Peter Green was a Man of the World. He was the Green Man-(alishi) who manipulated the blues into something more ethereal, something that exposed the dark crossroads underbelly of the sex, death and betrayal driven genre that has drawn in so many to its A E and D musical triad. Green was a genius whose tone-driven blues infused vaudeville jazz, mystical and shimmering, with a dark sexual edge, and a deep self hatred (“I wish I had never been born!” pleads Peter desperately, in Man of the World). Peter isn’t quite blues….he is more a shade of deepest verdant fertile green, creating sound and fury, sadness and longing in the crystal ringing tones, he wrung from his Les Paul.
Of course the sensitive and artistic are easy meat for predators and manipulators, for bad drug experiences that throw those doors of perception so wide open, they swing shut behind them, and cut off those green shoots at the root. I can’t help but feel as if the primal force of the Green Manalishi is inextricably woven together with the legend of the Green Man, the ancient form of the God of Life and Death, spring and vegetation, the Osiris and the Pan of old. The Green Man(alishi) is being summoned in the very frequencies and poetry of the song.
The Green Man has been with human beings since antiquity, and various forms of this ancient God in literature from Bombadil in Lord of the Rings, to Robin Hood, master thief of the forest, to Sir Gawain’s Green Knight, of Anglo Saxon literature, have fascinated and entertained humanity for generations.
These stories are born of the various incarnations of Green Man Gods, from green faced Osiris, the Ancient Egyptian God of vegetation, agriculture, fertility, the Dead and resurrection, to the forest living satyr-like trickster Pan. In fact one of the earliest depictions of a Green Man God is in a second century CE carving on an ancient building in Hatra, (which is now geopolitically located northern Iraq, but used to be an important border town servicing both the Roman and Parthian empires). The carving shows a male face with a foliate head, partially exuding leaves from his nose and from his facial folicles instead of hair. This is a leaf bearded and vegetation haired God, a single tendril escapes from his eye: The Green man, disgorges, sucks blood to spew forth greenness, and sprouts new spring shoots from his ethereal body.
Green and his partner in guitar sorcery, the kid wonder, Danny Kirwan dipped into a strange cult scene in Germany, some occult jet set acid heads in the Black Forest. The excellent “Route” mini documentary on the “German incident” details an acid trip gone wrong, with Peter and Danny being tied into a symbiotic physical mutual trip, mirroring each other’s spasms in the back of a car that was whisking them away fro danger back to the hotel.
The scene at the mansion in Germany with psychedelics, music being played that sounded ‘evil’ according to the witnesses, seemed to mark the beginning of the end for Peter’s sanity, and Kirwan’s for that matter. Neither really came back from that trip. Kirwan started drinking heavily, leading to his smashing of the Black Beauty vintage Les Paul into a mirror, and being thrown out of the band, but not before Peter Green simply drifted away, left the band and became a somewhat oddball reclusive figure. He was never the summoner of the Green Manalishi with the two pronged crown, truly again. The two pronged crown of the Green Man, those duelling guitars, the twin horns of Pan, encircled with foilage, the ‘darkness cooks’ up some seriously disturbing sounds, Peter and Danny weaving some black magic woman threat and jousting, the sound closing in, in ever decreasing circles that wind around the necks of their Les Paul’s. The Green Manalishi, might be the most disturbing song in rock and roll history. Sure, metal bands enjoy their horror show lyrics, but the sinister occult edge to the song sounds like a devotion or a summoning, the echo obtained by recording in an underground car park, sending the threat and claustrophobia, the subterranean love-sick blues, into another realm: the domain of the Green Man(alishi).
Who knows what went on in the basement of that German mansion. An occult cult that preyed on the rich? An lsd experiment gone wrong? The Green Man god come to take his toll, making Peter “do things (he) don’t wanna do” as he sings in the Green Manalishi. The ‘bustin’ into Peter’s dreams, the supernatural loss of free will – seeing and doing being forced to look at the dark scenes that terrify and oppress, dragging the epic heroes with their modern poet’s lyres – their electric guitars, into a world where seeing and doing, and following is demanded not requested. Yet it is somehow the sound not the lyrics that invoke the powerful Green Man.
There is something dark, almost evil and threatening, suspenseful and dangerous within the soaring and squealing guitars, a tone, a frequency more devastating than any metal machine music: nature against the machine. I would rather listen to Lou’s Metal Machine noize, than Fleetwood Mac’s Green Manalishi. The echo on the line, “drive me mad!” drags us into the underworld with Peter and Danny’s guitars, the rest of the band under water, stuck the other side of the veil in a tidal wave of reverb.
As the guitars build and intertwine, Peter warning that his trying is almost ‘up’ – that he is weakening, and that the Green Man(alishi) is bringing him down, a demonic distant howling and pleading drowning beneath the guitars, distorted and pleading, then rising to an acceptance and a joyous outpouring of joining with the Green Man, as they fade down into a tunnel of sound, and away to where ever they are being taken by the Pied Piper of song, the Green Man Himself, holding life in one hand, and death in the other, in an eternal cycle of death and rebirth.
Genius, I suppose, has its price. Peter Green becoming the avatar for the Green Man(alishi) with the two pronged crown, wooed and chased, and reasserting that ancient sound into the minds and souls of those that listen is somehow less sad than simply accepting the devastating mundane reality of the situation: that Peter and Danny fell prey to an acid trip within a bad cultish scene, and it destroyed Danny (who never played guitar again professionally after he left Fleetwood Mac and spent many years homeless in London), and partially destroyed the magnificent Peter Green, the Guitar God of Tone with his two pronged crown.
Peter Green was a guitarist of huge skill, as was the boy wonder, Danny Kirwan, who was only 15 when he was discovered by Peter and joined Fleetwood Mac, and was not emotionally equipped for the demands of the band, or life on the road as part of it, however sublime his playing. The stories they both told, alongside the framework of Fleetwood Mac, whose skill as a band provided the bones for Peter and Danny to experiment and fly, are part of the modern legend writing, the new bard tradition. The Green Manalishi, takes its epic place amongst the literary lexicon of the Green Man, and updates the dark and fertile legend. I wonder who is next to take the old Green Man on?
Not me….Perhaps Peter lulled him to sleep forever with his dark devoted lullaby…or perhaps he is just shaking off the sleep of winter to rise again.