Songlines: Worried Dream – Part II – Fleetwood Mac (Regent Street Polytechnic & Carousel Ballroom 1968) and Livin’ Blues

Songlines: Worried Dream – Part II – Fleetwood Mac (Regent Street Polytechnic & Carousel Ballroom 1968) and Livin’ Blues

Our disappointment in knowing that Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’s first known performance of ‘Worried Dream’ is the only one missing from a four song set done for the BBC is slightly soothed by the fact that we have six other live recordings of the song; three from 1968; two from 1969 and one from 1970. 

The first was recorded just eighteen days after Green had cut the song in the studio –

Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green: vocal & guitar / Jeremy Spencer: vocal & guitar /

John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums

Regent Street Polytechnic

Recorded April 27, 1968 –1st – released as London Live ’68 (Thunderbolt LP 1986)

Fleetwood Mac – Worried Dream (B. B. King) (6:33) –

Note: this show has been released on thirteen different labels (at last count) and many get the title incorrect.  Among the incorrect listings are ‘The Worried Dream’ and ‘The Dream’; without the definite article, ‘Dream’ and also ‘Worried Man’.

This performance sets the template for Green’s explorations into slow blues in a live setting.

Playing as a three piece now, he no longer has Christine Perfect’s piano to fill out the sound, but he uses its absence to his advantage. 

He begins the number alone, picking out single notes and paraphrases of B. B. King’s signature licks during an extended intro.

Unfortunately, the sound of the crowd fills the void, undermining the effectiveness of this approach.            

Green presses on and the audience begins to quiet as he makes his way through the opening verse, his vocal unaccompanied, and the “responses” from his guitar becoming increasingly sparse as the verse goes on.  

Green’s vocal now beautifully conveys the struggle inside of him between his need to know and his fear of what he might learn. 

His playing illustrates these conflicting emotions during the break, his lines snapping and flailing like downed power lines before he regains his composure. 

In the final verse Green’s voice toughens and though he is asking her, it sounds more like he is telling her to say the words that he needs to hear. 

The number ends with an ambiguous coda (marred by tape warble) beginning sweetly but building to a burst of notes before finally dissolving in a wash of guitar and cymbals. 

It would be close to six weeks before the song was again captured on tape, this time during their American debut at the Carousel Ballroom –

Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green: vocal & guitar / Jeremy Spencer: vocal & guitar /

John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums

Probable venue: Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA

Possible dates: June 20, 22 or 23 – 1968 (Most likely the twenty-third)

Usually listed as: June 07, 08 or 09 – 1968

Available on: bootleg

Fleetwood Mac – Worried Dream (B. B. King) (10:13) –

This performance finds the three piece band at their height, with Green almost doubling the length of the studio recording.

The intro stretches out for over two full minutes as if he needed some time to compose his thoughts and himself. 

Surprisingly, Green’s vocal is not as strong here, coming off a bit forced, but his fills between the lines, longer and more forceful compared to the earlier version, more than compensate.

On the opposite end, Fleetwood’s drumming is way up in the mix, and does not show him off in a favorable light.  McVie’s bass lines in contrast seem to prod Green forward, pushing him towards his unknown destiny.

Green slowly makes his way through the verses, explicitly detailing his pain and confusion, making the audience wait for the break.

He starts off strong, only to quickly back down, as if afraid that he is going to frighten her; he drops his “voice” almost to a whisper, but the strong emotions are always there beneath the surface.

After asking for reassurance, the outro again begins softly only to crescendo in high pitch cries before he seems to crumple, both physically and emotionally.

This performance is understandably a fan favorite.

The third recording from 1968 from November 23 at the Idrottshuset, Örebro, Sweden is unfortunately incomplete, but it seems safe to say that the song was still in their set-list during the short tour of Holland and Germany that they undertook in February / March 1969, the biggest difference, as heard on the incomplete recording from Sweden, it is Danny Kirwan’s now playing on the number.

Opening for them at two of the shows in Holland were Cuby + The Blizzards, scene veterans with twelve singles and five LPs to their credit already and relative newcomers, Livin’ Blues, who had just released their second single.  

Livin’ Blues would be going into the studio to cut their first LP in another five months, recording five originals and three covers.  The LP opens with their version of B.B. King’s ‘Waitin’ on You’ (placing a generic rock tempo to King’s swinging number) and closes with a cover of Tommy Johnson’s ‘Big Road Blues’, duplicating the arrangement used by Canned Heat. 

The highlight of the album though is their cover of ‘Worried Dream’ (for reasons unknown, they make it plural); the first commercially released cover of the song. 

Livin’ Blues

Nicko Christiansen: vocal & guitar /

Ted Oberg: lead guitar / John Lagrand: harmonica /

Henk Smitskamp: bass / Ceasar Zuiderwijk: drums

Recorded July 21, 22 & 23 1969

Released on Hell’s Session (Phillips 1969)

Livin’ Blues – Worried Dreams (5:12)

The reverberation of the feathered guitar strings has not yet faded when the vocal begins.  Unfortunately, the vocal is also the weakest aspect of the song. 

The vocal is exceptionally clean, the words clearly enunciated, without a trace of an accent, but put forth with an almost cartoonish force, like someone pretending to be a giant; and most damagingly, without any trace of emotion or a sense that he understands the meaning of the words that he is singing.

The guitarist continues to play softly beneath the bellowing building to a mini-crescendo with cymbal splashes and harmonica leading into the second verse.

The tempo has been slowed to a crawl and the singer has (slightly) softened his vocal.

But, it is the backing track that holds our interest.  The strummed guitar and muffled drums beats, rising and falling like waves upon a shore are strangely similar to those in ‘Before the Beginning’ (which would not be released until September).  It is all held together by John Lagrand’s haunting harmonica lines.

Just past the half-way mark, Ted Oberg takes a guitar solo.  It is a lovely, evocative break, bringing the subtlety and nuance missing from the vocal.

As if to reclaim the number, the giant returns, roaring and stomping his feet (the music takes on a staccato rhythm during the final verse) this was apparently intended to illustrate his troubled mind but in the end it actually saps the power from the song, rather than building upon it.

In all, a number, whose parts are greater than the whole.

In September of 1970, another Dutch band, John the Revelator would release their debut long player, a record that wore the influence of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac on its sleeve, featuring three Elmore James covers, Otis Rush’s ‘Homework’ and their version of ‘Worried Dreams’ (they kept Livin’ Blues’ title).

We’ll take a look at their cover and the remaining three performances from Fleetwood Mac in the next entry.

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