Arts

Mick Fleetwood recalls star-studded tribute to legendary guitarist Peter Green

Mick Fleetwood finally made a long-term ambition to honour fellow Fleetwood Mac founding member Peter Green with an all-star concert last year – just before the pandemic hit and, sadly, Green passed away. He tells Alex Green and Kerri-Ann Roper about it

Mick Fleetwood, drummer and founding member of Fleetwood Mac

PICTURE it: Mick Fleetwood, Neil Finn, David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Steven Tyler, Billy Gibbons, Bill Wyman and more jamming together on stage.

It's a list that sounds too good to be true, given it includes one name from arguably some of the world's greatest-ever bands: Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Who, ZZ Top, Crowded House – and the list goes on.

The event in question though, titled Mick Fleetwood & Friends Celebrate The Music Of Peter Green and The Early Years of Fleetwood Mac, happened in February 2020 – just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic sent the world into a lockdown.

The concert saw an all-star cast play together at London's Palladium to honour Green – who did not attend – and the beginnings of Fleetwood Mac the band.

It became all the more poignant given Green's death aged 73 last, just a few months after the concert had been filmed.

But it was an idea Fleetwood, also 73, has had for many years, he explains from his home in Hawaii, where he now lives.

“I just thought that so many people really don't know how the band started… People say, well, Mick Fleetwood must have started the band, and of course, it's not true, Peter Green started this band, with me as a side. And then shortly after that John (McVie) and Jeremy (Spencer) and later a little later, Danny Kirwan joined. So I felt that it was just time. The longer the journey has been, I think the beginning of the story stands the danger of being forgotten,” he says.

Green, described by BB King as the only guitarist “to give me the cold sweats”, was considered one of the most influential blues rock guitarists, his songs including Albatross and Oh Well cementing his status.

He formed Fleetwood Mac with drummer Fleetwood in London in 1967, after a stint in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers as he filled in for Eric Clapton. He and Fleetwood wanted McVie to join the group on bass, and renamed the band Fleetwood Mac to entice him. Under his direction, the band produced three albums and a series of well-loved tracks including Black Magic Woman, Man Of The World and Oh Well.

Green's instrumental Albatross remains Fleetwood Mac's only UK number one single, hitting the top of the charts in January 1969. But he left the band after a final performance in 1970 as he struggled with mental health difficulties and spiralling drug use, later sleeping rough.

He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent time in hospitals undergoing electro-convulsive therapy during the mid-70s. The band continued with a transformed line-up featuring a core group of Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie and Christine McVie, who gave rise to their huge albums Fleetwood Mac and Rumours.

Buckingham was fired from the band in 2018 and replaced by Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and Neil Finn of Crowded House.

“I so wanted him to just have something,” reflects Fleetwood on his motivation for the concert. But, he adds: “Not that he needed it. He was so humble about who he was. He really almost disconnected himself from having done any of this and written so many incredible songs. But that didn't matter. And it still doesn't matter.

“But it certainly made it more poignant that not only were we able to do it, it's also got a lot of personal emotions in it – in the fact that Peter passed away before I could say, ‘Hey, I just want you to sit down, have a listen and realise that we're all really grateful'.”

The band has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the most successful groups ever, with best-known songs including Dreams, Go Your Own Way and Everywhere.

For the concert, which was streamed online and is being released as an album, another star addition was Noel Gallagher, which Fleetwood reveals came about thanks to his niece, model Lily Donaldson.

Donaldson, who is friendly with Gallagher's wife Sara MacDonald, played the musical matchmaker during a phone call with Fleetwood while having dinner with the couple.

“She said ‘Noel's here and he wants to be in the concert' and I'm trying to put it together. First of all I said ‘Well, it's brilliant', but I can't, it's sort of, certainly not what you would think would be his music that had any connection really with him. She said ‘No, no, you don't understand, they never played Fleetwood Mac music on stage, but Oasis, they used to in their soundcheck, he would often do original Fleetwood Mac songs to warm up the band'.

“And I said, ‘You're kidding me?' And he's like, shouting in the back now ‘I love Peter Green, I love all the early stuff that you did'. And that was it. And he came so well-equipped and really rounded out the show. He is a really good electric guitar player.

“I don't think any of them had any egos… everyone just was so enthralled with hearing everyone else play. The atmosphere was really amazing as it was at the show, everyone just came and they turned up, as did Noel. And it was really a cool interlude and a really lovely channelling of how deep and how diversely Peter's music affected people.”

During the concert, footage shows Fleetwood reflecting on the early days and musing that the “60s was a good time to be a dreamer” as he recalls the “unspoken camaraderie in those days, which is so memorable”.

Does that still exist in today's music industry?

“It is hard to imagine our world in England especially. I mean, when you think of what happened in England, with all genres of music and The Beatles, The Stones, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, and The Yardbirds and Eric Burdon and The Animals, all just really, really, really digging deep into blues and soul music, etcetera. The volume and the enormity of what that was, I actually don't think that it's happened since then.

“What happened in England was so gigantic, you know, with bands like The Stones and The Beatles literally changing the whole complexion of, you know, [the] sort of sociological outcome on the planet. I mean, it's not a stretch to realise how much they changed everything, not only with the music, but just the vibe of what was going on.

“I don't think there's anything quite that I've seen that powerful, but there are elements of things that are for sure there or will be there. I think that there's really valid moments that still are present, I don't think that any of them add up to the enormity of what happened.

"What came out of England during those 10-15 years is pretty mind blowing, realising that a lot of those players and/or the music is still really relevant.”

:: Mick Fleetwood & Friends Celebrate The Music of Peter Green And The Early Years Of Fleetwood Mac is released on physical formats including CD, vinyl and Blu-Ray today on BMG.

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