Fleetwood Mac: "The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967-1969" (Columbia 1999).
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Fleetwood Mac: The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions

As you know by now, I tend to review things here that I like. Some of you might even argue that I go overboard at times, recommending music I’ve grown to love with a truckload full of emotionally charged adjectives and adverbs. Be that as it may: I’m about to do it again.

So, sit back, pour yourself a good stiff drink … and read on.

I’ve gone on record before saying that the early Fleetwod Mac had perhaps the best two working guitarists in the business at the time (and certainly in hindsight as well; even more so, really) and, after having listened to “The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions” for I don’t know how many times these past weeks and months, I will now go on record saying that in my book the pairing-up of Peter Green and Danny Kirwan is perhaps the most successful one musically that I’ve enjoyed for several decades and that Danny, despite his more than sad career later on, was/is perhaps the best guitarist I’ve ever heard.

I know these absolutes are often mind-numbingly dumb, especially if you have – as I do – most of Wes Montgomery‘s and Charlie Christian‘s output and if you call a load of CDs by anyone from Clapton to Robert Fripp your own. So, I know that one should be careful when throwing out these accolades, but whenever I hear Danny Kirwan play, my heart opens up, not really because he was such a great player technically but because his uncanny musical ear and natural flow bowls me over every time. I mean, there’s this kid, literally, who went into the studio and threw out the most astonishing musical ideas, who seemingly always played the right thing at the right time and, most importantly, contributed in major ways to Fleetwood Mac’s direction.

Although most of my regular readers might well be tired of hearing it, I respond to music first and foremost on an emotional basis, and Danny Kirwan hits me there every single time I hear him play a first note.

And so does Peter Green.
And so does the early Fleetwood Mac.

It’s a few years back that I saw Peter Green around the corner from my rather remote location in Germany, Green playing in a small venue which was barely able to sit (rather: stand) one-hundred paying customers. The first few minutes I thought it was a sad thing to see, a true master of his instrument playing out in the boondocks, but it only took an opening chord and three notes to throw me back into my early teens.

See, the early Fleetwood Mac, a band with such illustrious names as Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, Jeremy Spencer, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, has been a lifelong passion of mine. I had all the albums as a kid, the self-titled one with the garbage can cover, “Mr. Wonderful”, and the brilliant “The Pious Bird of Good Omen” with its equally brilliant cover. Later on I bought into the “Blues Jam in Chicago” material, the Boston live tracks … in short, I tried to get hold of everything these guys put out. At the time, although today I’ve gotten more discerning, this early Fleetwood Mac material was where it was at for me and I ranted and raved about Fleetwood Mac at a time at which mosts teens were talking about the latest chart toppers, none of which really rocked my boat … or were in any way comparable to Fleetwood Mac.

It’s difficult to say when and why I drifted into what I (and perhaps others) would call “white blues”, but I did, and my collection is – still today – loaded with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Siegel-Schwall Band, plus a load of other acts in between. Next to a shelf-full of early swing as well as 50s and 60s jazz, my passionately protected Emerson, Lake & Palmer collection and my complete run of early Status Quo material, Fleetwood Mac was on the pedestal … and remained there until today.

Just like many other high school students at the time, I also developed a love for the later Fleetwood Mac – which was somewhat limited to their “Rumours” album, one of the finest pop albums to ever hit the market – but the early Fleetwood Mac material beat that by unmeasurable light-years. Plus some.

Yes, I can and frequently do appreciate polished pop music, but to be quite honest, what I put on all the time does not come from that drawer. What I listen to are musicians making music, recordings that breathe that air of both composition and improvisation and I just love albums, collector’s boxes and whatever media are out there that allow me access to the history of a band, the creative process in the studio and the magic that is listening to three or more takes of the same material, with false starts, studio chatter and all, literally being there and experiencing the growth of a tune.

And boy, does “The Complete Horizon Sessions (1967-1969)” deliver, not only in regard to the musical material but also in the sonic quality department(s).

