The Henry Björklund Tapes, Part 4

I first came across a reference to this performance ten years ago, in Christopher Hjort’s “Strange Brew – Eric Clapton & the British Blues Boom 1965 – 1970” (Jawbone Press)

Under the entry for this date, Hjort writes of audience member Henry Björklund’s recollection of Green opening the show with a rendition of ‘Out of Reach’.

A bolt of envy shot through me; he was there when Green performed this song live?!

A personal favorite, this still obscure number, Green’s first recorded composition, was my little secret.  (so I liked to believe)

Originally the B-side to ‘Sitting in the Rain’, it first saw release on LP in 1969 on a Decca compilation titled “World of Blues Power” (that album also contained the then previously unissued ‘Greeny’

Both of those titles were also part of the 1971 John Mayall vault clearing exercise “Thru the Years”.

The song reached its widest audience with the 2003 release of the “Expanded Edition” of “A Hard Road”.

That this song even saw release at the time is extraordinary in itself.  Unlike showcase numbers such as ‘Hideaway’ or ‘Ramblin’ On My Mind’ or Green’s ‘The Supernatural’ or ‘The Same Way’, this number cannot be heard and thought of as Green recording as a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, or even a number such as ‘Curly’ released under the Bluesbreakers  name; this is a Peter Green song, plain and simple.

In my mind, the proper release platform for the number would have been the “Raw Blues” compilation, crediting it solely to Peter Green.  (I have no problem with ‘Evil Woman Blues’ being relegated to a B-side)

Nothing else that Green recorded, in the studio or captured live during his time with the Bluesbreakers sounded anything like this and even after leaving Mayall’s employ and starting his own band, did Green recorded nothing this stark.

This “new” recording, made more than a year and a half after the studio rendition was cut is the only available live recording of the song.  Had it been played prior to or after this?  We have no way of knowing.  We also don’t know what prompted its appearance here, but fortunately, Henry Björklund was there to capture the moment.

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green: guitar & vocal /

John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums

Recorded May 10, 1968 by Henry Björklund

Folkets Hus, Kongresshallen, Stockholm, Sweden

Originally posted on YouTube June 24, 2017

Out of Reach (6:25)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SOCwvmGfRXk

Björklund told Hjort that they opened the show with this number, and in a way, that makes sense.  One of the difficulties with a number such as this is that is can stop a show dead in its tracks.  Use it as the opener, and then you can do whatever you want afterwards.

The recording begins with Green picking plaintive notes from his guitar, their sound reverberating into silence.  As it begins the audience seems held in suspense as to just where Green is going and it is not until Fleetwood comes in, tapping a “leaky-faucet”, dripping beat on a wooden block and a wash of brushes on cymbal, more than forty seconds in, that the audience first responds.

Green continues to play and the audience quickly settles down, turning their full attention to the stage.

Close to five minutes in length, the song was long for its time (the songs on “A Hard Road” average about two and a half minutes)

The intro on the studio recording is just over twenty seconds in length.  Green stretches it out to close to two minutes here.  Towards the end of the intro he tosses in a few quick filigrees of notes that he originally used in the break.

Where Aynsley Dunbar’s slurred slapping of the brushes on the drumhead landed like a lash on the back of recalcitrant mule, forcing Green to continue placing one foot in front of the other on the studio recording, Fleetwood’s metronomic tapping on the wood block (with an occasional slipped beat) is exaggerated by the rough recording as are the explosive punctuations he detonates over the course of the number.

Vernon’s production emphasized silence as much as sound, creating a desolate landscape through which Green made his forced march.  In a live setting that is much more difficult to pull off and Green wisely keeps the number moving now (it may be a funeral cortege, but it rolls steadily)  He does this by playing more guitar between the verses and a more relaxed vocal.

The original vocal owed a debt to Mayall, with words emerging from or ending in moans, and changes in volume from one line to the next.

Having fronted his own band for the past nine months, Green has found his own voice.

There are moments where Green sings into the void, but Fleetwood shortens these intervals with drum rolls.

Interestingly, the break is almost exactly the same length here as on the studio recording.

The studio recording seems especially harrowing as the oppressive atmosphere muffles the stinging tones, making them sound beseeching rather than cathartic.

The recorder overloads at the beginning of the break on this recording as both Green and Fleetwood push for a larger sound; Green indulges in some string bending but seems suddenly exhausted by the effort, allowing the break to quickly deflate, rather than build.

This allows him to coast smoothly into the last verse, which contains some of the longest interludes between the lines.

He drops the title phrase from the final line and builds to a definitive finish where on the studio recording the number seemed to end on a whisper of brushes before Green tosses in a quick series of notes as if to flip the bird to his tormentors as he slinks away.

This “new”, more expansive playing style that Green was developing for his slower numbers was first captured on tape two weeks earlier at the Regent Street Polytechnic.  There are obvious similarities between his arrangement here and the ones used on ‘Don’t Know Which Way to Go’ and ‘Worried Dream’.

The biggest difference between these numbers is his vocal; I think the one here is far more successful than on the other two and he would continue to refine this aspect, as well as his playing over the next few months as heard on the shows taped at the Carousel Ballroom and The Space during their first American tour.

Henry Björklund provides us here with the first flowering of Green’s sound; a sound that he cultivated and nurtured until it reached full bloom almost two years later with the late ’69 early 1970 performances of ‘Got A Mind to Give Up Living’.

 

Appendix Four – Song Index, in “A Love That Burns” should now read as follows:

Out of Reach – John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers

B-side, Decca single ‘Sitting In the Rain’ – recorded October 11, 1966 – released January 13, 1967

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac

Folkets Hus, Kongresshallen, Stockholm, Sweden, May 10, 1968 audio available on YouTube

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