Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Supernatural Peter Green

While today would have been the 70th birthday of the inventive, very prolific composer-bandleader-arranger-guitarist Frank Zappa - and that merits a trip over to Wolfgang's Vault for some Mothers Of Invention shows - it's apparent that on these shortest days of the year, my mind frequently gravitates to that guitar geek nirvana, the blues.

Last week the amazing Howlin' Wolf and a guy he inspired, the late, great Don Van Vliet, A.K.A. Captain Beefheart were deeply rooted in moi's consciousness. This week: the London-born master of blues and rock guitar, Peter Green.

First off, if you don't know who Peter Green is, drop everything you are doing, turn off your television, cell phone or PDA, get the hell off Facebook (unless you're on FB's Peter Green Tribute page) and listen to this guy play.

Check out these soulful pieces from Peter's stretches with John Mayall's Blues Breakers and Fleetwood Mac (Note: blog readers who do not, in any way, shape or form, enjoy the essential sound of non-metal/punk style electric guitar or the blues are excused).

Peter could also write gorgeous introspective ballads. This one, "Man Of The World", is particularly beautiful and, sadly, more than hints at the serious personal problems that would meet the gifted guitarist just around the corner:

The lush, ambient instrumental "Albatross", co-written by Green and Danny Kirwan, was a big hit in England for Fleetwood Mac.

Unfortunately, the 1967-1971 Fleetwood Mac, arguably up there with The Who as the greatest of British rock bands, would be stalked by tragedy (mostly caused by extended over-use of LSD-25); fortunately, they recorded prolifically enough to leave many hours of remarkable music behind, especially on the Live At The Boston Tea Party recordings and the April 9, 1970 BBC performance on CD 2 of the Show Biz Blues set.

Alas, the story for the incendiary, passionate, hard rocking version of Fleetwood Mac ended abruptly and not at all well. Slide guitarist, Elmore James aficionado, cutup and specialist in Elvis-Buddy Holly-Eddie Cochran style rockabilly Jeremy Spencer went AWOL to join the Children Of God cult, while Green and co-lead guitarist Danny Kirwan, after dropping copious quantities of acid in Munich, subsequently suffered decades of severe health problems.

Green and Spencer have resurfaced in recent years, still playing the blues after the heavy dues. After making his last recording at the age of 28, Danny Kirwan dropped as far out of sight as Syd Barrett did (and, unfortunately, for the same reasons); by all accounts, Mr. Kirwan is still living, but has been in and out of mental institutions in London. If Danny plays the guitar or writes songs, it's strictly for himself - and that, dear blog readers, is one incalculable loss to the world of music.

Meanwhile, the founders and rhythm section mates who the group was named after, bassist John McVie and percussionist Mick Fleetwood, would be the only original Fleetwood Mac members still in the band after its transformation from British blues-rock-psychedelia juggernaut to hit-making commercial pop powerhouse.

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