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Play Like 1966-1970 Peter Green

January 30, 2014
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Peter Green , along with fellow countrymen Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor, shares the distinguished and esteemed honor of introducing scores of young American guitarists between 1965 and 1967 to their own country’s rich blues heritage via the nearholy trinity’s collective early recordings with English blues legend John Mayall. Brit-blues disciples, historians, and aficionados commonly refer to Mayall’s Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (a.k.a. the 1965 “Beano” album) as “the Bible,” but when taken in context with Green’s debut, 1966’s A Hard Road, it’s safe to say that both records stand as equally relevant and inspirational testaments.

Green was the heir to the throne vacated by E.C. He shared some highly coveted traits with Clapton, including killer tone and vibrato to die for, but Green’s playing with Mayall was slightly jazzier and often more controlled than his predecessor, though no less fiery. He went on to win the respect and admiration of fans and peers alike, inspiring players and bands from Clapton, B.B. King, and Carlos Santana to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and even Judas Priest.

Green left the Bluesbreakers in 1967 to form Fleetwood Mac, a completely different animal than the ’80s-to-present version of the band. The original Mac began as a strict blues band before delving into more progressive territories as Green and other band members expanded their songwriting to include other styles. This culminated in several UK hits and a truly unique third album, sadly the last by this lineup and Green’s last with the band.

Green’s legacy from this period resides in a handful of key studio recordings. The aforementioned A Hard Road (recently remastered and expanded to include all of Greeny’s work with Mayall) is the best place to start before moving on to the first three Fleetwood Mac albums: Fleetwood Mac (1968), Mr. Wonderful (also 1968 in the UK, but slightly altered and retitled English Rose in the US one year later), and the original lineup’s swan song, Then Play On (1970). Also noteworthy is the massive six-disc The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions, which includes the previously released Blues Jam in Chicago Vol. 1 & 2 sessions that paired the band with some of their Chess label heroes, including Otis Spann, Walter “Shakey” Horton, Buddy Guy, and Willie Dixon. Of course, you can find all kinds of official and unofficial live and studio material online or through traders and collectors, but these are the albums you’ll want to grow old with. Gather and listen to as many as you can, absorb the vibe, and get ready to dive in deep and discover how and why the history of two of British blues-rock’s most important bands is indelibly linked to a single, supernatural guitarist. But first, you’ve gotta...

1 GO GREEN

Between 1966 and 1970, Peter Green’s guitar and amp rig probably produced the smallest carbon footprint of any electric guitarist from that period. The list is as sparse as it gets, folks. All you’ll need is, ahem, one honey-burst 1959 Gibson Les Paul and a small assortment of period-correct Orange and Fender amps. (Some online Fleetwood Mac videos from this period show Green fronting a wall of Dual Showman Reverbs.) One famous “secret” ingredient to Green’s Fleetwood Mac-era sound was a neck-position PAF humbucker that was magnetically out-of-phase, with one bar magnet flipped in its north/south orientation relative to the other, a fact confirmed by the iconic Paul’s next owner, the late Gary Moore. Hear that guitar in action before this modification on key Hard Road cuts like “The Stumble” and especially “The Super-Natural,” which famously features Green’s early use of harmonic feedback and finger vibrato to sustain single notes for up to ten seconds.

