The blues-rock Fleetwood Mac era revisited
In May 1990, Mick Fleetwood told 'Q' Magazine:
"'Then Play On' epitomised the vision Peter had of going forward, and that's when Jeremy got left behind. Apart from a couple of piano things, he wasn't on that album. We just didn't want to keep treading water, and that album was the real start of Fleetwood Mac. Working with producer Martin Birch, Peter was experimenting. That album still holds up, and the tragedy is that that was it, there was no more...."
On its release in September 1969, Fleetwood Mac's third album was acclaimed for its innovative music, but knowing what we now know Then Play On must also go down in rock history as one of the most ironic LP titles ever. The irony being that that line-up of Fleetwood Mac didn't play on, at least not to the extent of recording tracks for a fourth studio album. Or so we thought.
Now, nearly thirty years on, here are five previously unreleased studio recordings made in the six or so months after that album came out, and before Peter Green left: here are four unreleased tracks including another version of 'Man Of The World' and an outstanding demo of 'Show-Biz Blues' - all from early 1969 sessions in New York, plus, here are several previously unissued tracks from other Then Play On sessions. Tentatively, we can assume that in amongst all of this is the beginning of what would have been the fourth Mac album... or as Mick Fleetwood puts it in the above quote "the real start of Fleetwood Mac".
Listen now to Peter's modern blues-rock guitar on Fast Talkin' Woman Blues - Disc 2 track 8 - previously unissued: or listen to balladeer Danny Kirwan's Love It Seems - Disc 2 track 6 - also unissued; or listen to Jeremy Spencer's sardonic send-ups which were going to be released as an EP with the Then Play On album. On Everyday I Have The Blues - Disc 1 Track 7 - unissued master for instance. he takes off posh middle-class chaps such as Alexis Korner who led the early-1960s Brit-blues scene.
With this kind of variety coming from one band, it is just possible that had another Mac-with-Peter-Green album ever seen the light of day, then it could have or should have been called Vaudeville.
It doesn't really do Vaudeville justice to view it simply as an interesting collection of unreleased studio masters and out-takes, or a collector's curio. This compilation not only focuses the eclectic nature of Fleetwood Mac - completely unique for what after all became a rock band playing on the rock circuit - but it also comes as close as anyone will ever come to beginning to answer the question that Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green, amongst others, maybe still ask themselves today. Namely, what kind of music might have followed if the meteoric worldwide success that Fleetwood Mac had achieved by 1970 had not jaded their leader's motivation far too soon and, in effect, made Then Play On something of an unfinished symphony for him.
Also described by critics as a blues-rock masterpiece, that album was Green's swansong from the world stage, echoing eerily down the past thirty years as he's fought his own personal demons. But an illustration of what Then Play On still means to him came in 1994 when he agreed to a series of interviews for the book 'Peter Green Founder of Fleetwood Mac, The Biography'. When asked about his favourite music from the whole Mac era, with little hesitation on that occasion he cited the instrumental 'Underway' - partly a tribute to the lyrical guitar of his own first guitar hero, Hank Marvin. And talking about Then Play On back in 1969, Green said:
"I Love it, every minute of it. It is very dear to me because it's like our thoughts and feelings. There is nothing I feel I could have done better."
Only many years after that original band split up did drummer Mick Fleetwood first speak of the Mac's vaudeville connection, in his autobiography 'Fleetwood: my life and adventures with Fleetwood Mac' first published by Sidgwick & Jackson in 1990: He wrote:
"We were a rude, wild, fun-loving bunch of people who simply didn't give a fuck. Fleetwood Mac never wanted to be pure blues like John Mayall or rock like Hendrix or Cream. We were a funny, vulgar, drunken vaudeville blues band in that time [1967-70] playing music as much to amuse ourselves as please an audience and make money."
These Vaudeville sessions capture the appeal of Fleetwood Mac at their laddish, cider-loutish best, and also trace the development of a band firmly rooted in the blues, as it experimented with many different styles of music.
To focus its vaudeville theme, the compilation begins with a brief snatch of Peter Green's first foray into classical music (from a take of Oh Well Part 2), and then the 4-piece original Fleetwood Mac boogie into Lazy Poker Blues - Disc 1 track 1. The fact that only one year separates these two recordings gives an idea of the speed at which Peter and his band made their musical journey from blues to broader horizons.
Fleetwood Mac aficionados will know of an old photograph of the original 5-piece band taken at Heathrow airport in early 1970, where they look pleased to be back from their third and most successful trip to the States. The photo shows a very hairy and happy-looking Peter Green, pictured with the guitar that never left his side. A publicity sticker on the Les Paul's guitar case he holds in front of him reads 'Fleetwood Mac is...swift'.
Having heard what follows - close to two-and-a half hours' worth of previously unreleased Mac tracks - the faithful will need no persuading that this slogan still rings true, whilst the more casual listener and 1960s blues-rock freak is also in for a buzz or... six. At the very least.
White Boy Blues: tracing the origins of the Original Fleetwood Mac
Let's begin at the end. The late-1960s when the blues boom - also called the R&B boom at various stages during the 1960s - finally went bust.
"Woke up this morning, an' my agent was standing in my room Oh yeah, woke up this morning an' my agent (and a man from Blue Horizon Records - Mike andd Richard Vernon) were all standing in my room
Er... they said 'You better learn some blues son - cos there's gonna be a boom A great big boom, daddy." Extract from "The Fleetwood Mac...Chicken Shack...John Mayall... Can't Fail Blues': The Liverpool Scene 1969.
The 'Can't Fail Blues'... a contradiction in terms if ever there was one; but looking back at the British music scene during 1969, Liverpool poet Adrian Henri's lyrics in many ways hit the nail on the head - only it was perhaps a bit cheeky of him to single out in the chorus the three blues bands who were trailblazers, and most definitely not one of the hundreds of inferior plagiarisers. But then that was the point of the song: for these rip-off merchants, it was 'the blooze' as long as there were greased lightning pentatonics played through an overdriven Marshall amp, in a 12-bar format, by a band who looked like they were due back for lights-out at the local doss-house. These play-in-day electric blues were... crap. Still, hundreds of groups were playing them and getting applause and getting paid. It couldn't last.
It didn't, thank god. Not surprisingly, back then Peter Green was not impressed:
"There were a million groups."
Peter criticised those blues boom days,
"making a mockery of the blues. And a million guitarists playing as fast as they could and calling it blues. Some people think that the blues is just a way of playing guitar but it isn't. The blues really is about having the blues."
Nearly thirty years on, Peter's reservations about white boy blues are more considered and less vitriolic. In one of the best-ever interviews Green has given (with writer Cliff Jones, and published in the Feb 1996 edition of The Guitar Magazine) which took place when the guitarist was planning his 1996 return to performing, he returned to the subject of blues as black man's music:
"Well, it wasn't worthy playing all them black men's songs. See, Sumlin and (Howlin') Wolf had it and you could really hear what had happened to their people in theire music. No-one knew what Wolf was on about half the time, but it made sense on another level. Hubert Sumlin's playing was what we all wished we could be like, not just for what he played, but for where it came from. You can just tell the people who understand the blues.
