Green’s Manalishi

Peter Green was losing his mind. Excessive LSD use was starting to take its toll. By late 1968, his bandmates in the band he had founded, Fleetwood Mac, had become concerned about Green’s mental state. He was growing distant, was sometimes incoherent, and had begun wearing robes and a crucifix. By 1969, Fleetwood Mac’s founder and main songwriter had provided the band with a No. 1 hit single (‘Albatross’), as well as two No. 2 singles (‘Oh Well’ and ‘Man of the World’). But in the wake of those successes, the guitarist was becoming estranged from the rest of his band, and was increasingly fixated on the morality of the band’s recent financial success.

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A 3-day LSD binge at a commune in Munich in early 1970 greatly exacerbated Green’s mental descent into schizophrenia. Around this time, Green wrote a song called ‘The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)’ after waking from an acid-induced nightmare in which a green dog that Green ‘understood’ represented both money and the Devil, barked at him. In the dream, the dog was dead, as was Green himself; eventually Green won the struggle to return to his living body in order to wake from the nightmare (hey, this is acid, folks). Green awoke from the dream and immediately wrote Fleetwood Mac’s next hit single. The song would reach No. 10 in the UK.

Before the song became Fleetwood Mac’s fourth consecutive Top Ten single, Peter Green quit the band he had founded. Mick Fleetwood remembers Green demanding that the band give away all their money; specifically, that they use their money to help end world hunger. Green also insisted that he be the one to give the aid to the poor and hungry, in order to avoid charitable organizations, which he did not trust. After the rest of the band refused, Peter Green left the band.

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Peter Green was an integral part of the ‘British Blues Boom’ on the mid-to-late ’60’s. He replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, and formed Fleetwood Mac in 1967. Metal historians agree that these bands (along with fellow Brits the Yardbirds) laid the groundwork for the evolution of Heavy Metal music. Follow that evolutionary path into the mid-70’s, and you’ll eventually encounter The Beast that is Priest.

Heavy Metal had come a long way in a short time, quickly morphing from ‘white boy blues’ into a valid genre unto itself in just a few years. Birmingham’s Judas Priest were pivotal in metal’s evolution; their 2nd album, 1976’s ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’, is a landmark in the development of the form in that it steps away from the genre’s blues roots and into a sound and style unique unto itself. Someone at CBS Records recognized the genius at work on ‘SWOD’, and signed Judas Priest to a multi-album deal.

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Priest’s third album, ‘Sin After Sin’, was another groundbreaking heavy metal record, but their new label was interested in commerce at least as much as they were in art. CBS insisted that the band record a cover song to attempt to garner some airplay. Producer Roger Glover suggested Joan Baez’s haunting ‘Diamonds and Rust’, and the rest is history. For album number four, 1978’s ‘Stained Class’, the label once again insisted on a track to push to radio; ‘Better By You, Better Than Me’, written by Gary (‘Dream Weaver’) Wright and originally recorded by Spooky Tooth, was recorded at the 12th hour with a different producer, and tacked onto the already-completed record.

Did including these cover versions deliver the results that CBS was looking for? No. Neither of these covers were ‘hits’; neither charted at all, anywhere. But the execs at CBS took no chances with the band’s fifth album, entitled ‘Killing Machine’. Released a scant 10 months after ‘Stained Class’, ‘Machine’ revealed some major concessions by the band in the songwriting department, but CBS was still unhappy with the album as a whole, at least in terms of its ‘commercial potential’ in the US. The label, uneasy with the original’s ‘murderous implications, changed the title of the record for the US market to ‘Hell Bent for Leather’. CBS also pushed for yet another cover. The Gun’s ‘Race With the Devil’ was demo’d, but was dropped in favor of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)’.

Judas Priest transformed Peter Green’s haunting, acid-induced warning of the evils of wealth into a crushing juggernaut of menace and melody. The song is gathered up and rewritten into a cast-iron structure and rolls along like a Sherman tank. Green’s mysterious ‘Manalishi’ character turns from the psychadelic money is the Devil in a dead barking dog into another one of Priest’s fantasy/sci-fi hero/prophet/savior/doomsayer figures, the latest in a long line of exciters, dreamer/deceivers, sinners, rippers, aggressors and starbreakers.

