A Slow Decline to Lasting Silence

second_chapterDanny Kirwan: Second Chapter (Warner, UK)

When Danny Kirwan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, he was absent from the proceedings in New York. In terms of his contribution to popular music, this is a near-perfect act of symbolism. He was living a mundane routine of homelessness, a regular at a hostel for alcoholics in Soho (London), his semi-permanent address since his life had taken a downwards turn at the end of the Seventies.

Peter Green wasn't the sole casualty of Fleetwood Mac's marathon history, merely the most notable. Beyond drinking, Kirwan had also abused his subtle sensitive nature with the freely available chemicals of the time. Although Green has managed a return to the limelight after years of mental health problems, Kirwan is unlikely to be capable of even the most assisted of late curtain calls. He hasn't entered a recording studio for more than three decades, and his silence has long since dwarfed his years of utterance. He wrote many exquisite songs whilst in Fleetwood Mac, and his debut solo release from 1975, Second Chapter, is a superbly crafted piece of songwriting -- akin to McCartney at his best with pastoral moments.

Kirwan, never a natural performer, had been unceremoniously but understandably fired from Fleetwood Mac during a tour of the States. After a row with Bob Welch over guitar tunings, he'd flown into a terrible rage. By then a heavy drinker (he drank to calm his stage nerves), Kirwan began bashing his head against a wall, and he smashed his guitar, a vintage Les Paul Black Beauty. Refusing to join the band on stage, he heckled them throughout the gig. It was the end of his tenure with the band.

He and Jeremy Spencer had steered the band into more radio-friendly and commercial waters, but were to reap none of the attendant success resulting from their efforts. Spencer decamped to the Children of God cult, whilst Kirwan returned to London and a protracted period of uncertainty. His songs on albums including Kiln House, Bare Trees, and the astonishingly beautiful Future Games display his uncanny ear for haunting melodies and catchy pop. All these albums were million sellers in the U.S., although the change in styles meant they sold poorly in Britain.

Daniel David Kirwan was born in Brixton London on 13th May 1950. He was "discovered" by Peter Green, whose efforts to secure Kirwan's band Boiler House a deal with Blue Horizon came to nothing due to the reluctance of the other members to turn professional. He was eventually invited to join Fleetwood Mac. He was only eighteen. Mike Vernon recalls, "Danny had a guitar style that wasn't like anyone else I'd heard in England. It reminded me of Lowell Fulson. There was a certain vibrato to the finger work that was quite unusual. And he had a really nice melodious voice." It was later revealed that Kirwan was so serious about his work that he'd sometimes cry whilst playing. Green's affectionate nickname for him was "Ragtime Cowboy Joe."

Second Chapter was Kirwan's return to form after his sad exit from Fleetwood Mac. It boded well and features a wide variety of styles. That the opening cut, "Ram Jam City," failed to chart is bedeviling. An irritatingly infectious slice of country rock, it ought to have sold. DJM thought as much by issuing it twice, but to no avail.

"Odds and Ends" is a delight. a piece of Beatles-esque whimsy, more McCartney than Lennon, about a girl who runs an eclectic shop:

Selling books and old things
picture frames and gold rings
anything at all you can find.

The only problem is that she is never there. Affectionate and charming, it displays a deft lightness of touch. On "Hot Summer's Day," Kirwan hits his specialist forte. Melodic, pastoral pop is rarely delivered from finer hands. Enchanting and ethereal, it comes across like Al Stewart in collaboration with Nick Drake. Kirwan even manages to deliver the reggae-tinged "Mary Jane" without irking the proceedings, whilst "Ship a Dee Doo" revisits the divinely retro feel he and Spencer so effortlessly explored on Kiln House. Within "Love Can Always Bring You Happiness" there resides an element of "Albatross" with a jaunty pop lilt.

The title track, a poetic reflection on former loves, possesses a slightly jazzy edge, beautifully underscored by sumptuous strings. It failed to make much impact as a single, but as a song it still has a superlative quality, a delicious slice of classy, summery pop. "Lovely Days" remains one of the album's true gems with Kirwan at his elemental, ethereal best. Exquisitely arranged, picked strings glide around an elegant guitar motif. It wouldn't be out of place on a Nick Drake session.

"Falling in Love with You" returns to his astutely crafted pop; memorable and countrified, it skips along at a confident pace, whilst "Silver Streams" returns Kirwan to his melodic, haunting strengths. An upliftingly pure shower in sunshine song, it has a baroquely psychedelic air and is a minor masterpiece. "Best Girl in the World" is delightful, a song that would have more than sufficed in the Buckingham-Nicks era, as would "Cascades."