"I didn't understand the blues well enough to play it so I stopped. The blues was too deep, it got too painful. See, the guitarists who copied all them old black players were doing an interpretation of the blues but they couldn't get the feeling behind it 'cos none of us had that experience. It sounded okay for a while until you started to realise that the blues is something you spend a lifetime in, and you have to understand it to play it. There's levels that most people, including me, never got anywhere close to.
"But then it got much too deep for me and I got lost. The blues ended up hurting my soul so I stopped it and started to make up stories instead; all my songs after I stopped playing blues were stories with a beginning; a middle and an end. White blues players are an imitation of it, they don't know it so they don't feel it. Them players like Clapton didn't understand it any more than I did. Maybe he does now. I had to give up because it wasn't mine, it didn't belong to me. They carried on and maybe they got to know it, though I don't expect so. The blues is something you have to work at and I wasn't learning it fast enough."
A couple of years before that early-1996 interview took place, Peter's co-guitarist in Fleetwood Mac, Danny Kirwan, gave a rare interview to this writer (later published in a long feature about Kirwan in the May 1998 edition of The Guitar Magazine) in which Kirwan echoed Green's views:
"The blues is a black man's language... something that stems from the black nature of man. A white man can try and sing the blues but he might do himself damage. If you're a white man you have to learn the blues, you don't know them. It's as simple as that. The thing is... those black guys play the way they are, because it's their music. It's developed with them. But if you understand your brain content and you're a white man, you can play it if you're clever. You see, I was infiltrated to the extent that I picked up a bug - I got into the blues and it got into my system like a bug gets into your system. But when you're a kid and you walk around with your family you don't notice the blues. My favourite bluesman? Albert King - you'd drop out of last week for Albert wouldn't you? And Otis Rush - he had this nice sting in his playing, and he had a thick timbre, that was his stamp. But you see, those guys were blacks singing and playing about what it is to be black in their country, which isn't really their country."
Only when talk came round to Eric Clapton, did Kirwan's view differ slightly from that of Green:
"Eric Clapton? He plays what man IS."
Musicians such as Green, Kirwan, Eric Clapton, Chicken Shack's Stan Webb, Top Topham (Clapton's predecessor in the Yardbirds), Mick Taylor, and of course John Mayall, had studied styles of blues. So, yes, they too were copyists - Stan Webb, at first was Kidderminster's answer to Freddie King and Stan himself makes a similar point about Eric Clapton:
"I've got old 1950s records in my collecticn of Matt Murphy, which has stuff which is note for note what Eric played on John Mayall's Bluesbreakers 'Beano' album."
And Peter Green at first was Putney's very own BB King. But by the late 1960s these devotees were starting to come up with their own interpretations of American blues. Sadly, though, they had spawned a slightly younger generation of very pale imitators who were what most of the late-1960s Brit-blues was all about.
So by the time The Liverpool Scene recorded their cynical yet accurate send-up, the boom was going bust. Adrian Henri was right to target the blues scene. Why? Because by then blues had become like a tacky fashion accessory - along with the ex-MOD greatcoats and grandad vests sold in the small-ads section of NME and Melody Maker. The music - loud cliches - was almost incidental. And for some white boys it was inverse snobbery gone mad, in that the more middle-class you were - whether you were in the band or the audience - the more skint and low-class you tried to look when you went out to your local club. As George Melly observed in his classic book about pop culture Revolt into Style, for a late-1960s blues group to have any cred it had to look "meticulously grubby" - their audiences copied them and so the revolt against pop music's early 1960s saccharine pretentions had come full circle, and become very pretentious itself. But what had by the late 1960s undoubtedly become tacky style, did start out at the beginning of that decade as a revolt - of sorts.
The revolt was against the safe uniformity and suburban wholesomeness of early 1960s pop stars such as Adam Faith, or even England's tastefully emasculated answer to Elvis - Cliff Richard... television producers did not have a problem about filming Cliff from the waist down. Most Tin Pan Alley pop stars looked so well-scrubbed and nice, and so a huge gap in the teenage market was developing for wild and sweaty emotion. What happened? This group of n'er-do-wells - albeit middle-class n'er-do-wells - called The Rolling Stones stepped into the breach.
When British blues started to gather momentum at the beginning of that decade, it was most definitely a middle-class thing with young chaps (well, they certainly weren't blokes or geezers were they?) like Alexis Korner, Mick Jagger and Brian Jones leading the way - with blues-harp wailing car panel-beater Cyril Davies, a welcome working-class comrade. What's more, it was an art school thing: there was a whole bevy of about-to-be-guitar-heroes getting their chops together as they coasted away their time at art college driving their teachers even further round the twist than they were anyway. Slave markets, cotton plantations, steel mills and poor urban housing - the real breeding ground of blues music - probably were completely alien cultures to these budding guitar gods. Or rather, they were alien cultures to most of them. The notable exceptions were two working-class lads, Eric Clapton (an art-school subversive and drop-out) and Peter Green (also a kind of drop-out... from his butcher's apprenticeship after a year or so). Finishing school for both these blues students turned out be John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, with Clapton in the year above Green.
Obviously, the black American blues turn-on for Clapton and Green was the sound of the music itself and, interestingly, it was the same song: Muddy Waters's 'Honey Bee' was the blues that encouraged Eric Clapton to think he could master the guitar, and it was also the first blues that Peter knowingly heard, aged 14. Green loved the "spare and together sound" and so started to delve deeper into whatever blues archives were available:
"Getting hold of a rare blues record back then was like finding a new friend. That's how I got to know B.B. King, and by listening to all of his music I'd discover T-Bone Walker and then want to find out all about him," recalls Green.
So the thing that set these two guitarists well apart from the rest of the white blues scene at that time was their approach to the music - in other words, they had an awareness and appreciation very early on of the attitude that fuelled blues:
"The blues to me,"
Clapton commented in the 1980s,
"was always about one guy - never a band - on his own against the rest of the world."
It was that quality of fear laced with courage that Clapton recognised and so admired in the blues of Robert Johnson. Clapton then became fanatical to the extent that at teenage parties he would snub those who hadn't heard of his hero Johnson... which no doubt meant he spent many parties alone and brooding.
Meanwhile, Peter Green now recalls that it was as a child that he first heard bluesman J.B. Lenoir and seemingly could hear, in his imagination, the African slavery at the heart of that music and Lenoir's blues.
In fatherly fashion whilst he was their band leader, John Mayall gave both these featured guitarists in the Bluesbreakers open access to his vast library of blues records and tapes, as Peter remembers with fondness and gratitude:
"If John Mayall made up a tape for you, you could bet on it that there would be everything there about a guitarist or band that you needed to know."
