The Beatles are unequivocally the most important band in British history. Together, they changed the musical landscape when they burst onto the scene in the 1960s, making it possible for countless other bands to thrive within the business. It goes without saying that the world of music would have been a much darker place if it wasn’t for The Fab Four smashing down the barriers into a million pieces and, without them, it seems implausible that a group as progressive as Pink Floyd would blossom into the beautiful beast they did — but which of their songs mean the most to David Gilmour?
Back in 2018, Gilmour was asked if he thought that Pink Floyd was the greatest band ever and, typically humble, he stated that The Beatles are the group who rightly hold that accolade. This is a sentiment that should come as no surprise to the fans who know Gilmour well, a musician who has rarely remained quiet about his adoration for The Fab Four, and he’s forever grateful for the group building the foundations that allowed Pink Floyd’s career to thrive.
Likewise, the London scene that Pink Floyd emerged as the focal point of would go on and help inspire The Beatles to turn their poptastic sound into something more psychedelic than ever before. Fate would bring the two bands into close proximity following Pink Floyd’s signature being secured by EMI and word soon spread about the excitement surrounding the band. Led by Syd Barrett, the Floyd had a growing reputation as the men at the forefront of the new acid-rock movement that was hitting Britain. Whether they had intended to or not, Pink Floyd made themselves the talk of London town in such a short space of time thanks to their mindblowing live shows and, before they knew it, they were in Abbey Road recording their debut album.
Given the opportunity to finally lay down their first record was already a dream come true for Pink Floyd but to create it at Abbey Road studios made the experience even sweeter. One particular highlight from their time in the studio arrived when they were given the opportunity to sit in and watch The Beatles work on their song ‘Lovely Rita’. The Fab Four were in the middle of recording for Sgt. Pepper and were in the zenith of their creative experimentation and, for Pink Floyd, being able to watch on in close proximity would be a memory that would stick with the band for years.
Unfortunately for Gilmour, he was yet to join the group until the end of 1967 so missed out on this opportunity to witness The Beatles recording Sgt. Pepper. He was the biggest Beatles aficionado in the group and, once he joined up with his Pink Floyd bandmates, he made sure to more than make up for missing out on this occasion plentiful times. The songs that Gilmour has chosen to cover by The Beatles provide a lens to see what songs mean the most to him and offer a fascinating insight.
David Gilmour’s favourite Beatles songs:
‘I Saw Her Standing There’
The pioneering Gilmour is still that same young Beatles fan that first picked up an instrument as a kid all those years ago at heart and, notably, gave this vintage quote in Record Collector: “I’m a kid, really. You get into Studio Two at Abbey Road, you’re sitting there with Paul McCartney and your guitar is plugged in,” he said while talking about his and Macca’s work together in later years, perfectly embodying the spirit of a true music fan who has snuck their way into the main room.
“You think that’s an ordinary day’s work, but of course, it isn’t—it’s magical,” he added. Gilmour has worked with McCartney on a few occasions, including one special night in Liverpool: “Managing to persuade him to sing ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ at The Cavern, with me doing the John Lennon parts, was absolutely fantastic. I’ve been in The Who, I’ve been in The Beatles and I’ve been in Pink Floyd! Top that, mother****er!”
Despite achieving everything there is possible to achieve in music with Pink Floyd, managing to keep his cool while performing ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ with Paul McCartney is up there with his greatest accolade.
‘Across The Universe’
Back in the summer of 2002, David Gilmour made an under the radar appearance when he was invited to perform at a Beatles tribute concert in Sussex. The event, hosted by British TV’s Chris Tarrant, was raising money in aid of the Tibet House Trust and a host of other humanitarian charities which were close to Gilmour’s heart. The former Pink Floyd man then took to the stage to cover ‘Across The Universe’ by The Fab Four—and with devastating effect.
John Lennon revealed that he wrote the bonafide Beatles classic after having an argument with his wife Cynthia: “I was irritated,” he explained. “She must have been going on and on about something and she’d gone to sleep and I kept hearing these words over and over, flowing like an endless stream. I went downstairs and it turned into sort of a cosmic song rather than an irritated song, it drove me out of bed. I didn’t want to write it, but I was slightly irritable and I went downstairs and I couldn’t get to sleep until I’d put it on paper.”
Not resting on his laurels, Gilmour wasn’t about to end things there and the former Pink Floyd man stayed on stage following his performance of ‘Across The Universe’ to deliver a ferocious version of the emphatic ‘Revolution’. The only shame, however, is that so few people were in attendance to witness the exhilarating Beatles cover.
Even with a lack of fans to go wild in attendance, he did perform the song in front of a star-studded cast including the likes of Ringo Starr, Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford, Queen drummer Roger Taylor, the unforgettable Bob Geldof, ’60s icons Donovan and Lulu, plus Paul Carrack as well as Faces drummer Kenny Jones.
This track is one extremely close to Gilmour’s heart, arriving as the first overtly political Beatles song which was penned in reaction to the Vietnam War by John Lennon. Gilmour has always been vocal about being ardently anti-war and is one of the most political figures in British music, so it is an unsurprising favourite.
‘Here, There and Everywhere’
In 2015, Gilmour was tasked with creating a David Gilmour & Friends supplementary CD for Mojo Magazine. The project features a hand-picked selection of songs that the former Pink Floyd man adores. However, rather than just including The Beatles’ version of ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, he instead recorded a gorgeous cover with the help of his son Joe.
When asked about his choice of song to cover, Gilmour simply said: “I really wish I had been in The Beatles,” in his accompanying notes. “[They] taught me how to play the guitar, I learnt everything. The bass parts, the lead, the rhythm, everything. They were fantastic.”
Paul McCartney revealed in 2018 that John Lennon only praised his songwriting once and it was this track which elicited the rare compliment from his bandmate. Speaking as part of a 60 Minutes profile interview for CBS, Macca recalled: “John says just as it finishes, ‘That’s a really good song, lad. I love that song.’ And I’m like, ‘Yes! He likes it!'”