Music: Green shows his blues are back

After 20 years in the wilderness, Fleetwood Mac's legend returns, says James McNair

When Mick Fleetwood received his lifetime achievement award at this year's Brits ceremony, he was quick to thank Peter Green for kick- starting Fleetwood Mac back in 1967. A nice touch perhaps, but more cynical viewers might have wondered why the neo-blues legend who had composed "Oh Well" and "Albatross" was not there in person. Perhaps those concerned had decided that, with 20-odd years of LSD-induced "confusion" behind him, it would be safest to airbrush Green out of such a high-profile event

Born Peter Greenbaum in 1946, the guitarist was a sensitive, Jewish London East Ender who took a lot of stick from other kids. He came to prominence in 1966, when he replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall's Bluesbrakers. Prodigiously talented at 20, he soon proved himself to be at least as gifted as his predecessor - no mean feat when you consider that Clapton's aficionados simply knew him as "God".

Fleetwood Mac capitalised on the late Sixties blues boom as voraciously as any of their peers, and it was on an early Mac tour of the United States in 1968 that Green first dropped acid. The band were hanging out with the Grateful Dead in New York when Garcia and co's dealer-in-situ, Augustus Stanley Owsley III, persuaded them to sample some of his LSD tabs. Psychologically, Green was less-well equipped to deal with the effects than Fleetwood or bass-player John McVie. His continued use of LSD seemed to trigger a slow withdrawal from reality, and he began to question his whole belief system.

By the time Fleetwood Mac began a fourth US tour in August 1969, Green had renounced his Jewish faith, opting instead for a composite of Christianity and Buddhism, and often wearing a monk's robes and an enormous crucifix on stage. It was around this time that he taught his pet parrot to whistle "Waltzing Matilda" backwards.

Post-Fleetwood Mac, Green donated his guitars to an Oxfam shop and led an eccentric, reclusive life for many years. In the early Seventies, he worked as a gravedigger and as a hospital orderly. He had a weight problem and his mental health was deteriorating. By 1977, he had been diagnosed as schizophrenic, and things reportedly took a turn for the better when he booked himself into a health clinic. As recently as the mid-Eighties, however, he was reported to be sleeping rough.

It was somewhat unexpected when the tentative return to the fray which began with Green's somewhat patchy albums for the PVK label gained momentum last year. The Peter Green Splinter Group album garnered excellent reviews. Indeed, many critics seemed quietly thrilled that Green - who had painstakingly relearned guitar and harmonica by playing along with the Country Music Television Channel - was sounding like himself again.

His forthcoming record - a 16-track collection of Robert Johnson songs with guests including former Free vocalist Paul Rogers - should help to cement the comeback. And if tackling the material of the undisputed king of the Mississippi Delta Blues seems sacrilegious, it is worth remembering that BB King once remarked that Green was the only white blues guitarist who could send shivers down his spine.

The sleeve notes for the new record cite summer 1995 as a turning point for Green, when after a day's fishing, fellow Splinter Group guitarist Nigel Watson's command of Robert Johnson's fingerstyle playing finally tempted Green to pick up a guitar again. Biographer Martin Celmins remarked that "Typically, Green's first try at nailing Johnson's music in the studio was `Preachin' Blues' - one of the most difficult slide guitar pieces ever."

This Sunday, Green and his band play at Ronnie Scott's club, and a set featuring both Robert Johnson songs and Green's own material is promised. If the preview tape of Johnson's "When You Got a Good Friend" is anything to go by, the maestro's mojo is in perfect working order.

Green's Robert Johnson Songbook album is released on Snapper's Artisan Recordings on 18 May. He plays Ronnie Scotts club in Soho, London, with the Splinter Group on 5 April.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

    Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

    £8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

    Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

    Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

    Day In a Page

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border