David Gilmour is often regarded as one of the finest guitarists Britain has ever produced, and considering the company he rose in, this is a serious title to take. The mercurial musician made his name on the extra-terrestrial skills imbued Pink Floyd with its cosmic swirl and solo-heavy core. The guitarist may have been a late joiner to the band, but there’s no denying his impact when joining up with the group in 1968.
Gilmour arrived as a guitarist and vocalist for the group shortly before Syd Barrett departed the band and has had a hand in shaping not only Pink Floyd but, in turn, the entire concept of rock and roll. His use of performance, precision studio engineering and unstoppable pursuit of perfection have often seen him qualified as one of the hardest-working players around. Much of the work to cultivate a unique sound was done with his guitar, and below we’ve picked ten of his best songs to showcase that searing talent.
Beginning with the band in ’68 meant that Gilmour’s contributions to their pioneering acid rock sound of the mid-60s were relatively minimal, but that didn’t stop the magnetic player from pursuing the mind-expanding performances and records that made Pink Floyd a stoner’s dream and a muso’s preferred destination. A meticulous player, Gilmour has always managed to create guitar tones and solos that feel transportive and transcendent in equal measure.
It’s a huge chunk of what makes Pink Floyd so impressive. As well as Roger Waters’ impeccable songwriting and the powerful playing of Nick Mason and Richard Wright, Gilmour was able to be a part of one of the most progressive rock bands of all time. A high-concept and high-art selection of records and performances that point to the Floyd as one of the best.
It may be high brow stuff but that doesn’t mean that Gilmour’s playing is anything but primal at points and at others, ethereal and unattainable. Below, we’ve got 10 of the best moments.
David Gilmour’s 10 best Pink Floyd solos:
10. ‘Another Brick in the Wall part 2’
One of the band’s most famous songs doesn’t spend a lot of time at the bottom of ‘best of’ lists. But thanks to the plethora of searing solos Gilmour’s provided, it falls to the bottom of the pile.
Taken from the band’s most beloved album, The Wall, another concept record built on the foundations of rock opera, ‘Another Brick in the Wall part 2’ is a classic and deserves revisiting whenever one can.
The protest anthem has since become a massive song across the global introducing millions of people to Pink Floyd. While the entire record is the stuff of legend, the song hangs on Gilmour’s imperious solo, and it’s one we could listen to over and over again.
9. ‘Let The Be More Light’
The earliest moment of Gilmour’s soloing on a Pink Floyd record in our list is the very first recorded song with Pink Floyd once he joined the band. The opening track from 1968 effort A Saucerful of Secrets sees Gilmour announce himself as a serious musician.
Though his final guitar part on the record is comparatively short, it was here that he not only announced himself on the scene but set the foundations for Pink Floyd’s upcoming musical expansion.
The band would soon shed the loose shackles of psychedelia and try to find a more tangible narrative for their sonic stories.
It’s hard to dislike ‘Money’. The song is so funky it often gets forgotten as one of Pink Floyd’s finer moments on record.
Landing on The Dark Side of the Moon, the song’s complex composition belies its groovy rhythm, which feels like one of the band’s few ubiquitous moments.
As well as the confusing time signatures, which change when Gilmour’s guitar solo appears, the track is a perfect blend of what made Pink Floyd such a tantalising prospect. Lyrically it’s the band near their best and Gilmour’s guitar solo is a subtle masterclass.
7. ‘Have A Cigar’
Taken from the band’s 1975 album Wish You Were Here, ‘Have a Cigar’ —a song fitting for the record’s front cover—was a rarity in many respects as it features a vocalist on the recording that wasn’t Waters or Gilmour. The legendary folk artist Roy Harper providing a much-needed lilt.
Truly nobody could have come in to help out Gilmour on this solo though. If anyone ever tries to dispute Gilmour’s place in the guitar hall of fame, then just point them towards this track and sit back to wait for their apology.
Another concept record, this time Animals from 1977, the album that many people will consider their single greatest achievement.