What all this meant is that before they were twenty years old both guitarists had, filed away in their heads, a blues archive of riffs and styles that literally drew on many lifetimes' worth of black bluesmen's experience.
And yet both these guitarists had acutely painful memories of hard times in their own childhood: Clapton for years thought that his grandparents were his parents, and fell crushed when he found out the truth. Jewish Green got bullied and intimidated by anti-Semitic thugs in London's East End.
So when these white boy hard times resurfaced as adolescent anger, both guitarists soon had a highly developed black man's vocabulary literally at their fingertips, with which they could create and express their own blues idiom, Of course, as Peter pointed out above to Cliff Jones, his blues in the mid-to-late 1960s were derivative; but his modesty seemingly still won't allow him to accept that the interpretation and synthesis he eventually came up with of the many, many styles he had heard whilst learning guitar - together with his own feel for the instrument - was personal and unique to him. And it was seriously admired by the black masters from whom he'd learned, such as B.B. King.
In this way both Clapton and Green were complete blues originals: white students of modern black American music, and archivists who at the time were unrivalled in their vast knowledge. Students who soon turned into hip young professors as their performance skills and mastery of the guitar grew to a point where they could communicate their own blues feeling to the world. And yet what must have bolstered the pair's god-like image during the mid-1960s blues boom is that many of their fans probably thought that all those mean riffs were their own - and did not come from rare, imported scratchy American 78rpm records and modern 33rpm vinyl. Yes, the riffs mostly were borrowed, but the arrangement of them and their phrasing was something quite new. So in fairness to his blues forebears, that legendary graffiti should have read "Clapton is demi-god."
As these two players began to soar - Clapton towards the futuristic blues vision being defined by Jimi Hendrix, whilst Green remained more traditional for a while - several mini-trends in blues-based music came and went during the second half of the 1960s, one year on the blues scene was a very long time indeed. So even though Fleetwood Mac were looking to the likes of the Grateful Dead's acid-blues for inspiration by early 1969, just a year or so earlier in February 1968 when they released their debut album on Blue Horizon - 'Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac' - the band's ragged, poor-boy-long-ways-from-home image was no hackneyed cliche: it was on the pulse and perhaps an extreme reaction against the Carnabetian back-combed perm and frilly shirt brigade - or "King's Road pouffes" as Green jokingly now sometimes remembers them. That Fleetwood Mac white blues classic is known as the 'Dog and Dustbin' album because of the cover shot depicting Chicago-esque urban poverty - albeit tastefully art directed and photographed on the mean streets of Battersea or thereabouts. This LP, mostly covers - was the original Fleetwood Mac's blues manifesto which also achieved a first for Brit blues, it stayed in the album charts for nearly a year. One likely explanation for this very unlikely scenario - full-on blues riding high in the pop charts is that Fleetwood Mac spearheaded what turned out to be the fourth and biggest wave of the 1960s British blues boom when Peter formed the band in July 1967. Consequently, their album sales reflected the huge audience that had built up on the British R&B and blues club circuit during the three earlier waves. Remember, this was the pre-video recorder, and pre-MTV/VH1 era, so if you wanted to see and hear your favourite music being performed mostly you had to get up and go out and find it - and not just push the remote control buttons.
The first of the three earlier blues waves or generations gathered momentum five years earlier when the fathers of Brit-blues, Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies formed Blues Incorporated and eventually bravely opened the Ealing Club as a blues venue in March 1962. Soon after that the Crawdaddy club and L'auberge coffee-bar scene sprang up around Richmond. Korner had already got a fair amount of form with 1950s trad jazzmen such as Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan who backed visting US bluesmen such as Josh White. And so it was Ealing that sowed the seeds of generation two - The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Pretty Things, The Animals, Them and Manfred Mann at the poppier end of the R&B spectrum. Generation three partly began when John Mayall left his Powerhouse Four up in Manchester and formed the Bluesbreakers down in London. Alexis Korner had persuaded him that there was a big enough market in Britain for Mayall to make a decent living playing straight blues - as opposed to the Animals and Yardbirds pop-R&B hybrid - most nights of the week, Mayall played clubs like the Flamingo along with artists such as Zoot Money, Graham Bond, and Peter Bardens. The Club-a-Go-Go in Newcastle, The Cellar Club in South Shields, The Twisted Wheel in Manchester, The Mojo in Sheffield, and countless large pub venues such as the Fishmonger's Arms, and The Toby Jug in Tolworth... this club scene was the bread and butter of the fourth and most in-your-face blues-rock boom in the late-1960s.
And if you want to be reminded why this died a death (and the Liverpool Scenes bum-notes parody isn't painful enough) listen to Jeremy Spencer's 'Mean Blues' on his solo album - Jeremy Spencer - released in 1970 on Reprise. On this track first he impersonates a typically OTT blues club MC from that era - typical in that he's all enthusiasm and cloth ears - and this is then followed by the typically dire Snoggly Blues Band. Of course, by then the forward-looking band that led that same boom in 1967, musically had moved on to improvisational blues-rock. Which is not to say that Fleetwood Mac had deserted classic blues; this band seemingly possessed endless supplies of a rare quality in Brit-blues around then: they had restraint... and they knew when and how to flaunt it.
The Original Fleetwood Mac - from rude boys to rock stars
At the time - 1967-68 - nobody would have dubbed Fleetwood Mac's live act as vaudeville: it just happened to be the way that band's repertoire evolved thanks to its eccentric talents. Once Danny Kirwan stepped on board the train (Peter liked the name 'Fleetwood Mac' because to him it sounded like something you would call a big American train) at a Mac gig and you were entertained by three guitar frontmen - each one wild in his own way. Plus you could groove to a rhythm section that Chicago slide maestro Elmore James would have killed for - back then, whether sober or not so sober, Fleetwood and McVie were Britain's youngest and strongest swing-and-shuffle kings. And so, in effect, Fleetwood Mac were really three bands - blues, rock'n'roll, and more mainstream blues-rock.
Bluesman Peter Green - the guy Chicago pianist Eddie Boyd regarded as a "negro turned inside out" - musically was air-lifting London's East End over the pond to Chicago's South Side. Whilst other Brit whiteboy blues bands continued imitating American blues, Green went on to innovate them...that was his calling card. And he began to do this at the ripe old age of twenty-one.
According to Peter, the attraction of Mac's three-man line-up as a live act eventually also became too limiting. Whereas at first he said:
"It's a treble asset the group has. On the whole it works very well indeed. On stage it can break up the atmosphere - but on record it's three good things in one."
Three years later and around the time Green left the band, it's clear that the novelty had worn off:
"I was cut down by being a third of the group's front line. That was quite fun when it started but after a while I felt I couldn't get into anything because after a couple of numbers I Would have to step back to let the others have a chance."
