38 Years Ago: Fleetwood Mac Founder Peter Green Arrested for Pulling Shotgun on His Accountant
Like the blues artists he loved, Green had his own share of despair. He was a somewhat fragile soul, and substance abuse didn’t help matters. Green and his bandmates were turned onto his drug of his choice — LSD — by the infamous Grateful Dead comrade, Owsley Stanley, while playing a date in San Francisco. The Mac were initially hesitant, but eventually dove in head first with Green in particular talking to it like a fish to water. Put another way, he found acid, then found God.
While on tour to promote their third album, ‘Then Play On,’ things came to a head. “Peter took some more drugs,” said Mick Fleetwood in the BBC documentary ‘Man of the World,’ “and never really came back from that.” Green was met by a group of people Fleetwood referred to as “the German Jet Set,” who whisked him away to a party following their show.
“It was a hippie commune sort of thing,” said Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer. “We arrived there, and [road manager] Dennis Keane comes up to me shaking and says, ‘It’s so weird, don’t go down there. Pete is weirding out big time and the vibes are just horrible.'” Green was already set to leave the band, but this was, as Fleetwood put it, “the final nail in the coffin.” Friends say Green was never the same after the Munich incident.
Green left Fleetwood Mac in 1970 and stepped out of the spotlight, but his behavior grew even more erratic while his drug use continued. After a particularly explosive acid trip, Peter said he “started acting strange … strange things started happening.” His brother Len added, “he was hearing voices telling him to do nasty things.” He began giving his guitars and his money away, and took on a series of odd jobs, including gravedigger. During these years, he spent time in various psychiatric hospitals, at times undergoing electro-shock therapy.
By the mid-’70s, as Fleetwood Mac entered a new, very prosperous era. New fans began to dig through older Mac recordings, and the royalty checks really began to roll in. Green wanted no part of his past, including the money, while trying to lead his new simple life. Frustrated, Green contacted a former Fleetwood Mac manager about his financials. “I phoned up and asked him if he had any money,” said Green in ‘Man of the World.’ “And he said, ‘The accountant’s got your money.'”
So in January 1977, armed with a shotgun he had smuggled in from a trip to Canada, he paid his accountant, David Simmons, a visit and threatened to shoot him. However, the twist here is that Green was not upset about lack of money, but rather was distraught because the royalty checks kept coming. The police were called and Green was arrested and thrown in jail. “I was quite happy in prison, so I thought I’d be alright,” Green said. “But they said, ‘You failed the psychiatrist test.'”
Green was committed to a mental institution and placed under heavy sedation. He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, but after a period of time was released to live with his family, the doctors believing the environment of the hospital was more detrimental than it was helpful.
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