Fleetwood Mac founder, Peter Green first saw Brixton-born Danny Kirwan at the age of seventeen playing with his band Boilerhouse, and invited him to join him as an expressly talented teenager. Early on he composed "Jig-Saw Puzzle Blues" the B-side of the world-wide smash "Albatross" to which Kirwan can be heard adeptly contributing his delicate licks to. When a burnt out Green left in 1970 it was Kirwan and fellow band member Jeremy Spencer who steered the group into a more acoustic, less bluesy field, setting the tone for their later phenomenal success. They'd formed a healthy collaborative partnership whilst working on Spencer's solo album
Kiln House (1970), Future Games (1971), and Bare Trees (1972) remain stunning achievements from a period of transition and turmoil. Kirwan wrote half of the songs on that trio of million selling albums but alcohol got the better of the young guitarist, and a possible acid trip misadventure in Munich with Green may have also played a part in the destruction of his tenure with the group. He was fired mid-tour in in the US in 1972. Kirwan and Bob Welch had never been compatible as members of the same outfit, but when Kirwan refused to take the stage and smashed his Les Paul to pieces, heckling the others from the wings, Mick Fleetwood effectively fired him in what he saw as a virtual act of mercy to his troubled friend.
Back in London, and after a period of reflection, Kirwan emerged again via a new recording deal with DJM Records who released his first solo outing Second Chapter -- a beautiful and mellow affair with echoes of Nick Drake and Paul McCartney -- to favorable reviews in 1974. His refusal to tour limited the possibility of wider success, and this impeded the next album Late Night In San Juan a less accomplished effort a few years later. His cover version of the Beatles' "Let It Be" was given a reggae twist and though released as a single in the States, despite airplay didn't chart. His third and final album Hello There Big Boy was a tortured and tortuous affair. Kirwan looked haunted on the cover shots and the music was overblown and worse still utterly uninspiring.
Over seventy musicians were involved in its making, and the affair has been described by its producer Clifford Davies as "so bad." Reportedly Kirwan had recorded his efforts with his back turned on his collaborators. Then came the decades of a musical silence that he never broke, the years of the homelessness, mental health issues, and alcoholism. He was a regular user of St. Mungo's Hostel in Central London, but although he was reported to have a guitar in his room, encounters with him reported a disheveled and largely reclusive presence.
Danny Kirwan was inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame in 1998. Needless to say he did not attend but was aware of the honor. The year 2000 saw the release of Ram Jam City a stylish and reflective collection of demos from the time of Second Chapter and that album appeared on CD in Germany and Japan, as have his other two solo outings. His story is the perfectly imperfect rock and roll fable. He was an anthem for a doomed youth, a poster boy of mellow wistfulness with an angelic face and talent to burn.
Huge success, incredible and dextrous ability and then forty years of silence. He married briefly and fathered a son. No cause of death has been given, but like Bowie sang in "The Man Who Sold The World" the creative spark of Daniel David Kirwan "died a long, long time ago." - Rob Cochrane
Mr. Cochrane is a Manchester-based poet, musician and writer. His new project The James Lyons Poetry Project will be released in August 2018.