Which does suggest that the variety was great whilst it lasted - but it was bound not to last, Rock'n'roller Jeremy Spencer got the Mac gig because leader Peter was impressed by the "conviction" with which he knocked out those classic Elmore James' slide riffs which originally surfaced in the Mississippi Delta during the 1920s. But Spencer openly admitted that in his heart he was a rock'n'roller - not a bluesman - whose talents as musician/mimic enabled him to nail down Elmore James and Homesick James.
"I had heard blues before,"
Jeremy said in the late 1960s,
"and I didn't like it. I went round to a friend's house and he wos playing blues and boring me to tears. Then he put on an LP of blues artists and this one track 'The Sun is Shining" just jumped out. I went out and bought 'The Best of Elmore James' LP and it was never off the turntable."
At the time, Jeremy taking off the raunchy blues of Elmore James suited Mac's live act perfectly. Even so, when Peter was thinking about putting the band together after quitting John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in May 1967, initially he wanted it to be along the lines of a Chicago blues trio in the style of Buddy Guy. In fact, according to John Mayall, the birth of Peter's band was as a three-piece some months before the official debut of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. (This was on August 13th 1967 at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival with Bob Brunning depping on bass for three weeks until John McVie finally walked from what he's since affectionately described as the "fuckin' jazz" line-up of the Bluesbreakers, complete with two-man brass section).
The coming together of what would grow into Fleetwood Mac happened around April of 1967: Mayall recognised three musicians in his ranks who sounded as though they felt very comfortable together; and so the band leader knew deep down that the writing was on the wall - the graffiti read 'Fleetwood Mac'. The band's name was conjured up by Green as the title for something they recorded on April 19th of that year at Decca's West Hampstead studios. Whilst all still Bluesbreakers, Peter, Mick and John taped a Chicago blues chugging-train instrumental inspired by Johnny Young's 'Slamhammer'. Green called it 'Fleetwood Mac'.
So when Jeremy Spencer joined he was really a modification to Peter's original blues trio design. Apparently, Peter told a musician friend, the late one man blues band Duster Bennett, that he wanted someone to kick the show off and warm the audience with up-tempo blues. Enter the 5'4" ex-slide guitarist with Birmingham blues bashers The Levi Set.
Jeremy soon got the hump about starting the show but then having to leave the stage so that Peter could perform his material as a trio with Mick and John. Brummie guitarist Keith Randall remembers gigs in the early Mac days where a miffed Jeremy walked up to the mike after being brought back on stage and said in a voice dripping with sarcasm
"Thanks for bringing me back on...".
But according to Green, Spencer's prolonged spells sat sulking in the wings were his own fault:
"I had two parts to play because Jeremy wasn't going to make the effort to learn my things - to play properly on the piano. I was told he could play properly but I never saw him do that."
Spencer's more than adequate skills as a pianist can be heard on his spoof of John Mayall Man Of Action - Disc 1 track 10. Presumably, if blues other than Elmore James left Jeremy "bored stiff" then he also couldn't be bothered to play them. Otis Spann-style, as backing for his band leader.
No surprise then that when it came to recording the Mr Wonderful sessions in April 1968, the band hired Chicken Shack's beautiful young classically-trained blues ivories queen, Christine Perfect, to add to Peter's music. Which she did in spades, Sonny Thompson-style (Sonny was Freddie King's pianist, and one of Christine's early blues heroes). So, what this tells us is that when Peter and Mick hired Jeremy Spencer, yes, they had discovered a star who could shine - but they also had taken on a musician who was stubborn and even a bit work shy.
Whilst the Mac still was a blues-rocking 4-piece, Mick Fleetwood - even during those laddish, couldn't-give-a-fuck days - seemed to be grooming himself quite naturally and unwittingly for a role he would officially assume for a while in the Rumours line-up of the band: that of Fleetwood Mac's player-manager. Fleetwood could see personnel problems looming - Jeremy was a great performer... but that wasn't enough for the big picture of the band in the long term. And so after only six or so months Fleetwood Mac's music was being held back, or rather it wasn't progressing at a rate acceptable to Messrs Green and Fleetwood. But never in a million years would you have sussed this when you saw their live act before packed houses.
By the spring of 1968 Peter Green, blues innovator, already was in the ascendant. For proof of this look no further than Love That Burns - Disc 1 track 3. Blues expert and Jimi Hendrix biographer, Charles Shaar Murray writes, in an extract from his indispensable encyclopaedia 'Blues on CD - The Essential Guide' published by Kyle Cathie:
"Performances like 'Love That Burns' aren't simply 'white blues', but blue blues of a high order; that weary, wracked voice and piercingly sweet guitar tone would honour any bluesman of any race, place or time."
Vaudeville's live-in-the-studio version of 'Love That Burns' was part of a 5-track promo session that Mac recorded just ahead of the release of their second album Mr Wonderful in August 1968. The other Peter Green vocal track, Lazy Poker Blues - Disc 1 track 1 find him in updated Magic Sam mode.
The three Spencer contributions to these sessions are more than forceful stabs at the Elmore James style; because he was such an accomplished and fastidious mimic, as John McVie puts it,
"Jeremy had the whole vibe".
Many English bands subsequently tried their hand at what sounded deceptively like a simple riff - wah-dah-dah wah-dah-dah wah-dah-dah wah-dah-dah wah-dah - and succeeded in sounding as black as a stick of chalk.
Even so, Spencer's penchant for Elmore James and Homesick James was getting out-of-hand. For instance, when Mr Wonderful came out some reviewers not unreasonably had a problem with the fact that no less than four of the twelve tracks were just Jeremy wah-dah-dah-ing to different lyrics and rarely even bothering to introduce a bit of contrast by changing key from his Gibson guitar's open D tuning. In stark contrast, Peter was casting his net very wide when it came to blues influences, as he had done on the debut LP Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac.
A comparison of Peter's contributions to the first and second Blue Horizon label albums shows how a lot of wood-shedding was going on: 'World Keep On Turning' and 'Trying So Hard To Forget' find Peter firmly in a Lightnin' Hopkins groove, but with attitude and confidence upgrades both in his vocals and his guitar phrasing in the latter. Meanwhile, 'I Loved Another Woman' and 'Love That Burns' gauge the progress of Peter Green, songwriter and blues innovator.
Sadly, the same can't be said of Jeremy when comparing his work on these two album's. If anything, his stuff on Mr Wonderful is lacklustre and it certainly swings far less than funky rockers such as 'Got To Move' and the wild 'Shake Your Money Maker' on the first album. Soon after their second album came out Jeremy commented:
"At the time we did the 'Mr Wonderful' album there was a lot of Elmore James but I wanted the chance to clear it all out of my system on record, which I have, almost. All I want to do now is just be humorous. The only way I can do the kind of music I like is by sending it up. If I want to do a Buddy Holly or Fabian number on stage the only way is to send it up and get it accepted by a lot of the people."
