Danny was born Daniel David Kirwan in Brixton, a suburb of London UK, on May 13, 1950.
In January 1968, Danny formed his own blues trio called "Boilerhouse" hooking up with a couple of mates from South London, Trevor Stevens (bass) and David Terry (drums). By happenstance, they were fortunate to have been able to jam with Fleetwood Mac a few times at the Blue Horizon Club in London. In doing so, they impressed Peter Green so much so that he took it upon himself to get the guys some gigs at a local club called the Marquee. He also suggested that they turn pro. Danny Kirwan felt inspired; his two bandmates Trevor and David were less enthusiastic
That being the situation, Green set about trying to develop an entirely new band built around Danny, ditching Trevor and David. Unfortunately, those musicians who auditioned for the Peter's new start-up band failed to impress. So, in a magnanimous gesture, Mick Fleetwood asked Danny to join Fleetwood Mac. And such is the story as to how Fleetwood Mac became one of the first bands ever to house three lead guitarists. They probably didn't know just how much so at the time, but Danny Kirwan was to become a key vocal/musical contributor to the band.
As Mike Vernon from Blue Horizon recalls;
"Danny was outstanding, he had a guitar style that was totally unique. I seem to remember him playing this Watkins beginners guitar and yet making these wild sounds that reminded me in a way of Lowell Fulson. I'd never heard anybody play like that and I was desperate to record him, but I didn't think his band, Boilerhouse, had what it took. When I found out that Peter had been talking to Danny about maybe joining the band I was one hundred percent for it and, of course, the results speak for themselves in that the musical direction of what Fleetwood Mac were about changed when Danny Kirwan joined and gradually Jeremy became of secondary importance."
The first Fleetwood Mac album featuring Danny Kirwan was the US release "English Rose", in early '69. It contained some previously recorded songs, like "Black Magic Woman", a modestly successful single, their first substantial hit "Albatross", and three Danny Kirwan tracks, "One Sunny Day", "Without You", and "Something Inside Of Me".
At or around the same time, the band including Danny, took a road trip to Chicago to meet up with some American Blues legends. The result of this jam session can be found on the double album "Blues Jam In Chicago". Two of Danny's tracks made their way onto the album, "Talk With You" and "Like It This Way".
1969 was a fertile period for the band, so when their record label contract ended, Blue Horizon decided to release a compilation album, "The Pious Bird Of Good Omen". The album contained all their hits thus far, plus one Danny Kirwan song, the instrumental "Jigsaw Puzzle Blues".
When Danny had first joined the band, Peter Green let him join on one condition,
that he write half the tracks for their next Mac album. He did, and so was
born one of the Mac's most critically-acclaimed albums, "Then Play On". Danny's
tunes on the album can best be described as whimsical in nature. Take for
instance, "When You Say", a song that Danny originally wrote for Christine Perfect.
Christine ended up covering his song on her first solo album - asking Danny to
come in, play guitar and produce it. And there's the contrast of the fiery ("Madge")
and the mellow ("Underway"). Other Kirwan tracks on the album include
"Although The Sun Is Shining", "Coming Your Way", and "Like Crying".
Danny, with the rest of the Mac, worked on Jeremy Spencer's solo album. And, together with Bob Brunning and Mick Fleetwood, guested on the British Blues band Tramp's self-titled album in 1969. Tramp then went on to record a second album with the same guests and then released it in '74.
When Peter Green left the band in 1970, his remaining bandmates at first seemed to be at a loss as what to do next. Neither Spencer or Kirwan felt that they could pick up the slack from Green's departure. Thankfully, however, the group did not fold. It was time to explore new musical territories and try to mend the gap left by Green's untimely departure.
Agreeing only that they didn't want to do another hardcore blues album, the band (and their immediate families) adjourned to a country estate lovingly referred to as Kiln House to record their next album.
Although the critics may have been ready to disparage a Green-Godless album, "Kiln House" was hardly a disappointment. Danny and Jeremy silenced the critics with some very strong songs, handling their newfound leadership roles quite effectively. This spirit of collaboration particularly shone though on the fan favorite "Station Man". Danny also contributed "Jewel Eyed Judy" (released as a single), "Tell Me All The Things You Do", and the instrumental "Earl Gray". Danny always seemed to focus his writing talents on instrumentals as he lacked the confidence to dip his pen into the lyrical side.