Kirwan continued to steer shy of live work, and therefore proved difficult to sell, despite the interest in him due to his success with Fleetwood Mac. He was aided and abetted by members of Chicken Shack, but remained a fragile entity.

Kirwan followed Second Chapter with the rather patchy Saturday Night in San Juan, but his final effort, Hello There Big Boy!, brings little of merit, despite the involvement of Dana Gillespie and fellow ex-Mac Bob Weston. On the sleeve Kirwan looks disturbed, a reluctant participant in his own project. Weston remembers him as "barricaded in a self-made womb of studio battle boards much of the time." Echoes of Nick Drake's Pink Moon oddness which he recorded with his back to those involved. A few years later Kirwan was a homeless alcoholic on the streets of his native London.

His story is far from unique in the annals of rock, but it is affecting and tragic that such a talented and sensitive musician should have fallen on such silence and decline. A diligent compilation would be a fitting tribute to all that he achieved in his much-truncated career. He contributed enough material to Fleetwood Mac to cover one disc, whilst his solo efforts would cover another three. There are sufficient demos of quality in the vaults, as evidenced by the Mooncrest release Ram Jam City a few years back, to complete a fourth. It probably won't happen, but it should, and despite Kirwan's faults and failings, his former band mates could, if they bothered, ensure that it did.

Just how much Danny Kirwan will see from this lovingly rendered reissue of Second Chapter is anyone's guess. He doesn't seem much interested in his past, although he is supposed to possess a guitar at his hostel room. Sightings suggest various broken characters. A mumbling, shaking wreck; a resigned hobo; an incoherent drunk. He was once much more than any of these sad versions. The last rehash package of Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits misspelled his name, a minor but revealing oversight.

At least he left a beguiling selection of songs as proof, and in the end proof is all any of us leave, if indeed we leave anything at all. - Robert Cochrane

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Mr. Cochrane is a poet and writer living in Manchester, England. His work has appeared in Mojo, Attitude, and Dazed & Confused. He has published three collections of poems, and Gone Tomorrow, his biography of the rock singer Jobriath, will appear via SAF in 2008.


