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Old 08-08-2020, 01:46 AM
michelej1 michelej1 is offline
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Default September 8, 1998 Interview San Diego Union Tribune

Mac founder Green on the road again

By GEORGE VARGA, San Diego Union-Tribune, Sept. 9, 1998

Rock fans know him best as the founder and former head of Fleetwood Mac, which he formed in England in 1967 and led until early 1970. During that time, he wrote and sang such classics as "Oh Well," "Man of the World" and "Black Magic Woman," which soon became a worldwide hit for Santana.

But Peter Green also has the distinction of being one of rock music's most famous and tragic near-casualties, a man who teetered precariously on the abyss of drug-fueled doom and survived, if just barely, to tell the tale.

"I've come a long way since that time," Green, 51, said from London. He is touring the United States for the first time in 27 years as a member of the Splinter Group, with which he will perform Friday night at San Diego Street Scene '98 in the Gaslamp Quarter.

"I'm a little older. When I look back on Fleetwood Mac, there are things I would have done differently. I used to drink a little. There's nothing that's different, but the boys I'm with now (in the Splinter Group) are quite a bit older. They feel safer in some way; they are married and more straight."
Green, too, is older and, thankfully, more straight. A gentle if battered soul, he has spent much of the past 28 years battling various demons and shuttling in and out of psychiatric hospitals. He often received electroshock therapy and was treated with powerful drugs, some nearly as debilitating as the hallucinogenics he took at the height of his rock stardom.

Green, who was born Peter Greenbaum, rejected that stardom in 1970. He began to give away his record royalties and guitars, beginning a downward spiral that saw him working as a grave digger at one point, then virtually indigent. He also spent time in prison.

He recorded sporadically, followed by long bouts of inactivity, before abandoning music altogether in the 1980s. He re-emerged last year as a member of the Splinter Group, whose guitarist, Nigel Watson, has helped Green to find his way back to something approaching clarity.

"When Peter was still in Fleetwood Mac, he was crying out for help in his songs, like the lyrics to 'Man of the World,' but we didn't hear him," drummer Mick Fleetwood recalled in a previously unpublished excerpt from a Union-Tribune interview last year. "I only wish we had."

Speaking by phone from London, Green sounded alternately cogent and confused, and his conversation was punctuated by long pauses and self-contradictions. His memory was vague on some matters, lucid on others, such as when he recalled sort of a 1971 show with Fleetwood Mac at New York's Fillmore East.

"Was that with Christine Perfect (now Christine McVie)? Was Nigel with us playing congas? It wasn't the one where I laid there by the curtains, and someone threw a rose on me, while I was on LSD with the Grateful Dead?" Green said.

Asked if he is having more fun playing with the Splinter Group, with which he has released two albums in the past two years, he replied: "Yeah, for maybe the first time. The other times I was a bit in a shadow, in the dark too much. But I've been putting time in and it's paying off.

"What do I think accounts for that? Um, I don't know. . . . When everybody helps you for a long time, you soar to a higher place."

Three years ago Green decided he'd had enough shock treatment, and began to rehabilitate himself, with help from Watson and other friends. Does music have more meaning for him, now that his nightmarish ordeal is receding?
"I don't know if it means more," Green said. "Music probably used to mean more when I was a little kid... Rock 'n' roll can really make you jump and shout for a long time . . . and then there's the blues, and then there's the study of music.

"I tried to get by studying the mathematics of it, knowingly, by having my guitar as only a pleasure vehicle, only playing it for pleasure, never for work. That's why I thought I might have something that would appeal to people. Now I'm studying what I call the mathematics."

Green's new album with the Splinter Group, "The Robert Johnson Songbook," is a disappointing tribute to the blues legend that lacks fire and focus. Did he deliberately make Johnson's brooding, often harrowing songs sound light and almost jaunty?

"No," Green replied. "It might mean more than one thing, personally. You can take different meanings out of it. If there's darkness (in a song), it might mean something (else). I always see if there are any personal messages to me."

Green made it clear he has no desire to reunite with his former Fleetwood Mac band mates, saying: "I'd like to move on from that group, and try different ones. That's why I think I left Fleetwood Mac to see what I could find."

Given his often traumatic life, did he have any advice to help someone avoid the pitfalls he encountered?

"No," said Green. "I think I'd let them make their own mistakes."
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