Fleetwood Mac, a group that feels as natural sitting within our record collections as the dust that accompanies it, has caused their bewitching effect among countless fans across the globe. From the moment the names ‘Fleetwood’ and ‘Mac’ were first strung together by a thoughtful Peter Green, they’ve been a household name, gifting many listeners with an extensive catalogue of life-affirming listens, generation through generation.
I think it’s fair to say the younger days which homed Peter, are sadly not only overlooked, but harshly underrated. In a way, this is probably an understandable occurrence when their later members, one being nonetheless other than the chiffon-adorning starlet Stevie Nicks, throttled the band into such vast commercial success. Any new fan would of course assume Fleetwood Mac would begin and end with that famous five. (Stevie, Christine, John, Mick and Lindsey)
Although reaching number one in 1968 with the delightfully sleepy ‘Albatross’, Green’s era is now noted with much more of an underground appreciation. To rub salt in the wound, I’d even say to a large sum of people, that the song is now more widely known for its association with the old M&S adverts (the ones that made profiteroles and other deliciously baked goods almost provocative).
Despite a handful of hits through the 60’s, including the crooning ‘Man of the World’ and the vigorous, head-rocking ‘Oh Well’, it would be the album Rumours that would act as the catalyst to bring Fleetwood Mac indefinitely from the shadows. Besides, Rumours was of course, strictly more melody-driven, commercially-digestible Pop / Soft-Rock. Life-changing stuff, to say the least. Peter perhaps, would have felt suitably out of place within the sound’s new course, which was firstly more prominent during the five’s self titled LP in 1975, otherwise known as the cocaine-littered ‘White album’, or at least foreshadowed within the Green-less transitional period from 1970-1974. With his initial intention of staying out of the limelight by naming the band after his accompanying members (although named Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac for a short time), his departure in 1970 was probably a wise decision at this point. It could even be argued that the relationship between the earlier blues sound and today’s more conventional discography very almost belongs to different families. Regardless, I think both should be just as equally adored.
Almost to the point of cliche, any Fleetwood Mac fan, or any person with an interest in music history, knows that the period that welcomed their later members Nicks and Buckingham, was the starting point of a seemingly never-ending parade of relational issues. Breakups, unexpected hook-ups, passive-aggressive lyrical content, sometimes even violent outbursts, led to a rather dramatic persona for the group; another reason in which possibly overshadows Fleetwood Mac’s earlier moments. I’m here however, to put a cork in the Rumours gossip and give attention to the formative days that began with the remarkable late Peter Green. The days of copious amounts of LSD, strange cults and most importantly, extraordinary music.
One of my all time favourite tracks of Peters (and in general) has to be ‘The Green Manalishi’. A curiously entrancing track that features haunting yet slightly melancholy lyrics. If you think the line “Cause you're the Green Manalishi with the two-pronged crown” makes you think of some sort of ghoulish monster, you’d be correct. Green wrote this song in the middle of the night, after waking from an acid-induced nightmare. The “Manalishi” is said to be psychedelic slang for the devil himself, and the reference to the colour “green” was marked as being Peter’s way of expressing his disdain for his newly-found financial success. Around this time, the rest of the Mac grew concerned, as Peter’s LSD ventures were getting out of hand. He started to pull away from his bandmates, barely spoke and was frequently seen holding crucifixes, dressed in robes and exhibited a lack of mental health - which would eventually be uncovered as Schizophrenia. Peter left about the time the song was released, where it naturally met the top ten charts. He shortly insisted that the band donate all of the earnings to a cause that would end world hunger. I always admired this snippet of Fleetwood Mac history - how something so magical could be created from such an unfortunate setting. This alone was one of the many reasons I always loved Peter Green - his humbleness, genius, and incentive to do what he feels right. I actually once wanted to call a band I was in “Manalishi”, but I was outspoken - I am still sitting on that name…
Given Peter’s battles with poor mental health, drug addition and humble disinterest in extreme success, it came to not much of a surprise when he announced he was leaving the band. His distancing from the group had become especially explicit where after attending a party at a commune in Munich, Germany in 1970, he refused to leave, and it took Mick and two of the band’s roadies to convince him to come back. On top of this, it was said that Peter felt a little confined, being one of three guitarists within the group, and that he knew he wanted to jam with more musicians, other than the ones continually around him. Being a guitarist of Peter’s stature, I’m not surprised.
His last show with Fleetwood Mac was on 20th May 1970. It was then left to the remaining guitarists, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer to somehow fill Pete’s magical boots. However, these two guitarists would soon have their own stories that would add to Fleetwood Mac’s unusual, yet sometimes tragic historical tapestry.
The midway era of the early 70’s saw a number of tracks that were also great. Some of my personal favourites were ‘Hypnotised’, ‘Dragonfly’ and ‘Future Games’; a shimmering number that calls to mind the same floaty vocal tone as a young David Gilmour, cushioned by dream-like fluttering guitar sounds, played beautifully by Danny Kirwan and new member Bob Welch. Original guitarist Jeremy Spencer had made his questionable departure prior to this release in 1971, one year after Peter. Jeremy’s reasons were psychological and due to substance abuse, but also simply because he left one day to pick up ‘groceries’ and er…never came back. He was found a few days later as a new member of a biblical cult in downtown LA, namely ‘The Children of God’. Also similarly to Peter, he reportedly held a dislike to the heavy sense of ego and selfishness that perhaps grew from a person when successful within the music industry. Danny’s leaving took a similar desolate route as both Spencer and Peter, but the tangent of tragedy shall remain here - this is a post about Peter after all.
The early days are certainly quite sad, but nevertheless made some absolutely phenomenal music, and gave way to what we know as Fleetwood Mac today. The man we have to thank is of course, Peter Green, who passed peacefully in his sleep a few days ago. Listen to the soulful charm of ‘Love That Burns’, the mystical prowess of ‘Black Magic Woman’ or the heart-wrenching lullaby-like song ‘Closing My Eyes’, and I’m sure you’ll find a place for Peter within your love of Fleetwood Mac, as similar size to that as the star-studded members of their following years. We wouldn’t have ‘The Chain’, ‘Big Love’, ‘Go Your Own Way’, anything at all, without him. Peter Green was an infectiously unassuming, astonishingly talented artist who is up there with the greats. A note was written on Stevie Nick’s social media the day of his death, she said that “his legacy will live on forever in the history books of Rock n’ Roll” - I think it’s fair to say she’s right on that one. Rest easy, Peter.
Big thanks to Lizzie Capewell for penning this guest blog, you can check her out on Instagram @lizziecapewell. She's also made you a lil playlist to ease you into Peter Green's distinctive direction for the Mac. You can check that out here.