Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac - Live - (1968 and 1969)

If you have only  listened to Fleetwood Mac with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, who joined the band in the mid 1970's, then you have never really heard Fleetwood Mac before. This band, more than any other I can recall, underwent a huge change in the 1970's, transforming themselves from one of the most raw blues bands into a "pop music formula factory", cranking out hit after hit. But none of their later recordings has ever come close to the magic which was the so evident in the original band. 

The above performance is of the classic number "Oh Well", which is kind of a conversation about morality, people and God. Compare that to anything this band has done since 1975 and you will find that the newer stuff doesn't even come close in edginess to the bands original format.

The original lineup consisted of founding members John McVie on bass guitar, Mick Fleetwood on drums, Peter Green on lead guitar and vocals, Jeremy Spencer on slide guitar and sometimes piano, with Danny Kirwan filling all the spaces in between on his guitar. McVie and Fleetwood had come from the John Mayall Bluesbreaker band. That band spawned almost all of the British bands of importance at the time. Mayall was himself a genius musically, and had a knack for picking raw talent, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and even Mick Taylor, who did a few years with the Rolling Stones before semi- retiring.

This color film from New Years Eve in Paris 1968 features Peter Green leading the band in "My Baby." Notice how tightly knit they are, weaving guitar riffs back and forth while McVie and Fleetwood keep that steady backbeat going. audience is kind of a hip version of American Bandstand, but wearing the latest in Paris fashion for the time. 

This clip is like a time capsule of the prevailing music scene at the close of 1968. Everything was changing, France had just gone through the worst of the student-labor strikes which paralyzed the country that summer, even as our own streets were awash in violence during the Democratic Convention. The year had been so traumatic and bloody, with the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in the U.S. Watching the audience dance is interesting, as some are doing slow versions of the twist, while others are just moving in place. It was really like nobody knew what to expect next. They seem a bit lost, waiting for the next blow.

And nothing can compare with the guitar work of Peter Green; who is by the way Jewish; on "Need Your Love So Bad." His vocals, as well as his guitar, both cry out in pain, searching for the love that has been lost. Somewhere along the line Peter Green lost his "calling" and his desire to be a musician, and he retired from the band by 1971, which is when John McVie had his wife Christine, join the lineup. They had a few good albums before the big change over to "pop" music. Those albums, "Bare Trees" and "Kiln House", are both great examples of the change that was taking place within the band at the time.

After those two albums it was all down hill for me, as the band became the purveyor of what I like to call "formula rock", which is to say that the format of almost all of their subsequent hits were arranged in much the same fashion as the last one, until they all became almost indistinguishable from one another.

When Fleetwood Mac came to New York they played the Fillmore East regularly, often doing a late show which ran from about midnight to almost 6 AM, when the acid wore off, and the music began to lose some of its punch. If you were at any of those concerts you know what I mean.

As for Peter Green, he became quite reclusive for several years, with the most prevalent rumor being that he had become a grave digger somewhere in Scotland. I don't know that this is true for a fact, but it's a great story; right up there with Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads. Sometimes it's best to just believe the story and not dig any further, for fear of losing the mystique.

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