Peter Green & The Splinter Group 3rd US Tour

Australian Interview With Peter Green

HEADLINE: Fleetwood's axeman returns

BYLINE: Iain Shedden

IT all went horribly wrong for Peter Green in 1969.

At that point he was one of the most respected guitarists in the world, revered by the likes of Eric Clapton and B.B. King for his original blues style.

His band, Fleetwood Mac, had had a string of hits such as Albatross, Man of the World and Need Your Love So Bad. He was young, wealthy and famous.

The London-born guitarist's downfall was the drug LSD. Green became one of many acid casualties of the '60s, in the process renouncing his fame and fortune, giving most of his money away and urging other band members to do the same.

It was the beginning of a 26-year career hiatus. After quitting the group in 1970, he spent many years in psychiatric care -- often receiving intensive drug treatment or electrotherapy. When not in hospitals, he lived with his mother, where watching television was the extent of his association with the world of entertainment.

"A mouse had a better time than I was having," is one of his more colourful recollections of his lost years.

Since 1995, however, Green has been back playing guitar with his band the Splinter Group, and while by no means enjoying the level of success he once had, he is able to show audiences once again just why he is rated so highly.

The band has released seven albums in as many years, with music that combines blues, rhythm'n'blues and rock.

Fellow band member Nigel Watson describes his once-famous colleague as someone with "a genius feel".

"Over half of my life I've listened to him and he never ceases to amaze me," says Watson.

In some ways Green is a shadow of his former self. He talks in short, nervous bursts that are sometimes difficult to decipher. His enthusiasm for playing, however, is obvious.

"It's getting there," he says. "I'm getting to enjoy it. My playing has improved because I've put a lot of time and hard work into it."

Green, 55, is about to share the fruits of that hard work with audiences in Sydney and Melbourne.

He admits, however, that he has -- quite literally -- trouble being in the spotlight, one of the lingering symptoms of his post-LSD condition.

"I do actually feel pressure from the lights. Spotlights I could do without, but it is fun to be playing again.

"It's hard to imagine when you start playing guitar that you would ever stop, but that's what I did," he says. "I'm very grateful for the ability to learn again."

Peter Green plays in Sydney on Wednesday and Saturday and in Melbourne Thursday and Friday.

Date: 2002-05-27