In the middle of all this, in 1970, Christine McVie joined the band; the Mac had now become a quintet. Bandmembers splurged and bought "Benifold" a real estate property in Hampshire, UK. Shortly thereafter, Danny and his girlfriend Claire moved in the attic and got married, quite a timely move, given the fact that she was pregnant with his son. They divorced soon after.
While on tour in the States in that same year, Jeremy Spencer left the band. Luckily, Peter Green was able to fill in and help finish the tour. The only recorded work to emanate from this incarnation of Fleetwood Mac was the UK single "Dragonfly". The song is Danny's sentimental ode to an insect. Huh? Better to check out the flip side, "The Purple Dancer", which features some strong guitar work from both Spencer and Kirwan, as well as some nice vocal harmonies.
Next came "Future Games", on which three songwriters were featured, Danny, Christine, and the newest member of the band, Bob Welch. Seemingly inspired like never before, possibly by the new musical make-up of the band, Kirwan wrote some of his best work ever. Take a listen to "Woman Of A Thousand Years", "Sands Of Time" and "Sometimes".
The spring of 1972 brought the release of "Bare Trees", many have argued the best pre-Rumours Mac album. Danny contributed "Child Of Mine", "Sunny Side Of Heaven" (another instrumental), the title track, the mystical "Danny"s Chant" and the classic "Dust". An interesting sidebar about "Dust". The lyrics were not actually written by Danny. They are excerpted from a Rupert Brooke poem of the same name.
On the personal side, Danny was a quiet, withdrawn and sometimes neurotic young man, a closed book shall we say. Let's just say this…his bandmates did not find him the easiest person to work with. So, despite the relative success of "Bare Trees", Danny seemed to be traveling in his cocoon. Many have theorized that the glare of the spotlight was just too much for the shy young man. It didn't help the fact that he was the lead guitarist and therefore was expected to carry the band on stage. Although Bob Welch was a presence, he was the rhythm guitar guy, not the lead.
Like Peter Green and so many others before him, Danny's alcohol and hallucinogenic drug use only exasperated the problem. Danny became increasingly distant and hot-tempered. Evidence of his behavior: he once narrowly missed injuring Green in the 1971 when, in a drunken stupor, he chucked a beer bottle at him). But there's more. One night, immediately before the band was to perform, he and Welch got into an argument over tuning. Kirwan stormed off, and promptly smashed his head into the bathroom wall, then, his body awash in his own blood, smashed his guitar. He refused to go on stage, forcing Welch to play lead guitar in his absence. Then he rather sadistically went to over the mic-mixer and watched his bandmates trudge through the show without him, then afterwards critiqued the band's performance! Mick Fleetwood, who had admittedly been the "last holdout", fired him, and the rest of the "Bare Trees" tour was cancelled.
In 1973, after that debacle, Danny got together with musician friends like session drummer Geoff Britton, bassist Andy Silvester, and keyboardist Paul Raymond from Chicken Shack/Savoy Brown to record his first solo album. The effort was entitled "Second Chapter" and was released on DJM Records in 1975. The two-year wait was manager Clifford Davis' idea. Cliff didn't think the time was right yet for Danny's post-Mac release.
"Second Chapter" didn't quite match the guitar-playing prowess of Danny's Mac efforts but nonetheless there are a few gems to be found. A particular standout on the album is the only up-tempo piece, "Ram Jam City" (released as a single). Danny tries almost everything on this album; calypso ("Mary Jane"), a ballad ("Love Can Always Bring You Happiness" and "Hot Summer Day") and even takes a stab at country rock ("Falling In Love With You"). Then there are the tracks that bear his
unmistakable gentle acoustics (like on his Mac tracks
"Although The Sun Is Shining" &
"Dust") such as the haunting "Lovely Days".
With all credit to Danny's eminent vocal skills, the album would have probably been more commercial successful had he brought his guitar prowess more to the forefront, as his fans had become accustomed. But that was Danny, always going against the grain, ever modest, never the self-promoter. Baring all of this in mind, "Second Chapter" is often said to be a very good, but unfortunately overlooked, pop rock album.
The sleeve of the album has some great artwork, a book-like painted cover. On the inner sleeve there are the "Second Chapter" lyrics written by Danny:
"You're like a second chapter
In a book i read somewhere
Where the rain fell down
And covered everyone
Just like that second chapter
Where two people met somewhere
And said goodbye
And never met again
Through the hills and valleys we sat wondering
We really thought that we were lovers."
