Triple Played: ‘Black Magic Woman,’ Peter Green
“Got a black magic woman
“Got a black magic woman.
“Yes I got a black magic woman,
“Got me so blind I can’t see
“That she’s a black magic woman
“And she’s tryin to make a devil out of me.”
— From “Black Magic Woman” on Fleetwood Mac’s “Mr. Wonderful” was written by Peter Green and released in America in January 1969.
Most folks assume Carlos Santana wrote “Black Magic Woman.” Even though it was a huge hit for Santana in 1970, Fleetwood Mac released it as a single in England in 1968. Fleetwood Mac’s version of “Black Magic Woman” is a more haunting, intoxicating and darker version than Santana’s, reflecting the mindset of its author.
I have been listening to Santana and Fleetwood Mac with Green since 1969 and 1970 and they are two of my favorite guitarists.
If there has been a more misunderstood enigma in the history of rock ‘n’ roll than Green, I am not aware of him or her.
After a failed audition with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1965, Green joined the band in 1966 when Eric Clapton left. Green recorded one album, “A Hard Road,” with Mayall before leaving the band and essentially stealing Mick Fleetwood and John McVie in 1967 to form Fleetwood Mac.
During Green’s time with Fleetwood Mac the band released “Fleetwood Mac,” “Mr. Wonderful,” “Then Play On” and the two record set “Fleetwood Mac in Chicago” recorded at Chess studios in 1969 with Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, Otis Spann and other chess studio musicians.
The albums showcase Green’s incredibly smooth guitar playing and the influence of Elmore James, B.B. King, Freddie King and Robert Johnson.
About this time, according biographical information about Green at AllMusic.com and written by Mark Allen, “Green had been experimenting with acid and his behavior became increasingly irrational.” He disappeared for three days of drug abuse in Munich and then became very religious, going on stage in flowing robes with crucifixes, according to the bio.
He suggested to his band mates that they give their royalties to charity and threatened a postman trying to deliver a royalty check.
There are rumors that while Green was in America in 1969 he received some tainted acid (LSD) when he was on the West Coast and that is what caused his extremely odd behavior.
Green left Fleetwood Mac in 1970 when the band was experiencing its greatest success.
Then he released four albums in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s: “In the Skies,” “Little Dreamer,” “White Sky” and “Kolors.” All feature his amazing guitar playing. Then he disappeared until the mid-1990s.
Under the name of Peter Green’s Splinter Group the released five albums including “Blues for Dhyanna,” “Splinter Group” and “Reaching the Cold 100” proving again that although he may not be “all there” mentally, he can still play the guitar at the highest level.
This past week Eagle records released “Blues Don’t Change,” which possibly Green’s last recording.
Recorded in 2001 with the Splinter Group and previously available only at live shows, this CD features songs written by many of the blues artists who influenced Green. There are covers of songs by B.B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Freddie King, and the guitar playing is amazing.
“I can’t help about the shape I’m in
“I can’t sing, I ain’t 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,” from Fleetwood Mac’s “Then Play On,” was written by Peter Green and released in October 1969.