Midweek Music Break: Carlos Santana (and Peter Green)

He sounded like nothing else on the rock landscape at the time. When you first heard Carlos Santana’s music, your mind did a little double-take: What is that?!? Afterwards, it pretty much made no difference which song you encountered: above all, you could count on that guitar, cutting like a singing knife through the jazzy, infectiously smoky rhythms.

Black Magic Woman” (from the 1970 Abraxas album) had been written a couple years earlier, by the great blues guitarist Peter Green in Fleetwood Mac’s original configuration. As Wikipedia notes:

…[A] curious blend of blues, rock, jazz, 3/2 afro-Cuban son clave, and “Latin” polyrhythms, Santana’s arrangement added conga, timbales and other percussion, in addition to organ and piano, to make complex polyrhythms that give the song a “voodoo” feel distinct from the original.

The version of the song on Abraxas actually opened and closed with a riff on a melody called “Gypsy Queen,” by Hungarian jazz guitarist Gábor Szabó. It’s a little like eavesdropping on some ritual in a Caribbean jungle clearing. Here’s Santana:

Lyrics:

Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen
(by Peter Green; performance by Santana)

[instrumental]

Got a black magic woman
Got a black magic woman
I’ve got a black magic woman
Got me so blind I can’t see
That she’s a black magic woman
She’s trying to make a devil out of me

Don’t turn your back on me baby
Don’t turn your back on me baby
Yes don’t turn your back on me baby
Stop messing round with your tricks
Don’t turn your back on me baby
You just might pick up my magic sticks

[instrumental]

Got your spell on me baby
Got your spell on me baby
Yes you got your spell on me baby
Turning my heart into stone
I need you so bad, magic woman
I can’t leave you alone

And here’s the original, from Fleetwood Mac’s The Pious Bird of Good Omen (1969).

(This version is a lot shorter than many of the live-performance recordings available, such as those on YouTube.)

It’s been great to see Carlos Santana’s career booming again. This most recent phase, after a long dry spell (some of it without a label), kicked off with his 1999 album, Supernatural — particularly, the hugely best-selling single with Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas: “Smooth.” Says Wikipedia:

On Billboard magazine’s rankings of the top songs of the first fifty years of the Hot 100 singles chart, “Smooth” was ranked as the number-two song overall (behind only “The Twist”) and the number-one rock song in the history of the chart.

Here’s the video:

Lyrics:

Smooth
(by Rob Thomas and Itaal Shur; performance by Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas)

Man it’s a hot one
Like seven inches from the midday sun
I hear you whisper and the words melt everyone
But you stay so cool
My mu equita my Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa
You’re my reason for reason
The step in my groove

And if you say this life ain’t good enough
I would give my world to lift you up
I could change my life to better suit your mood
Cause you’re so smoothAnd just like the ocean under the moon
Well that’s the same emotion that I get from you
You got the kind of lovin’ that can be so smooth
Gimme your heart make it real
Or else forget about it

I’ll tell you one thing
If you would leave it would be a crying shame
In every breath and every word I hear your name calling me out
Out from the barrio you hear my rhythm from your radio
You feel the turning of the world so soft and slow
Turning you round and round

A hot time in that city, hmm?

 

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Comments

  1. My god – they have extended performance videos of Peter Green on YouTube?? That could be another sleepless night for me!

    Peter Green is one of my great guitar heroes. I love the blues, and he’s one of those very rare guys who’s got an exquisite feeling for tone and phrasing that – without needing to show off and play fast – just takes his music to a whole other level. I knew and liked Fleetwood Mac from their hugely successful late-70s albums Rumours and Tusk, but I stumbled upon a Best of Early Fleetwood Mac anthology in my first year at university and was instantly bowled over (in a deeply confused “What the….? This isn’t the same band at all!” kind of way).

    Peter is one of my top 5 or 10 all-time favourite guitarists… while Carlos is a little further down the list.

    Carlos is one of those players who has a great sound – but I just don’t particularly like a lot of what he plays (there are exceptions; many exceptions – Smooth being one of them). I’m afraid his version of Black Magic Woman, for all the cleverness with which he mingles diverse musical references, strays dangerously close to ‘elevator music’ for me – whereas Peter Green’s song is proper blues.

  2. Froog: So glad you picked up on this post. We had a conversation some time ago about the original Fleetwood Mac lineup; I’d hoped to get your attention by including Peter Green’s name in the post title.

    I came to the blues (the musical genre, not the state of mind :)) much later than to rock. Consequently I missed many performers — like Green — on the first time around. I’m still playing catch-up! (If I remember correctly, the only blues album I owned, for years, was a B.B. King LP. I thought this made me an expert.)

