“True fact. For most of the 1980s, the Beatles pretty much always lost those Beatles vs Stones arguments (unless you were hanging out with idiots). Not that the ’80s Stones were up to anything new that was particularly necessary, just that their older stuff had the sort of teeth the times required. Though Yer Blues from the so-called White Album, also excelled in that regard — a blues as voracious as anything the Stones ever put to vinyl, or any other pale skinned band for that matter. As much a send-up of the whole idea of white guys churning out authentic black music as it was a genuine howl from the soul of a guy who really was so lonely he wanted to die, it still conjures chills and wins arguments. Because it’s true, the Stones may have been a better blues outfit but Beatles had the best actual song.” (Philip Random)
Wherein Peter Green, main guitar man for the early Fleetwood Mac, lays down a blueprint for a blues rock that aims to move so far beyond the bounds of either blues or rock that a new name will probably be required – something that contains the fierce grit of the Mississippi Delta circa 1930, waters rising, levees about to overflow, and also the majestic sweep of a Ennio Morricone Spaghetti western soundtrack – that scene where the cold eyed killer looks into the mirror and sees something monstrous looking back. Which sadly, is what happened to Peter Green, sort of. He got swallowed by the monster – the Green Manalishi he called it in another song. Some say it was just money, greed. Others that it was the devil himself. Either way, Mr. Green disappeared down his own nasty psychedelic wormhole, went mad for a while, got lost. As for Fleetwood Mac, they did what any proper blues outfit would do. They played on.
“I hear a Them track and I honestly can’t hear much difference from what the Rolling Stones were up to at the same time. Mid-60s, putting serious electricity to the blues, kicking great and necessary holes in the reality barrier. The weird part is that it’s Van Morrison doing the howling, offering nothing short of everything, which is clearly not enough. Some things never change.” (Philip Random)
“Derek and the Dominoes‘ only studio album was a 1970 release, but it didn’t cross my teeny bop consciousness until summer 1972 when they finally got around to releasing Layla as a radio single. Which led to my friend Malcolm getting the album, which mostly went way over our heads – all that loose jamming (and the drugging behind it) being more for the older kids. But I’d eventually come back around to it maybe twenty-five years later, particularly stuff like Key To The Highway where misters Eric Clapton (already well into a heroin addiction), Greg Allman (due for a fatal motorcycle accident), Jim Gordon (fated to go mad and murder his mother) and essential others sort of lay back and go long, delivering the news of what is to be genuinely free (you’ve got the key, you’ve got a vehicle, you’ve got an open road – what more could want?) for almost ten minutes anyway.” (Philip Random)
The melody’s nice here but it’s more the overall smooth, mournful mood that sets Albatross free. But, of course, the early Fleetwood Mac being a blues band, it’s not really that kind of Albatross, is it? It’s the kind that you carry as a curse, hung around your neck, weighing you down, reminding you and all the world that you blew it, you killed a beautiful thing for no damned reason. Which is sort of what happened to Peter Green, the man who wrote it, his career pretty much over within the year, psychedelic drugs and mental illness finding each other in yet another implosion of tortured genius.
Some have called 1971’s Endless Boogie a failed experiment, but they’re wrong. Even if main man John Lee Hooker was just hanging around for much of it, letting the mostly white boys do the work (Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Steve Miller, Gino Scaggs among others), it matters big time that he was there, bearing witness, leaning in every now and then to mumble something perhaps relevant to the temperature of the groove in question. Or maybe he really was just looking at the stove, pots full of weird potions bubbling over, setting the atmosphere itself alight.
The Fleetwood Mac story is long and confusing if nothing else. We all know the stuff that made them mega-rich and cocaine famous, but there’s an entire decade that precedes all that, and deep it goes, often with completely different singers and players working entirely different worlds and angles. Except the rhythm section, Mr. Fleetwood and Mr. Mac. You might even say the original line-up isn’t just the best Mac, they’re one of the best damned bands EVER, with guitarist Peter Green spearheading things, taking the old school blues, amplifying and psychedelicizing them, giving us stuff that barreled along neck and neck with what guys like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page were doing at the time. 1969’s Then Play On is the key album, capturing not just the breadth Mr. Green’s genius, but also hints of the psychosis that would soon tear him apart. Beautiful and gone, lost to ozone whilst Searching for Madge.
“I don’t know why I even put this record on in the first place. I guess I was bored. A friend’s album, plucked more or less randomly from a pile in the mid-1980s sometime. A song title like Good Time Boogie, an album title like Jazz Blues Fusion, John Mayall in general – I was not remotely into this kind of stuff. I guess I could plead alcohol, but I didn’t drink much in those days. It just had to happen, I guess. And it was good. Music that was both grounded in tradition and set loose to explore. And what a groove! Exactly what my soul needed.” (Philip Random)
“I probably heard Roy Harper at the time, Highway Blues jangling away on one of the cool FM radio stations that I was just starting to really explore in 1973. So much of that sort of long haired cosmic truth telling at the time. But it would be the 1980s before I really discovered Lifemask, going through my mid-decade retro-phase (that’s never really ended, it’s true). It was Mr. Harper’s voice that hooked me, the loose, confident freedom of it. Whatever he was on about, you were glad he was getting it out, making sense at least to himself out on that lonely highway.” (Philip Random)