After distinguishing himself and achieving a level of recognition in Europe, like Eric Clapton before him, Peter Green departed John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in 1967, freeing himself of employment and artistic restrictions. However, unlike most of the British guitar greats, Green was never concerned with flash or becoming a guitar superstar. This humble attitude and his approach to music made him one of the most compelling of all the British guitar players of the 1960's. Green could play incisive and clean style perfectly, but was equally adept at playing with tremendous power. His style was highly nuanced without ever relying on clichés. This made listening to anything Green had to say with his guitar a rewarding experience. Many of his originals have a timeless quality that still sounds fresh and intriguing today. Green was the chief architect of Fleetwood Mac's music, providing the bulk of their original and pure blues material. His playing could be wonderfully restrained one minute and powerfully explosive the next, marked by a distinctive vibrato and economy of style. His haunting, sweet-yet-melancholy tone was distinctive and he had an inherent human touch that other British guitarists struggled for. Initially, Jeremy Spencer was the band's other faction. Spencer could authentically recreate Elmore James onstage and this novel ability, along with a ribald sense of humor (that the entire band shared), helped fuel the band's stage shows.
In 1968, the group recruited Boilerhouse guitarist, Danny Kirwan, expanding the lineup to a quintet. Kirwan too, had a guitar style that was unique and his presence dramatically changed the sound of the band. Kirwan increased the band's dynamic and Green's creativity level soared as a result. Over the course of the next two years, Green's playing would reach stratospheric heights as the group began exploring music outside the traditional blues format. As a result, the group's live intensity level dramatically increased, which captivated American audiences and enamored them to many of the San Francisco music elite. Green's apprehension toward the business side of the music industry and his obsessive nature regarding his music paralleled the perspective of many of the San Francisco bands. Fleetwood Mac soon became friends with The Grateful Dead and were exposed to the hippie culture of San Francisco. The musical and cultural vibe in San Francisco and his first exposure to LSD had a profound impact on Green and as a result, his songwriting became far more diverse and creative. The group's live performances became more open ended and Green, Kirwan, McVie and Fleetwood began embracing lengthier improvisation, taking their music soaring to new heights. When they entered the studio in mid-1969 to record the groundbreaking "Then Play On" album, Spencer was no longer involved, but both Green and Kirwan were armed with an abundance of exciting new material that was far more progressive than anything the band had attempted before.
By 1970 Fleetwood Mac's well deserved reputation as one of the most exciting and original bands on the planet had them touring incessantly. These pressures, along with Green's shift in musical direction and increasing dismay with the monetary rewards of the band's work, signaled the end was near. Although Green would play several more UK gigs, the band's April 24 th gig at The Roundhouse Chalk Farm would be his farewell London performance with the group. They had hoped to stage one more London concert on May 28th with their friends, The Grateful Dead, who would soon be making their first UK appearance at Newcastle's Hollywood Festival, but the musicians union denied permission. Contrary to online chronologies and even Peter Green's authorized biography, that May 28 th gig never happened.
Despite the fact that it was cold, wet, had a rickety balcony and insufficient facilities, the April 24th Roundhouse concert would be an emotional night for all involved and an extraordinary performance. With an audience of friends, family and the most devout London fans, this high profile concert was extensively covered in the musical press and was deluged by press and photographers. Until now, only print recollections and photography have ever been available from this concert and only those who attended had actually heard the performance. Here for the first time ever is that entire performance from beginning to end - Peter Green's final London concert with Fleetwood Mac.
As the recording begins and the band is tuning up, an announcement from Peter Green regarding the deluge of photographers can be heard. Despite the distraction, Fleetwood Mac launch into an incendiary "Black Magic Woman" to kick off the set. Featuring a strong vocal and tasty guitar work from Green, this slinky blues soon takes off into an astounding jam that clearly shows Green is already tapped into something very special. With a ferocity and otherworldly quality that leaves the popular Santana cover sounding like a pop confection, this is a tour-de-force opener that sets the stage for an extraordinary night. Following this opener, Green continues expressing his annoyance with the photographers, but immediately regains his sense of humor as he alludes to the Rolling Stones' giant inflatable penis pulsating above the stage. Greatly impressed by the sound and enormous breast-like visual of Dinky Dawson's parabolic vocal reflectors on each side of the stage at the recent Royal Albert Hall Fleetwood Mac appearance, Mick Jagger personally offered the soon-to-be legendary stage prop for this concert.
As the set continues, the group eases into an entrancing take on "Before The Beginning," the song that concluded their newest album at the time, Then Play On. With his guitar heavily drenched in reverb, this smoldering blues proves that Green was one of the only British guitar players still developing and expanding on the range of the blues genre.