  3. Hi, honey, I’m ho-ome!

    Picked a great day to come back, too. Santana leaves me babbling like a teeny bopper. And that video is so very, very hot. I feel about twenty years younger all of a sudden. Between that David Browne book I’m reading and this post, I think I’m getting my groove back.

  4. Well, you really don’t have to go to any special trouble to ‘get my attention’, dear chap, as I diligently read everything you post.

    The only reason I’m sometimes a bit slow to respond to the ‘Midweek Music Break’ is that it doesn’t appear until Wednesday evening in my part of the world, and I’m usually out watching some live music at that time. I was able to claim ‘first commenter’ dibs this week because I had to stay in working all evening – boo.

    I think our earlier conversation may have touched upon the great ‘Live in Chicago’ blues jam that Green’s Fleetwood Mac recorded in the late ’60s. My very favourite track off that is Homework, which I believe is an Elmore James song.

  5. Ah, Santana! Just what I needed. I remember six scruffy kids stuffed in the back of a baby blue station wagon, no seat belts, heading to the beach, parents in front trying not to pay attention to screaming adolescents and my bothers, in a rather affected manner, yelping, “Doooon’t turn your back on me babyyyyyy!”

    No one in the family had been turned on to Fleetwood Mac yet, so Santana’s was the first version we heard.

    Way better than Winchester Cathedral, which, aside from the Beatles, seemed to be the other big beach commute song.

  6. Nance: Welcome back from your adventures in parallel universes. :)

    From your most recent post, I know the “David Browne book” you’re referring to is Fire and Rain, about selected music of a single year:

    January 1970: the Beatles assemble one more time to put the finishing touches on Let It Be; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are wrapping up Déjà Vu; Simon and Garfunkel are unveiling Bridge Over Troubled Water; James Taylor is an upstart singer-songwriter who’s just completed Sweet Baby James. Over the course of the next twelve months, their lives — and the world around them — will change irrevocably. Fire and Rain tells the story of four iconic albums of 1970 and the lives, times, and constantly intertwining personal ties of the remarkable artists who made them.

    You might be interested too in a book I’ve had lying around here for over a year, called Girls Like Us… about Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon.

  7. Froog: You did indeed mention Green’s Chicago album. I gather that you succumbed to the lure of purchase. :)

  8. Jayne: “Winchester Cathedral” — holy cow. Put it alongside Guy Marks’s “Loving You Has Made Me Bananas” and you’ll have a complete complementary set of surreal novelty earworms from the late ’60s (complete with artificially nasal-voiced lead singers)…

    Love that image of the yelping brothers. :)

  9. @John – Girls Like Us is on its way to me right this minute! Thanks.

  10. Nance: No moss growing under your feet, that’s for sure!

  11. @John – “Beautiful picture and lovely lyric,” indeed. Just look at that picture! Uh huh.

    Oh no, I fear “Loving You…” is an earworm that will be hard to dislodge from the canal. ;)

  12. what an incredible set of linkages of musical talent you’ve pulled together here. To say that I would never have put Guy Marks and Peter Green in the same context is to be a vast understatement. But here’s an interesting thing for me – it reminds me what a gift it is to be soooo talented to play ANY of this music. Really – even Guy Marks. There is real joy in all of this.

    I remember listening and gazing intently at the cover for Abraxas at a friend’s house in eighth grade, and thinking – WOW, what IS this? For the rest of that summer, a group of us would get together to play cards (Hearts!) and inevitably that album would be put on. I had no awareness of Peter Green’s existence until….

    Freshman year at U of D (1971), getting wasted in one fashion or another at some weekend party with people I didn’t know then, and can’t remember now – someone says (while we’re listening to “Rumours”): yeah, but you should have heard them when Peter Green was in the band…. What the hell? The put on “Oh Well” and then I got it! Peter Green, indeed! Not nearly as cute as Stevie Nicks, nor petulant as Lindsey
    Buckingham, but guitar? YES!

    p.s. weird coincidences – the “friend” that introduced me to Abraxas – contacted me (for the first time in about 37 years) on Facebook on or about the day this was posted. Where’s the Rod Serling music when you need it? Oh yeah, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b5aW08ivHU

  13. brudder: For some reason, I always associate Guy Marks with Corbett Monica (who seems to have no Wikipedia page, hmm, perhaps my springboard to eternity…?). Talk about weird connections.

    You yourself had Abraxas, didn’t you? I think I remember seeing the album cover and thinking the same thing. In fact, I put the Santana selection in this post specifically because I associate it (for obvious reasons) with that album, and that album with you. I would’ve been crushed if you’d never commented. :)

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