Addendum: Danny Kirwan – The Boilerhouse Acetates
“Danny was outstanding – he had a guitar style that was totally unique. I seem to remember him playing this Watkins beginner’s guitar and yet making these wild sounds that reminded me in a way of Lowell Fulson… I was desperate to record him but I didn’t think his band had what it took.”
Mike Vernon’s enthusiastic first impression of seeing the seventeen-year-old Danny Kirwan playing in Boilerhouse (often misspelled Boiler House) as quoted in Martin Celmins’ “Peter Green Founder of Fleetwood Mac – The Biography” (Castle Communications 1995) was for decades, the only information that we had concerning Kirwan’s music prior to his joining Fleetwood Mac.
There were no recordings, precious little information as to what their set lists may have consisted of, and no contemporary accounts of what they may have sounded like to confirm or challenge Vernon’s remembrance.
To the best of my knowledge, it wasn’t until the 2010’s that a few photos began to circulate on line of Kirwan and the band. (corrections welcome)
Then, in June of 2019, Peter Mackie posted a video on YouTube of an acetate of Boilerhouse playing the Kirwan original ‘Something Inside of Me’.
Mr. Mackie had received the track and was given permission to post it, by Trevor Stevens, the bass player in Boilerhouse; Dave Terrey filled out the trio on drums
After more than fifty years, the world finally had the opportunity to hear Danny Kirwan (now a “veteran” eighteen- year-old) playing and singing with this first band.
And that one tantalizing taste was all that we had, leaving fans hungrily wanting more.
Two years later, in September of 2021, Wienerworld Records released that recording, along with four additional acetates from Boilerhouse as part of their four CD collection “Something Inside of Me – Unreleased Masters & Demos from the British Blues years 1963 – 1976”.
This handsomely packaged, carefully curated collection, has a total of 96 tracks (including the five Boilerhouse acetates) unevenly divided between fifteen bands and solo performers, and an accompanying 148-page-booklet (I will eventually write up the entire set) but our focus now is on the Boilerhouse acetates.
A bit of background to begin (courtesy of Christopher Hjort’s excellent liner notes on Boilerhouse included in the set).
Kirwan met another music obsessed guitar player, Dave Terrey while at school. They both also regularly attended the Brixton Boys Club where they were granted permission to use a room in the club’s basement for “rehearsals”. Undeterred by the fact that they didn’t actually have a band yet, the two cleaned up the place, gave it a fresh coat of paint, and Kirwan built a “stage” with metal milk crates, placing a row of six chairs in front of it.
Placing an ad in Melody Maker, they met up with Trevor Stevens, two years older than them.
With Stevens on bass, Terrey moved to the drums, and Danny fronted the group on guitar and vocals. As the room they were in once held the building’s boilers, Terrey dubbed the new ensemble “Boilerhouse”.
Things happened quickly for the new band. Kirwan and Terrey were practically residents at Mike Vernon’s Blue Horizon Club at the Nag’s Head pub in Battersea, closely watching and listening to their contemporaries and (so the hoped) their competition.
A sustained campaign of persuasion by Kirwan and Terrey eventually led Vernon to allow them to open for Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (six weeks after Fleetwood Mac’s debut at Windsor Racetrack) at the club on September twenty-fifth, 1967.
Within weeks of their debut at the Nag’s Head, musicians such as Jon Morshead, Aynsley Dunbar and Peter Green were making the trip to Stockton, (where the Brixton Boys Club was located) to their basement rehearsal space to see Kirwan play.
By 1968 they had steady bookings throughout London (including backing American Blues players such as Eddie Boyd and Champion Jack Dupree as they passed through on tour) and were signed to an agency for out-of-town shows.
Kirwan was still working as an insurance clerk during the day, and was more than anxious to turn professional, but Terrey and Stevens were simply not ready for such a move.
Realizing that weren’t going to go any further as a band, in the summer of 1968, they decided to cut five numbers from their live set as keepsakes of their time together.
The songs they recorded that day were: an instrumental version of Otis Rush’s ‘All Your Love (I Miss Loving)’, ‘Silly Mean Old World’ (a loose adaptation of T-Bone Walker’s ‘Mean Old World’), an even looser adaptation of a number dating back to the late 1930’s, ‘Tell Me Mama’, and two Kirwan originals, ‘Wet Weather Blues’ and ‘Something Inside of Me’*.
We’ll explore each in greater depth in turn, but let’s start with ‘Something Inside of Me’ the best known of the five.
