Kirk Hammett talks meeting Peter Green and covering his Fleetwood Mac classic

(Image credit: Kevin Winter / Getty)

As the current owner of the '59 'Greeny' Les Paul that belonged to Fleetwood Mac legend Peter Green and then Gary Moore, Kirk Hammett has huge shoes to fill. But his passion for its heritage and admiration for those two players is no secret, and he's going to prove it by covering Green's work on record and live.

In his recent appearance on the Let There Be Talk podcast, the Metallica guitarist went into detail about meeting Green earlier this month at London's Abbey Road Studio and then at his home in the city, and the Green-related tribute he's involved in too - including a very rare outing for his lead vocals on record. 

We're walking into the room where he was, I got a distinct feeling that as much as we were checking him out, he was checking us out.

"I actually met him at his house in the south of London," explains Hammett. "It was pretty intense - it was actually super intense. When we arrived, you could cut the freaking air with a fucking knife - it was just so thick.

"We're walking into the room where he was, I got a distinct feeling that as much as we were checking him out, he was checking us out.

"We just took it really easy and we just started talking, just got onto talking about music and guitars; he had a friend there who he's known for forever since the Fleetwood Mac days."

It was then that Hammett decided it was time for Green to meet another old friend…

"I said to Peter, 'Hey man, I have a friend of yours in this bag,'" Hammett explained. "And I pulled it out, I showed it to him, and he said, 'That's not my guitar,' which is his stock answer whenever he's asked about Greeny.

"And the reason why he said that is because he doesn't see the red in the finish. So, he says, 'Oh, that's not the guitar, my guitar was red.' His friend who was just sitting across the room says, 'He knows that's his guitar.' So, that's just kind of a thing he does."

Despite being famously reclusive for decades, next month Green is expected to attend a tribute night put together in his honour by former bandmate Mick Fleetwood. Hammett will be there too. And the musician explained his joy at seeing Green doing so well. 

"From what I can gather, he's more cognizant these days and much more even-keeled and leveled that he's been in decades," explains the metal icon, "which is a great thing. We just got to talking about guitars and music, he likes to fish, and so next time I see him, I'm gonna bring fishing rods.

"I just told him about amazing deep-sea fishing in Hawaii and whatnot, and then I had the track that I recorded at Abbey Road studios… [the] Fleetwood Mac song called Man of the World, which is a kind of a ballad."

The song was famously recorded with Green on lead vocals towards the end of his tenure with Fleetwood Mac in 1969, and the current lineup even revisited the song on their recent world tour. But Hammett had a bombshell to drop - he's tackling the vocals as well as the guitar on the song – that also features Mick Fleetwood on drums – due to be included on a forthcoming tribute album. 

"I am singing on it; it's an easy song to sing, it's got that talk-singing kind of thing, I can handle that. That's about the length of my singing abilities, but I'm into it. I'm so into it, I'm into all aspects of it, it's just one of those things, it just kind of unfolded like this.

"It gets a little uppity in the end," says Hammett of his version, "and what I did was I just modernized the whole song, modernized it with modern tones, kind of like a more modern arrangement; I've made the uppity part heavy and dynamic."

But the guitarist wasn't sure at first if Green was impressed with the results…

"I actually took a lot of liberties with it" added Hammett,," and so I got a little nervous about playing the song for him because I took a lot of liberties, I don't know if he would be offended by it, but I played him the track, and right after it ended, he just looked at his friend and asked him something about the weather or something. [Laughs]

"I didn't know if he liked it or not. The guy named Mark, who's spearheading this whole project, he told me that Peter liked it, and he was able to determine that from Peter's body language.

More Peter Green

(Image credit: Fleetwood Mac)

Classic interview: Peter Green, 1998

"I said, 'What do you mean?' It looked like he was more interested in the weather.' [Laughs] And he said that 'when he was listening, he was tapping his foot,' and by the end, he was making kind of guitar movements with his hand, and Mark said that it was a very positive thing.

"And for me, that was a big kind of, like, a sigh of relief. I didn't want to piss him off, and sometimes when we take liberties with other people's music, you just never know how they're gonna react. They might like it, they might hate it, but it seemed like he was very positive towards it."

(Image credit: Fleetwod Mac)

The Metallica man didn't stop there. He also revealed another legend's involvement with the record – a player also due to appear onstage at the Palladium for next month's tribute (on February 25) to Green and the band's seminal early blues era. 

"There was a demo of this one song called Need Your Love So Bad that they found," revealed Hammett. I"t's a demo; Peter Green sang that song in his bedroom, and at the end of it you could hear his mom saying to turn it down or something like that.

"So what they did, they took that vocal track and they isolated it, and they've created an augmented instrumentation track done by David Gilmour. So the song Need Your Love So Bad, created by David Gilmour and his band, and they flew in the vocals on top of it.

"It's a more modern, updated version of Need Your Love So Bad, and that's one of the tracks. The other track is Man Off The World with myself and Mick Fleetwood."

Hammett acknowledged that he has Greeny to thank for this intriguing turn in his career path as a musician. 

"I never knew that owning a guitar could lead to so many opportunities. I met so many great people through this guitar; different types of musicians, guitar collectors, guitar dealers, people who are just fans of Peter Green, fans of Thin Lizzy, fans of Gary Moore...

"I mean, it's nuts. I've never experienced anything like it with any other guitar, and the funny thing is that it doesn't feel like I even own it, it feels like I'm just with it, it's a real relationship.

"It's all over [Metallica's latest album] 'Hardwired... To Self-Destruct,' and it's really funny because when we started doing tracks for that I thought, 'I know it sounds great, but is it just me or what?'"

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar. I've currently set aside any pipe dreams of getting anywhere with my own songs and I am enjoying playing covers in function bands.