About the Author
A lifelong fan of film and music, I came late to the music of Peter Green (in the mid-nineteen nineties when I was already in my thirties).
Whereas most people tell of “discovering” blues music by tracing back the origins of the songs performed by their favorite rock artists and bands, I discovered Peter Green in the opposite way. It was my interest in blues music that first led me to him some twenty-five years ago.
A Blues show on the radio did an episode devoted to British blues and that was where I first heard Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
That four song introduction led to me mailing first audio cassettes, then CDs and finally sharing MP3 files of Green’s music around the globe.
I have been researching and writing this material for over two decades, initially as a way to gain a greater understanding of the music that so moved me.
Over time it became a way for me to give back to the community of fans, sharing what I’ve learned.
It is my hope that I have successfully translated my passion for Green’s music into a style that is both entertaining and educational, and that it will spur others to delve deeper not only into the music of Peter Green, but also the music that inspired him.
About the Books
These three volumes form a definitive reference guide to all of the recorded music, performed by British guitarist Peter Green as a band member, band leader, solo artist and guest musician during the years 1966 to 1973.
Every official release on 45 or LP, including all available out-takes and alternates from those sessions; and his guest session work with other artists.
All of the surviving performances recorded for BBC radio and television. (the majority of which have never been officially released).
And most importantly, every known concert performance captured on tape, (including five club shows as a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers recorded in 1967).
For fans of British Blues, it is these live recordings, unknown to the general public, that represent the true, secret history of Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac.
These are the performances that earned Green his place on the musical Mount Olympus beside such contemporaries as Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton.
From the Peter B’s to the Bluesbreakers; Fleetwood Mac (the work of his bandmates Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan is provided equal attention during this period); to the first recordings released under his own name. Also covered, his guest session work with Eddie Boyd, Duster Bennett, Otis Spann, Peter Bardens, Memphis Slim, Country Joe McDonald, Clifford Davis, Toe Fat and others.
Across the three volumes, 1,000 performances of 378 individual songs are detailed and reviewed.
Not simply an encyclopedic catalog of song titles and dates, the recording sessions and concerts are placed in proper chronological order; knotted tour histories are untangled; recording dates, song titles and composer credits are corrected and the ever proliferating conflicting and contradictory stories told over the years are compared and placed alongside the known facts.
And while the focus of these three volumes is on Green’s music, strict chronology allows the reader to easily follow his development month by month, year by year and trace his influences (special attention is devoted to the songs not written by him, uncovering their origins and the ways in which he drew on them in developing his own sound).
At a combined total of over 1,100 pages, these three volumes offer a “biography” of an artist through the study of the music that inspired him and the work that he created during one of the most productive periods.
The bulk of the music reviewed in these three volumes was originally recorded over fifty years ago, yet it is still being first “discovered” by listeners old and new on a daily basis.
It is my hope that this book will provide a deeper understanding and appreciation of Green’s music for both long-time fans and those just now learning of this “hidden” treasure.
The three Volumes are available for purchase in paperback or E-Book format exclusively at smilingcorgipress.com
The paperbacks sell for 19.95 or purchased as a full set for 50.00 (U.S. dollars) – plus shipping
The E-Books, in ibook and NOOK format, sell for $9.95 each or as a set for $24.95 (U.S.)
Easy to follow instructions are provided with each volume. A basic understanding of iTunes or computer files allow a “drag and drop” to make the material accessible.
Please note, the books are not available in Kindle format.
For full information on how to purchase the books and the related shipping charges, please contact me at Rich@smilingcorgipress.com
From Volume 1
Eddie Boyd and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac – “7936 South Rhodes”
‘Third Degree’ — recorded for Chess in 1953, this number, like ‘Five Long Years’ before it, has since become a blues standard. Willie Dixon’s hand is apparent in the structure of the lyrics as Boyd runs down a laundry list of offenses of which he is accused only to refute the charges with darkly ironic explications.