Mind you, sonic quality is of the essence here. Why? If you want to hear one of the seminal bands of the 60s and 70s, you do NOT want some young gun fiddling with the dials too much. You do NOT want to hear noise recuction, equalization or boosting. What you want to hear is the raw studio take, the various attempts at getting things right, warts and all. “The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions” are a historical document and Columbia Records must be commended for giving us connoisseurs what we want(ed). Sonically, this box comes very close to what I, personally, would call sonic bliss, warts and all.

I do not want to insinuate that this material is even close to the totally botched remastering job that Phil Schapp loaded on an expecting but unsuspecting audience with Benny Goodman’s Carnegie Hall concert – one of the most important historical documents ever – a remastering job that avoided cleaning up the tapes and explaining that botch-job away with mind-numbingly stupid arguments. No. The Sony/Columbia team went at this Fleetwood Mac project with, yes, love and tons of respect for the music … and you can hear that throughout this 6-disc set. As much as it was possible with this material, you are in the studio with the band, and the final result is the better for it.

Yes, I can understand casual listeners who might and probably will object to five takes of “Need Your Love So Bad”, with studio chatter to boot, but to me those takes are endlessly fascinating. The editors of this box give you the front-row fly-on-the-wall position of listening to the band trying things out, injecting new ideas and forming a tune until it’s right (never mind that some listeners might prefer an earlier take, which I do), launching into (again and again), changing, improvising and streamlining the tune until it felt right to them. If you are spoiled by clinically produced music, you might not appreciate the electronic buzz here and there, the clicks emanating from an electric chord or someone getting too close to a microphone, but if you are like me, you appreciate the authenticity of the material provided … in excellent aural quality!

In short, you are there, smack-dab in the middle, and you only need to close your eyes to actually see things unfolding.
Just grand.

It is unfortunate that many of today’s listeners (and even those are maybe too young to even have heard that material) reduce Fleetwood Mac to that “Rumours” and post-”Rumours” band, and I think it is unjust, no matter how much you like Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie. By buying into the late-seventies and beyond Fleetwood Mac, you are ignoring some of the most fruitful, energetic, wonderful music produced by Fleetwood Mac in the previous decade or so, and you owe it to yourself to check this material out.

Before I continue: I’m in awe of many of the Fleetwood Mac fans and all the knowledgeable experts when it comes to both the early and the late Fleetwood Mac, and I feel a bit uncomfortable reducing their early history to a few paragraphs, but I hope they will forgive me for summarizing, generalizing and injecting my very personal take. I love this band, so I hope that counts.

All in all I’m sure that we can say that Fleetwood Mac has had a rather erratic carreer, if not personnel-wise than at least success-wise. The only constants in the band – as far as I can say now without checking – were Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, who got with the program a tad later.

The core material that we are talking about here was recorded by Jeremy Spencer (vocals, piano, guitar), Peter Green (guitar), John McVie (bass), Mick Fleetwood (drums) and, on several takes and seminal material, Danny Kirwan (guitar).

The band came into existence in 1967 and was the result of core members Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie “leaving” John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers for various reasons (not least because of their infamous drinking bouts). As I mentioned before, McVie joined a bit later after having relied on the Bluesbreakers’ pay a tad longer, but in 1967, these three got together to record their first album, “Fleetwood Mac” for Blue Horizon, which was released in early 1968. Despite the fact that it has often been termed a “no-frills” or a somewhat unexciting blues outing, it had those few tunes that got me addicted, hook, line and sinker: “”Long Grey Mare”, “Shake Your Moneymaker” and “Cold Black Night”. Yes, the rest is just as good, but it was those tunes that I heard my friends (many of them my seniors) listen to day in and day out. Although the album was not as successful globally as it turned out to be in the UK (and various circles around Europe), it made many people prick up their ears. Mine had a hard-on and as the years rushed by, this early album has become one of my favourites, simply because it is raw, straight-ahead blues with excellent work by Green and Spencer, the second guitarist. Many of you that are not privy to Fleetwood Mac’s early work might have at least heard “Long Grey Mare” on the Peter Green tribute album that Gary Moore released in 1995 (not bad at all, but a far cry and completely removed from the aura the track emanated in its original form).

