Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Fleetwood Mac—
The Green Manalishi/World In Harmony


Released 1970 on Reprise
The Seth Man, July 2001ce
Is this really Fleetwood Mac, you ask?!!!
Yes: and it is undeniably the heaviest thing they ever recorded.
No showbiz blues here, no sir.

Fleetwood Mac had been touring and recording like crazy since their inception in the mid-late sixties and lead guitarist Peter Green had already acquired accolades all around for his accomplished blues playing. But what he finally achieved with “Green Manalishi” was to express his own, REAL blues as he sought to exorcise a seemingly life or death struggle that raged in his head regarding that which was at the root of it all: money. During this period Peter Green was at the top of his game, but probably feeling he had nowhere to go but down in the thick of fame spilling filthy lucre at his feet, paranoia and guilt (compounded by long nights of work and the intake of psychedelics) began to blossom and take hold in his head. His last name’s obvious slang connotation probably didn’t help matters, either.

This single was the last studio offering from the three-prong guitar-equipped lineup of Fleetwood Mac featuring Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan. It was to be unlike anything else they would ever record: past, present or future. It’s not only the furthest cry possible from any of Fleetwood Mac’s previous albums on Blue Horizon, but in a way, was probably the ‘deepest’ blues they ever recorded. It collected all the things that cause grief, the howl that throttles out of your throat and that howl itself as it directs upwards, seeking to expunge your soul. The blues at its very essence (itself a form not springing from the comforts of adhering stylistically to default genre modes, pre-sets or even audience expectations) was a slave holler; a black snake moan caused by all the shit that cannot be shaken, stirred or ignored; the ache in your heart or your brow knitting a fucking sweater in anticipation or confusion. The expression of pain and struggle of being born, of knowing your gonna die some day and probably never get what you need, let alone what you want.

And as we all know from reminders illustrated throughout the course of human show biz, sometimes getting exactly what you want can be a far worse situation than even not getting what you need. Like the “Twilight Zone” episode where a sleazy hustler finds himself in a supernatural situation with a mysterious man providing him with everything he desires: a flash apartment, booze and women at his beck and call and a ceaseless winning streak at gambling. It seems more than ideal at first, but after a while it starts to grate on his nerves, so he complains to Mr. Mystery Man, asking to be whisked away, because Heaven is just a LITTLE too ideal and it’s driving him crazy. Of course, Mr. M.M. turns out to be Satan (natch) and informs him that Heaven isn’t his current mailing address and never will be (Cue to dissolve with evil laughter). He’s been in Hell the whole time.

That episode always makes me shudder with dread -- about as much as “Green Manalishi.”

Opening with a weary but constant rhythm guitar and the crash of a resounding gong, “The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Prong Crown)” was written, sung and plain HOWLED by lead guitarist Peter Green as he helplessly tries to shake said coal-eyed hellhound off his trail. The spartanly struck chords which continue between the bombardments of three guitars blasting out simultaneously over drums beaten far more savagely than you’d think possible from Mick Fleetwood drive the thing down, down, down into the night. There are a multitude of breaks galore: sometimes Green strumming and casting his lyrics upwards, sometimes the whole band running roughshod in a 1970-proto metal style, and by the end Green is painfully baying his head off like some wounded animal. Oh, it’s insane to admit you love something that’s so full of pain but it rocks out so hard, makes you wanna raise a fist for Green in victory for he did triumph after all with a song that, no matter how nightmarish WAS a triumph over that which threatened to steal his soul.

The instrumental “World in Harmony” is a different mental landscape altogether. It operates as a calm and necessary balm to the A-side’s late night autumnal bawl as Green and Kirwan weave gentle guitar textures by a shady, mid-summer water’s edge, located somewhere between Fleetwood Mac’s similarly becalmed “Albatross” and Fleetwood Mac’s future Kirwan composition, “Dragonfly.” The mood is light, and plays peacefully upon the surface of an eddying brook until the buzzsawing background undertow in the multi-guitar middle bridge appears. The main theme of sunny-ness returns with circling molecules that recollect into the direction of the revolving sun, and all is harmonious and at peace once more.