Danny Kirwan was asked by Peter Green to join FM or Peter was going to leave music since he was tired of being what he called 'a mimick' band of African American blue's masters who were largely unhappy with this way of copying their music. Peter wanted Jeremy to come up with a new innovative sound that utilized original songs: Jeremy would not or could not so Peter turned to a little kid he first saw when the kid was about 15: Danny Kirwan, fatherless & a child prodigy, who in a few weeks taught himself to play with the skill of the old masters from America. No one mentored him, no one taught him. By 16 he was the opening act for FM at Peter's request: Peter to this day plays very little lead guitar & he wanted a kid with the skill to sound just like himself to play lead half the time, then increasingly most of the time: & to write half the songs OR Peter was leaving music for good: the end of FM before they, brilliant though they were, had became anything more than a kind of tribute band doing covers of black blues master songs to the point of mimicking them so much that people lestening and not seeing the band thought they were who they were playing like. In just a few weeks time Danny had written half the songs for the new album & had come up with a utterly new sound for blues and Fleetwood Mac: something so soulful it brought tears to the eyes of many listeners & Danny had helped Peter on many of his songs actually changing the entire direction he was taking a new song, Albartos in, until it became, by Danny's guidance the emotive, original masterpiece it remains to this day: This was the original stuff Peter had hoped for 7 the band desperately needed : this album with the innovative Danny guidance went on to outsell both the Beatles & Stones combined: The new appraoach was Danny's, the muse was Danny, the original flare was from DANNY :but Peter would not fire the others because he was largly acting like them with drinking/drugs AND when another band kept rightly firering Fleetwood & McVie Peter was the only guy willing to put up with them: they were brilliant but no one in their right mind would tolerate this behavior....but Peter now had Danny to do the workhorse load of everyone: historical accounts might want to remember that fact. Because all this is indeed FACT. While the other members partied notoriously Danny did everyone's work for them save for Peter, and he did much of Peter's work at Peter's request: Peter needed this break & this men, some 5 yrs olde than the fatherless, brotherless only-child Danny were taking massive amounts of drugs in front of him & drinking like fish: McVie & Fleetwood were THE MOST NOTORIOUS MEN IN ROCK FOR DRINKING/PARTYING constantly kicked out of the other band they were in over this drinking/drug overuse & Peter would keep taking them in when they were fired: so we need to stop acting like Danny was the big drinker & drug taker here & hypocritically overlook the biggest drinkers / drug takers in rock: the other band members INFACT Danny began to fear the drugs and took the leat of all. Danny was doing the workload to the tune of about 70% and he was just 16 so to overlook that is appauling: Danny's issue was mental illness for which he is not to blame but like Pete Ham his brilliant mind was pushed over the edge by the selfishness of others & horrifically bad treatment by those he did everything for as a child noless.....then the great Peter Green decided to leave music altogether & ONCE AGAIN, AS BEFORE Danny saved the band: he wrote half the songs in a band of almost half a dozen's people: he come up with the new sound YET AGAIN, AS HE HAD BEFORE: and once again he did about 70% of the work: his songs were not commercial but rather brilliant non-commercial marvels of mystic & mythical wonder. Danny convinved Christine to stay in music when she was leaving to be a stay at home wife to an ABUSIVE/ DRINKING/ DRUG MONGERING McVie , WHO EVEN BEAT HER as a fellow bandmate: so everyone can come off there billionaire worshipping high horse with the self righteous, holier than Danny ,snotty hypocricy. Danny also produced her first solo album, arranged her string section , taught her to harmonize, until she sounded similar to him & infact taught the whole band to harmonize: he even let her use a song he wrote for her title track. later a billionair she would sum Danny up for the abusive McVie as a guy who did nothing for FM but be 'SO WEIRD' ...really?? and that she refused to write songs with him because he was to afraid to look her in the eye: by the sound of it he'd have been beheaded had he looked into her eyes. She was 7 years older than this cripplingly shy kid of about 18: and she stayed in music due to his help & support not the abusive band member she loved. Historical accounts might want to recall these facts: because they are indeed facts. This new FM was filled with members taking massive amounts of drugs, one was hitting the only woman, and he & the others were drinking oceans & oceans of alcohol. AS THEY DID THIS once again it was DANNY who uncomplaining did almost everyone's workload: he also helped almost all of them on their solo projects including playing great guitar that only recently did one of the band members confess was Danny & not himself as was suspected by musical experts all along. While BB KING praised Peter when asked black blues legends, as Jeremy talks about today, largely & understandably recented the members of FM but they liked Danny: While Jeremy to this day states that this was bad treatment during the Boston Tea Party & unfair to white guys Danny quietly sided with the African American legends & has to this day. Even when Danny wa asked to help on one of their solo projects when he was with the new FM, it is Peter Green that gets the sole credit on Youtube. But it was Danny he loved. Sadly the man died shortly after his solo album was complete. and when asked who he liked best on the scene as a fellow guitarist JIMMI HENDRIX ansered with DANNY KIRWAN OF FLEETWOOD MAC: sadly Hendrix too would be dead shortly after stating his admiration for Danny. BUDDY GUY was the most impressed with Danny during the Boston Tea Party because he felt Danny worked by far the hardest of everyone in FM & was the most humble, kind & giving with his fellow musicians. They also new how rough Danny had it in life & that he had taught himself to play near perfect in just a few weeks & unlike the privileged guitar masters like the very brilliant and very well trained Eric Clapton. (once, just after Danny joined FM several of these African American original masters of the blues came to see FM they payed Danny the highest compliment: they yelled to Peter that his lead was brilliant...as it always was of course, but Peter yelled back that it was the little blond kid that looked about 12 on lead: they thought it was a joke & asked the kid to raise his arms: when Danny raised his