky-drinking character I had first met 15 years previously with John Mayall?  I'd read stories about a breakdown, of course, but nothing could have prepared me for this. Back then he had the world at his feet, but the Peter Green whose hand I was shaking was little more than a bloated caricature of his former self. It was all terribly sad. Deciding not to prolong the agony I let him go, watching in quiet disbelief as he shambled off up the road. 
*John Mayall's Bluesbreakers - Live in 1967 CD
That was the last I heard of him for some years until in 1992 a strange news story surfaced. Someone claiming to be Peter Green had somehow convinced several important music industry figures, including original Shadows drummer Tony Meehan and Queen’s Roger Taylor, to fund a 'comeback' album.  It was all a bizarre hoax, of course. The man claiming to be Green was actually Patrick Harper, an Essex farmer, known locally as The Egg and Potato Man. The deception was uncovered when the real Peter Green's brother Michael confronted Harper, who owned up but claimed he had done it all purely to help a local Essex band National Gold.
*John Mayall's Bluesbreakers - Live in 1967 Vol.2
Meanwhile Green’s mental health continued to cause concern.  In a frankly heartbreaking Mojo magazine interview with Mark Ellen in May 1994 he was asked “Do you keep in touch with the outside world?”  "Oh, I just zombie around” Peter replied. “That's what I do. I'm taking tablets of some kind. I don't know what they're supposed to do for me.  They make me feel sleepy. I fall asleep in the daytime. I never used to do that." When asked what music he was currently listening to, Peter admitted he liked watching MTV, adding “I like Björk, is that her name?  I’m a fan of hers.  I enjoy watching her ever so much.  She really brings me alive”.
Not long after that attempts were made to rehabilitate him and with considerable help from his friends, he embarked on a series of comeback albums and tours in the 90s and early 2000s with the Splinter Group.  While it was heartening to see Peter being taken care of and onstage again, his latter-day performances were low-key and perfunctory. The fire was all-but extinguished. 
Of all the guitar giants to emerge from the British blues boom Peter Green was perhaps the most naturally gifted.  B.B.King famously said this about him: "He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.”  That’s really all you need to know about the man.
At its best, the British blues boom mixed elements of jazz, R&B and acoustic folk blues with the style and attitude of the Mod culture and Swinging London.  It brought about significant changes in social attitudes and fashion while the guitar techniques and advances in amplification technology it engendered formed a blueprint for the progressive rock and heavy metal revolution which followed.  Ultimately it brought about a re-evaluation of the blues in America which opened the door to Southern rock and the rise of artists such as Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan and, later, Joe Bonamassa and Derek Trucks.  Bonamassa in particular reveres the sound and style of British blues and never misses an opportunity to champion the music created half a century ago by Peter Green, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Paul Kossoff and many others.
*Released in July 1966, the “Beano Album” kick-started the British blues boom

Peter Green - Recommended Listening:
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers - A Hard Road (Decca 1967)
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers - Looking Back - compilation [1964–68] (Decca 1969) 
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers - Thru the Years - compilation [1964–68] (Decca 1971) 
Fleetwood Mac – Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (Dog & Dustbin Album) (Blue Horizon 1968)
Fleetwood Mac - Mr. Wonderful (Blue Horizon 1968)
Fleetwood Mac - Then Play On (Reprise 1969)
Fleetwood Mac - Blues Jam At Chess (Blue Horizon 1969)
Fleetwood Mac - The Pious Bird of Good Omen – compilation (Blue Horizon 1969)
Fleetwood Mac - The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions - 6CDs [1967–1969] (Blue Horizon 1999)
Various - Peter Green: The Anthology – 4CDs [1966 – 2003] (Salvo 2009)

Thanks to Tim Whitemore for The Grand Pavilion Pics. More Info here  

Zappa - The Documentary

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