Peter Green, on the face of it, was one of the old guard – a member of Fleetwood Mac (before they became a Californian band) and of that White-Man’s blues ilk that had gone way out of style when punk and its aftermath was happening. But by the early 80’s I was beginning to discover music from the past and, although blues was high on that list, the Eric Clapton form of it was anathema to me. There was something different about Peter Green that distanced him from the usual British blues players. Green is a superlative guitarist – using blues riffs with such awareness, one would think that he was born into that tradition of music. He has an interesting way of playing, using many techniques – he would shop around for the best amplifiers to get the sound he wanted and he’d even get the new amplifier designers of the time to make special reverb units (something rare in Britain at the time). He’d change guitar motifs throughout a solo and make it unique – something very few guitarists have been able to do. Apart from one of the best feels that a guitarist has ever possessed he could sing that English version of the Blues with sensitivity too.
But what made Peter Green such a unique talent might have been part of his downfall too. He chased after that sound, chased after that life of the perpetual musician so much so that that purity became an obstacle to the music business – a big problem to the livelihoods of his band members and to others who were making large amounts of money from his genius. No doubt there were some other talents in Fleetwood Mac – Mick Fleetwood’s drumming is wonderful in its tribal simplicity and John McVie’s bass playing was a subtle and perfectly complementary backing to Green’s guitar playing. But Green was becoming more and more erratic in his search of the purity in music and was becoming more interested in improvisational bands where recording was not important – the idea of receiving money for music troubled him too and he refused to cash cheques for royalties and other income from Fleetwood Mac. Eventually, like so many creative people, he was hopitalised because of increasing mental health illness.
When The Jasmine Minks released our first single, Think, (which was appearing on some pretty cool playlists, including a Manchester club where the music was mostly Soul and Blues – ironically for those post-punk dominated times) I decided it was time to improve my guitar playing and took some lessons in London. I’d tramp over to Peckham (I swear I never once saw Del Boy or Rodney) to a flat in an old Greater London Council block, just off the High Street every week. Here my teacher would teach me guitar parts from blues artists like Freddie King and wonderful tunes like Rickie Lee Jones’ Chuck E’s In Love. But it was the Peter Green riffs he taught me which have stuck with me. Black Magic Woman was a tune I was told by my old gaffer, Gerry, on the building sites to listen to as it was one of the best according to him – so to learn that was very special. Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well has that amazing rock blues riff – it still sounds great and has that excitement that made rock music such a powerful force – the lyrics are right up my street too – Green’s having a conversation with God – something I think most musicians and songwriters can connect with. I certainly used Green’s fantastic style as a beacon to aim for and if blues solos of mine like the second section of the solo of Cold Heart, Work and Ballad Of Johnny Eye are considered to have even an ounce of Green’s beauty then I’d die happy.
Recently my nephew, Duncan, gave me a Peter Green album and it was wonderful to listen through the songs. I have been playing his songs loads – tracks like The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown), Man of The World and the beautiful Albatross are great mixes of blues and 60’s pop. For pure blues I’d Rather Go Blind (sung by Christine McVie), Worried Dream and Need your Love So Bad are that rare breed of successful White blues.