Vaguely inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm the tracks runs a true narrative for nearly 18 minutes of searing sonic complexity.
The storyline of the track, which focuses on the viciousness of capitalism, is one thing but somehow Gilmour manages to tell his own riveting version using only the notes on his fretboard but to devastating effect.
5. ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’
We have to take the songs that bookend Wish You Were Here, as one. Put together, ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ acts as one of the finest moments of Pink Floyd’s career and one that most of the band remember with great fondness.
The song acts as a tribute to the band’s fallen founder Syd Barrett with Gilmour, quite aptly, managing to tell the singer’s tragic tale through his guitar.
Beginning with a menacing and dark tone, he eventually lifts his style to cosmic levels and creates a fitting tribute to the late genius and, ultimately, their friend.
If there’s one album on which Gilmour is at his peak then it has to be Animals.
The album is a collection of landmark moments for the guitarist, and ‘Pigs’ is perhaps the pinnacle on that record, highlighting Gilmour’s intense talent.
In the song, Gilmour delivers a stunning three different solos providing a different shade of brilliant with every next one. While he somehow manages to grunt and groan like a pig, the finale is the stuff of legend. It sends shivers down your spine.
Not one for the faint-hearted ‘Time’ acts as another shining moment on the band’s album Dark Side of the Moon, the song houses one of Gilmour’s most famous solos of all. The real pleasure in this track is noting the duality of the song’s content.
While quite possibly the most depressing Pink Floyd song it’s also incredibly beautiful at times, highlighting the romanticism of real life. Gilmours is in full control on this track bending the notes like a comic book hero, the guitarist shows off his vast talent on ‘Time.’
It’s decisive and poignant, like a well-taught painter with a point to prove.
Shared on the band’s 1971 album Meddle, ‘Echoes’ was a very close contender for the number one slot but just got pipped to the post. It is the ultimate in progressive rock, providing a song structure that would put some operatic composers to shame.
The song was the first real steps towards their eventual domination of prog rock and the Gilmour’s solo on the song is perhaps the most crystalline vision of that future. Gilmour combines aggression and fluidity to make a solo worthy of the Pulitzer Prize.
Following the solo Gilmour gets a bit tech-happy and creates an atmospheric tone that you’re unlikely to hear from any other band in the world. Behold.
1. ‘Comfortably Numb’
Sadly, ‘Echoes’ didn’t make the top spot but that’s because we simply couldn’t not listen to the man himself. There isn’t much about ‘Comfortably Numb’, the song which was founded on an argument between Waters and Gilmour, that Floyd fans won’t know. It’s quite simply their Magnus Opus.
While on record it ranks as one of the finest moments of The Wall, it was performing the song live that the vision of the track truly came to life. Gilmour’s solo was front and centre.
During the performance, Roger Waters arrives at the stage bathed in the spotlight before the end of the opening verse as it fades out. Next thing you know the chorus begins from David Gilmour placed around 30 feet up in the air with lights shining from behind him on to the audience, he begins his career-defining solo. As that ends and the audience erupts with praise, the lights go out and we’re directed back to Waters.
Another similar interchange begins with the second verse as Gilmour again takes his place at the top of the wall. Another starring solo sees the crowd open-mouthed in admiration for the guitarist as he wails on his guitar. It’s a solo and a performance which has always left an impression on Gilmour.
“It was a fantastic moment, I can tell, to be standing up on there, and Roger’s just finished singing his thing, and I’m standing there, waiting,” remembers Gilmour. “I’m in pitch darkness and no one knows I’m there yet. And Roger’s down and he finishes his line, I start mine and the big back spots and everything go on and the audience, they’re all looking straight ahead and down, and suddenly there’s all this light up there and they all sort of—their heads all lift up and there’s this thing up there and the sound’s coming out and everything.
“Every night there’s this sort of ‘[gasp!]’ from about 15,000 people. And that’s quite something, let me tell you”. For now, though, listen to the song in it’s purest form.