2 FIND A MENTOR AND PAY IT FORWARD

When Green replaced Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, it was a match made in heaven. The band provided the perfect vehicle for the emerging Brit-blues star to flex his chops and hone his writing skills. Under Mayall’s wing, both Greeny and his successor turned many of us on to the blues guitar vernacular as established by Robert Johnson, the three Kings, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, et al. For instance, there’s little doubt that many of our own blues (and jazz) greats played stuff like the cool, trilled I-IV-I rhythm figure depicted in Ex. 1a long before Green did, but the first version I ever came across was P.G.’s interpretation. Owing as much to Grant Green and Kenny Burrell as Freddie and B.B. King, these now-standard key-of-C moves utilize minor-to-major (Ebto- E) oblique trills played beneath pedal Gs over the I chords in bars 1, 3, and 4. Lose the trill over the quick change to the IV chord (F7) in bar 2, and then check out how the single notes added both before and after the trilled and non-trilled third intervals further define the chord of the moment. The pickup to Ex. 1b’s IV-I run utilizes an oblique bend played under a stacked fourth interval to impart an aggressive, Hendrix-style C7#9 sound. (Tip: This also forms a useful Eb triad.) The same bend gets a grace-note release on the downbeat of bar 1, followed by a typical Greeny lick also highly exploited by his peers. Not typical of his English pals though, is the response phrase in bars 2 and 3, where Green takes a jazzy turn via an Eb to- D slur and T-Bone/B.B. King-approved chromatic minor thirds that nail the return to the I chord. The example wraps up with a C minor arpeggio raked into a descending root-b7-b3 triplet, and a final C stinger. Play both examples back to back and you’ve got two thirds of a 12-bar solo.

3 RIDE WITH A KING

Clapton had “Hideaway,” Mick Taylor had “Driving Sideways,” and, in the tradition of both his predecessor and successor, Green adopted a Freddie King shuffle as his signature showcase piece during his stint with the Bluesbreakers. The 16-bar form and start-on-the- IV chord progression of “The Stumble” set it apart from the others, but it does have one thing in common with “Hideaway”: a tricky, must-know series of sliding sixth intervals that soon became a required rite of passage. Don’t know it? Work your way through Ex. 2’s maze of descending sixths played over a I7-VI7-IIm7-V7 turnaround in E, and you will! (Tip: The opening motif repeats beginning on the and of beat four at the end of bar 1.)

4 DO THE SHAKE

Whenever you play a gracenote bend, or a melodic (i.e. rhythmic) bend, and then add finger vibrato to it, the human ear hears the bend up to the target note, and then perceives the vibrato as a quicker series of upward bends. Though it’s actually an illusion, vibrating a pre-bent note produces the opposite aural effect, as you’ll witness when you play and shake the Green-approved prebends in Examples 3a and 3b. Shaking a prebend this way can produce extremely emotive faux-slide and even pseudo-whammy effects. (Tip: Connect both examples and play ’em over any adjacent two bars in a 12-bar shuffle in C.) Ex. 3c presents a quarter-note-triplet- based, call-and-response run that also incorporates a grace bend, release, and pull-off. (Tip: This one will come in handy later.) Finally, Ex. 3d gives us a taste of what inspired Carlos Santana to cover Green’s original Fleetwood Mac version of “Black Magic Woman.” Try preceding it with a raked, fifteenth- position, whole-note Cm triad, or, for total authenticity, transpose both moves up a whole step to D minor.

5 THINK OUT OF THE BOX

As Green’s songwriting evolved, he began casting his solos in non-standard blues forms and progressions. Ex. 4a shows how Green adds an emphasized 9 (F#) to an otherwise E pentatonic minor line played over a soon-to-beextremely- popular descending Im-bVII-bVI progression (Em-D-C). On the other hand, Ex. 4b illustrates Green’s extraordinary sense of rhythm with a two-bar, IVm-to-Im run that works equally well over any chord in a slow, A-minor blues. Note the gradually released pre-bend in bar 1, and how both phrases start on the second eighth-note of beat two, and check out how smoothly Green navigates three connected A pentatonic minor “boxes” in bar 2.

6 PLAY MAC-NASTY

Though the Mac attack initially began as a two-guitar assault, the band soon added a third guitarist, Danny Kirwan, to their ranks. Along with Green, Kirwan became Mac’s other primary composer, and his tunes brought new degrees of light and shade to the band’s sound. “One Sunny Day,” a deep cut from English Rose, epitomizes the aggressive side of Kirwan’s writing as he and Green tear into the song’s snarling, low-register harmonies, paraphrased in Ex 5. Check out bar 1: Both guitars begin together on beat one, split into descending fourth, majorthird, major-second (!), and minor-third harmonies on beats two and three, and then converge back to unison on beat four. The only differences in bar 2 are the razoredged, open E5 and E chords played on the downbeat. (Tip: Transpose Ex. 3c up four frets to E and play it immediately following the repeat of bar 2, and then reprise two bars of Ex. 5. Do the same for the IV and V chords to complete a full 12-bar progression.) But remember, if you’re gonna play nasty, you’ve also gotta…