Within my microcosm, the band really hit its stride with the following two albums, “Mr. Wonderful” (1968) and the tracks collected on “The Pious Bird of Good Omen” (1969). “Mr. Wonderful” had me hooked from track one and this reissue of the album with alternate material makes it even better. You just have to imagine a youngster dancing and hopping around his 9 square-meter room, soaking up Spencer’s voice and the wonderful groove and slide-guitar work on “I’ve Lost My Baby”. Add to that “Need Your Love Tonight” and – on this release – take 4 of “Stop Messin’ Around” (with horns, to boot, and studio talk) and you are in working-class blues heaven. It just keeps on going with “Rollin’ Man”, a wonderfully raw and tight version of “Dust My Broom”, segues into the totally relaxed groove of “Love That Burns” (try playing that at such a steady and laid-back tempo on drums without losing that mesmerizing blues groove), … and so on. Talking about Mick Fleetwood: “If You Be My Baby” is so dead-on that it knocks me over every single time. And the tracks continue in that vein, although they might not be the stand-outs when compared to the classic tracks. This album grooves like a mother and the mix is just darn perfect. We’ve got the slightly raunchy-sounding lyrics that are perfect for the tunes and the wonderful rhythm guitar work and mellow setting on “Trying So Hard to Forget”. I’m sorry, but if you aren’t moved in some way by this music you simply don’t have a blues vein in your body (which is OK, but then you shouldn’t be buying into this material either).

“The Pious Bird of Good Omen” (1969), actually a compilation album (I never really paid attention to that fact when I was a kid) which consisted of the first UK singles (plus B-sides), two tracks from “Mr. Wonderful” and two tracks with Eddie Boyd backed by members of Fleetwood Mac (the Boyd tracks are not present here!), with classics filling the analog or digital grooves from front to back is, for me, the pinnacle of what Fleetwood Mac produced at the time, despite the wonderful Boston live sessions which are equally must-have releases if you like their stuff. “Need Your Love So Bad”, “Albatross”, “Black Magic Woman”, “Jigsaw Puzzle Blues” and all the other tunes do not really need an introduction. This is music history as much as any of the great music produced in the 20th century (and, really, any century) and my collection would be incomplete without it.

“The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions” also contains a wonderful CD collection of (previously released) early Fleetwood Mac material, “The Original Fleetwood Mac” (first released in 1971; essentially a collection of outtakes recorded by the earliest Fleetwood Mac, 1967 and 1968), plus volumes I and II of the “Blues Jam in Chicago” (Ter-Mar Studios, Chicago, January 1969). The latter two volumes are a somewhat raunchy affair, not least because the material was recorded on one day and the musicians were assembled on more than short notice. It really is that raunchy feeling though, coupled with an intense energy, that makes this session more than memorable. Again, you have Spencer, Kirwan, Green, McVie and Fleetwod, this time though jamming with an A-list of blues greats and giants such as Buddy Guy (guitar), Otis Spann (piano and vocals), Willie Dixon (acoustic bass) and others. On top of that, you can clearly hear that the members of Fleetwood Mac were enjoying the hell out of playing with essentially their heroes who had shaped the music that Fleetwood Mac was emulating and expanding upon.

I mentioned before that a virtually unknown guitarist (outside of the Fleetwood Mac fan-base and the various guitar appreciation societies), Danny Kirwan, is one of my all-time favorite guitarists. To be quite honest, I bought the “Complete Blue Horizon Sessions” not only because I wanted a fine digital copy of some of the early Fleetwood Mac material, but first and foremost because I wanted to have Kirwan’s playing in the best available quality … with as much extra material as I could get my hands on. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that Danny Kirwan is one of the most (and therefore many) underrated musicians of the 20th century.

Kirwan was an influential member of Fleetwood Mac from 1968 until 1972, It was Peter Green, upon recommendation by Fleetwood Mac’s producer Mike Vernon, who was more than impressed by this guitarist’s (then around 17, as far as I recall) style and ability and invited him to become a member of Fleetwood Mac.

