Football and rock music are the cultural glue for many people, myself included, but Iâ€™d never read a compelling piece of fiction about either, really, and was somewhat at a loss to explain why. Until The Damned United.
Besides being terrific, I found it both shocking and liberating in what it suggested in terms of potential subject matter and how to shine a new light on the immediate past. Itâ€™s about football, but at the same time, not at all. Itâ€™s about a real person, a well-known celebrity, turned symbol or cipher. Much of modern culture, for a number of reasons, appears to have been closed off to imaginative fiction and I think there is a hunger for alternatives to â€˜officialâ€™ versions.
I was already corresponding with David Peace a little, and Iâ€™d mentioned the story of the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, how the bandâ€™s initial disintegration had assumed mythical status â€“ become another symbol really, for the end of 1960s optimism and experimentation. In particular, what the surviving members of Fleetwood Mac in interviews referred to as â€˜The Munich Horrorshowâ€™, which they attributed to the start of the sad decline of Peter Green, the bandâ€™s original creative force.
I initially tried to make Green the protagonist, but it was hopeless â€“ the known facts forced out any freedom and the clichÃ©s flowed!
Q. What was the source of your fascination with Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac?
As a kid I was a big fan of Peter Green and one of the first albums I ever owned was The Pious Bird of Good Omen â€“ the one with the nun holding an albatross on the front. When I started to learn to play guitar it was Green I initially tried to copy. Perhaps because it seemed simple â€“ deceptively so, of course. With hindsight, they were a very effective singles band, while never quite making the classic album they threatened to. But that run of singles â€“ â€˜Need Your Love So Badâ€™, â€˜Black Magic Womanâ€™, â€˜Albatrossâ€™ â€˜Man of the Worldâ€™, â€˜Oh Wellâ€™ and â€˜Green Manalishiâ€™ â€“ is quite staggering in its breadth and originality. And then of course, what happened to the three guitarists is awfully tragic â€“ even as Fleetwood Mac went on to being the best-selling band of the 1970s. The 60s ended when I was ten, so the story was initially skewed through the prism of childhood for me, when the generation above me all seemed to be speaking in magical and exciting codes I had only a very limited understanding of.