The Mail On Sunday, Rock Legend Told to Ditch his Band

The Mail on Sunday, March 28, 2004

Rock legend told to ditch his band - by order of his Government minders

One of Britain's greatest music legends is at the centre of an extraordinary wrangle over his career and private life.

Friends of troubled Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green say a Government-run legal body which controls his money wants to break up the band credited with rescuing him from obscurity.

Members of the Peter Green Splinter Group insist only they can look after him and nurture his talent.

But Green's family says officials are acting in his best interests and protecting him from people who want to profit from him financially.

Now there are fears that the guitarist could be plunged back into the drugs and mental health nightmare that nearly killed him a decade ago.

Fans were shocked when the Public Guardianship Office decided Green, 57, should leave the group. It claimed he was in danger from another band member and insisted he was better off without them.

But the move appeared to have backfired this month after Green's first solo outing was panned by critics. And The Mail on Sunday reveals today how Green's career is again in doubt, amid claims that the PGO, controlled by Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer's Constitutional Affairs Department, "kidnapped" Green to keep him away from the band.

Born in Bethnal Green, East London, Peter Green shot to stardom in the Sixties as Fleetwood Mac's lead guitarist. His compositions, such as Albatross and Black Magic Woman, were hits worldwide. As recently as 1996, Mojo magazine voted him one of the top three rock guitarists of all time, alongside Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

But Green loathed his success. Turning to drugs, he became increasingly unstable. He left the band in 1970 and became a hermit. In 1977 he was arrested after threatening his accountant with a rifle for trying to give him a royalty cheque.

Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Green spent several years in and out of mental institutions where he was given electric shock treatment.

When lifelong friend and fellow guitarist Nigel Watson tracked him down in the Nineties, Green's fingernails were six inches long and he was unable to play a note. Watson nursed him back to health and taught him to play guitar again.

In 1996 the pair formed Splinter Group, which has recorded four albums and performed nearly 1,000 concerts, all to widespread acclaim.

Watson protected the deeply introverted Green on and off stage. It was Watson who arranged for his affairs to be handed to the PGO, an official body set up to safeguard the financial interests of the infirm or mentally ill. It pays Green a week and invests the rest of his 000-a-year earnings. Green is said to have complained to friends about the PGO's control. "He said they wouldn't even let him buy a new guitar," said one.

Now the PGO has turned the tables on Watson and obtained an injunction banning him from contact with Green or speaking publicly about the musician. However, last week, the High Court threw out its bid to keep the dispute secret.

Watson's friends believe the PGO wants to launch Green as a major star and help him earn another fortune. But they say that will lead to a repeat of his breakdown.

Green disappeared in December after the PGO announced he was leaving Splinter Group.

Friends tracked him to Sweden, where he had been for three months with the agency's full knowledge. The PGO said it acted to safeguard the guitarist, but some claim it "kidnapped" him to break his links with the band.

"Peter cannot cope on his own," said a friend. "Nigel is the only person who understands him and his music, and the group takes care of all his needs.

"Separating them is cruel and could be dangerous. He doesn't want to be rich, he just wants to play guitar."

Manager Arthur Anderson said:"The PGO won't tell us where he is. We're desperately worried."

The agency's actions have been defended by Green's older brother Michael, a guitar tutor who lives in Peacehaven, East Sussex. "It was Peter's decision to leave the band," he said. "He was unhappy and getting stressed."

And a PGO spokesman said: "The Public Guardianship Office has a statutory duty to act in the best interests of its clients, who are vulnerable people. We cannot talk about individual cases and have a duty to maintain confidentiality at all times."

Thanks to Sharksfan2000 for posting this to the Ledge.