Addendum: Danny Kirwan – The Boilerhouse Acetates Part 4 –
‘Silly Mean Old World’ & ‘Tell Me Mama’
The last two titles that Boilerhouse recorded are both variations of existing songs.
T-Bone Walker’s ‘Mean Old World’ recorded in 1942 but not released until 1945, is considered a milestone in the history of electric guitar.
It was covered by B.B. King in 1964 and by Otis Rush in 1966 (each applying their own variations to the lyrics), but it was Little Walter’s 1952 recording of the song that many British blues band used as their template.
It almost seems as if it was mandatory for blues bands in the U.K. to have it in their repertory in 1968.
Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac performed it at a show at a charity show the Middle Earth Club in February of that year. They headlined on the bill, with support by Boilerhouse and Tony “Duster” Bennett.
Eleven days after that show, Fleetwood Mac would perform the number for a BBC broadcast.
In July, The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation performed the number on French TV and then recorded it for their second LP.
A few months later, in September, Chicken Shack recorded the song for a BBC broadcast, with Duster Bennett providing harmonica.
Big Walter Horton (on tour through Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival) was the harp player when they put the song to tape for their second LP.
Also in September, The Climax Chicago Blues Band cut the number for their debut LP; the song was the lead track on the 1969 release.
Boilerhouse – Silly Mean Old World (2:58)
Boilerhouse’s recording can proudly take its place with the best of these recordings.
They have modeled their arrangement on that of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, but Kirwan bases the lyrics off of Little Walter’s recording.
This features the band’s most cohesive playing with Dave Terrey providing the number’s swing on drums and Trevor Stevens bass heard to best advantage on this song.
The song also provides the best showcase for Kirwan’s guitar playing. The intro is just under thirty seconds, leading into the first two verses.
The second verse is from Little Walter’s cover of the song,
“I’ve got the blues,
I think I’ll pack my things and go”
Then comes the break. For a full minute, Kirwan confidently digs in, playing stinging notes over the steady backbeat; again, Green’s influence can be heard.
A reprise of the second verse follows and then the outro.
Kirwan and the band trot towards the finish but puckishly toss in a “false” ending; winding the number down to suddenly spring back only to close it out thirteen seconds later.
Boilerhouse – Tell Me Mama (2:38)
The liner notes included in the 4CD set “Something Inside of Me – Unreleased Masters & Demos from the British Blues years 1963 – 1976” (Wienerworld Records 2021) credit this final number to Casey Bill Weldon, arranged by Danny Kirwan; in reality, those credits might be more accurate if reversed.
Weldon’s ‘Back Door Blues’ from 1936 was a raucous and slightly raunchy romp detailing a man’s experience of coming home to find another man, half dressed, beating a hasty retreat out of his back door.
Weldon’s number is powered by the pianist Black Bob and the propulsive picking of Big Broonzy on guitar, with Weldon then weaving his intricate steel guitar stylings through the music.
As with ‘Mean Old World’, Little Walter recorded his own version of Weldon’s song, titled ‘Tell Me Mama’.
Kirwan kept the arrangement but jettisoned the lyrics entirely, (accept for the refrain, “Tell Me Mama”, replacing them with two stanzas consisting of only two lines, each repeated twice. (see ‘Wet Weather Blues’)
Kirwan’s limited lyrics seem to revolve around a perpetual problem for him: his inability to make himself understood by, or to understand the ways of, women.
Minus the piano and second guitar on Weldon’s recording, or Walter’s harmonica, much of the energy is dissipated on this version.
Kirwan’s minute long solo on the break is quite good, as is the outro, but the song only really comes to life on the Fleetwood Mac concert recordings. Admittedly, the fact that Kirwan accelerated the tempo on these performances certainly plays a part also.
These were captured within days of one another during a Scandinavian tour in November of 1968.
The first, on November 21st, is probably from the Gyllene Cirkle (Golden Circle) in Stockholm, Sweden. The second comes from Idrottshuset, Örebro, Sweden on November 23rd.
I do not believe that Kirwan ever recorded the song in the studio while with Fleetwood Mac, or for broadcast for the BBC.