Jeremy's need to mimic so painstakingly gave him an offbeat production idea for the Mr Wonderful sessions, in an effort to recreate a late-1940s, 1950's rough Chicago club atmosphere, as Mac ex-roadie Huw Pryce remembers:
"Jeremy suggested playing through the PA to get a live blues sound in the studio. Peter's vocals were deliberately distorted by being put through a Vox AC30 amp."
But the quote from Jeremy about just wanting to be humorous does suggest that even before Danny was on the scene, musically the slide guitarist had come up against a brick wall within the band and so saw his future contribution as twofold: first, as the funny man and jester who never let the blues purist atmosphere at gigs get too serious, and, second, as the rocker who did 1950s rock'n'roll at the end of each show to send the punters home on a party-time high.
Jeremy's impersonations and countless onstage persona began as impromptu things in Fleetwood Mac's live act. Right from schooldays he displayed not only his gifts for impersonation, but also a bent for anarchic humour. For instance, at school he would take off the headmaster's voice when classmates were having a surreptitious smoke in the toilets: "Cigs were like gold dust then and they'd all file out having dropped them down the toilets," he said gleefully at the time.
Also there are stories of Jeremy completely out-of-control at BBC recording sessions for John Peel's 'Top Gear' radio show. Angered by some stuffy old BBC studio engineer laying down the law about what guitar plugs can and cannot be used according to Beeb regulations, Spencer might wind up the jobsworth by proceeding to climb all over the mixing-desk console whilst doing impersonations of John Mayall.
Right from the very start of the 4-piece line-up in late-summer 1967, this tiny performer would halt proceedings suddenly in the middle of a set as Peter was announcing the next number, and impersonate, say, a typical "What-guitar-strings-do-you-use?" guitar-'anorak', or a "I'm sorry, but you can't park here!" jobsworth. It was completely off-the-cuff: none of the others in the band knew when a Spencer interlude was coming, nor who it was he might be taking off, and so it would add sparkle and excitement to the atmosphere. Leader, Peter Green loved Jeremy's onstage mischief-making: "He could be a star for them on his own. We would like him to do that sort of thing more often, but if an audience is cold he won't do it." But cold audiences at Mac gigs were almost as common as rocking-horse shit; a bit like the Rolling Stones when they started out, in clubs this band created a punk-ish pogo-ing wild time, but with a 12-bar blues format - and Jeremy's exciting up-tempo slide sound took a lot of the credit for that kind of crowd response.
Because Spencer's pranks and humour were an established part of Mac's act, soon after Danny joined they decided to record some in the studio. So in October 1968 as Peter and Danny got to grips with capturing the serenity of 'Albatross' in the studio - Jeremy got to grips with five sketches of droll and cutting sarcasm on The Milton Schlitz Show - Disc 1 tracks 6-10 - unreleased Fleetwood Mac EP (7-inch extended play 45rpm). The band's original plan was to release the EP together with Then Play On, the album that Jeremy didn't play on, but the band had to dump the idea...or in the blunt prose of Mick Fleetwood's autobiography
"the record company thought the whole thing was a wank, but we took it seriously".
The EP starts with Milton, a pushy Stateside 'and-now-for-a-word-from-our-sponsors' TV host who introduces 1950s American teen idols, Ricky Dean and the Angels doo-wopping their way through Jeremy's Contribution to Doo-wop - track 6. Then there's an outrageous send-up of Alexis Korner singing Everyday I Have The Blues - track 7 in an upper-crust BBC radio announcer's accent. Of course Korner didn't sing his blues anything like that, even though he did happen to have been a BBC announcer, and he did talk a bit posh on his blues radio shows. But what Spencer was probably ridiculing here is that precious 1950s/1960s BBC Radio 3/Third Programme attitude to programmes about jazz and blues.
The late Mike Raven carried this over to BBC's newly-established pop channel Radio One. Raven was the blues and soul dee-jay of the late-1960s: this ex-ballet dancer (and future Sunday religious slot TV presenter and horror B-movie star) may have been as plummy-voiced as Prince Charles, but the musical appeal of his Sunday-night show amongst literally millions of 'Raven-maniacs' cut through Britain's famously rigid class barriers. Mick Jagger loved 'Mike Raven's R&B Show':
"I must apologise,"
said Jagger in 1968, impersonating posh Raven-speak,
"for this record which is so old that you can't really hear it, but it was recorded in a barn in 1933, and the music is first-class." "That radio show."
Jagger then observed,
"is really in the BBC tradition - or perhaps the Alexis Korner tradition - but it's a great programme, really worth listening to."
Having done a parody-in-the-extreme of early 1960s white boy blues, Spencer turns his sardonic tongue to deep black Texas blues on Death Bells - track 8. Here, it's Sam "Lightnin" Hopkins turn, with Peter playing his Hopkins' inspired 'World Keep On Turnin' guitar riffs.
In (Watch Out For Yourself) Mr Jones - track 9 features an imaginary band 'The Orange Electric Squitters' Jeremy takes on the 1960s punk-garage-psychedelia bands such as the Electric Prunes. The Milton Schlitz Show' ends with Man Of Action - track 10 on which Jeremy does a John Mayall. Peter Green remembers Jeremy sending-up Mayall's Mancunian tones when Mayall was right there in the room:
"John Mayall didn't like it. Mick used to laugh at him but I couldn't see what was funny."
But the way that Mick Fleetwood saw it, Jeremy with his sometimes vicious piss-takes was like the moderator in a weird form of group therapy within Fleetwood Mac:
"Our humour can be very cruel against the individual and when you've got over that you can turn round and laugh right at yourself which is a good thing. It was Jerry who brought that about."
Looking back, Chicken Shack bassist Andy Silvester isn't at all sure about this:
"I always remember Fleetwood Mac as a happy band but a band with a bizarre humour. They used to take things too far, and Jeremy was the instigator of this."
Jeremy himself agreed:
"You see it's funny when you take it too far. When it gets out of hand."
A good illustration of "too far" is Jeremy's antics at London's Marquee club when he came on stage and played guitar with a huge 16" dildo protruding from his trousers which at other times was attached to Mick Fleetwood's drumhead, or alternatively brought out onstage on a silver platter. Audiences were so shocked that they had little choice but to laugh at Mac's brand of porn, but Marquee club owner, John Gee banned the ultra-popular Mac from that venue for a long time, thanks to Jeremy's dildo stunt. Furthermore, on their first short tour of the States, whilst in Los Angeles Peter and Jeremy stayed at friend Judy Wong's house. And it was not unknown for Jeremy to open a window and shout obscenities into the street - at four in the morning just for the hell of it. Yet, on free days during subsequent US tours, when the rest of the band went out on the town, Spencer would be holed up for hours on end in his hotel room smoking dope and reading the New Testament. Like you do.
