Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Green Manalishi and the Madcap Laughs

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Two of my favorite performers from the sixties just sort of went nuts on LSD and became tramps. Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd, and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac. Both had a seminal influence on the bands they helped create, but the bands went on to astronomical success, leaving them behind in an LSD haze.

Syd Barrett is the more famous; the creative force behind early Pink Floyd, his influence remained long after he left the band. The album Wish You Were Here is largely based on his collision with the music industry and subsequent self-imposed exile; Dark Side of the Moon's famous ending references him as well. Piper at the Gates of Dawn remains one of my favorite albums, with its whimsical fantasy-inspired songs such as "The Gnome" and amazing journeys like "Astronomy Domine." Reminds me, I still don't have it on vinyl. For shame. Syd was the epitome of the self-destructive creative genius, minus the darkness and angst; he experimented with psychedelic drugs so much that he couldn't perform in the band- sometimes strumming one chord all through a concert, detuning his guitar- which amused the audience but annoyed his bandmates. Not to defend this behavior, either, but he seems less of a douche than let's say, Jim Morrison. He put out two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, which don't have the cohesion of his work with Floyd. Syd died of pancreatic cancer in 2006. Rest in Peace, little gnome.

Peter Green
began as a fill-in for Clapton in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and then went on to create his own band, originally Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. Some of his best-known songs have been covered by others, such as "Black Magic Woman," made famous by Santana. I prefer the original, as the drums are amazing and the song has more of a blues feel. The other song, which made me realize Peter Green's tragic fall, is "The Green Manalishi (with the Two Prong Crown)." Much has been said over what the song is really about, but it is the consummation of an acid trip that Peter says he took "and never came back." He had visions of a devil cradling a Biafran child, and wanted to devote the band's profits to ending starvation.
Now as anybody knows, that's crazy hippie talk. When the band argued with him- and really, I don't blame them- he walked out and led a "tramp like existence" for years. The Green Manalishi was meant to symbolize money and the Devil, and after the song's immense popularity, it became a name for a kind of acid, and now there's even a brand of Absinthe named after it. Judas Priest covered the song and gave it new life, but the original is dark and engrossing as well.

Here is the Judas Priest version from Unleashed in the East, an album heralded as one of the "loudest ever recorded." I guess they pumped it up to 11. Peter Green had several solo projects and still plays occasionally, but says his meds make it hard to concentrate.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, now, see what you did? You made me like Pink Floyd a little. :-)

    I had no idead Green Manilishi was a Fleetwood Mac song. I'll have to look for it on Blip.fm tonight.


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