Behind Peter Green's Not-So-Shocking Exit from Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green in 1969. John McVie is in the background
Photo Credit
Michael Putland/Getty Images

On April 11, 1970, Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green made an announcement in New Musical Express: he was leaving his band.

Although Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac featuring Jeremy Spencer may have had a slightly unwieldy name when they first started out, once they shortened it to just plain ol’ Fleetwood Mac, they quickly found success. Among their hit singles: “Black Magic Woman” (later to become a much bigger hit when covered by Santana), “Albatross,” “Oh Well,” “Man of the World,” and “The Green Manalishi (with the Two Prong Crown),” with “Oh Well” and “Man of the World” both hitting No. 2 in the U.K. and “Albatross” actually topping the country's singles chart.

READ MORE: Fleetwood Mac's First Hit Served Them "Well"

Unfortunately, Green didn’t handle the band’s success terribly well. In fact, it would be fair to say that he just handled it terribly.

Taking large doses of LSD on an all-too-regular basis, Green grew a beard, started wearing robes and a crucifix, and was starting to get a little freaked out about the amount of money that the band was earning, recommending to his bandmate Mick Fleetwood that they should give it away. (Fleetwood has said that he responded to Green, “Well, you can do it, I don’t wanna do that, and that doesn’t make me a bad person.”) After attending a party at a commune in Munich, Germany in late March 1970, Green refused to leave the commune, and it took Fleetwood and two of the Mac’s roadies to retrieve him.

Given these changes in Green, his announcement of his imminent departure from Fleetwood Mac was somewhat less surprising than it might otherwise have been.

In the NME interview, Green cited his predominant reason for leaving as a desire for change, explaining, “I want to change my whole life, really, because I don’t want to be at all a part of the conditioned world and as much as possible I am getting out of it.”

He had another complaint on deck as well: the change in the musical dynamic within the band.

“I was cut down by being a third of the group’s front line,” said Green. “That was quite fun when it started, but after a while I felt I couldn’t get into anything because after a couple of numbers I would have to step back to let the others have their chance. I want to get 100 percent into music. I want to do lots of jamming with different groups and musicians.”

That plan didn’t come to fruition as well as Green might have intended, unfortunately: aside from a few moments here and there, including appearances on Pete Bardens’ solo album The Answer, the jam album The End of the Game, and a few other moments of note here and there, Green’s life was mostly overwhelmed by his drug use and his mental illness, which would soon come to be diagnosed as schizophrenia.

Post-diagnosis, Green eventually managed to make somewhat of a comeback, thankfully, returning to music and eventually starting the Peter Green Splinter Group, a musical entity which released several albums during the 1990s and early 2000s, but perhaps his most high-profile collaboration of his later career came in 2002, when he contributed to Peter Gabriel’s Up album. Alas, Green died in 2020 at the age of 73, but when he did, he was remembered just as one might reasonably expect: as a founding member of Fleetwood Mac.

READ MORE: Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac Co-Founder, Dead at 73

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