In July 1968, after the band returned from that exploratory first American tour - on which they dabbled with LSD for the first time - Mick Fleetwood had an idea: he was going to solve the Spencer/Green creative stasis by bringing 18-year-old Danny Kirwan into the band. Peter and Mick had spotted Danny and his band Boilerhouse when they did support slots for Fleetwood Mac. The young guitarist played a cheapo Watkins-Rapier electric guitar which gave him an interesting old-school Texas blues sound: his style had an aggressive vibrato similar to that of Lowell Fulson. In addition to the supports Boilerhouse played for Mac, Danny would turn up at soundchecks for Mac gigs and help Huw Pryce hump gear, and sometimes even get to jam with his hero Peter. But it was Mick, wearing his unofficial manager's hat, who got Danny in - nobody else in the band was particularly keen on the idea at first:
"Danny played support to us," Peter recalls,
"and soon Mick Fleetwood said, 'Why don't you get him in?' I didn't want to at first, but Mick persuaded me that we could do some interesting things with two guitars...and he was right. I would never have done 'Albatross' if it wasn't for Danny. I never would have had a number one hit record."
John McVie was iffy about the move too:
"I couldn't see the need for it at the time but after about six months it was clear that Peter now had someone to bounce off."
According to Mac's first temp bassist Bob Brunning, who still saw a lot of the band socially, Jeremy Spencer also cold-shouldered the idea:
"Jeremy thought that a third guitarist could only lower his profile in the band and so naturally didn't like the idea."
But Mick won the day and on August 14th 1968 at the Nag's Head Blue Horizon Club, Danny made his debut with Fleetwood Mac. Andy Silvester, bass player with Chicken Shack was in the audience that night:
"Peter announced him by saying something like 'Now Danny Kirwan is going to do his first number of the night for us, and he's going to blow your minds!' Sitting in the crowd I thought an introduction like that just put too much on his shoulders, poor kid."
In a shy sort of way, Danny Kirwan finessed the other two guitarists in the eccentricity stakes - which was no mean achievement. Asked how he felt about his fairy-tale-come-true step up into the top blues act in the country he replied:
"It wasn't until three months after I'd joined Fleetwood Mac that I realised What I'd done. I was standing on stage one night and the curtains opened and I found myself as part of this band."
...weird, or what.
Here was a guitarist who when he joined looked far too young to be playing in pubs at night. Schooled on the blues-rock guitar of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and, naturally, Peter Green, Kirwan nonetheless had a leaning to popular music from many eras: The Beatles in the 1960s; big bands and jazz bands in the Roaring '20s. His catholic taste was well-exposed in his recording debut with the band - an instrumental called 'Jigsaw Puzzle Blues' on the B-side of 'Albatross'. Peter explains how he put this fine Django Reinhardt-inspired piece together:
"Jigsaw Puzzle Blues' was a real old thing he'd heard by a 1920s clarinet player. He worked it out on guitar so that I could play on it... but I couldn't do it properly. I can't play that sort of big band Prohibition-time thing. My style wasn't all that satisfactory to Danny, but his style wasn't all that satisfactory to me. So on records like 'My Dream' and 'Dragonfly' he ended up playing all the parts himself."
But taken together, the A and B sides of 'Albatross' are about as far from contemporary pop as you can get... and yet with this brand of vaudeville they topped the charts.
Looking back in 1995 on the friendship between the two guitarists in the late 1960s, Danny Kirwan admits he was at fault:
"I wasn't surprised when Peter Green left. We played well together but we didn't get on. I was a bit temperamental you see."
From interviews over the years since then, there is something that says it can't have been as simple as both players not being suited either personally or musically. Between 1968-70 Fleetwood Mac's creative vision was often down to those two - and whether it was a country blues about Bessie Smith, as in 'Like Crying', or electric blues-rock duel such as Like It This Way (Disc 1 track 13 - previously unissued version) when they hit it off musically, they really did hit it off. Danny told the writer how 'Like Crying' was written:
"I remember Peter sat up on this chair and just singing 'woman's got the blue-oo-ooze' again and again. Then I started writing it from that. When he sang that, it made me think about Bessie Smith, the woman who's got the blues."
So when the mood took them, they were obviously a good - though sadly not too prolific - songwriting duo as well. Given more time (and less ego), had they managed to integrate their musical differences and turn them into a positive, they could have been exceptional.
A couple of Vaudeville recordings suggest what actually might have been in store for us from the Green and Kirwan canon after Then Play On. October Jam Nos 1&2 - Disc 2 tracks 10-11 are melodic twin guitar jams which may have been early demos for the Green/Kirwan duelling guitars project that was mentioned in the music press shortly before Green decided to leave. Peter also talked about the atmosphere within the group:
"I'd say that like the last time we came back from America the band is closer than it has ever been. Danny and I are now working and playing together which we have never done before."
This, after persistent rumours were reaching the UK that Kirwan was leaving Mac at the end of that early 1970 third US tour. And yet one month later as the tour bus motored through Sweden, it was Peter who announced that he was leaving - because he felt that musically the band was coasting.
What really happened in that month up to him making his decision to leave has been fascinating fodder for conspiracy theorists ever since: in Munich, some still insist, Green was spiked for three days with bad acid; Green was abducted; Green was brainwashed into giving all his money away by rich German anarchists. Dull by comparison, but probably much nearer the truth, is that Peter Green was exhausted by the pressure of having to come up with the commercial goods to keep Fleetwood Mac at the top, and literally was made sick by that pressure resting solely on his shoulders. Especially when you bear in mind that his own musical direction was getting more and more left-field. And radically uncommercial.
Had he stayed in the band a future album track might well have been 'Fast Talkin Woman Blues' - Disc 2 track 8. As it stands this is an instrumental re-working of an out-take from the 'Dog & Dustbin' sessions - exactly two years earlier - called 'Driftin'. Greenophiles will note a somewhat more modern crunchier acid-rock tone to Peter's trusted Gibson Les Paul guitar when compared to the clean tone with icy reverb which can be heard on the 1967 version. Also, the fact that Peter chose to demo 'Fast Talkin' Woman Blues' knocks on the head the notion that Fleetwood Mac were eager to dump rigid-format 12-bar blues and head for the spontanaeity of free-form typified by The Madge Sessions - Disc 2 tracks 2-3. Only a couple of months before he left the band in May 1970, whilst in America Peter Green commented: "We're not getting out of blues or out of anything. It's just that we're getting in to more things - you see we did some blues tonight."
Having already announced he was going, it was a month before Peter actually left that the boys went into the studio to record Green Manalishi (with the two prong crown) - Disc 2 track 12 - alternate version and World in Harmony - Disc 2 track 13 - alternate version. John McVie has since described this period as 'trauma city' for the band as they tried to get used to the grim thought that their leader, chief songwriter and "source of income" was going. Mick Fleetwood told the writer that for a while the band were like lost sheep begging him not to leave. Understandably, there was anger and resentment too - a bit of which can be heard during an in-studio altercation between Green on the one hand, and Kirwan and McVie, as they work out the intro of a Kirwan instrumental, ironically-titled 'World in Harmony.' And yet despite this underlying tension, even at that point Peter and Danny still came up with the goods and collaborated on this number. Danny wrote the main gentle melodic sections but was stuck for the kind of guitar solo demanded by the rockier middle section. Peter came up with the goods and Danny gave him a songwriting credit.
