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The Bluesy Beginnings Of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac

  • 4 min read

You say Rumors. I say Shake Your Moneymaker.
You say The Chain. I say Man Of The World.
You say Tusk. I say Albatross.
You say Fleetwood Mac. I say Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.

We both say…

Black Magic Woman.

And here is why:

During the British Blues Explosion of the late 60s the guitar became the ultimate bedroom accessory and, under the influence of Delta blues legend Robert Johnson and the shimmering vibrato of BB King, the blues became Rock’n’Roll and Rock’n’Roll became America.

At the root of all this, at a UK and Irish level anyway, there was a guy called John Mayall and his band The Bluesbreakers. 

Known to all as John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, this band changed the face of music by producing a string of absolutely incredible guitar players whose influence permeates the airwaves still.

One of these guitarists was a shy young guy called Eric Clapton. A 21 year old who had been brought up by his grandmother, whom he thought was his mother, alongside his mother, whom he thought was his sister.

Then he introduced me to Peter Green."

This is the same man who would have Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Mick Taylor in his band.

In the same band he would also have a drummer by the name of Mick Fleetwood and a bass player called John McVie.

Peter Green liked Mick’s drumming so, in 1967, as he decided to call it a day with Mayall said to Mick, “why don’t you come and join my new band and while we’re at it let’s call it:

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac featuring Jeremy Spencer. Jeremey split the band in 1971 to join a religious cult called the “Children of God”.

Soon after Peter Green formed the band, John McVie also joined after being convinced to leave John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers on the agreement of Peter Green adding the term Mac to the band name (so the story goes anyway).

(Are you seeing just how important John Mayall is to the whole of British Blues? His band was a clearing house for bands like The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Cream, The Faces, Led Zeppelin and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac!)

Peter Green stayed with his new band for just 3 years before mental illness and drug problems took their toll on his well-being.

If you are familiar with the original Fleetwood Mac lineup then these tunes will be music to your ears, if you are familiar with the mid 70s Rumors filled Fleetwood Mac then these tunes, most of which may be familiar, will be a lovely introduction to the many amazing sounds Peter Green made, his voice, his lyrics but most of all his guitar playing, of which, BB King famously said:

"He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats."

Here are 5 songs that prove it:

1. Black Magic Woman

To survive this trauma Eric “played guitar” and joined John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, where they produced a staple of British blues, the lovingly referred to ‘Beano Album’. 

At this stage people were graffitiing tube stations with ‘Clapton is God’. This made Clapton uncomfortable and nervous so he left the band.

Mike Vernon, a producer at Decca Records recalls:

As the band walked in the studio I noticed an amplifier which I never saw before, so I said to John Mayall, "Where's Eric Clapton?" Mayall answered, "He's not with us anymore, he left us a few weeks ago." I was in a shock of state [sic] but Mayall said, "Don't worry, we got someone better." I said, "Wait a minute, hang on a second, this is ridiculous. You've got someone better? Than Eric Clapton?" John said, "He might not be better now, but you wait, in a couple of years he's going to be the best.

 

2. Oh Well

Oh this riff... I have tried to play since I was 15 and I cannot, for the love of the guitar, ever get the timing right let alone the tone.

More cowbell too!

 

 

3. Need Your Love So Bad

Some would argue that this is ‘Greenies’ finest solo. The crisp playing and the avoidance of flourish makes it a guitar player’s dream.

 

4. Albatross

Fleetwood Mac’s first Number 1, Q Magazines’ number 37 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. Everybody’s favourite song about an Albatross.

The sparse use of the guitar makes for one of their most haunting and beautiful instrumentals.

So good.

 

5. Man Of The World

If you were ever a teenaged blues guitarist then you know, in your heart, every note in this song, it is every relationship, argument or break up you ever had! 

I remember, before mobile phones, missing out on my friends going to town. My teenage angst poured into this tune whilst I walked around and around my local park (hey it was 1990, it’s all there was) with my big squishy orange headphones and walkman on wondering how I could ever write my own version 

The middle 8.

Again.

So good.