"He was the only one that gave me the cold sweats"
– B.B. King on Peter Green
Last week, we lost a legend. Peter Green was a titan in the world of guitar and one of my personal guitar heroes; up there with Clapton as far as I’m concerned. Listening to those early Fleetwood Mac records was a formative, transcendent experience for me; the sound of his fingers combined with those famously out-of-phase PAFs was as captivating as it could be haunting.
I’ve been listening to those early Mac records a lot lately, as I’m sure a lot of people have. And, I thought I’d use this blog post to share a couple of feelings on my favourite tracks.
Play these loud, savour the music, and raise a glass to the late, great Peter Green. They don’t come much better than these, folks.
The Green Manalishi (with the Two Prong Crown)
My very first introduction to Green’s Fleetwood Mac, the sheer swagger of “Green Manalishi (with the Two Prong Crown)” is just immense. The drama… those moody verses contrasted with those explosive stabs of guitar riff… It’s a master class in dynamics that had me hooked within seconds.
Oh Well (Part 1)
Can't help about the shape I'm in
I can't sing, I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin
But don't ask me what I think of you
I might not give the answer that you want me to
Damn. If that isn’t a rock n’ roll opening verse to a song I don’t know what is. Once again, the stop-start dynamics here are breathtaking and the explosive lead flourishes are testament to Green’s prowess as a player. Paired with the understated, introspective Part 2, it’s a masterclass in light and shade that showcases his impressive control.
Man of the World
One of the great things about Peter Green was the sheer breadth of his playing. Contrast the cut and thrust of “Green Manalishi” and “Oh Well” with the tender restraint of “Man of the World.” It’s just gorgeous to listen to. Lyrically, the track takes on a tragic dimension, reflecting the LSD-related mental collapse that Green was suffering. As Mick Fleetwood noted of the song in his memoir:
“With all that was happening for the band, we failed to see that our leader, Peter Green, was changing. There was a sadness to his lyrics that hadn’t been there before.”
That the instrumental Albatross was a mammoth hit for Fleetwood Mac is testament to the lyrical nature of Green’s guitar playing. One of the biggest selling instrumental songs in English history, it’s the track that the Beatles wished they’d written.
As Rolling Stone notes: “Its heavily reverbed guitar partially inspired the Beatles’ “Sun King.” “We said, ‘Let’s be Fleetwood Mac doing “Albatross,” just to get going,’ ” George Harrison recalled. “It never really sounded like Fleetwood Mac … but that was the point of origin.”
What is your favorite Peter Green moment? Did you ever see him live? Share your stories in the comments.
When it comes to breakout singles, they don’t get much better than “You Really Got Me.” The 1964 track didn’t just put the Kinks on the map; it changed the rock n’ roll landscape with its incendiary guitar tone. “You Really Got Me” brought distorted guitar to the masses. It’s the genesis of all things hard and heavy in rock. And, as the legend goes, it was an act of aggression from Kinks guitarist Dave Davis that created the sound and started an amplifier revolution in the process.
My heroes at the time were guys like Hendrix, Slash and Jimmy Page. Chet Atkins did not feature. Today, though, it would be a different story. Not only was Chet a fantastic guitar player; his sage wisdom on the subject of pickin’ was most definitely bedroom wall worthy. So, with that in mind, I’ve compiled a selection of my favorite Chet Atkins quotes for your reading pleasure. If these speak to you, then I’d heartily recommend printing some of them out and putting them up in your practice space. They’ve been motivating me these past few weeks; hopefully they’ll do the same for you.