Danny Kirwan: vocal & guitar /
Trevor Stevens: bass / Dave Terrey: drums
Recorded: Summer 1968 – Dalmain Music Studio, Dulwich, London
Available on: “Something Inside of Me – Unreleased Masters & Demos from the
British Blues years 1963 – 1976”
Boilerhouse – Something Inside of Me (D. Kirwan) (4:30)
Please note that the original clip from 2019 is no longer available on YouTube and none of the other acetates are available on-line to the best of my knowledge
The song demonstrates Kirwan’s ambitions, pushing himself and his bandmates well past what they could achieve at the time, (this is an acknowledgement of their youth and not a judgement of their abilities)
The rhythm section struggles to provide him the support that he requires; they don’t seem comfortable with the time shifts built into the song, unable to maintain the tension, thereby losing the power of the release that the number requires.
Kirwan too is reaching for a level of heartache here that, while he may have already experienced it personally, he is unable “perform”, either vocally or instrumentally.
As with the rhythm section, the listener can “feel” Kirwan thinking through the solo, which, at just over a minute, stretches him nearly to his breaking point. His struggle to let his emotions guide him and his need to find just the right notes to convey those emotions is palpable.
The exact date of these recordings has been lost to time, but the liner notes place them in “Summer 1968”.
Kirwan made his live debut as member of Fleetwood Mac on August nineteenth at the Nag’s Head.
Five days later, Fleetwood Mac was one of ten bands playing Hyde Park in London before an audience of thousands (I have not been able to find an actual estimate of the crowd size)
There is an audience recording Kirwan performing this number from that show and it is remarkable how he has grown in confidence in the six to eight weeks since the recording of the acetate.
Danny Kirwan: vocal & guitar /
Peter Green: guitar /
John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums
Recorded: Hyde Park, London – August 24, 1968
Available on: bootleg
Fleetwood Mac – Something Inside of Me (D. Kirwan) (6:03)
The audio quality is very rough, but having a second guitarist heightens the emotions considerably. Fleetwood can just be barely be heard, the defining sound being his cymbals and kick drum, and McVie cannot be heard at all.
The first surprise here is the addition of another verse:
“When somebody leaves you
There’s one thing they shouldn’t do (2x)
Make a fool of somebody
That fool was me and that girl was you”
The slow accretion of accusations begins to accelerate with next verse, bringing with it a sudden crescendo that Kirwan and the band have some difficulty navigating. Green’s playing becomes more insistent to keep the song on track and Kirwan must stretch his vocal to fit the new meter. Kirwan plays an extra bar and the number settles back down in its groove, though the concluding couplet is not the most easy-flowing.
This is followed by another verse and chorus; a softly played bar then bridges the chorus and the break. Kirwan begins by repeating the main melody, steadily picking out single notes; a series of pinpricks mimicking his suffering before giving way to cascades of more powerfully played clusters, with the band too increasing the force of their playing as Kirwan drains the wound.
At two minutes in length, this will be one of the longest breaks Kirwan ever took on the number.
He wraps up the number with a reprise of the third verse and the chorus, the band now effortlessly scaling the emotional height required and bringing the number to a strong finish.
How to account for the extra verse and the extended solo? Was this how they had rehearsed the number, or was Kirwan swept up in the moment, playing before more people, with a professional band in front of more people than he’d play before in the past year combined?
We’ll never know.
Kirwan understandably felt that this was one of his strongest songs, and during his first few years as a member of Fleetwood Mac, it was one of his signature tunes, becoming a set standard until December of 1969.
Less than two months after the Hyde Park performance, on October 06, 1968, Kirwan would record the song, along with three others, at his first studio session as a member of Fleetwood Mac.
The number first saw release on the U.S. only compilation “English Rose” (Epic 1969) in January of 1969; (Edit: the Epic LP was also released in Canada, Japan, South Africa and New Zealand – thanks to Tony Smith) the Master and two alternate takes of the song were eventually released on the box set “The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967 – 1969” (Blue Horizon 1999).
Kirwan did not include the extra verse in any of the three takes recorded that day.
And yet, there are two audience recordings captured during the band’s November 1968 tour of Sweden where he again includes the extra verse.
There are another ten live performances of the song in circulation, dating from January to December of 1969 in circulation, but none contain the extra verse.
Danny Kirwan will most likely always remain an enigma as an artist; there are no interviews, or profiles, that I am aware of that would provide any insight into his creative process.
An intensely private man, he seems to have been a mystery even to those with whom he worked.
For those who’ve found comfort and joy in the music that is his legacy, we can only hope that additional recordings will someday surface, more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle his fans are attempting to assemble.
*At the back of the 148-page booklet included with the four CDs is a section titled “Tracks Listed With Song Composer Credits And Performers”; shockingly and very disappointing considering the care taken with every other aspect of the set, the composer credit for ‘Something Inside of Me’ is given to Marshall Sehorn and Elmore James. Yes, James wrote and performed a song with the same title, but Kirwan’s is wholly original, not an adaptation or variation on the theme and owes nothing to James’ song.