Friday, 10 January 2014
Danny Kirwan joined Fleetwood Mac in 1968, shortly after his 18th birthday. Peter Green's band were so hot that they outsold The Beatles and The Stones in 1969. Then Greeny left. Then Jeremy Spencer walked out of an American hotel, never to be seen again (until he popped up, a few years ago, on a documentary about Greeny), leaving Danny to run the ship. He was a kid. The 2 albums his band recorded before firing him are amongst my favourite albums of all time. They are the bridge between Peter Green's blues band, led by the best blues player these isles have ever produced, and the band of globe-striding Rumours fame. Lyrical, melodic, rocky and packed with great playing. Danny was one of the most unique guitarists I have ever heard. One minute sounding like he wished he was auditioning for the Shadows and the next channeling his former boss and mentor, Peter Green. His songs are wistful and sad, but also joyous. His voice is clear and perfect for the harmonies with Christine McVie. The band fired him when his drinking made him so unreliable that he was missing sessions. A short solo career fizzled into obscurity. He ended up living on the streets. Mick Fleetwood tells a sad story in his book about the band being at some posh London hotel, at the height of their Rumours period, and Danny appearing at Mick's elbow, at breakfast. Mick fed him and persuaded him to come to the show that night, at Wembley. When it was time for the bus to leave for the gig, Danny didn't show up. His mental health deteriorated and the homeless period of his life lasted more than 20 years. Nothing has been heard from him for many years, though his family say he is healthy and content. Danny Kirwan will never feature on any list of great British guitarists, except mine. I adore his playing, can pick him out a mile away and still play those albums, 40+ years on. I love a guitarist whose solos I can 'sing'. No flash, technique-laden showing off, here. Just bluesy, melodic, memorable playing that has made me smile for more than 2/3 of my life. Danny was a baby, a kid, when he joined Fleetwood Mac, one of the biggest bands on the planet. Life can be cruel.