“The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions” show a Danny Kirwan coming into his own, not least because Peter Green allowed him more than enough room to showcase both his musical abilities as well as his compositional skills. From his first appearance on one of the band’s most famous tunes, “Albatross” (the B-side with “Jigsaw Puzzle Blues” was Kirwan’s first-published tune), Kirwan began to infuse the band’s music with both a lot more harmonic consistency and, most of all, rock.

Mick Fleetwood recalls that the shy guitarist ‘was the first person in a major way that laid the grounds for myself and John being able to feel quite comfortable with harmony…that, looking back on it, was Danny really contributing yet another level of musical openness that was to become a major part of Fleetwood Mac.’
(The Penguin Biographies: Danny Kirwan)

Being the old fogey I am, I would much rather have seen Fleetwood Mac continue to record the blues material I had fallen in love with, but the arrival of Kirwan signalled a looming change away from those early days. If you kept as close an eye (or: an open ear) on Kirwan as I did, you could tell that Kirwan was affecting a major change.

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 Fleetwood Mac Legacy“)

In short, Kirwan, with his ideas – at times arcane, at other times seemingly eccentric and certainly astonishingly explosive – and his increasing role in Fleetwood Mac’s musical output can be seen as the driving force in pushing Fleetwood Mac away from its blues roots and right into its more conventional pop and mostly rock direction.

No matter what, it was his playing that fascinated me from the get-go. Melodic, a distinct and near-perfect vibrato style, soulful and with surprisingly adult musical sensibilities, Kirwan was a guitarist that was and is a joy to listen to. The man was oozing ideas, a bag-full of fresh breath and the early “Blue Horizon Sessions” are testament to that. Just check out “Albatross”, “Jigsaw Puzzle Blues” and “Like Crying” (penned by Kirwan) on CD 3 and the tracks on the two “Blues Jam in Chicago” CDs included here.

And if you find yourself developing a taste for Kirwan’s playing, why not do yourself a favor and check out everything the man ever recorded. You will not be disappointed.

Writing about Danny Kirwan, whose stellar ascent was only equaled by his spectacular downfall, also washed up those old memories of Fleetwood Mac tidbits that are legion. The Beatles wanted Fleetwood Mac on their Apple label when they had left Blue Horizon and Immediate, their next label, was beginning to deteriorate, Peter Green’s encounter with LSD and the subsequent onset of schizophrenia (plus the fact that he started entertaining the notion that he should be giving away the band’s money to charity), Jeremy Spencer’s sudden disappearance and subsequent reappearance as member of a religious cult (which, to stay as objective as possible, has often been cited in connection with child abuse), Danny Kirwan smashing his own head into a wall repeatedly and being fired after having both abandoned the band at a live gig and then heavily criticized them afterwards, the fights over the band name with Clifford Davis, a bogus Fleetwood Mac completing a tour … the stories never seemed to end and would make for a fascinating, albeit melodramatic, Hollywood film.

No matter what, this box (or the single original albums, should you be so inclined) provide some of the best music Europe had to offer at the end of the 60s. It is honest and authentic, it is more than well-played, it is rough and raw at times and beautifully accomplished at others. In addition, this box sprouts informative liner notes and replicas of the original covers for each and every LP/CD enclosed therein. For collectors, this box is as good as they come.

I just re-read this text and it turned into another epitomizing of a band, its music and its members, despite the many stumbling blocks some of the members of Fleetwood Mac were sure to, well, stumble over. Honestly, I couldn’t care less. This was the music of my youth, the years in between then and now, and it will be the music of the years approaching, now that I have turned 45 – quietly (and not so long ago). In my collection, these earlier Fleetwood Mac recordings stood the test of time, survived my throws of adolescence, my wild veering-about the musical map(s); my highly erratic listening career. I don’t think one can pay a greater compliment to a band than saying that the music they produced has accompanied one’s life, through thick and thin.

