Mythic Munich - Additional Perspectives
A revised and updated 4th edition of Martin Celmins' definitive biography, Peter Green - Founder of Fleetwood Mac is published on 29th September. This new edition includes new challenges to the accepted narrative about why he left Fleetwood Mac and what happened next. In this blog post, Martin Celmins considers part of this narrative - the myth of Munich - and provides expanded context to the events.
Mythic Munich - Additional Perspectives
The Mythic Munich chapter in Peter Green Founder of Fleetwood Mac partly was prompted by the incongruity that such a truth-lite story was included in some tributes alongside proven truths about the unusual life and rich legacy of a great artist.
The general story has it that after a March 22 1970 gig in Munich, Mac’s leader was invited – some even say abducted for three days – to an out-of-town acid party by Ursula ‘Uschi’ Obermaier, a famous model, and communard Rainer Langhans. There, at a mansion in a forest owned by rich hippies, Peter Green and roadie Dennis Keane each were supposedly given a glass of wine spiked with LSD – according to Dennis.
Peter Green then jammed with local musicians in the basement. In 1994, Dennis described the sounds being made as “this kind of freaky electronic droning noise. It wasn’t music as I knew it”. John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and others remain convinced that the acid damaged their leader and he was never the same again.
But for Peter, the jam proved to be inspiring. Munich was a lightbulb moment both musically and in terms of lifestyle. What’s more, he always said that he willingly took the acid on offer.
The musical inspiration is covered in some detail in the updated book, but this blog contains more background information about Munich’s Highfish commune and about how and why communes appeared in Germany in the 1960s and early 1970s, and why they might have interested Peter.
One reason why German anti-establishment, counterculture communes emerged can be found in incidents that took place at Mac’s Munich concert at the Circus Krone-Bau on Sunday evening 22nd March 1970, as reported in a 25th March review in Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ)..
Here is the concert review, translated by Highfish founding communard, Margret Greenman, who was at the party and basement jam session:
‘Pop-Music with Security Bullies’
“I am ashamed that something like this can happen during our concert.” said Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, after two Circus Krone security controllers roughly manhandled an audience member, who had sat down at the side of the arena, and then pushed him through the crowd and threw him onto an unoccupied seat.
Another concert-goer who sat down in front of the band was saved from the same treatment thanks to the quick-wittedness of two Fleetwood Mac sound technicians. They forcefully waved aside three more security staff who arrived to haul away the “disruptor”. After that, the organisers requested that the circus director should allow some of the audience to enter the arena. The clearly displeased security controllers, who were now out of a job, watched what then happened.
First hesitantly - understandably so because of the sense of terror that the security staff had created, but then really fast and willingly – about one hundred people accepted the invitation to quietly come down into the arena.
At once there was tacit understanding and empathy between the band and audience members, quite in the spirit of the happy and unquestionably optimistic music of Fleetwood Mac, a group which had begun years ago playing the serous London-Blues of John Mayall, but now without hesitation pays homage to the eclecticism of pop music, to sure applause from their audience.
Illuminated by colourful rays from the spotlights, the young audience moved freely and relaxed on the arena’s sand-covered ground.. Some danced, others sat down and listened silently to the music, others surrounded the five musicians, who were at ease about this. Soon, the fearful atmosphere at the beginning of the concert had turned into a joyful party.
But towards the end Peter Green, the band’s leader, had another reason for feeling ashamed. Because the bullying security controllers - who form a fist when they see young people with long hair - put themselves into gear; it was as if they could not bear the fact that just one of the concerts in Circus Krone could be peaceful and harmonious..... as if they would like to show those who partied peacefully, what they were able to do.
A young man who was sat in an upper balcony, immersed in listening to the music and smoking even though that was prohibited, was ordered to put out the cigarette. He did not do so immediately and before he even knew what it was about and dared to resist, four men took him by his arms and feet and dragged him like a piece of slaughtered cattle out of the hall, some hundred metres through the corridors and locked him in a room. After that they called the police and reported that bodily harm had been done to them.
It is unbearable that things like that happen again and again at pop-concerts in Circus Krone, and that obviously nobody considers it necessary to intervene in such cases , and that the management of Circus Krone, a renowned enterprise, knows that their employees repeatedly commit bodily harm and deprivation of liberty for concert-goers (and not at all vice versa as the controllers, camouflaged thugs, described it).
Employing security controllers like this should not be tolerated if Circus Krone wants to continue to promote and stage pop-concerts there. For sure there are other venues in Munich where pop-concerts could take place, for example the tram depot in Schwabing or the exhibition halls on Theresienhöhe. One should realise that the above mentioned incidents do not take place anymore for example in Essen, or probably never happened at all.”
