Spotlight: On Danny Kirwan – Part 2

Spotlight: On Danny Kirwan – Part 2

‘Wet Weather Blues’ – Danny Kirwan / Peter Green Home Recording

The little information that we have about Danny Kirwan in his own words comes from the small number of articles and interviews (none extensive) done when he first joined Fleetwood Mac.

That there was not the time, space (or perhaps, interest) in probing some of his statements further, can feel like attempting to learn about a person based on looking at the outside of their house.  Maybe we can peer inside through a window but all that we have is a partial view of a single room, with even that obscured by curtains and the darkness within.  

 We see only the facade.

In the August thirty-first edition of Record Mirror*, Ian Middleton inquired if Kirwan had any hobbies, “I like reading.  One author I go for is Dennis Wheatley.  Many of his books are concerned with the occult, which I’m interested in.  People normally dismiss anything they don’t understand.  And I think this attitude is wrong.  Films I go and see quite often.  “The Devil Rides Out” didn’t impress me much, but I should think people who haven’t read the book would have enjoyed it.”  (“The Devil Rides Out” was a 1968 Hammer Studio adaptation of a Wheatley novel published in 1934)

I reproduce this as I find it surprising that the mention of his interest in the occult was not picked up on at some point over the years and built up into something that it obviously was not. 

As neither he nor anyone associated with him over the years ever made mention of this “interest”, it would appear as if this was simply a passing fancy, not something that he ever explored in depth like contemporaries Graham Bond or Robert Plant

Asked about music, he replies with a sense of pride and superiority that only the self-taught can muster, “I like pure blues.  And listen more to records made in the 20’s and 30’s than those made recently.  When I’m playing it wouldn’t matter if there were only forty people in the audience as long as they know what the blues is about.  I believe in the blues as a musical form and would like to see people understanding more on a musical level.”

A profile of Fleetwood Mac by Kate Joseph, published in the January first 1969 issue of “Rave” magazine, (Joseph met with and interviewed the band at the end of October of 1968) lead with this description of its members, “One is short and evil, one is tall and vague.  One has a face like a choirboy.  The other two are dark, hairy and taciturn.” 

About Kirwan she writes, “Danny is eighteen – and quite normal with it!”

Detailing the story of how he came to join Fleetwood Mac for Joseph, Kirwan downplays his good fortune even as he makes clear that he earned it, “I’ve known Peter for about a year and a half, and he’s always been interested in me and my songs.  He suggested that I join them because I was looking for a job.

 “I used to play in the evenings with an unknown group, and during the day I worked in an insurance office.  The double life really didn’t work.

“It’s great now although it’s rather frustrating that I haven’t had much time for writing.  In fact, I haven’t had much time for anything lately, even sleeping.”

It is understandable that Kirwan might have felt that way at the time: only two months since his debut, Kirwan had played two festivals with the band, done two sessions for the BBC, flown to Austria for a television taping, did a three date mini-tour of Holland (including another television appearance) and played more than thirty club shows. 

And made his first studio recordings; five original compositions.

In fact, including the BBC sessions, there were nine different Kirwan songs captured on tape during this period.  

Which begs the questions: how many, if any, of the songs he was performing at this time had he brought with him from his days with Boilerhouse?  Were any ever featured as part of Boilerhouse’s set? 

Unless a contemporary account of one of their shows, listing even some of the songs that they performed, were to show up, or even more miraculously, a recording of one of their shows surfaced, fifty years plus years after the fact, we will most likely never know.

Edit: with the release of “Something Inside of Me (Unreleased Masters & Demons From the British Blues Years 1963 – 1976)” (Wienerworld 2021) these questions have now been answered – See: kirwan-the boilerhouse-acetates-part-two-the-live-set-list/

I would find it hard to believe that he wrote all of the songs that we have (and there may well have been others not caught on tape) all during these first eight weeks with the band.  Which is not to say that he couldn’t have.  The first concert recording that we have of Kirwan is from a show played in Hyde Park on August twenty-forth, 1968, five days after his debut with the band.  Of the five songs in circulation, one features Kirwan, performing what would become his signature song, ‘Something Inside of Me’.

While this may be the earliest available recording of Kirwan with Fleetwood Mac, I believe these “home recordings” of Kirwan and Green working on a couple of Kirwan originals in Green’s parent’s flat pre-date those.

I date these recordings as prior to the Hyde Park show as one of the songs that they are working on, ‘Crazy for My Baby’ (retitled ‘Without You’ upon release), was performed during a marathon session for ‘Top Gear’ on August twenty-seventh ’68.

The first recording appeared on YouTube in early November of 2009, (a second recording was posted in March 2010), without any information as to its provenance.  

Identified as a “demo”, I prefer “home recording” as they are closer to the five tracks Green recorded with Duster Bennett circa February 1968: an opportunity to hear how something sounds, a testing out various ideas.

Danny Kirwan and Peter Green

Danny Kirwan: vocal & guitar / Peter Green: harmonica

Source: home recording

(Possibly) Peter Green’s home (his parent’s) in Putney, England mid-1968

Available on: YouTube (re-posted January 17, 2015)

Wet Weather Blues (D. Kirwan) (incomplete) (1:31)

In explaining how his joining would affect the band, Kirwan told Ian Middleton, “As I’ve joined the group, Peter is going to play harmonica more, but will obviously still play guitar.”

Kirwan strums a straight-forward rhythm on guitar and sings the simple lyrics (he may even be making them up as they go along) and Green plays some fine Sonny Boy Williamson II inspired harp.

Middleton’s profile of Kirwan concluded on this note: “Danny wasn’t feeling too good when I saw him and I asked him why… “Well, it’s a grey day”, he said.  “When I wake up and it’s all cloudy, I feel brought down.  But if there’s blue sky I feel great.””  

The song’s subject does little to dampen his mood here, and the harmonica smooths the edges sometimes found on early Kirwan compositions such as ‘A Talk With You’ and ‘A Mind of My Own’.  Even later numbers such as ‘Like It This Way’ and ‘Coming Your Way’ seem fueled more by nervous energy than joy.

The picture above perfectly captures the feel of this recording for me.  (I have no idea if they are actually related)  Kirwan never sounded this relaxed; almost giddy.  Kirwan truly looks like a young man in the photo; imagine being invited by one of your idols to drop by his home and just “have a go” at a couple of numbers.

The other recording, presumably from the same day (or at the least, in a similar setting) provides us a glimpse of where this type of collaboration might have lead and we will explore that in the next post.

*All interview quotes from the Files of Bela Stephens

Photo Credit: John Slade

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