As with the best of any work of art, the song is self-contained and “simple” enough to be enjoyed for what it appears to be, an entertainment, a “bad luck blues”; it can also be heard as a serious (camouflaged with humor) social commentary of the fate awaiting any black man unlucky enough to be picked up in a police sweep, with the more “sophisticated” arrangement making clear that it makes no difference if he is living in the Jim Crow South or in a big city like Chicago; he could expect the same treatment.
Click image to enlarge
Boyd’s unadorned vocal style allows for any interpretation the listener cares to bring. Most of the artists (black and white) who have covered the number over the years lean too heavily on the sense of personal injustice in the number, becoming overwrought, losing not only the leavening humor, but more importantly, the larger perspective of race (or class distinctions if the singer is white).
Green’s support on this number is some of his finest; his guitar becoming a second “voice”, alternating from underscoring Boyd’s claims to taking the larger view and offering a secondary narrative affirming the validity of Boyd’s tale through mutual experience
When it comes time to take his solo, Green stands on his own; he no longer brings to mind B.B. King or Robert Nighthawk; with his tone and control, his sense of space in choosing what not to play, he has taken what he has learned from his elders and offers something new in return. While McVie’s bass inappropriately rumbles through from time to time, Boyd’s stately piano playing mainly keeps the rhythm section in line, and the glacial pace allows Green the time to wring every last ounce of emotion from his bent strings; a luxury he would rarely see again.
This is not only one of the highlights of the session; it is also, to my tastes, one of the finest interpretations of this often covered song.
From Volume 2
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam Holland, February 28, 1969
I have placed this as the second of the two shows said to have been performed that night as Green sounds not only exhausted, but actually resentful at having to go through putting on another show.
As the band tunes up he tests the mike with an obligatory “…hello everybody”. He sounds dull—witted and thick tongued as the words slowly make their way out of his mouth. A few cheers are heard, “That’s nice…that’s nice”, says a weary sounding Green. When some in the audience begin to clap his weariness quickly gives way to frustration, and he growls in a surly voice, “We haven’t even done anything yet and they’re clapping. They must all have the clap.”
Click image to enlarge
Into the mike, he asks the audience to “…hold on” and then turns to the band to call out the key, “B”. As the band quickly prepares to play he says once again, “…B natural, baby” and the fog of his frustration seems to have lifted; he is now determined to earn those applause, to prove to himself, if no one else, that he actually deserves them.
‘Merry Go Round’ — they get off to a bit of a rough start but quickly right themselves as the intro progresses. As of this writing, this is the only available live recording of this song, and as with the “one-off” performance of ‘If You Be My Baby’ at the Shrine Auditorium a month earlier, this number too is given a deluxe make-over.
With Kirwan providing strong support, Green shifts effortlessly from B. B. King styled single note playing to deep string bends and sustains. Green takes full advantage of Kirwan’s second guitar, indulging himself for almost a full two minutes on the introduction alone, infusing the song with a depth and emotion that was not even hinted at, and indeed would have been impossible to achieve, in the mere twenty seconds he had restricted himself to on the intro to the studio version.
Where Fleetwood rode his cymbal steadily in the studio, the mix placing him right up front, he holds back here, tapping out a slow steady shuffle, alternating between the skins and the rims, mixing in a bit shimmer from the high-hat cymbal, his kick drum matching McVie’s bass line. It was an arrangement that the rhythm section would habitually fall back on for almost all of Green’s slower blues numbers.
In this case, it really does not matter what the rhythm section does, or does not do. It is Green who keeps the number at a steady boil with his guitar playing and then elevates it to near classic status with his finely wrought vocal.
On the studio original, there was a soft quaver in his voice, betraying his need to be accepted and loved, both by the woman in the song to whom the words are directed, and from the listener.
Now, just a little over a year later, he sings as if it is he who is in complete control of both his emotions and his situation. The desperation which seeped through his words in the earlier version has dried up; he wants this thing to work, but he is no longer willing to beg.
The near constant interjections of guitar between the lines, crackling and sparking like downed electrical wires, hint at the conflicting emotions roiling within him, but he is nonetheless now ready to face the possibility that this time, the ride really may be over.
