The Terrifying and Lyrical Greatness of Peter Green

I thought I knew a ton about music when I moved to Boston and started working at long-vanished Music Center near Copley Square. Three of my fellow employees ran over me like a trio of trucks and convinced me within a couple weeks that I was just getting started on knowing what was what.

One, a sometimes-pro guitarist, got disgusted when I was throwing homage at Eric Clapton. “Peter Green is the greatest British blues guitarist — makes Clapton sound like the chowderhead he is.” (Words to that effect.) He pulled out a copy of this LP and told me to listen hard:

fleetwood-mac-greatest-hits

(Still the finest one-record selection and program of this phase of the band.)

It begins with “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Pronged Crown)”. I had never heard it. Spent the rest of the evening gibbering on the floor and scraping bits of my brains off the ceiling.

This number is not on any regular-release Fleetwood Mac album because it’s one of the very last things Green recorded before he flipped out and split from the band. He later said it was based on a “vision” he had of a green dog that he identified with his money troubles with the band. He added that the dog had been dead a long time and that he was also dead in the vision.

You listen to the lyrics, though, and it’s clear that this sprung from a full-blown hallucination triggered by Green’s looming schizophrenia. (The two-pronged crown is the dog’s ears, I will grant that.) But the horrible allure of the hellhound’s trail is all too present. The whole song is about not giving in to the creature.

The chiller climax is Green’s wails mixed in with his final guitar runs. (The only other Fleetwood Mac rendition I know is on the Boston Box set and the number is turned into a feature for McVie’s bass and Green skips his anguished vocal finale.)

Maybe these are supposed to be the monster animal’s howls. But what makes them frightening beyond belief is that, from what I know, they have the intonation and cadence of human madness. Green’s letting his all-consuming creature out of the doghouse.

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