After distinguishing himself and achieving a level of recognition in Europe, like Eric Clapton before him, Peter Green departed John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, 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 - and attitude that informed his approach to music, and made him one of the most compelling of all the British guitar players from the 1960s.
Green could play incisively and cleanly, but was equally adept at ripping with tremendous power. His style was highly nuanced, and never relied on cliches. This made listening to any of Green's material a rewarding experience; many of his originals have a timeless quality that, unlike most of his contemporary's recordings, still sounds fresh and intriguing today.
This outstanding early performance by Fleetwood Mac occurred only a week into their first visit to the United States, when Peter Green was only 21 years old. Falling right between the release of their self-titled debut album and their follow-up, Mr. Wonderful, this show captures the band in its early incarnation, when they were still a quartet - and one of The Crusaders of the late 60s English blues movement.
Peter Green was the chief architect of the band's sound at this point, and was providing the bulk of their original and pure blues material. Green was also beginning to explore music outside traditional blues, and 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 very distinctive, and was blessed with an inherently human quality that other British guitarists often struggled for.
At this early stage, Jeremy Spencer comprised the band's other creative force. Spencer could authentically recreate Elmore James onstage, and this novel ability, along with a ribald sense of humor (shared by the entire band), helped fuel the bands early stage shows. Spencer could also create dead-on parodies of 1950s rock 'n' roll songs, often of the teen idol variety, giving the band an onstage theatricality element that was both funny and entertaining. The band's overt sense of humor, in addition to their accomplished musicianship, certainly endeared them to many of the San Francisco music elite. The band had been hanging out and socializing in San Francisco for several days prior to this run and were warmly welcomed by the local musicians and audiences alike. It only takes a few minutes to realize the band is having an extremely good time here and are probably feeling more loose and comfortable than ever before. On this night, Fleetwood Mac performed between sets by Big Brother and the Holding Company, which featured Janis Joplin on lead vocals at the time.
This third segment of the run contains the last 40 minutes of what was probably Fleetwood's set from the final night. Legendary bluesman Paul Butterfield sits in, adding his savory harmonica flavorings to the proceedings. This set is considerably wilder than the other nights', and it's likely the band had been partying up a storm prior to this performance. Although no extended slow blues are featured, this set is nonetheless exciting, and there's a sense of reckless abandon here that's positively invigorating.
The recording begins in progress, with Peter Green's "Stop Messing Around," a track soon to be recorded for the bands sophomore album, Mr. Wonderful. Paul Butterfield's distinctive harmonica adds to the already infectious tones, and Green changes the lyric to "Stop Fucking Around" (or, possibly, reverts to original lyrics that got toned down for the studio recording later that year?). Butterfield remains on stage for the next four songs as well.
Green's ability to balance humor and vulnerability is clearly on display during his next original, "If I Loved Another Woman." This number is particularly interesting, as it reveals a glimpse of the Latin-blues blend that Green would perfect with "Black Magic Woman." Spencer's obligatory Elmore James covers are up next, beginning with another take on "I Believe" that's longer than the version from an earlier night of the run, followed by a terrific version of "The Sun Is Shining." The latter, a slower blues arrangement, provides a nice vehicle for Butterfield's harp embellishments. Rather than his usual over-the-top approach, Spencer's slide guitar is unusually restrained here, showing a great sense of style and commitment to authentic Chicago blues.
Peter Green pauses at this point to inform the audience that the band will return in two weeks to play at the Fillmore. "We're gonna do something that Paul Butterfield has never done before," he says, and then shoves the band into a raucous take on Jerry Lee Lewis' "Long Tall Sally." Things really get rockin', with Green belting out the vocals and both he and Spencer letting it rip on guitars between the verses. The lyric sums it up well with "Have some fun tonight!"
Green then demands of the audience, "Do you wanna rock? Or Do you wanna fuck?" Assuming the former, the band continues with Johnny Otis' "Willie And The Hand Jive." The number's very loose but a lot of fun, and features a rare dual vocal by Green and Spencer together. With just a second to catch their breath, they rip into Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," again with Green singing lead (and taking explicit liberties with the lyrics), for one raunchy over-the-top version to end the set.
Amidst the applause, the emcee announces the band members. They decide to do one more and launch into an absolutely frenetic "Ready Teddy" - an even rowdier tune than the one which preceded it. After an initial blaze, they ease things down briefly before going into the final meltdown. Unfortunately the tape stock runs out at this point, and the recording ends, the last few seconds missing from this amazing run.
-Written by Alan Bershaw