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Old 05-18-2008, 02:05 AM
michelej1 michelej1 is offline
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Default Article/Interview (February 20, 2003)

Birmingham Post


BYLINE: CHARLIE MELVIN Boys in the band: from left-right: Peter Stroud (bass), Roger Cotton (keyboards), Peter Green (guitar & harmonica), Nigel Watson (guitar), kneeling - Larry Tolfree (drums).

Thirty years ago, Peter Green was ranked alongside Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, but he became a sad casualty of the flower-power era, and there were fears he would never perform in public again. That's why the revered axeman's return to active service in the mid-nineties was nothing short of miraculous. Now he's taken to the road again with his Splinter Group, and celebrating the release of their new album.

The Peter Green Splinter Group are in the middle of a strenuous 24-date UK tour which comes to Chase Leisure Centre, Cannock tomorrow. 'And then we're off to Germany,' he chuckles. 'It's a lot of onenighters without a day off.'

The 56 year-old guitar legend is accompanied by Nigel Watson, the Splinter Group guitarist who is also the old friend who managed to persuade Peter back into making music once more.

'On this tour, we're doing two sets.' Watson explains. 'It's a two-hour show. For the first time ever, the opening half of the show is totally acoustic, Robert Johnson stuff and a bit more.

'Then after the break we plug in and go electric. The second set features Peter's old Fleetwood Mac classics, as well as Splinter Group numbers and a few songs from the new album, of course.'

With Green and 55 year-old Watson sharing lead guitar and vocal duties, Splinter Group's line-up is completed by Roger Cotton on Hammond organ, piano and rhythm guitar, Pete Stroud on bass, and former Joe Jackson drummer Larry Tolfree, in for the late Cozy Powell, who was killed in a car crash on the night of Sunday April 5 1998.

After last autumn's gruelling 31-date British outing, when the band shared headline billing with Green's old boss John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Splinter Group have been no strangers to the live scene. Last year's world tour also took in the USA, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, as well as festival dates in Europe and Scandinavia, while they also found time to knock out Blues Don't Change, an album of blues standards for sale at gigs and via their website.

The bit well and truly between their collective teeth, the band set about cutting their follow-up record, aiming to capture the spirit of Blues Don't Change, but using their own material. To coincide with their current tour, Eagle Records have just released The Peter Green Splinter Group's new album Reaching The Cold 100, produced by the band with tour manager Arthur Anderson. 'We weren't too long in the studio this time,' Watson comments. 'We haven't added horns or backing vocals.'

The songs on Reaching The Cold 100 are all penned by Nigel Watson, Roger Cotton and Pete Stroud, because, for now, Peter Green isn't ready to resume writing responsibilities.

'I dunno, I've got some kind of block,' he muses.

'A lot of the time, the inspiration is there, but you don't realise it, you know. You can fool around on your instruments and make up something, if I do those kinds of compositions, then I might move on to something more sentimental and atmospheric. I bought a keyboard the other day, maybe I'll do some funky notations and knock up a couple of instrumental-type songs.'

'He'll write one day, when he feels like it,' Watson argues. 'No-one's going to push him.'

The title Reaching The Cold 100 is taken from a line in Robert Johnson's Terraplane Blues. 'He's being chased by the highway patrolman, driving his V8 Hudson Terraplane at 100 miles an hour,' Watson says. 'It's nice to relate to things like that, it's quite an evocative name really. We nicked the album title Hot Food Powder, from Robert Johnson too, a couple of years ago.'

The new Splinter Group album comes complete with a bonus four-track EP, containing three old Fleetwood Mac favourites, along with It Takes Time by bluesman Otis Rush. 'We set up live in the studio, and recorded Black Magic Woman, Green Manalishi and Albatross,' Watson observes.

'It doesn't have the atmosphere of the stage, but we got quite a good definition out of it.'

Pianist Roger Cotton's laid-back Don't Walk Away gives Green the opportunity to employ his treasured Hofner classical guitar. 'They wanted to use a nylon-stringed guitar,' he says.

