This is the album that changed my life and the way I thought about music. It is also the inspiration for the title of my website endofthegame.net. So now you know. Peter Green was a blues guitarist who had a very interesting history: in the 60s when Eric Clapton had cemented his guitar skills with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Peter Green would occasionally watch them perform, hoping to score a chance to share the stage with Clapton. During one of their gigs Clapton hadn’t showed up and so Green asked if he could cover for him, insisting that he knew all the songs. John Mayall reluctantly let him on stage but was very impressed with the young guitarist’s abilities. After Clapton left the group to form Cream, John Mayall immediately called up Peter Green and gave him a spot in the band, which resulted in the album Hard Road.
That album contained many highlights, such as ‘The Stumble’, which was a nod to Clapton’s cover of Freddie King’s ‘Hideaway’ (arguably Clapton’s finest playing to date). Despite the high standard set by Eric, Peter Green’s attempt at this style of blues in many ways trumps Clapton. Another great song on the album was ‘The Supernatural’, which not only demonstrated Peter Green’s unique approach to blues guitar, but also his electrifying reverb soaked tone and his out of this world vibrato, which he could sustain for ungodly lengths of time! ‘The Supernatural’ hinted at the dormant fire within Peter Green that was to be eventually unleashed on the recording of ‘The End of the Game’.
After recording ‘A Hard Road’, Peter Green also left John Mayall’s band to start his own: Fleetwood Mac. No this wasn’t the Fleetwood Mac that you’re thinking of, this was Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, and it was originally a blues rock band. Fans started calling Peter Green ‘the Green God’, as a tribute to Clapton being called ‘God’ before him. However, he eventually bombed out on acid and developed schizophrenia, much like what happened to Syd Barret of Pink Floyd. Under the spell of LSD unlocked psychosis Peter Green had enough of the music ‘game’ and made one last album before he hung his guitar up.
Green got together with a few random jazz musicians (they were recording their own album in the studio) and jammed with them for about an hour. All in one improvised take. The result was ‘End of the Game’ – 6 instrumental portions of that jam. Contained in these 6 tracks is pure black magic; the rhythm section thunders through the music with the power of a tank, while Green summons a fiery, almost primitive sounding guitar mosaic.
In ‘Bottoms Up’, Green effortlessly utilises the wah pedal in one of the finest examples of how it should be used: with tight precision and raw, animal aggression at the same time. His guitar snarls like the leopard on the cover art, but never comes across as ‘angry’ or unfocused. The backdrop for this incredible music is a delicate, but driving jazz drumbeat, and a roaming free-form bass line. The song constantly builds momentum, but then its crescendo is momentarily subdued before exploding again into yet another wild jungle-fever of improvisation. It is unflinchingly primal.
‘Timeless Time’ stands in total contrast with a complete absence of any bass guitar (which was a very prominent texture in the previous track) and only the occasional brush of the drumkit. Green sustains the silence with melancholy guitar lines that weep of sadness. It is the inevitable come down of the frantic high that was ‘Bottoms Up’.
‘Descending Scale’ introduces keyboard into the mix and again all musicians make amazing use of dynamics by playing with both silence and spiralling crescendos. On this track the musicians, Green in particular, spin an almost hallucinatory web. It reminds me a lot of the Grateful Dead’s ‘meltdowns’ in their ‘Dark Star’ performances and definitely has a vibe of madness to it; you can really hear the weight of schizophrenia on Peter Green’s shoulders here, especially when he uses the wah pedal to make his guitar cry like a wounded animal. The music speaks volumes of the chaos and pain spinning inside him.
‘Burnt Foot’ is very primal and consists of three parts that occur in rapid succession: a hypnotic introduction where the guitar, bass and drums play a repeating pattern, followed by a tight drum solo, and concluded by Peter Green’s interjecting a funky guitar rhythm and the bassist following with a high-octane bass line.
‘Hidden Depth’ again adds keyboard to the palette and uses it to create a dreamy soundscape for Peter Green to pour out his soulful blues licks.
The album ends with ‘The End of the Game’, which echoes the frenzied guitar, drum, and bass interplay of ‘Bottoms Up’, but without more bite and less funk. The song cools off and enters another dreamy reverie before fading into silence.
If Miles Davis had’ve heard ‘The End of the Game’ before recording ‘Bitches Brew’ I’m sure he would’ve wanted Peter Green over John McLaughlin for his new ‘jazz fusion’ sound. The music is wild and exciting; it sparks with an untamed creativity and is unlike anything before it. End of the Game is not to be missed, and it should certainly be required listening for anyone with a passion for blues music or electric guitar. Unfortunately this album never gained more than an underground cult following, as most people seemed to forget all about Peter Green after he left Fleetwood Mac; however, the relative obscurity of this album only makes it even more precious.
* * * * * 5 stars
- Bottoms Up – 9:06
- Timeless Time – 2:37
- Descending Scale – 8:18
- Burnt Foot – 5:16
- Hidden Depth – 4:55
- The End of the Game – 5:09