Photos in Mick Fleetwood’s 2017 impressive large-format photographic retrospective Love That Burns show some of the audience around the band: Peter especially had some fans literally sat at his feet.
But long-hair and rock culture was despised and resented by right-wing Germans old and young, and far more forcefully so than elsewhere in Europe at that time, except perhaps Italy. Bavaria was especially right-wing.
Part of the Munich myth has always been that Highfish commune were rich bourgeois hippies – ’The Munich Jet Set’ as Mick Fleetwood dubbed them in his 1990 autobiography. In fact, German communes were anything but bourgeois.
Kommune 1 [aka K1] was based in West Berlin and rose out of the 1960s left-wing movements APO [Extra-parliamentary opposition] and the student-body, SDS, and was formed in January 1967 by nine adults and one child.
K1 was determined to break free from German bourgeois concepts. K1’s ideology included the idea that fascism has its roots in the conservative nuclear family which is restrictive because men and women are dependent on each other and therefore can’t develop freely. Rainer Langhans joined K1 in March 1967.
K1 stayed at several Berlin residences and adopted different lifestyles: initially Langhans said that no sex was allowed because they didn’t acknowledge gender. They shared one large bedroom and there was no privacy – not even a bathroom door. Phone conversations were piped through a loudspeaker.
K1’s political provocation often took the form of satirical publicity stunts rather than violence, although they were accused of militancy. Communard Fritz Teufel was imprisoned for treason after a protest against the visit of the Shah of Iran on June 2 1967 during which one student, Benno Ohnesorg was shot dead by police. But then K1 eventually expelled Teufel.
In some ways the commune was inspired by the Situationist movement which made political and social statements by organising surreal happenings. For instance, some K1 members threw down hundreds of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Books from the tower of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church.
Meanwhile in Herrsching near Munich in 1967 a political art commune was formed by about a dozen musicians and artists calling themselves Amon Duul, after the Egyptian sun god, Amon.
Uschi Obermaier joined later and two experimental bands emerged from the commune: Amon Duul which included Uschi playing maracas, and the more musically advanced Amon Duul II featuring guitarist John Weinzierl and Peter Leopold – whose drumming inspired Peter at the acid-party basement jam.
Uschi met Rainer when Amon Duul and Amon Duul II played at the International Essen Song Days festival in September 1968 and she then left the Amon Duul commune and joined Rainer in K1.
Uschi’s arrival on the Berlin scene soon raised K1’s profile even more. Jimi Hendrix visited Uschi and K1 in early 1969. Reportedly,, the magazine Stern had paid her 20,000 marks for an interview and nude shots – that was the price of a Porsche 911 at the time.
Such sudden wealth, some said, proved to bring about the end of K1. In 1969 Rainer had asked three rockers to evict some unwanted people from the commune. The rockers reportedly returned in November demanding a share of the big money and then smashed up the rooms.
Kommune 2 was formed a little later in 1967 in Berlin . It folded in 1968 and one of its members, Jan-Carl Raspe, later became a member of the violent urban guerilla group, Red Army Faction [RAF] aka Baader-Meinhof Gang. Kommune 2 folded in 1968.
After K1 dissolved the by now top celebrity-status couple went back to Munich and joined Highfisch Kommune also known as Highfish and High-Fish – Hai-fisch means shark fish in German. The commune was based in a large flat in Munich’s Giselastrasse 12. Highfish was a ’pop media’ creative commune rather than political.
Highfish wrote controversial articles, and created all kinds of photography and short films: Margret Greenman once posed naked and decorated with food. As she remembers it, that initial Highfish creative vibe didn’t last too long and its founder, Thomas Althoff, eventually took his own life.
But Rainer has said that Highfish continued until 1972 whereas Margret Greenman recalls that the commune was short lived, lasting less than a year from late 1969 onwards.
This isn’t the only difference of opinion about what happened back then. For example, Rainer still maintains that the mansion in Kronwinkl (a 26-room former restaurant nearly 40 miles from Munich) was rented by Highfish, whereas Margret is certain that it was prog/acid rock band Amon Duul II’s rented home and rehearsal space. The band recorded a song Kronwinkl 12 for its 1972 album Carnival In Babylon. To Highfish the mansion was known as The Castle. Confusingly, nearby the mansion is an actual white castle with a turret known as Schloss Kronwinkl.