arms shyly the goodnatured laughing stopped, because the lead guitar stopped: the kid was no joke. The stunned masters remarked it was the best blues guitar out of a white boy that they had heard) So remember that Danny Kirwan by the early 70s was still under 21, was still doing almost 70% of the bands workloead, was selflessly helping everyone on solo projects both in the band & outside the band & producers loved him because THEY COULD RELIE ON DANNY TO DO ALL THIS WORK eventhough the other band members were largly partying taking massive levels of drugs/ alcohol SO WHEN THEY CLAIM DANNY COULD NOT RELAX historical accounts might want to remember that because of Danny they could...and because of them Danny could not. AND YET DANNY NEVER COMPLAINED NOR MADE ANY MOVE TO CONIVE TO GET ANYONE THROWN OUT while he worked & worked & worked selflessly for them all. Danny also had them staying, not in a billionair's mansion, but a humble cottage: the others wanted commericial songs & as we see to this day...pampered, extravagant lifestyles & much media exposure, all the things Danny felt were unfitting for true musicians & down to earth artists. IN JUST A FEW WEEKS TIME as with the first FM under Peter it was Danny who had come up with the new direction for the band & more innovation lacking only & intentionally commercial sell-out appeal: NOW THE NEW BAND HAD THE MAGIC FORMULA to live as they pleased....They began to connive ways of getting rid of Danny, who was by this point exhausted and needed THEIR HELP ...FOR A CHANGE!! But the man who had given up his life and wellbeing to cater to them & save this band & unconditionally help ALL OF THEM all the time ....would find no help from anyone of them. Like Pete Ham before him by this time, under such attack Danny began to drink more to calm his very real mental illness issues that came to the forfront from THIS INCREDIABLE STRESS and very low treatment: so we hear about him losing his temper with a guy who had benifited from everything Danny was doing FOR HIM & the band & some of it he has never been credited for: Danny shouldn't drink was the summation by that man, bless him, who was partying up a storm with the others while Danny did almost all the work: from them historical accounts follow like Stephard Wives with no strength and minds of their own....and BELIEVE what such sources have said as the true & final word...really?? Can anyone show the guts to think for themselves anymore?? AND IF DANNY DID BREAKDOWN ....ALL THE MORE REASON for these band members to FINALLY be there for Danny FOR A CHANGE. They owed this human being ,now overcome by anxiety due largly to there very ill treatment of him....they owed this human being, workhorse & musician's musician that much at the very LEAST. But all we hear is that they were a touring band & Danny would have hurt the band since he could not tour just then....such a vicious cold-shot to a guy who had ALWAYS ALWAYS put them first. AND REMEMBER his anxiety was so high now DUE TO his ill treatment as with dear Pete Ham, but unlike even brilliant Pete, danny was THROUGH IT ALL still, still doing nearly everyone's work & then some....yet in the famouse documentary on FM he BY EVERYONE'S AGREEMENT was summed up in a few seconds as merely a hired 3rd guitarist who drank too much , flipped out once and then could not go onstage but told them they did good...so McVie, who insisted THIS BE DANNY'S TREATMENT OR HE WASN'T GOING TO DO THE FILM, give's the camera a repulsive gesture for this did nothing for the band scumbag Danny Kirwan that ment....with such disturbing hatred Go To Hell And Die MF ,it's Italian (without words) for I hate you beyond your grave and I spit on you....classy: historical lies about the real heros and the actual victims along with and bloodsoaked hypocricy towards the real champion of & for Fleetwood mac is always a class act. After this Danny was truly suffering from mental illness that alcohol was used to calm: DANNY DID NOT HAVE A DRUG/ALCOHOL problem: he had a cruel treatment, an abusive treatment problem that set off the bigger issue: mental illness: THIS TRASHING OF DANNY AND ONLY DANNY as the big druggy and drinker of this band is beyond unforgivable....like all stone throwing from shameless hypocricy it's an injustice & backstabbing that crosses the boarders of inhumanity. And this treatment of the mentally ill will not go forever unheard...you may think so. You are wrong. While Danny quietly slept on the steets , taking nothing from no one, those he is looked down upon when compared to were flying in private jets costing 8 million each to go to rehab that cost them millions, from billions of dollars that the new formula FROM DANNY had given them....and yet Danny never ,never complained, compassionately he has always stated black Americans & women have it way worse...tough & strong, he calls his yrs living on the streets a meer rough patch & not so bad compared to the plight of other people: THAT'S DANNY: THAT'S WHAT HAVING A HEART & SOUL IS ALL ABOUT:don't expect Danny to tell the truth publically about his attackers: People say EVEN DANNY says he did this or that & it's his fault: that's called class that a homless man has over arrogant hypoctites & billionaires. Danny also says he could barley play guitar and that he owes FM for taking in such a no talent. You can see how Danny is both humble & wrong. So don't go to Danny for such truth....be brave enough and strong enough to use your own mind: GODDES or GOD BLESS THE GOOD SOUL THAT WROTE THIS but this way of summing Danny up has got to stop. People need to manup and simply cut the crap about this brilliant artist...and others need to stop repeating the crap just because it's the popular and far less brave thing to do. FM is filled with brilliant people and Danny has never done to anyone, not even his brutalizers what has been done to him & his character & his musical legacy: Even he could this sweet and strong man would NEVER use power & position & the influence ON THE MASSES & THE PANDERING MEDIA of billionairs & billions of dollars...The historical truth waits for one real man. real huma being....one heart of grit & bravery to simply stop covering it over and censoring it out...even though that would not be so pleasing to the Cyndi Brady-like, fairy tale view of issues & the spoiled, soft-assed, pampered 'popular' position that demands the cushy little lies....truth ...historical fact waits for someone gutsy enough to simply handle it.

One last comment . Karen

One last comment . Karen loves danny more than just about anything. She wants danny to be cherished, to be appreciated. When such a beautiful young person has given 100 per cent, it is only natural. Danny is as fascinating as anyone in music, but mostly unknown. I find him to be the single most interesting person in music, with Bernard Sumner next.

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