Type the words ‘Fleetwood’ and ‘Mac’ into the Google images search engine and see how many pages you need to scroll through before you actually find a picture of the man who formed the band. Of course Peter Green is not as easy on the eye as Stevie Nicks or Lindsey Buckingham, nor did the Green stewarded Mac have such conspicuous financial success, but it is indicative of the way that one of the greatest guitarists of his generation has slipped gently into the margins. Fortunately this slide into obscurity has been arrested at several points in the great mans career, most recently via the excellent documentary and on The Anthology (Salvo), a superbly compiled four CD overview of his career from the early days right up until the present day.
Born Peter Allen Greenbaum on 29 October 1946, in Bethnal Green, London the youngest of four children, becoming interested in the guitar when one of his brothers brought home a cheap Spanish guitar, which eventually was passed onto him. Early influences included Hank Marvin, Muddy Waters and B.B. King, and after stints playing bass was invited to play for Peter B’s Looners where he first met drummer Mick Fleetwood before joining John Mayall's Bluesbreakers replacing a holidaying Eric Clapton. Clapton would soon return but when six months later he left the band for good Green was immediately contacted and in very short order silenced the EC fans with his formidable playing (evidence of his early skills can be found on CD 1 of The Anthology, in particular on instrumental ‘The Supernatural’). During his time with Mayall Green would also meet John McVie and when he and Fleetwood left to form a new band the pair asked McVie to join on bass - even naming the band 'Fleetwood Mac' as an enticement - and after initially refusing McVie joined along with slide player Jeremy Spencer.
Keen to move beyond pure blues and blues parodies Green then hired third guitarist, Danny Kirwan, and his instrumental composition, 'Albatross,' gave the band their first British number one single (previous chart successes included 'Black Magic Woman' - later a massive hit for Santana – and ‘I Need Your Love So Bad’). Green finally had the success he thought he craved and followed ‘Albatross’ with two more chart toppers ‘Oh Well’ and ‘Man Of The World’ but everything was far from well, as the lyrics to the latter song, about a man who has everything he wants, except the companion he so obviously craves and even includes the line ‘I just wish that I’d never been born’, atest. Green had also been experimenting with drugs and after disappearing for three days in Munich - allegedly on an extended acid trip at the High-Fish-Commune - Green’s personality changed dramatically and he took to dressing in long robes and proposed the band only keep what was absolutely necessary financially and give the rest of the money away to charities. “I thought I had too much money to be happy and normal” he would later insist, “I felt I didn't deserve it." Needless to say the rest of the band weren’t so keen on the idea and Green decided to leave, but not before writing and releasing another astonishing chart topper 'The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown)'.
After recording the largely jammed solo album The End Of The Game Green then chose to leave music behind, doing a succession of menial jobs, and despite a brief reunion with Fleetwood Mac when Jeremy Spencer left the group, he was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia and spend time in psychiatric hospitals undergoing electroconvulsive therapy. Then in 1977 things took an even more bizarre
turn when he was arrested for threatening his accountant Clifford Davis with a rifle, apparently for continuing to send him money, and was committed to a psychiatric institution in London. He would re-emerge briefly as a recording artist in the late 1970s and early 1980s releasing seven albums to little acclaim before suffered a relapse in 1984, effectively becoming a down-and-out. He was rescued by his brother Len six years later, going to live with him in Great Yarmouth and leading to a very welcome 1990s comeback with the Peter Green Splinter Group - featuring Cozy Powell before his death in 1998 - and releasing nine albums between 1997 and 2004 before the band did indeed splinter. The relationship with Splinter Group co-founder Nigel Watson has since apparently soured (much like Brian Wilson and Dr. Eugene Landy there was a great deal of speculation about what seemed to be Watson's undue power over Green) with Green's solicitors issuing a gagging order against Watson whilst the two sorted out their difficulties, and Green himself has since remarked that the medication he needs to regularly take makes it hard for him to concentrate and drains him of the desire to even pick up a guitar so it remains to be seen just how prolific his later years will be. But even if he fails to record or play another note he has still left an exemplary body of work much of which still sounds incredibly contemporary even today.
Peter Green: The Anthology is out now on Salvo Records