By Christopher Scapelliti Photo: Mark Horton | Getty Images
In a new interview with Guitarist, Hammett reveals how he came to own Greeny, the 1959 Les Paul made famous by Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green.
The guitar, used by Green on Fleetwood Mac tracks like “Oh Well” and “Black Magic Woman,” is noted for its distinctly nasal sound, the result of Green tinkering with the neck pickup in an attempt to replicate Eric Clapton’s tone and reversing its position.
As Hammett tells Guitarist, the opportunity to buy the guitar appeared out of the blue.
“It’s really weird,” he says, “because I didn’t pursue it like I have pursued other guitars in the past—really aggressively going after certain guitars and working out deals.”
Hammett says he was in his London hotel room one day in 2014 when a friend who deals in guitars texted to say he had something to show him. His friend and another man arrived with both a guitar and a vintage Marshall combo. Opening the guitar case, Hammett says, “immediately I knew what it was because I saw the pickup screws inverted.”
Hammett plugged the guitar into the Marshall and played. “After about 30 seconds,” he says, “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is not your standard Les Paul…’ and I went to the middle position, because, you know, that’s the revered sound, and I started ripping out, and I thought to myself, ‘Holy shit, this is a total contradiction.’
“It sounded like an incredible Les Paul in the bridge position and in the neck position, but when you put it in the middle position it kind of sounded like a Strat through a 100-watt Marshall stack!
“And then I got it. I got it. I understood completely what Greeny was all about.”
Despite his enthusiasm for the guitar, Hammett wasn’t immediately sold. It took Jimmy Page to convince him to buy Greeny.
“The evening of the day I looked at it,” Hammett says, “I sent a message to Jimmy Page through a friend of mine saying, ‘Jimmy, what do you think of this guitar?’ And Jimmy’s reaction was, ‘I remember that guitar. You should absolutely buy it.’
“So I guess I should throw that in for the record that I have Jimmy Page’s approval. When Jimmy says, ‘Yes, you should buy it, Kirk,’ then it doesn’t get much better than that!”
Indeed, Green’s “magic” Les Paul, with its unusual tone, has been the stuff of legend. As Green told Guitar Player in 2000, his 1959 Les Paul Standard sounded like any other until he inadvertently reversed the neck pickup after seeing Eric Clapton perform. “I heard him play one night, and he was on the treble pickup all night long,” Green said. “It sounded so good, I thought I’d take my bass pickup off altogether… I put it back on the wrong way around so that the poles—the pickup screws—were facing in the opposite direction.”
Green used the guitar in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers when he took over in the group from Clapton, and continued to play it when he formed Fleetwood Mac, using it to write and record many of the band’s greatest songs, including “Oh Well,” “Black Magic Woman,” “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown)” and “Albatross.”
Green eventually sold the guitar to his younger friend Gary Moore, who used the guitar for much of his career, including on “Parisienne Walkways,” his best-known song. Money problems forced Moore to sell the guitar in 2006 for somewhere between $750,000 and $1.2 million, according to various reports online. It was purchased by Phil Winfield at Maverick Music and, reportedly, later put up for sale on the company’s website for $2 million. After that it was owned by one or more private collectors before Hammett purchased it in 2014 from Richard Henry Guitars.
While Hammett doesn’t reveal what he paid for Greeny, he says it was less than $2 million.
“I was like, ‘Hey, hey, hey, hey. Wait a second here. Wait a second. I don’t have $2 million for this guitar,’ ” he told his friend upon seeing the guitar. “And my friend said, ‘Oh, that’s all poppycock. I don’t know where that came from. That was the original price maybe 10 or 12 years ago but that’s since been adjusted.’ ”
Hammett has been using the guitar onstage since he bought it and tells Guitarist that Greeny will be heard on Metallica’s new album, which the band is reportedly finishing up this summer.
You can read the entire interview at MusicRadar.com.