Peter Green (Great Rockers You Should Know, #5)
While the term “guitar hero” makes most folks think of a video game, it still conjures up, for most middle-aged music nerds like myself, names like Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, possibly Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck: virtuosos whose guitars were wielded like flaming swords, who played brain-melting and/or physically impossible riffs that spoke directly to the teenage brain (or from the male teenage loins).
Some of you might even extend that term to allude to “alternative” guitar wizards like Richard Thompson, The Edge, or Robert Fripp — more cerebral stylists who relied more on wits and innovation than testosterone and technical virtuosity.
Still fewer, I’ll wager, have heard of the subject of GRYSK #5, Peter Green, a guitar deity who, in my humble opinion, bridges the gap between the brainy and the ballsy. His guitar playing comes from the gut, and that’s where it hit me!
While I’d heard of “Greeny” — mentioned as a founding member of Fleetwood Mac, appearing as a name in various lists of guitar greats — I’d never listened to his music until 2006-2007, when I happened upon him through another rocker-you-should-know, Steve Marriott. More accurately, the Green-led Mac’s songs started appearing in some of the mixes I was getting online via Pandora, Rhapsody, XM Radio and other services I was listening to at the time.
I was driving some fairly long distances each week — teaching night classes in Southwest VA — and I made a mix CD of six Green-era Mac tunes that I listened to over and over again, trying to absorb Green’s licks, and his feel, by osmosis. Those tunes — “Black Magic Woman” (Santana made it famous, but Green wrote it and plays the definitive version), “Jumpin’ at Shadows,” “Albatross,” “The Green Manalishi,” “Oh Well, Pt. 1,” and “Rattlesnake Shake” — feature, to my mind, some of the best electric guitar ever recorded. The tone, the raw emotion, are undeniable; the self-effacing sense of humor is both unexpected and incredibly human.
I’ve linked a few videos below, for the curious. If you like any of what you hear, I strongly encourage you to seek out more of Green’s work from the Fleetwood Mac era. His later work is, in my opinion, not up to that level — Green’s struggles with fame, with drugs, and with depression (and, quite possibly, worse), have left him in many ways a shadow of the man he was when he lead the Mac.
Oh Well, Pt. 1
World Keep on Turning
The Green Manalishi (1975 – Buckingham/Nicks’ Mac … but damn fine!)
Jumpin’ at Shadows
Peter Green in 1988
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