Peter Green: Coming Your Way
On of the greatest guitarist of the rock era died Saturday, July 25, at the age of 73, and yet most people have never heard a single song that he recorded. His name was Peter Green, the man who invented Fleetwood Mac. Any discussion of seminal electric British blues must include, chronologically, Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
If you’ve been paying attention at all, you know that currently we’re on either Fleetwood Mac 8.0 or 9.0, more or less. Since its founding in 1967, the group in all its variations has produced 19 studio albums, several official live albums, numerous compilations and greatest hits, and dozens of bootleg recordings besides.
The constant over these 53 years has been work of the band’s original drummer, Mick Fleetwood, and that of bassist John McVie, who joined the group shortly after its formation. The name of the band was born when Fleetwood, McVie, and guitarist Peter Green were playing in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and Mayall penned an instrumental he called “Fleetwood Mac.”
That would be Fleetwood Mac 1.0 and 1.1. Green was a guitarist of stunning stature, much revered for his blues, rock, psychedelia, and more. He was praised for his compositions and vocals in addition to his brilliance on guitar.
Green had been on the British scene when Eric Clapton left John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and Green, who had previous substituted for Clapton, joined the band, joined the group and appeared on two albums with Mayall:
1967 The Hard Road
1968 Blues from Laurel Canyon
Peter Green led Fleetwood Mac through the beginning of the group’s discography before leaving the band. Jeremy Spencer played on the first three but only added piano one track of Then Play On, the first album with Danny Kirwan. And the first song on Then Play On, “Coming Your Way,” is still on of the greatest songs ever. Ever.
1968 Fleetwood Mac
1968 Mr. Wonderful
1969 English Rose
1969 Then Play On
And on four fabulous albums with great American bluesmen:
1967 Eddie Boyd and His Blues Band with Peter Green
1969 Otis Spann: The Biggest Thing Since Colossus
1969 Eddie Boyd: 7936 South Rhodes
1969 Fleetwood Mac in Chicago
The latter album featured a veritable Who’s Who of the Chicago scene, including Walter ‘Shakey’ Horton, Guitar Buddy, Honey Boy Edwards, Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, S.P. Leary, and J.T. Brown.
Quick quiz: Who wrote “Black Magic Woman”? Peter Green, on the album English Rose. Who wrote “The Green Manalishi (with the Three-Pronged Crown),” covered by Judas Priest? Peter Green, originally on a single and then as part of Then Play On.
Green also issued a titanic experimental psychedelic album in 1970 titled The End of the Game. The first track was this mind-blowing “Bottoms Up.”
Green left Fleetwood Mac after Then Play On and didn’t return to recording until his superb solo album In the Skies in 1979 and its fine follow-up the next year, Little Dreamer.
1979 In the Skies
1980 Little Dreamer
1981 Whatcha Gonna Do?
1982 White Sky
1984 A Case for the Blues
In the ’90s, Green put together the Peter Green Splinter Group, paying homage to the original bluesmen such as Robert Johnson, Elmore James, and Sonny Boy Williamson with tours and nine albums.
1997 Peter Green Splinter Group
1998 The Robert Johnson Songbook
1998 Soho Session
1999 Destiny Road
2000 Hot Foot Powder
2001 Time Traders
2001 Blues Don’t Change
2003 Reaching the Cold 100
Green was especially busy in that 1968-1971 period, recording on three albums by Duster Bennett, two with Brunning Sunflower Blues Band, Pete Bardens’ The Answer, Jeremy Spencer’s first solo album, one with Memphis Slim, Country Joe McDonald’s Hold On It’s Coming, and one song on B.B. King in London. He would also guest later on Mick Fleetwood’s The Visitor (1981), Peter Gabriel’s Up (2003), and Blues and Beyond with Dick Heckstall-Smith (2011), plus a dozen others.
Green did acoustic blues, electric blues, Latin, psychedelia, and more truly eclectic music during his time with us. He will be forever revered. In February of this year, Mick Fleetwood and Friends hosted an all-star Celebration of the Music of Peter Green and the Early Years of Fleetwood Mac. Forget those stupid “greatest guitarist” polls; the great ones all acknowledged his genius.
Enjoy 20 hours of Peter Green on this Spotify playlist.