Margret Greenman, Rainer Langhans and Uschi Obermaier Highfish Giselastrasse
Highfish photo shoot; far left commune founder, Thomas Althoff
Film and TV director, author and curator of K1, Christa Ritter, kindly supplied the Munich/Kronwinkl photographs for Peter Green Founder of Fleetwood Mac taken by a photographer, the late Lu Pachotta. Christa came into the Munich story later in the 1970s. Subsequently, she wanted to document the Kronwinkl acid party including Peter’s recollections. Reportedly, she met him by chance at London airport but he showed no interest in the project.
One photograph in Peter Green features a Munich street scene showing a slightly blurred close-up image of Rainer on the left with Peter, right, in the background with some young people. This photo has been previously published in Mick Fleetwood’s Love That Burns book but without a caption, and above text referencing the acid party which says that the whole band went.
Christa has described this photo as a ‘double image’ taken in Munich the day after the party, Monday 23rd March. Whether double image means a double exposure or photomontage - one image superimposed on the other – has not been verified.
In 1994 Dennis recalled phoning Mac’s manager Clifford Davis at the band’s hotel the morning after, and that Davis, Mick and sound engineer Dinky Dawson drove out to collect them. But Rainer remembers driving Peter back to the hotel the next day in his old BMW V-8.
Another photo in the updated book shows his car parked outside the mansion in Kronwinkl. An embellishment adding dark mystery to the Munich myth is that it was situated in a forest. The photo reveals that this was not the case.
Indoors at Kronwinkl 12
Both Rainer and Christa maintain that Mac played a second Munich concert that Monday evening at the Deutches Museum. If this was so, it could have been a re-booking because a planned 18th January 1970 gig there had to be cancelled because the band were on tour in America. Commemorative posters for this cancelled concert are still available on the internet but no reviews of the supposed March 23rd gig have been traced so far.
Christa also supplied a blurred photo of Peter in his long brown coat onstage at a sound check playing his Fender VI bass. She was familiar with the Deutches Museum concert hall décor and said that she recognises it in that photo.
Interestingly though, Christopher Hjort, writer, researcher and author of the indispensable Strange Brew: Eric Clapton & The British Blues Boom 1965-1970, earlier this year posted on Facebook. He has sourced a preview of a March 23rd Mac concert at Jahrhunderthalle, Frankfurt-am-Main published in Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung on the 23rd.
But it is 100% confirmed that Mac played at the Meistersingerhalle, Nurnberg on Tuesday, March 24th. However, a photo of this concert hall also posted on Facebook by Mats Jarl shows décor similar to the photo above.
At the next gig after the acid party Mac’s leader was especially surprised by and pleased with his fresh style of playing and sounds, whereas Mick Fleetwood thought that it sounded like Peter was mad.
And it is this clash of opinions that is the most significant truth underpinning the whole Munich saga. Why? Because from then on, the writing was on the wall – musical differences and the strain of long tours would prise apart the leader from his band. These cracks were already beginning to show during the making of Then Play On in 1969.
In his 1990 autobiography, Mick Fleetwood described the album’s poignant finale 'Before The Beginning' as a doomy blues dirge. In fact, as Peter Green Founder of Fleetwood Mac explains in detail, partly it is a song about Buddhism.
Both Mick and John McVie then gave a thumbs-down for 'Oh Well' as the follow-up single to 'Man Of The World'.
But thanks to the many bootleg concert recordings available on YouTube there is solid proof that, after Munich, Peter was on top form for the remaining European and Scandinavian dates and also at UK gigs throughout April and May. And there were noticeable changes in the mood and style of some of his playing which augured the acid-rock, wah-wah pedal feel of his first solo album The End Of The Game.
In Love That Burns Mick Fleetwood said that he felt that Highfish had recruited their leader.
In an interview which Peter gave to Serbian journalist, Dragan Kremer for the former Yugoslav rock magazine Dzuboks (Jukebox) published in May 1981 [and recently translated by Misa Drezgic for the Facebook ‘Peter Green Blues Society’ group] he gave the following reason for leaving: “…. I left the band after that thing with a commune in Germany. I wanted to go back and live with those people. And I also wanted to do more things like those we did on Then Play On with more jamming – but we lost that … The rest of Mac didn’t want that, they preferred more commercial stuff.”
But at the time he said that the commune and basement jam had given him the idea of buying his parents another house and turning their New Malden home into a musicians’ commune with a studio where like-minded players could come and stay and jam together. He planned to remain in England.
Will the accepted, negative narrative about Munich – abduction … spiking etc - ever be modified into something resembling the truth? That is partly down to future documentary makers and magazine feature writers and how much focus they give to the music that Peter Green made after he left Fleetwood Mac.
Many of those who still buy into the Munich myth maintain that he was never the same afterwards. Ironically and unwittingly, in a sense they are right: from then on his music changed as he did – Peter Green always thrived on change.