How ironic that Judas Priest, historically important for removing much of the blues from Heavy Metal, would record a song written by one of the most renowned British blues guitarists of all time. But the fact that the song translates across genres so well speaks less about any debt Judas Priest owes to blues music and more about Peter Green’s compositional contributions to Heavy Metal… a genre which hadn’t even happened yet. And how ironic that the song was being used in an attempt to bring band and label increased financial success…

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CBS tacked ‘Manalishi’ on to the US version of the re-titled ‘Hell Bent’… but did not release it to radio. Priest had given the suits what they wanted, but had actually written better singles themselves this time around. ‘Take on the World’ was released instead, and reached No. 14 in the UK. Priest/CBS would abandon the cover idea after ‘Manalishi’; the strategy had ultimately failed to increase the profile of the band, let alone the balance of anyone’s bank account. Judas Priest would have Top Forty success with the UK version of the album that excluded ‘Manalishi’; the US version that did include the song would peak at a lowly No. 167 in the States. In recording ‘The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)’, Judas Priest had messed with some bad mojo; Peter Green’s Manalishi was still barking.

Attn: Marketing Dept

 

Ever wonder why Scorpions’ ‘Taken By Force’ cover art is so ridiculously bad? Great record, but the album cover looks like it was thrown together by an uncaring record label, unwilling to spend any coin on anything half-decent, and assembled by art department interns. And, in fact, that’s exactly what happened. But why?

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‘Taken By Force’ was the third consecutive Scorpions album that the U.S. arm of RCA Records decided to change for the stateside market. Their third record, ‘In Trance’, needed only minimal altering; but their fourth, ‘Virgin Killer’, is a different story altogether. Featuring a completely nude prepubescent girl in an unquestionably provocative pose, ‘Virgin Killer’s artwork was and still is blatantly inappropriate and offensive. Yes, sensitivities to this type of imagery in the 70’s (especially when used on a rock album cover) were different than they are today; remember the Blind Faith album? But even back in 1976, several different territories issued the record with a completely different cover.

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So, when the Scorps handed the ‘Taken By Force’ artwork to RCA, the label wasn’t willing to take any chances. The US and UK branches of RCA rejected the cover. “Two kids playing with guns in a military cemetery” (as Francis Bucholz characterized the shot in a recent interview) was once again too much for the label bosses to deal with. In the 1970’s, Scorpions was RCA’s token heavy metal band, their records tossed out into the US and UK markets without any discernable promotion. Clearly Scorpions were not a priority for RCA; the label didn’t need all of this ‘cover controversy’ hassle. And, as they established with the towering mediocrity of the ‘Virgin Killer’ replacement art, they certainly weren’t willing to replace the original with anything challenging or even the least bit artistically valid.

Kiss Destroyer Resurrected

When Kiss broke through with their ‘Alive!’ album, their label paired them with Alice Cooper producer Bob Ezrin for their next studio album ‘Destroyer’. Massive mainstream success was just one ballad away. Casablanca Records was taking no chances, however, and demanded changes to cover art that they felt was “too violent”. And so, Kiss dancing while a city burns was changed to Kiss dancing in the ruins of a destroyed city. The original is definitely more badass, with the red and orange fire-inspired color scheme (‘Flaming Youth’, after all), now famously replaced by cool blues and pale yellows.

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The opportunity was also taken to depict Kiss in their new stage costumes, which makes sense. Simmons’ new Godzilla boots always made for a pretty striking image. But I have such an emotional attachment to the replacement cover, having spent countless hours staring at it as a kid, that it’s hard for me to acknowledge that there’s a better version. But even the 13 year old in me agrees: The original has flames!

The Beast that is Judas Priest was no stranger to record company foolishness. Their third album for CBS, ‘Killing Machine’, was retitled for the US when record company execs objected to the “murderous Implications” of the original title. The title to the song ‘Killing Machine’ remained unchanged, but another song title was used for the title of the US version: ‘Hell Bent for Leather’.

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After the global success of the band’s 4th studio album ‘British Steel’, which featured one of the most iconic album covers in heavy metal history, Priest followed up with the rather left-field ‘Point of Entry’.  The cover featured an abstract representation of the title concept; not a very ‘metal’ image, but a cool, futuristic image with a slightly scifi look.

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Why on earth anyone decided to change the original cover to the one we got here in the US has to be one of Metal’s Greatest Mysteries. A never ending trail of computer paper unfolding down the middle of a highway and leading into the horizon. Ok. Plain white cardboard boxes of various sizes placed on the ground in the desert. Um… Not exactly making Hipgnosis nervous here, fellas. Someday, someone will explain this to me… and I will still think it sucks