7 PLAY MAC-NICE

On the sweeter side, the Mac’s guitar harmonies bordered on angelic. Ex. 6a’s soul-soothing sounds, played with identical phrasing over a slow, repetitive E5-to-E6 shuffle figure (not notated), evoke a pair of dreamy slide guitars, while Ex. 6b continues the Hawaiian vibe with gently released and vibrated pre-bends over a lush F#m7-E6 progression. Enjoy the aloha moment.

8 BEWITCH THE BEATLES

Between their second and third albums, the mighty Mac began marching to a different drumbeat—literally. Songs like “Black Magic Woman” (famously covered by Santana) and “Albatross” (which reached #1 on the English charts) featured Mick Fleetwood’s mallet-heavy tom-tom rhythms that ranged from New Orleans rhumba to South Seas exotica, and attracted the attention of a certain Fab Four. It was George Harrison who in 1987 revealed to Musician that the instrumental track to John Lennon’s “Sun King” (from Abbey Road) began as the Beatles imitating Fleetwood Mac. “At the time, ‘Albatross’ was out, with all that reverb on the guitar,” recalled Harrison. “So we said ‘Let’s be Fleetwood Mac,’ just to get going. It never really sounded like ‘Albatross,’ but it was the point of origin.” One listen and play through the head of “Albatross” as transcribed in Ex. 7 confirms Harrison’s claim. From Mick Fleetwood’s whoosh-y cymbal swells, tribal mallet drumming, and the song’s lush A/E, Emaj7, F#m7, and E6 chord voicings to Green’s beautiful, reverbdrenched, low-register melody, both songs are definitely built from the same vibe. Very different though, is the deceptive rhythm motif of “Albatross,” which begins on beat four, and the song’s actual melody and form. Follow Ex. 7 with Examples 6a and 6b for the stuff dreams are made of.

9 MOTIVATE METAL MONGERS

Some of the material Green was writing near the end of his tenure with Fleetwood Mac can only be described as proto-metal. His powerchord riffing and thirds harmonies played over a pedal bass note in 1970’s “The Green Manalishi” (as exemplified in Examples 8a and 8b) motivated Judas Priest to cover the song more than a decade later. Ex. 8c shows another primal power-chord riff inspired by Green’s “Rattlesnake Shake,” which combines octave As with two major third double- stops, and was written about…well, you know the innuendo. (For a true hoot, go online and check out the grin on Green’s face as the mighty Mac performs the song on Playboy After Dark, ca. 1969. Priceless!)




10 ’LECTRIFY LED ZEPPELIN

If there’s one Fleetwood Macera Peter Green riff you’ve gotta know, it’s the one from “Oh Well” (from Then Play On). How come? There are few honors in the music biz greater than having one of your songs provide the inspiration for another classic-rock standard, so dig this: According to John Paul Jones, who penned Led Zeppelin’s immortal “Black Dog” riff, the song was intentionally modeled after Green’s “Oh Well.” Jones, in a recent feature in the UK publication Record Collector, cited the song’s lengthy, low-register riff and quirkily timed vocal breaks as chief motivational factors. Admittedly, Green’s riff, the studio version of which begins with the growling, low-register syncopations notated in Ex. 9a played on nylon-string acoustic (!), is much longer. This four-bar call-and-response figure— echoed by Green’s overdriven Les Paul on the repeat—features nearly identical passages in bars 1 and 3, the only difference being the B versus Bb in the middle of beat two’s triplet. The song continues with Green and Kirwan matching each other’s phrasing note-for-note in different octaves on the pair of riffs shown in the first two bars of Ex. 9b, before concluding with another “Black Dog”-ish move as Green shifts the meter to 5/4, prefacing his own “B.D.”-like vocal breaks. Depending on which version you reference, G&K either play this measure in octaves, as in bar 3, or in harmony, when Green would replace the lower octave part with the one shown in Ex. 9c. Rock on and keep shakin’ it!

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