These are classics and at the more than reasonable prices for the box around the globe, I think you owe it to yourself to partake in the wonders that were the earlier Fleetwood Mac … unless you have already done so.

“White” blues doesn’t get much better and more honest than this.
Beg, steal … and do NOT borrow.

***

Fleetwood Mac. The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967-1969. Sony/Columbia, 1999.

Deluxe 6 CD Set which features all 5 Fleetwood Mac Blue Horizon releases plus 33 bonus tracks of previously unreleased material and studio dialogue. Original sleeves reprinted on heavy-weight card CD wallets. 32-page booklet with detailed notes by Mike Vernon and classic vintage photos. Remastered.

Fleetwood MacCD 01 – Fleetwood Mac
01. “My Heart Beat Like A Hammer” [Take 2 master incl. studio talk] (03:31)
02. “Merry Go Round” [Take 2 master incl. studio talk] (04:19)
03. “Long Grey Mare” (02:15)
04. “Hellhound on My Trail” [Take 1 complete master] (02:04)
05. “Shake Your Moneymaker” [Master incl. studio talk] (03:1)
06. “Looking For Somebody” (02:50)
07. “No Place To Go” (03:20)
08. “My Baby’s Good To Me” (02:50)
09. “I Loved Another Woman” (02:55)
10. “Cold Black Night” (03:15)
11. “The World Keep On Turning” (02:27)
12. “Got To Move” (03:19)
13. “My Heart Beat Like A Hammer” [Take 1] (03:42)
14. “Merry Go Round” [Take 1] (00:54)
15. “I Loved Another Woman” [Takes 1-4] (06:08
16. “I Loved Another Woman” [Take 5 (Master Remix) and 6] (05:08)
17. “Cold Black Night” [Takes 1-5, and 6 (Master Remix)] (05:28)
18. “You’re So Evil” (03:05)
19. “I’m Coming Home To Stay” (02:27)

Mr. WonderfulCD 02 – Mr Wonderful
01. “Stop Messin’ Round” [Take 4 master (album) remix incl. studio talk] (02:34)
02. “I’ve Lost My Baby” (04:15)
03. “Rollin’ Man” (02:52)
04. “Dust My Broom” (02:51)
05. “Love That Burns” (05:01)
06. “Doctor Brown” (03:43)
07. “Need Your Love Tonight” (03:26)
08. “If You Be My Baby” (03:52)
09. “Evenin’ Boogie” (02:40)
10. “Lazy Poker Blues” (02:34)
11. “Coming Home” (02:38)
12. “Trying So Hard To Forget” (04:45)
13. “Stop Messin’ Round” [Takes 1-3] (04:32)
14. “Stop Messin’ Round” [Take 5 master (single) remix] (02:47)
15. “I Held My Baby Last Night” (04:26)
16. “Mystery Boogie” (02:51)

The Pious Bird of Good OmenCD 03 – Pious Bird Of Good Omen
01. “Need Your Love So Bad” (Version #2) [Take 2 remix] (06:55)
02. “Rambling Pony” [Master remix] (03:32)
03. “I Believe My Time Ain’t Long” [Master remix incl. studio talk] (03:01)
04. “The Sun Is Shining” (03:10)
05. “Albatross” (03:10)
06. “Black Magic Woman” (02:46)
07. “Jigsaw Puzzle Blues” (01:33)
08. “Like Crying” (02:29)
09. “Need Your Love So Bad” (Version #1) [Takes 1-3] (11:33)
10. “Need Your Love So Bad” (Version #2) [Takes 1-2] (13:06)
11. “Need Your Love So Bad” (Version #2) [Take 3] (06:18)
12. “Need Your Love So Bad” (USA Version) (06:18)

