PETER GREEN Fleetwood Mac style study
Phil Capone analyses the pioneering work of Peter Green during his influential but all-too-brief stint as Fleetwood Mac’s frontman.
He’s one of Britain’s most revered guitarists. His brief time in Fleetwood Mac left us a wealth of brilliant blues, ballads and rock. Here Phil Capone reveals the secrets to Peter’s distinctive style.
Peter Green was the guitarist faced with the unenviable task of filling Eric Clapton’s shoes when he quit John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers to form Cream in 1966 (just in case any readers have recently emerged from a rather long spell in a cave!). Green was a total unknown at the time but, like Clapton, he too would leave after recording just one album, A Hard Road, in 1967. Bluesbreakers drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie also soon followed, providing the rhythm section for his exciting new project, Fleetwood Mac. Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (as this era of the band is generally referred to) reigned from 1967 to 1970 and recorded three studio albums. In addition to Green, Fleetwood and McVie, the core band members also included Jeremy Spencer (vocals, slide guitar, piano), and later Danny Kirwan (vocals, guitar). Fleetwood Mac provided a vehicle for Green’s virtuoso soloing, distinctive vocals, and songwriting style; this early incarnation of the band was a long way from the AOR multiplatinum selling group they would later become. Green quit in 1970 due to mental health issues triggered by an LSD experience while on tour in Europe. Freddie King and BB King heavily influenced Green’s style; both players were proficient Major key improvisers and this obviously inspired him to experiment with notes from outside the basic Minor Pentatonic. His solos frequently included notes from the Blues scale, Natural Minor (Aeolian), BB King ‘blues box’ (more on this later), and the Mixolydian mode. BB King praised Green when asked what he thought of the 60s British blues boom players, “He has the sweetest tone I’ve ever heard, he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats”. Green’s precocious talent certainly seemed at odds with his background and young age (Fleetwood Mac was formed when he was just 21); however, proposing that he might have traded his soul at the junction of the A406 and A40 doesn’t evoke the same folklore ‘cred’ as Robert Johnson’s alleged deal. Green was arguably the finest (certainly the most authentic) of the British blues boom players, which probably makes him the greatest blues guitarist ever to be born outside of the USA. Green’s trademark guitar certainly deserves a mention here: a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard sunburst. The neck pickup was modified (accidentally or otherwise) to achieve those iconic out-of-phase tones in the ‘both pickups on’ setting. The late Gary Moore (a lifelong fan of Peter’s) acquired the guitar from Green when he quit Fleetwood Mac and used it extensively throughout his own career. Moore sold the guitar in 2006 and it remained in the hands of private investors until Kirk Hammett purchased the guitar in 2014 (allegedly paying around $2 million for it). The following examples are designed to revive your playing with new and exciting sounds that the Minor Pentatonic alone can’t provide. It should also engender deeper appreciation for one of our greatest players, and inspire you to develop your musicality, as well as a deeper feeling for the blues.
GREEN’S SOLOS OFTEN USED NOTES FROM THE BLUES SCALE, THE NATURAL MINOR, THE BB KING ‘BLUES BOX’ AND THE MIXOLYDIAN MODE