As he sings, he maintains a reasonable, conversational tone even as his voice grows louder. The ebb and flow of the volume has a natural rhythm, it does not feel forced; it is as if he were talking over someone, determined, (but not desperate) to make his point.
The break mirrors the control shown in his vocal. This is all deep string bends and sustain, but where he had previously (and would again) use this style to create desolate soundscapes, here, while the sound is still cavernous, it is no longer cold; the sound now envelopes the one he is singing to so that he is no longer isolated within the empty space.
Coming out of the break, he asks the woman to take his hand. It is not a “helping hand”, offered by one in a dominate position, to another in need, but is rather a hand extended in friendship and affection; a seeking of connection with another.
It is a stunning performance, especially coming from someone sounding the way Green did before the start of the song. The act of playing and singing seems to have purged the bitterness and frustration from his system and he sounds sincere, rather than sarcastic as he acknowledges the audience’s warm response.
From Volume 3
On “The End of the Game”
To say that the finished LP is the most polarizing in Green’s oeuvre is something of a misnomer as those who champion it are extremely vocal in stating their case for its artistic success while those with any reservations concerning the work often hesitate to air them in public forums either for fear of condemnation or out of a tenderness of feeling and loyalty towards Green, preferring to live by the adage that if you have nothing nice to say, do not say anything at all.
Struggling to place the music on the LP into some context, the album’s supporters often find themselves wandering far afield for “similar” works, comparing it to such works as John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and the more contemporaneous “Bitches Brew”, Miles Davis’ landmark 1969 release, featuring John McLaughlin, as if to allow Green’s LP to bask in their reflective glow, bestowing greatness through association.
Click image to enlarge
While I understand the impulse, I feel that such comparisons are ill-suited (and ultimately self-defeating as whatever claims one may choose to make for Green’s LP, it is impossible to equate the cultural or artistic impact of the three) as there is nothing to make one believe that Green’s approach to this work in any way resembled the way that Coltrane and Davis composed their own work and conducted their sessions.
“A Love Supreme” was a concept album; the inner sleeve of the original LP contained a poem of the same title which articulated the themes of the album’s four pieces whose titles further explicated the ideas behind the work. While the individual numbers are self-contained, together they form a suite; intertwined musically and thematically.
While there are some broad similarities to be found in Green’s compositions and in the way in which the album is structured, there is nothing to support the idea that Green had any overarching “concept” in mind when the sessions were undertaken.
Over the years, the attempts to find a “unified theory” for the work which have gained the most traction seem to be based mainly on the artwork. Unfortunately, there is little reason to believe that Green had much (if any) control or say over it.
Celmins quotes Green as saying, “The jungle idea wasn’t mine – I’d already written about that with ‘Before the Beginning’. My idea of a jungle is the Indian jungle where the elephants quietly work – in the African jungle they run around screaming.”
While it can be said that ‘Descending Scale’ fits Green’s description of an African jungle pretty closely, overall, the album and the listener may have been better served had the label’s art department provided a dark themed psychedelic panorama; an abstract collage, or a Tolkien inspired fantasy motif, (which was the direction that the gently self-mocking radio promos chose to take); anything for the listener’s imagination to hold onto (ironically, the only type of artwork that I cannot see being representative of the music on the record, is that of Roger Dean, probably the most iconic album cover artist of the period. His alien landscapes and fluorescent colored beasts are distinctly at odds with the dark tones and claustrophobia of the music here.)
Faced with a work as abstract as this, the desire to impose a sense of meaning grows stronger, and so we project back onto the work the story that we “know”.
The fact that it would be a full seven years before Green would record another full-length LP makes the work an end point rather than just one record in a long career over which one would expect there to be peaks and valleys, and so the listener latches onto “clues” such as the album title.
Yet, there are no contemporary accounts that I have been able to find that would indicate that Green had consciously thought of this, or intended it to be, any type of “last statement” (Money’s words). There is every reason to believe that he would have continued to make records had his illness not felled him.
Further knocking that theory is the statement in Celmins’s bio (offered without accreditation), that the phrase was Dmochowski’s play on words, referring to the ecological system of the wild, not the economic system of the music business.