Blues Jam in Chicago (Volume 1)CD 04 – Blues Jam In Chicago Vol.1
01. “Watch Out” (04:15)
02. “Ooh Baby” (04:05)
03. “South Indiana” [Take 1] (03:14)
04. “South Indiana” [Take 2] (03:47)
05. “Last Night” (04:56)
06. “Red Hot Jam” [Take 1 incl. studio talk] (05:55)
07. “Red Hot Jam” (06:02)
08. “I’m Worried” (03:44)
09. “I Held My Baby Last Night” (05:16)
10. “Madison Blues” (04:55)
11. “I Can’t Hold Out” (04:49)
12. “Bobby’s Rock” (03:59)
13. “I Need Your Love” [Take 2 master incl. studio talk] (04:32)
14. “Horton’s Boogie Woogie” [Take 1] (03:37)
15. “I Got The Blues” [Master incl. false start] (04:53)

Blues Jam in Chicago (Volume 2)CD 05 – Blues Jam In Chicago Vol.2
01. “World’s In A Tangle” (05:25)
02. “Talk With You” (03:28)
03. “Like It This Way” (04:24)
04. “Someday Soon Baby” (07:36)
05. “Hungry Country Girl” (05:43)
06. “Black Jack Blues” (05:08)
07. “Everyday I Have The Blues” (04:55)
08. “Rockin’ Boogie” (03:58)
09. “My Baby’s Gone” (04:04)
10. “Sugar Mama” [Take 1] (00:49)
11. “Sugar Mama” (06:08)
12. “Homework” (03:19)
13. “Honey Boy Blues” (02:20)
14. “I Need Your Love” [Take 1] (02:15)
15. “Horton’s Boogie Woogie” [Take 2] (03:40)
16. “Have A Good Time” (04:54)
17. “That’s Wrong” (04:12)
18. “Rock Me Baby” (03:23)

The Original Fleetwood MacCD 06 – The Original Fleetwood Mac
01. “Drifting” (3:31)
02. “Leaving Town Blues” [Take 5 master remix] (03:09)
03. “Watch Out” [Take 2 master remix] (04:46)
04. “A Fool No More” [Takes 1-7, and 8 (master alternative mix)] (07:59)
05. “Mean Old Fireman” [Take 1 and 2 {master alternative mix)] (04:06)
06. “Can’t Afford To Do It” (02:02)
07. “Fleetwood Mac” (03:54)
08. “Worried Dream” [Take 1 master remix] (06:55)
09. “Love That Woman” [Alternative mix] (02:32)
10. “Allow Me One More Show” [Alternative Mix] (02:58)
11. “First Train Home” (04:05)
12. “Rambling Pony #2″ [Alternative Mix] (02:53)
13. “Watch Out” [Take 1] (03:06)
14. “Something Inside Of Me” (03:54)
15. “Something Inside Of Me” [Take 2] (04:05)
16. “Something Inside Of Me” [Take 3] (04:16)
17. “One Sunny Day” [Master remix] (03:11)
18. “Without You” (04:30)
19. “Coming Your Way” [Take 6] (02:59)

Filed under: Living with Music

About the Author

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Volkher Hofmann has been blogging on and off since 1992. He loves music, drumming, horror fiction and lots of other things. He also works. When he returned to deus62.com, he buried most of his former other Internet activities and trimmed quite a bit of the fat. Hence the gaps in the timeline around here.

5 Comments

  1. Renee

    I came upon this article you wrote last month by accident, as I was trying to get information about The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions set.  I am a huge Danny Kirwan fan, and I was blown away by your words.  You clearly feel his music the way I do.  My own heart opens up whenever I listen to his stuff, and I do, just about every day. 

    I came very late to an awareness of early FM.  Before that, it was only the later incarnation that I was aware of.  But not long ago, I heard “Dust” from “Bare Trees,” and it made me weep.  Two things happened as a result:  I searched out the entire Rupert Brooke poem and was knocked out by its beauty and poignancy, and I began searching out Danny Kirwan’s other music, beginning with the other superb tracks of his on “Bare Trees.” From there, I discovered “Future Games” and then “Kiln House,” and then back further, to all the earlier stuff from when Green was still with the band: three distinct periods and styles, and all of them incredible.

    At the same time, I found myself absolutely moved beyond words at what happened to Danny outside of the band, how he began drinking so heavily to cope with the stresses and responsibilities of finding himself the frontman after Green and then Spencer left, and then eventually was homeless for so many years. It just breaks my heart that somebody so incredibly full of talent and promise should end up that way.  Hard to wrap my mind around it, really. 