'I said, 'I've got one at home, if you like it, we can put it on'. Everyone liked it, so we went ahead and used it. The guitar is as light as a feather, and it wasn't very expensive. I think it's quite old.

'It's second hand, but it's hardly been used. I've taken it on tour before. I've become a collector, I've got about 80 guitars now, I don't play the Gibson Les Paul anymore, I didn't want to be nailed to the one guitar. I can do all that rock star stuff quite easily, but I think I'd better just concentrate on what's happening now.'

Peter Greenbaum (later reduced to Green) was born in London October 29 1946. 'My first guitar was a black steel-string Calypso Spanish acoustic, when I was very young,' he remembers.

Green played with the wonderfully named Bobby Denim & The Dominoes, followed by The Muskrats and The Tridents, before joining pianist Peter Bardens' Looners, where he met Mick Fleetwood, who was in the drum chair. The band evolved into Shotgun Express, with the addition of vocalists Rod Stewart and Beryl Marsden.

In July 1966, Green replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, finding himself playing alongside long-term bass guitarist John McVie, when they were soon joined by drummer Fleetwood. Leaving Mayall, the three musicians became Fleetwood Mac after enlisting slide-guitarist Jeremy Spencer from Lichfield's Levi Set Blues Band. Scoring with Black Magic Woman and Need Your Love So Bad, theband became a five-piece when they came across shy 18 year-old Brixton-born Danny Kirwan in August 1968. By this time, Fleetwood Mac were one of the biggest bands in the world, but while they were still basking in the success of Albatross, everything went horribly wrong. Touring in Europe the following year, Green and Kirwan were invited to a party held by the notorious Munich Jet Set. The two innocent Englishmen took a dodgy dose of the hallucinogenic drug LSD, causing them, quite literally, to freak out.

Green quit Fleetwood Mac on May 31, 1970, as Green Manalishi was climbing the charts, recording his low-key End Of The Game, before giving away his guitars, swearing to never touch an instrument again.

'I stopped playing altogether, I didn't bother at all,' he admits today.

Jeremy Spencer was the next to go absent, seduced by LA's Children Of God, and when Danny Kirwan's erratic behaviour could no longer be tolerated, he was finally fired in the summer of 1972, continuing the revolving door policy which has become such a mainstay of the Fleetwood Mac story. 'I thought their music was a bit strange at first,' Green comments. 'But Christine (McVie) came up with some good songs, and Rumours was fabulous.'

Meanwhile, Peter Green was living in seclusion in Richmond, Surrey, under medical supervision. 'I was totally out of it, I was on tablets,' he reveals.

'A gorgeous nurse used to come round and give me injections, and I'd wake up two weeks later. I don't even take an aspirin these days.'

But all was not lost. With the help of his good friend Nigel Watson, Green made a surprise appearance at the 1996 Frankfurt Music Fair, at the invitation of America's Gibson guitars. This initial outing, coupled with his celebrated comeback appearance at the third annual Alexis Korner Memorial concert from Buxton's Opera House in May that year, encouraged the reclusive guitarist to venture back into the studio to record the well-received Robert Johnson Songbook album.

'That was our first one, me and Peter,' Watson says.

'That was our first go at it. It was Peter's first time in the studio for a long while.'

Splinter Group went on to make their Midlands debut at the much missed Ronnie Scott's in Broad Street.

'They're nerve-wracking, those prestige places,' Green murmurs. 'We've moved on quite a bit since then, musically,' Watson declares emphatically.

'My mind's getting clearer,' Green states.

'I'm ready to do these new compositions. These guys are older, so it'll be all right. I try to only play the things that I like.

'I like playing just enough, but not too much. It's the discipline of controlling the power and the volume with the rest of the boys. I like blending in, so you can hear the other instruments clearly. That's why I can't wait until my name is taken off the heading of the group. It'll be so much easier.'

The Peter Green Splinter Group come to Chase Leisure Centre, Cannock on Friday February 21. 8pm. Tickets pounds 17.50. Box office 01543 504065. Reaching The Cold 100 is released by Eagle Records distributed by 3MV/Pinnacle.
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