In recent years, Bernie Marsden visited the late Peter Green often. They played together and shared stories of life on the road back in the days when pop was being overtaken by rock and blues in the teenage mindset.
Bernie’s memories of Peter reveal a side his fans didn’t see, a man with a wicked sense of humour and an enduring resistance to the rock ’n’ roll limelight
What was your reaction to the news about Peter’s passing?
“It hit me hard. Now you get to that reflective part when I think of all the things I could have asked him and didn’t and all the things I should have said to him…
“It was a shock and a surprise, you know, because he was all right; he was okay in himself, he was in a pretty good place and so I’m glad for that.
“I’m just sorry that I won’t get to see him again. But then you look back and say, ‘Well, treasure all the times I’ve had over the last couple of years with him.’”
When did you last see him?
“I saw him on the day of the gig [the all-star Peter Green Tribute at The London Palladium on 25 February this year]. He gave me a piece of his artwork and he signed it to me and he dated it that day.
“So, of course, that takes on a huge significance now because it’s the day of the gig. I arrived at his house around lunchtime and during the afternoon we were talking about Robert Johnson or fishing or guitars and I said, ‘You know what’s on tonight, don’t you?’ and he went, ‘Yeah…’ and I told him we could go and that I’d drive him up and go with him and he just said, ‘Nah, a cup of tea with you would be just as good.’
“At the time I just grinned but when I think about it now it becomes more poignant. That day, when there’s this huge tribute going on to him in London with all these luminaries, he just wasn’t interested.
“If you think about it, that sort of sums up his relationship with the music business, really. Anything with a big spotlight on him, he didn’t want to know. He did say, ‘Do you think they’d let me sit in the royal box if I went?’ I said, ‘I’m sure that could be arranged, Pete…’”
Do you think there’s likely to be another tribute concert sometime in the future in view of the fact he’s no longer with us?
“Yeah, we’ll do something. The people that didn’t get involved [in the last one], maybe – and some of the people that did. I think we’ll do something when we can, something a bit more intimate.”
What was Peter’s guitar playing like when you played together at his house?
“It was fine. He was playing on an acoustic with nylon strings and the last day I was there we played some Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis and Help! by The Beatles.
“He said, ‘I like The Beatles…’ and he was asking me to show him part of Help! because, ‘I like those chords.’ Even then I was still 19 years old thinking that Peter Green has just asked me to show him something.
“Even when I went to his door that day there were butterflies in my stomach like when you were sent to the headmaster at school. He opened the door and I said, ‘Pete, how are you?’ and he looked at me and said, ‘Better for seeing you.’ When I think about that now it kinda brings a lump to my throat.”
Did you touch on any of his old repertoire when you played together?
“Funnily enough, we did play a bit of Green Manalishi that day but he played it like it was nothing to do with him, you know? It was like, ‘Well, we’ve done that, let’s play some Eddie Cochran,’ type of thing. He liked Buddy Holly and I think we played a very early Shadows thing.
“When I asked him how he learned to play he said, ‘I learned to play stuff like this,’ and it was interesting because if you break down a lot of the stuff there’s a lot of Hank Marvin in his playing.
“Listen to Man Of The World and think, ‘What would Hank have done on the guitar solo?’ and you think, ‘Hang on, that might be Hank.’ Add a bit of reverb and echo and stuff…”