So, from a musical point of view, two years earlier Mick Fleetwood's intuition and insistence on bringing Danny in to work with Peter, turned out to be crucial to the progress of the band. But what Fleetwood can't possibly have known or imagined back in the autumn of 1968 - a few months before the single 'Albatross' took a blues band to number one - is just how much both guitarists' personalities would be affected by stardom and success.
Bob Brunning remembers the short-haired Danny who joined as
"a painfully shy and polite new-boy who was in awe of everyone in the band and even in awe of people like me who were to do with the band".
Danny also had very high musical standards and on tour was always the one wanting more rehearsal-time for the band before a gig.
Just under a year after he joined, this is how Peter described Danny:
"He's done some incredible things on the new LP and we're proud to have him with us. He's neurotic and worries about everything. Whenever he has to be anywhere he gets there about an hour early. He even worries about simple things like catching a bus and bites his nails until they bleed. He's a real extremist - either right up or right down, either raving or worrying."
Looking back Peter now remembers his boyish personality:
"Danny used to enjoy innocent jokes like the one about the bloke in the fish shop who got murdered - he was battered to death. He'd really find those kind of things funny. We used to call him 'Ragtime Cowboy Joe' because of that old roaring twenties music he liked to play."
But then the innocent old-time music fan who Green sometimes nicknamed 'Young Eyes' began to change. Exactly when the change happened is difficult to pinpoint but by all accounts it was when their second pop hit climbed the charts in April 1969. Man Of The World - Disc 1 track 12 - alternate version recorded in New York and London, to this day is Danny's favourite Fleetwood Mac single - it was also their first not to be released by Blue Horizon records.
In early 1968, Fleetwood Mac had signed a one-year deal with Blue Horizon with a further one-year option if the record company was still keen. At that point Blue Horizon was really a two-man show run by brothers Mike and Richard Vernon and - admin cock-up of all admin cock-ups - neither of them noticed when the one year was up. And so the day after the contract ran out, Mac's manager phoned Blue Horizon to inform them that because they had failed to take up their option, Fleetwood Mac were now at liberty to go elsewhere. Just to rub salt into the Vernons' wounds, Mac's single 'Albatross' was at number one in the charts on the day of the fateful phone-call.
Fateful because Peter Green, for one, wasn't happy about leaving Blue Horizon just for more money. Plus, when it came to mixing Then Play On, Peter now recalls feeling less than confident about what was a new role for him:
"We should have had a producer on Then Play On, then it might have sold better. We tried to produce it ourselves, like other bands did at the time, thinking it would be more fun. We did have a lot of fun but then it's all very well to say 'Yeah, let's produce our own records from now on, we don't need anyone' but we weren't completely aware of what the producer's job was."
Enter recording engineer Martin Birch, who over the next year, working together with Peter, would be responsible for crafting the studio sound of Fleetwood Mac's rockier blues and improvisational jamming. Although on records he was not credited as producer but as 'recording engineer' for 'A Fleetwood Mac Production', from 'Man of the World' onwards he was a crucial team player:
"With the 'Man of the World' session,"
"at first I didn't know what it was, a studio booking came in and I think it was for a midnight start...and it was for the band Fleetwood Mac - that was all I knew. And they turned up with an 8-track multi-track from America, where they'd been recording the basic tracks - the drums and the bass laid down with, I think, one guide guitar. It was pretty basic and so we started overdubbing what ended up to be about twenty guitars with other bits and pieces which on an 8-track is quite a job. We worked through the night and what didn't help matters is that at the time we had a problem with our multi-track - every drop-in I did had a very audible click so by the end of that session the track was a bloody mess of clicks! The day after, I arrived at about seven in the morning to cut out each of those clicks by hand.
"After the overdubs, when it came down to the mixing I think Peter was quite impressed that I'd managed to get rid of all the clicks and made it easy to mix. So the way things worked out I kind of mixed it with Peter. And from then on that was the way we worked. My first impression of Fleetwood Mac was of Peter - a very together, very clever guy who knew what he wanted, whilst the others in the band were kind of floating around but not really involved in the mixing. Peter and Danny did most of the guitar overdubs and I remember Danny being very keen to contribute to the overall thing."
'Man Of The World' was the only single Mac released on the Immediate label, coming out at the beginning of April. The B-side features rock'n'roller Jeremy Spencer at his wildest with Mac, this time in the guise of 'Earl Vince and The Valiants, Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite - Disc 1 track 15 - full-length version was recorded in early 1969. Even though the follow-up to the chart-topping 'Albatross' was a strong and commercial piece or music, it made no impression on the charts in the first couple of weeks after release. Tour manager at the time, Dennis Keen, remembers how 'Man Of The World' got a "hike up"; by which he means that enough radio airplay was 'bought', payola-style, to send the single up the top twenty with a bullet. Eventually it rose to number two and radically changed the kind of venues Mac played - from large pubs and clubs, to concert halls and stadiums.
After this, their second chart-topper, suddenly these young bluesmen became pop stars, with Mick Fleetwood pulling pop star-type stunts such as wearing an American Footballer's helmet on stage. Leaving the Wembley Pop Proms - where they appeared alongside mainstream pop acts such as Barry Ryan and The Paper Dolls - Fleetwood Mac's limo was mobbed by teenyboppers with fans clambering up onto the car-roof. Almost overnight, the band found themselves in a world about a million miles away from the intimate blues clubs they were used to. It was the hyped-up world of television appearances and ego-massage, and it was Danny - the youngest and best-looking of them in the pretty-boy pop star sense - who was most susceptible.
He soon changed, some say, from the shy, boyish, serious musician, into your typical big-star-with-ego-to-match. Girls were going for him on stage and apparently Danny now saw himself as the band's glamour boy. What is harder to understand, though, is that his attitude to Peter may have also changed. Dennis Keen remembers Danny sometimes trying, unsuccessfully, to compete with his hero.
"Danny and Pete began to clash a lot, more so Danny with Pete than Pete with Danny. Pete would never clash with hardly anyone. He would shout at them and he would make Mick jump, sat at the drums, because Pete wasn't happy about something... like Mick was quite nervous of Pete. But sometimes Danny tried to bully Pete - he would go right up to him with his guitar and say something like 'I want!' and play something on his guitar. But Pete was always quite mellow about it because he knew - they both knew - that at the bottom of it was the fact that Pete could do things on guitar that Danny would just about be able to dream of."