In September 1976 Danny's second solo album was released in the UK but it didn't
make it to the States until 5 years later. "Midnight In San Juan" (UK album name)
or "Danny Kirwan" (US Album name) is somewhat similar musically to
"Second Chapter". Not only was the album title changed for the US release,
but the album cover artwork was changed too. The photo of a Mexican beauty
for the UK release became a colored photo of Danny stateside. This was a
special treat for fans, as it is virtually impossible to find a good photo
of Danny. Another example of his modesty.
During the album's recording, Danny brought some of his friends into the studio:
Steve Emery (bass), Jeff Rich (drums) and John Cook (keyboards), all members
of a band called Stretch. Stretch had been the former bogus Fleetwood Mac
that Clifford Davis sent on the road to fulfill some touring contract
Some standout tracks from the album include "Castaway", and a reggae version
of the Beatles' "Let It Be". The latter re-make garnered lots of critical
attention, unfortunately most of it was negative. The album's only single
was "Misty River" with the instrumental "Rolling Hills" on the B-side.
Other noteworthy songs include "Angel's Delight", arguably Danny's best
solo recording, very concise and melodic. The track boasts a sublime
bass riff and some seething vocals. Then there's the rocking
"Life Machine," an up-tempo folk-rock piece called "Windy Autumn Day",
and the poignant "Look Around You" (written by ex-Macster Dave Walker).
And then sadly, almost inexplicably, it all went horribly awry. Whilst
recording his third solo effort, "Hello There Big Boy", it became clear
that all was not well with Danny's state of mind. Bob Weston, fellow ex-Mac
who played on two of the tracks, stated about the recording sessions on the
Penguin Q&A session; "As an experience it was a tough job; difficult in as
much as Danny was barricaded in a self-made womb of studio baffle boards much
of the time. All rather strange. And that was about it... end of session.
What a waste of a great talent."
Bob Weston's unique playing style can be heard on "Gettin' the Feelin'" and "You".
Another song from the album, "Only You", was written by Danny in 1969. That song
interestingly enough became a favorite live track for Fleetwood Mac to play
at their gigs in the 70's.
The Mac's version of Danny's song can be heard on the Mac's
“Live in Boston: Remastered - Vol. 1” CD and “Live at the BBC”.
Although a live favorite during the early Mac years, it didn't appear
on any studio album until Danny decided to put it on his. Recently, the Fleetwood Mac version was released on the first volume of the "Live At The Boston Tea Party" set. And singer/actress/outre' performer Dana Gillespie duets with Kirwan on "Summer Days and Summer Nights", a great tune with Macish-like harmonies.
"Hello There Big Boy" provides a somber anti-climax to Kirwan's musical career, showing a deterioration in artistry as well as enthusiasm. Even the cover design, which depicts a clearly nervous Danny almost being smooched on the cheek by a model, leaves an ominous impression. Perhaps the cover was a less-than-subtle jab at Bob Welch's sexually suggestive album art. Unfortunately, Danny was well on his way out of the music business and out of society in general. One could only imagine the disappointment he must have felt after seeing his former mates go on to such fame while he battled his own personal demons. Sadly , "Hello There Big Boy" will have to serve as Danny's swan song…at least for now.
Unfortunately that was the beginning of the end for Danny's musical odyssey. He landed in a London mental hospital. The last time we heard from him he was staying in a hostel for the homeless in Soho, living from royalty check to royalty check.
In 1998 he was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, together with the
rest of Fleetwood Mac. Although Danny did not appear at the ceremony.
In 2000, the CD “Ram Jam City” was released. It was a
repackaging of Danny's “Second Chapter” album using the original masters -- minus
the song “Love Can Always Bring You Happiness”. The CD also includes early versions
of “Falling In Love With You”, “Silver Streams”, “Odds And Ends” an
instrumental version of “Ram Jam City”, amd some interesting false starts
on a song called “Lovely Days”.
One glimmer of good news is that Danny has reportedly
picked up the guitar again, just to
play for his own enjoyment in his room where he
resides, so at best, there would be a long
way to go for a Peter Green style mending on his part
if he was to do that at all, but
hopefully he can conquer the troubles that have
haunted him and if he wishes to re-enter
music, we can hear his magic again.
We do hope that someday soon we will see Danny again up on stage were