    What I love is the remarkable freshness and timelessness of his music.  His playing is so pure, so clean, so soulful and honest, so inventive and rich, so diverse.  All of his music moves me in some way or other– tracks like “Like it That Way” or “Coming Your Way” or “Loving Kind” or “”Tell Me All the Things You Do” just surge with energy and brilliance.  His playing defies description.  Then there are tracks like “Woman of 1000 Years,” “Sands of Time,” “Dust,” and “Dragonfly.” These are so moving, so poignant, so full of poetry and beauty, that they make me weep.  I never tire of them.  Hearing them and then reflecting on the young man who wrote them, it’s clear that these songs are reflective of the poetry in Danny’s sensitive soul. Nobody could write and make music like that and not be a true poet.

    I read on a YouTube entry recently that he is currently living with family.  According to an article by a FM biographer, as of 2000, Danny was playing guitar again, even if only for his own pleasure.  I hope this is all true, and I only wish there were a way I could express all of this directly to him, and thank him for the gift of his talent and his music.  It’s had a huge impact on my life.  Do you suppose there might be a way to contact him through Reprise Records, assuming he’s still getting royalties?

    Thank you for this wonderful article.  It was beautifully written and is a real tribute not only to the original Fleetwood Mac but to the brilliant Danny Kirwan.

  2. Renee,

    thanks for stopping by and leaving such a lengthy and appreciative comment. I wonder how you typed that up in this small comment box … or maybe you did a cut and paste job?

    There are many Danny Kirwan fans around, they’re just difficult to find. I’m glad you’re one of them. The more, the merrier … and all of that.

    Danny’s story is a sad one. I’ve read just about everything on him I could find and the latest I heard/read was also that he was (finally) having a bit of a brighter outlook on life.

    I’m quite sure trying to contact him through Reprise or any other label would be doomed to failure, but I have no idea how one could contact him. Maybe he’ll find this post here one day? Who knows.

    It is the timelessness of his music – as you mentioned above – that will continue to draw fans to his work and I’m certain that history will – further down the line – place him at the zenith of whatever guitarists are placed in.

    As an aside: musical brilliance has too often lead to highly erratic and often sad life stories. Jazz is full with these kinds of “careers”. Alcoholism, drug addiction, violence and abuse. Some of the greatest musicians this world has ever seen have had to lead lives that none of us would even wish upon their worst enemies.

    Still, if I just take Billie Holiday as an example, these often depressing circumstances have also given birth to hauntingly beautiful music.

  3. Renee

    Thanks for your very nice response, Volkher.  I appreciate it.

    Yes, it was a cut and paste!

    It’s been rather a weird experience, discovering this brilliant musician only to learn, at the very same time, that he’s virtually dropped off the face of the planet.  He becomes a sort of mythic persona as a result, and the heartbreak of what he endured afterwards makes his story not only an enigma but tragic as well.  But it’s encouraging to know that you’ve read/heard the same more positive news about Danny that I have.

    And of course, you’re quite right in what you say about how often musical brilliance (or literary, for that matter) has led to erratic and often sad lives, and for the reasons you list. It’s a high price to pay for such brilliance.  Not long ago, I read an article about the documented rate of early death amongst rock musicians, precisely because of the stresses that lead them to drug and alcohol abuse/addiction.

    But yes, we’ve had incredible and haunting music out of all of that.  In Danny’s case, despite the fact that his tremendous promise was not fulfilled to the extent that it might have been, he still has left us a huge legacy of music (made in such a short period and at such a young age too!), the volume and quality of which many musicians never reach in a lifetime of playing.

    Thanks again!  I hope lots of people will read what you’ve written here.

  4. Hans

    A short comment: the early Fleetwood Mac albums owe a lot to the great Elmore James. I hope people who admire early Fleetwood Mac so much will give the originals a listen. Quite a few songs were written and recorded by Elmore James.

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