Thirty years on, it's difficult to know just how much of this alleged 'bullying' was really just isolated incidents and temperamental musicians kicking in on bad days. In contrast, Martin Birch remembers that, if there was a problem with Danny and Peter, it was not Danny getting too big for his boots, it was that he was always seeking reassurance and approval from Peter. This insecurity first came to light when the Then Play On sessions began in mid-April 1969 with two Kirwan songs 'Coming Your Way' and 'Although The Sun Is Shining' - Disc 1 track 16 studio demo, on which Danny played all the guitar parts himself:
says Martin Birch,
"Danny was always very keen on Peter listening to his tracks. When we'd finish one of his tracks Danny would say, 'I'd like Peter to hear this'. And Peter would say 'Well if you like it then that's fine with me.' I often got the impression that Danny was looking for Peter's approval whereas Peter wanted Danny to develop himself by doing it himself.
"Generally, what would happen with the Then Play On sessions is that Peter would come in and he'd play me a little demo that he'd done at home on his Revox to show me the feel and structure of the song. And once I'd got a grip of what kind of thing he was going to do the band would come in and we'd lay down the basic track and when we were happy with the drums, the bass and the two guitars, the others would disappear and then Peter and I would work on his song until it was completely recorded but not mixed. Then I had to work out mentally how we were going to present it - I guess early production techniques. Then I'd do the same with one of Danny's songs and it would alternate like that until the album was done."
When they recorded Peter's 'Before the Beginning' for Then Play On Martin had quite a bit more than a rough demo from which to work our ideas: the guitarist recorded the instrumental backing to that sad song 'Blues in Bb minor' - Disc 1 track 14 in New York in early January 1969 as part of the 'Man of the World' sessions. In fact, Peter and the band started that year as they meant to carry on - often living in the studio. The start of January also found them at Chicago's famous Chess Studios for jam sessions with blues heroes such as Buddy Guy (or 'Guitar Buddy' to use the pseudonym that Blue Horizon used when the double-album Blues Jam At Chess was released at the end of that year) Walter 'Shakey' Horton, Honeyboy Edwards, J.T. Brown and Otis Spann, formerly pianist in the Muddy Waters Band. Spann enjoyed playing with Peter enough to invite him and the band to record the Biggest Thing Since Colossus album shortly afterwards. This LP showcases Peter's mastery of Chicago electric blues, with his playing at its most tasteful and fluid.
Perhaps Peter Green felt especially inspired around then having just met and played along with some of the blues legends he'd always admired. Anyway, from the 'Man Of The World' New York sessions, Do You Give A Damn For Me - Disc 1 track 11 unissued version has to be the standout track on the Vaudeville compilation. This acoustic slide solo song was renamed Show-Biz Blues - Disc 1 track 17 - alternate version with false starts when Peter re-recorded it in early June during the Then Play On sessions back in London. Exactly why another stab at this song was considered necessary after he'd virtually nailed down 'Do You Give A Damn' is a bit of a mystery: for its raw, live country-blues feel as well as playing technique, the New York version is the cut above.
Peter wrote 'Do You Give A Damn For Me' (which he now also sometimes calls 'Him and Me') as a thank-you to Bukka White, the Delta slide steel guitar player and cousin of BB King. Peter was especially impressed by Whites 'Aberdeen Mississippi Blues' and wanted to try his hand, literally, at a percussive guitar-playing technique he'd seen White do. Namely, that instead of plucking the guitar strings they are gently but rapidly tapped or knocked with a clenched fist from above the guitar's soundhole. On the Then Play On version he only does this once whereas on the New York version he keeps slipping in and out of this groove with effortless speed and control. Even so, at the start of the alternate take of 'Show-Biz Blues', it is also interesting to listen to the various slow slide intros to this song, slightly different each time, as Green draws on his musical imagination, searching for the 'right' one.
The other blues recorded during the 'Man Of The World' sessions is more like up-tempo rhythm and blues, and was written by Danny Kirwan: Like It This Way - Disc 1 track 13 remained part of Fleetwood Mac's live set whilst Peter was with the band, and was the first piece that featured Danny and Peter's 'duelling' guitars. Eventually, this twin-lead style became something of a trademark for the band's live sound, and was also adopted and adapted by Wishbone Ash. Martin Birch remembers how Peter also wanted to create the impression of duelling guitars when it came to mixing The Madge Sessions Pts 1 & 2 - Disc 2 tracks 2 & 3:
"On the Fighting and Searching for Madge thing, when Peter and I mixed that, I started panning guitars around a little bit just for a bit of interest and to try and enhance what they were actually playing [panning means moving a sound to and fro from one stereo channel to the other]. And Peter said 'You know, what we should do is you take my guitar track and I'll take Danny's and we'll have a duel'. So that's what we did, which you can hear particularly well if you listen to those tracks on stereo headphones."
Written towards the end of the Then Play On sessions, the modern blues rap Oh Well Part One - Disc 2 track 7 puts the spotlight on Peter Green the innovator. Originally he composed it for Mac's live act:
"I wrote it,"
Peter explained at the time,
"as a stage number, and then decided to try and record it. Then I thought it would make a good single. Mick and John, however, listened to it and decided they didn't think it was right for a single and they made me have second thoughts. So I listened hard again. Now I'm sure of it."
Peter then went on to add:
"I like it because it represents me at my two extremes - as wild as I can be and my first sort of semi-classical attempt."
When the Single came out some reviewers remarked that it would be criminal if deejays don't play through the seven-minute piece in its entirety, and such comments were prescient - deejays didn't play Part Two, much to Peter's disappoinment:
"I started with the B-side, the Spanish guitar bit,"
Peter recently told BBC's Radio 2,
"I was going along by Marble Arch, I was sitting in the back of this car and I suddenly got this most beautiful inspiration of this Spanish guitar I could hear and I thought 'That's lovely! Oh, I really hope I don't forget this...you know. I was trying really hard to remember it. And I bought a flamenco guitar [a very expensive Ramires] a lovely guitar and I just about kind of managed on it. That was the inspiration for 'Oh well' part one and part two - it was for an album. But the main thing, when you hear the whole thing together is that you can hear it build up to the Spanish guitar solo."
Vaudeville showcases a short extract from this - and Peter's first shot at playing the cello - at the very beginning of Disc 1 - Oh Well Part Two - alternate version. In retrospect, as a pop single 'Oh Well' is significant not just for iconoclasm on a par with the Beatles' 'Strawberry Fields Forever' released some three years earlier: the track's darker significance is that, as things worked out, it augurs the end of the band when, musically, it should have been the 'real start' that Mick Fleetwood has spoken of.
What was the making of that band a year earlier three frontmen pulling in quite different directions was, by the end of the summer of 1969, threatening to break up the original Fleetwood Mac. John McVie and Mick Fleetwood began to fear that their leader was perhaps pulling the band too far away from their commercially proven brand of blues-rock. As Peter pointed out, they didn't think that 'Oh Well' was suitable to put out as their next single... and in order to continue onwards and upwards, the band needed that third hit.