Was Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green an Acid Casualty?

Peter Green

The passing of Peter Green at 73 on July 25 reminded me of other troubled rock stars who never quite fulfiled their promise, such as Syd Barrett, Brian Jones, Roky Erickson and Daniel Johnston.

Green replaced Eric Clapton as the guitarist with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in 1966. He met drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie in the band. By 1967, they splintered off to form Fleetwood Mac.

Green was the UK blues-rock band's star - singer songwriter and guitar player. They started to have hits in the U.K. and one "Oh Well" (watch below) crossed over to No. 55 on the U.S. charts. It was the first of many hits for Fleetwood Mac. 

Mostly an instrumental, "Oh Well" has few lyrics but they are telling:

Can't help about the shape I'm in
I can't sing, I aint pretty and my legs are thin
But don't ask me what I think of you
I might not give the answer that you want me to

Oh well

Now when I talk to God
I know he understand
He said "stick by me and I'll be your guiding hand"
But don't ask me what I think of you
I might not give the answer that you want me to

Oh well

"Oh Well" may well have been Green's peak with the band - it makes a statement, has a firece guitar break and is done in less than three minutes.

Another Green highlight, "Black Magic Woman," was a No. 4 hit for Santana in the U.S. in 1970, two years after its release by Fleetwood Mac as a British single.

Green wasn't long for Fleetwood Mac. He departed the band in 1970, just as they were on the rise, touring the U.S., playing shows with Grateful Dead and Santana. But, according to band members, it was Green's use of LSD that hastened his decision to leave the group after less than three years. It's documented in Steve Graham's Peter Green: Man of the World and Peter Green: The Authorized Biography.

All wasn't quite well during the band's climb to fame. Green was erratic and uninterested in success, giving away most of his money to charities. Fleetwood, McVie and guitarist Jeremy Spencer all dish on Green in the movie. They esentially say he went off the rails after tripping in San Francisco and being befriended by the acid-rock bands. Green mostly shrugs that off in interviews.

The band members and managers spend quite a bit of time talking about a "hippie commune" or "cult" in Munich where Green jammed with other musicians while on LSD. His days in Fleetwood Mac were numbered, they say, after Munich.

"Green sadly deteriorated soon after," writes the Grammy website. "He took profuse amounts of LSD, wore robes and a crucifix and thoughtlessly gave away his money. After an infamous acid party in Munich, he never really came down." (Green never won a Grammy.)

He released seven solo albums from 1970-1984, then nothing until he made a comeback with his Peter Green Splinter Group and issued nine more albuns from 1997-2003, including The Robert Johnson Songbook (listen to "Love in Vain" below).

Fleetwood Mac, of course, would go on to become one of the biggest bands in rock with the addition of Stevie Nicks, Lindsay Buckingham and Christine McVie and the huge success of Rumours in 1977.

Green was meanwhile diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, given electroconvulsive therapy and drugged and arrested at various times during his life.

In 1988 Green said: "I'm at present recuperating from treatment for taking drugs. It was drugs that influenced me a lot. I took more than I intended to. I took LSD eight or nine times. The effect of that stuff lasts so long... I wanted to give away all my money... I went kind of holy – no, not holy, religious. I thought I could do it, I thought I was all right on drugs. My failing!"

Peter Alan Greenbaum lived with his British family until he died of natural causes. He's survived by his daughter Rosebud.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.