Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Peter Green—
The End Of The Game


Released 1970 on Reprise
The Seth Man, December 2003ce
Within a month after finishing “The Green Manalishi” -- Peter Green’s swansong as guiding creative force behind the earliest version of Fleetwood Mac -- he departed the group to record with a rhythm section. What emerged was his first solo album, “The End Of The Game” and it was as much a departure from “The Green Manalishi” as that same track had been from the rest of Fleetwood Mac’s entire output. Through three tracks per side, Green pursued a far looser strand of improvisational rock comprised of wholly instrumental outings that were entirely un-bluesy, extemporaneous free rock borne on the wings of Green’s guitar with its expansive tone evoking the loosest of feels, often drenched with emotional wah-wah pedal use of hair triggered sensitivity. The rhythm section of Bluesbreaker and ex-Anysley Dunbar Retaliation bassist Alex Dmochowski and Geoffrey Maclean on percussion allow Green all the room to explore through distended lines of fragile but strongly poetic counterpoint as the addition of twin keyboardists Zoot Money (grand piano) and future Hot Tuna keyboardist Nick Buck (organ, electric piano) sporadically appear only to colour in a clutch of fine points which Green has left wide open as he is in a constant state of unhurried transit and always onto the next subtly-turned phrase...until bit by bit, the entire album has already commuted into the distance and into an end that always approaches far too soon, but always with an application to playing that is simultaneously expert and questing.

It’s a commonplace assumption that the “The End Of The Game” signaled on several levels not only a farewell by Green to the trappings of rock’n’roll stardom but a wholesale withdrawal from performing music altogether. But Green did continue recording directly after the completion of “The End Of The Game,” contributing session guitar in a quick succession to records by Memphis Slim, Country Joe McDonald and even Toe Fat (their second album -- not the one you and I bought and then consequently spent a weekend beating the floor with both head and hands at how an album with a cover so cool and grossed out could be such a full scale disappointment.) Not to mention two further solo singles on Reprise before 1972 came and passed -- roughly the period when Green’s retirement began, continuing for nearly the rest of the decade.

With that said, “The End Of The Game” WAS a farewell because it is unlike any of the varied blues formulisations that Green had already been playing to perfection for years. He redirected his musical expression into the nether reaches of live improvisation perched just on the inside of the jazz dividing line as well as hard free-rock. The tracks are all openly expansive like The Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star” albeit with a far simpler and stripped rhythm section content to keep things anchored down and not adverse to raising to the odd raving occasion when Green gets going and starts wah-wah-ing his heart out all over the place. And his deft production of all tracks is masterfully uncluttered and cleanly allows for the coordination between the five players to take centre stage.

The album rises up to a slow fade and into the raucous nine minute wah-wah led jam of “Bottoms Up.” As the title suggests, it’s carried along by a heavy bass line that sallies forth unswervingly to provide Green with a woody and thriving backdrop to begin the odyssey of successive circular wah-wah guitar configurations. Electric piano lines twinkle and fall like stars once Green lets up to recollect before another sweet and extensive wah-wah outpouring and the band is solidly back to stabilise Green’s ever-migrating wah-wah guitar textures. “Timeless Time” passes by silently like a gentle current under the land bridge that links the two jamming continents of side one together. The elongated “Descending Scale” opens with jumpy off-beats of piano clusters and busy though sensitively played drums like a send up of a jazzbo warm up until Green throws the whole discordant array into a high pitched wah-wah crescendo that reverberates into another unresolved conclusion that soon all but quietly slips away but for the accompanying half-erased instrumentation. The inside of a grand piano is soon plucked harp-like and even Green has dropped down to soothe out by playing around the reverbed silence just in time for another brief eruption out of the ether into a rush up to yet more extensive, frenzied accenting.

Side two begins with “Burnt Foot” and Dmochowski’s over-recorded, punctuation bass pummeling over the taking care of bizniz jazz drums that cascade all around Green’s riffing quietly traipsing in the background until it breaks down into a drum solo of sizzling cymbals with no drum skin spared from a multitude of lightning quick flourishes. Dmochowski’s bass returns to erratically shift gear into a gritty jam with Green’s churning wah-wah fanning out into a 359 degree arc of groove before its premature breakdown and subsequent fade. “Hidden Depth” opens with strategically played and watery-echoed wah-wah, with the returning piano and organ choppy in the intro and then straightening out with interplaying tones as emotions and riffs that suggest the breaking of a new dawn. Nick Buck’s organ colourations take on the same role of melancholy as Rick Wright’s from “Mudmen” or Tom Constanten’s emerging springtime renewal in “Quadlibet For Tenderfeet” off side one of “Anthem Of The Sun.” And all the while, Green’s restrained guitar of reversed pick-ups rings out truly unheard of tones with a natural delight for spaciousness and innuendo. All is peaceful until broken by a quick cut into the screeching wah-wah opening of the title track, ”The End Of The Game” which closes the album aggressively hectic and free form -- loosely strung together not by rhythms but phrasing and a requited, unspoken understanding between the players, who slow it down towards the end as Green embarks on an elegiac phrase that speaks more than any words. Green perversely cuts out directly on a final guitar tremble midway in the act of fulfillment.