Although Roger Waters is commonly regarded as Pink Floyd’s creative powerhouse, David Gilmour is also deserving of credit. It was Gilmour who performed many of the ghostly falsettos on Dark Side of The Moon; it was Gilmour who wrote the biting instrumental that closes ‘Comfortably Numb’; just as it was Gilmour who acted as architect and musical director for the last three albums.
Invited into the fold in 1968, Gilmour’s duties involved singing, arranging and playing guitar, although he did much more than that. Arguably a more gentle presence than Waters, Gilmour is also responsible for writing the riff to ‘Wish You Were Here’, a yearning, pastoral ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Neil Young album.
Clearly, the Pink Floyd guitarist enjoys Young’s work, as evidenced by his decision to include the Crazy Horse frontman in his selection of ‘Desert Island Discs’. In 2003, Gilmour put together a collection of songs that included Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Matha & The Vandellas. For someone so distinctly English (and we would say English before British), Gilmour exudes a taste that was decidedly American (or, in the case of Mr. Young, Canadian).
His comments on ‘A Man Needs A Maid’ are interesting: He ignored the question about the song’s politically incorrect tone, and instead opted to focus on the music instead. “It’s very beautiful,” Gilmour admitted. “[There is] a particularly beautiful instrumental, orchestral passage in the middle.” In one this demonstrates a key difference between Waters and Gilmour. For the bassist, the concepts, lyrics and narratives were the key elements of Floyd’s career, but for Gilmour, his ear was attuned to the instruments that laced all these things together. Ultimately, that’s what made Waters and Gilmour such a dynamic team, and together they composed such distinguished numbers as ‘On The Run’, ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ and ‘Run Like Hell’.
It’s tempting to imagine that Young stood as a common influence for both men, especially since they both utilised a number of acoustic guitars on their solo albums. Pink Floyd are nominally written off as a prog band, although this doesn’t do justice to the variety of influences that they boasted in their individual catalogues. Keyboardist Richard Wright favoured jazz, guitarist Syd Barrett enjoyed British psychedelia, while the other two enjoyed folkier influences. Waters has freely admitted to enjoying Dylan and Lennon, so Young is hardly a stretch.
That said, Gilmour isn’t always happy to discuss Young, especially when it involves spoiling his free time. Alternative Nation ran this amusing story about a fan running into the Pink Floyd frontman: “In the restaurant beforehand I profoundly embarrassed my son and daughter in law when I approached David Gilmour who was also there (was he stalking me I wonder) and asked him if he was going to your concert later that day. He finished his coffee and promptly left – another rock star’s lunch spoiled by an over enthusiastic fan.”
Gilmour uses his enthusiasm when it suits him, and right now, he’s probably listening to this piece.