In direct contrast to what preceded it, the band next performs the sole Green/Kirwan writing collaboration, "World In Harmony." Beginning with delicate intertwining guitars, this instrumental develops a happy-go-lucky vibe exactly as its title describes. Here, the influence of Jerry Garcia is apparent with both guitarists harmonizing soulfully and featuring a spirited improvisation in the middle. It perfectly captures just how close the two guitarists had grown musically, now capable of soloing in unison as well as triggering off each other. Another Then Play On track follows, with Danny Kirwan fronting the group for "Only You," a heavily rhythmic exercise featuring some brief but impressive improvisation. Continuing to mix things up, Jeremy Spencer gets the opportunity to front the group on a pair of Elmore James numbers, "Madison Blues" and "Got To Move." Here Spencer is in his ideal environment, playing slide guitar and belting out the vocals, while the band maintain a nice relaxed groove.
With the group thoroughly warmed up, Peter Green again moves to the forefront for a mindbending workout on "Green Manalishi." Here the group more seriously flexes its improvisational muscles, delivering a performance of great intensity. Here they exorcize the demons through shrieking guitars and a pummeling rhythm courtesy of McVie and Fleetwood. After the initial vocal section, the band blazes into a ferocious jam featuring plenty of Green's highly original wah-wah guitar work, before everyone but Green and Fleetwood drop out. Green takes the opportunity to solo on six-string bass, while Fleetwood maintains a relentless roll on his hi-hat. Clocking in at nearly 15 minutes, this clearly shows the more free-form direction that Green was heading.
Another highlight follows with an extremely rare live performance of "Merry Go Round," a Green original from their debut album. This sizzling slow blues features an emotive vocal and delicious guitar work that features great nuance and style. This is a superb example of the slow burn style that established Green's early reputation and the stuff that inspired no less than B.B. King himself to refer to Green as "the only man to ever make me sweat." There is zero superfluous playing here and Green squeezes raw emotion out of every note.
The next two numbers showcase Danny Kirwan's writing with "Like It This Way" and "Coming Your Way." The former is a rather straightforward blues featuring tasty guitar interplay between Kirwan and Green. "Coming Your Way," the bluesy track that would open Then Play On, is extended to nearly three times the length of the studio recording. Here Mick Fleetwood literally propels the group with a relentless and continuous roll on his tom-toms, occasionally accented with cymbal crashes. Fleetwood and McVie, along with Spencer adding additional rhythmic support on maracas, provide a propulsive backing that inspires a rhythmically based jam from Green and Kirwan. Jeremy Spencer then steps back up to change the set's texture with his spot-on reconstruction of Elmore James "Stranger Blues," followed by a frantic take on Fabian's "Tiger." These are fun romps that hardly prepare the audience for what is to come.
As the group heads toward the finish line, they pummel the audience with a rip-roaring "Rattlesnake Shake" that heads directly for the stratosphere. This is a fierce and forceful performance that soon veers off into a blazing jam featuring outstanding interplay between Kirwan and Green. When the initial creativity begins waning, they impressively transition into the instrumental, "Underway." This compelling composition demonstrates what a crucial catalyst Kirwan had become for Green and is a sign of where Green would soon be venturing on his first solo album, End Of The Game.
With the audience shouting for more, Green signals to close with "Albatross," which appropriately enough was the first studio recording to feature this lineup of the group two years earlier. On this spiritual note, the group delivers a lovely version of this classic instrumental. Taken at a slow and deliberate tempo here, "Albatross" is a perfect example of less is more, with Green playing wonderfully delicate lead over McVie and Fleetwood's infectious floating groove. Green's restraint, combined with Kirwan's perfect unison lead lines, makes this performance enormously effective. Green again squeezes deep emotion out of every note.
Needless to say, the audience isn't prepared to let them go. Amidst the shouts for more, Green can be heard asking for requests and inquiring if the audience would like to dance. Receiving an enthusiastic response, the band launches into a deliciously reckless take on Little Richard's 1957 hit, "Jenny Jenny." With Green on lead vocals and Kirwan and Spencer both on backup vocals, this is high-energy dance music that soon has the audience flailing about as the group cranks out some good time rock and roll. Much the same can be said for the second encore; yet another 1957 hit for Little Richard,"Keep A-Knockin'." For this final number, Spencer and Green team up, singing together, while McVie and Fleetwood gradually increase the tempo until the entire band is rockin' at a frantic pace. Four minutes later they all bring the night to a crashing close amidst relentless shouting for more. Green thanks the audience and then pauses to inquire if anybody would like to come up for a jam. Either getting no takers or possibly being told they've run out of time, the recording ends with Green saying "OK then, that'll be the last one;" a fitting conclusion to the last London performance of this most legendary lineup of Fleetwood Mac.
-Written by Alan Bershaw