The Henry Björklund Tapes, Part 1 – John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers
Bert Okers informed me of a few more “missing” Peter Green performances that “recently” surfaced (first posted on YouTube in August of 2015 and January 2016).
The earliest features Green as a member of The Bluesbreakers, recorded on February 22 1967 at the Folkeparken, Gavle, Sweden.
Green was near the end of his sojourn with John Mayall (he would be gone by the end of May) when this was recorded, capturing him in fine form.
This was the second show the band was scheduled to play that night, the first being in Avesta earlier in the evening. Though only fifty miles away, bad weather had the band arriving in Gavle only ten minutes before the venue’s normal closing time. Though many of the patrons had already left, Mayall and his band gamely took the stage using equipment borrowed from the Swedish supporting act, The Mascots. (Mayall did not unpack his Hammond, playing only guitar and harmonica).
Christopher Hjort, in his invaluable “Strange Brew – Eric Clapton and The British Blues Boom 1965 – 1970” quotes Mr. Björklund as saying that, “After about ten minutes the power was suddenly cut off . Following massive protests from the audience, the band was allowed to play for about another 15 minutes.”
Mr. Björklund also provides their abbreviated set list for that evening:
Ridin’ on the L &N (Tiny Bradshaw)
Checkin’ Up On My Baby (Sonny Boy Williamson II)
The Same Way (Peter Green)
Dust my blues (Elmore James)
Your funeral my trial (Sonny Boy Williamson II)
Sonny Boy Williamson II’s ‘Checkin’ up on My Baby’ would be recorded in July for the Bluesbreakers’ LP “Crusade”. Interestingly, this will be the third song originally worked up during Green’s time with the band to be featured on that album, the other two being ‘Stand Back Baby’ and ‘Streamline’*
If Mr. Björklund captured ‘Checkin’ up on My Baby’ on tape, that would be the only recorded version that I know of with Green on guitar.
Almost as rare, is the one recording that he has posted from that night; with the only other available version being the original studio recording from November of 1966.
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
John Mayall: guitar / Peter Green: guitar & vocal /
John McVie: bass / Aynsley Dunbar: drums
Recorded February 22, 1967 by Henry Björklund
Folkeparken, Gavle, Sweden
Intro (0:11)/ The Same Way (2:44) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0HayFlN5ys
Despite the rough sound it is impossible to miss the fact that the number now has the necessary swing to keep the number moving where on the original LP version it simply plodded along until we got to Green’s solo.
The album’s thin production undermined Green’s attempt at a swaggering sound and the stop-time arrangement (a style that Green would wisely never return to) only made things worse: as if he repeatedly discovers that the girl he is trying to impress had walked away in disinterest, forcing him to stop and scurry to catch up with her and only then resume his peacock strut.
Live, Green’s vocal loses the self-seriousness of the studio recording, making one feel as if Green is in on the joke, and inviting the listener to laugh along with him.
For reasons unknown, Green switches the first and third verses, singing the original’s last verse first, and the first, last. As the lyrics are nothing more than a pastiche of well-worn clichés it really doesn’t matter.
What does change the song though is Green’s solo.
On the studio recording Green has thirty seconds to make a statement, and given the constraints, he captures the spirit of the song in a way that the remaining minute and forty-two second fail to do.
Live, Green doubles the length of the solo and makes the most of every one of those additional thirty seconds. His playing conveys the playful boasting of Bo Diddley’s ‘I’m A Man’ and the bravado of Muddy Waters’ ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’.
It epitomizes Green’s playing while in the Bluesbreakers; a more muscular, aggressive sound than he would use with Fleetwood Mac.
This has remained unheard for almost fifty years except by those determined few who stayed to hear the band that night, even if for only twenty minutes.
Now we too have the opportunity to hear it thanks to Henry Björklund.
*A live version (the only one available) of the Green-era Bluesbreakers playing this song can be found on “John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers Live in 1967” (Forty Below Records 2015). Recorded at the Marquee Club, London, April 27, 1967.