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Music

When David Gilmour met a busker playing Pink Floyd on glass

David Gilmour is best known to Far Out readers for his work with Pink Floyd. He’s arguably best known as the man who sang ‘Money’ and ‘Us and Them’, but he’s also responsible for the lacerating guitar solos on ‘Comfortably Numb’, the pulsating keyboards on ‘Have a Cigar’ and the galloping bass that centres ‘Sheep’. If Nick Mason was the face of Floyd, Roger Waters was the brain of Floyd, then Gilmour was the sound of Floyd.

Gilmour was responsible for the way the tunes breathed along, culminating in a body of work that was gorgeous to listen to. He also wound up singing on most of Dark Side of the Moon, breathing new life into Waters’ vision of a changing England. He was also heavily involved with Household Objects, the band’s proposed follow-up to Dark Side of the Moon. 

And although it may have sounded idiosyncratic, the project was actually relatively accessible, utilising the objects the band found around their house. They were “making chords up from the tapping of beer bottles,” engineer John Leckie recalled, “Tearing newspapers for rhythm, and letting off aerosol cans to get a hi-hat sound”. 

The holistic album offered few tangible results, but it did lead to the early offerings of the tune that would become the band’s most fondly remembered anthem: ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’. The band were inspired by the yearning crystalline sound of the glasses, leading to the pulsating opening heard on the track. 

Gilmour must have been reminded of the invention when he happened upon a busker playing his work on a collection of wine glasses. The guitarist was sufficiently impressed with the street musician to invite Igor Sklyarov onto the stage to perform with him that very night. Caught in the Italian climates, Gilmour delivered a blinding performance based on creative spontaneity. 

Unlike the more workmanlike Waters, Gilmour triumphed under spontaneity. His work was spirited, lively and ebullient, and his most riveting work stemmed from feeling comfortable. Tellingly, he recorded many of his most rollicking guitar licks on Paul McCartney’s Run Devil Run, largely because the Beatle allowed him to record quickly and freely.

Some musicians need time and space to create their art, while others prefer the absence of time and space to finish their work. David Bowie was notorious for recording swiftly, feeling that the work was better served by quick, swift sessions. Stewart Copeland was another musician who enjoyed the freedom of working within the barriers of music, as can be heard on the riveting Regatta de Blanc, a blistering album written as the album was being recorded. And John Lennon thrived on spontaneity, cutting ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ and ‘Instant Karma’ within days of their completion. 

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It sounds to me like Gilmour was a musician who tended to follow his gut over his head. He wasn’t interested in the vitality or the theme of the work necessarily but expressed an interest in the way it was presented. Without Gilmour, Animals would have been the sound of a millionaire singer denouncing the trappings of a capitalist system that had wronged his parents, but under Gilmour’s eye, the tunes swing along. 

And when he fronted Pink Floyd on their excellent 1994 effort The Division Bell, he let the tunes dictate the flow of the album, and only attached a narrative to it when he had completed the work. Recognising his weaknesses as a lyric writer, he turned to his partner Polly Samson for guidance. Together they wrote ‘High Hopes’, steering through the history of the band in a collection of feisty insights. The group had become aware of their own history and rose to the occasion with an album that celebrated, venerated and admired the work Pink Floyd had built together. 

Gilmour continues to write and perform and was even tempted to record one final album with Pink Floyd. Recognising the importance of the work, The Endless River offered listeners one final exhibition of Richard Wright’s keyboard playing, and in keeping with the album’s central treatise, he keeps his guitar pointed and focused, gliding along with the keyboard melodies. 

And that was enough for Gilmour. “It has run its course,” he revealed. “We are done. I’m all for Roger doing whatever he wants to do and enjoying himself.”Not even slightly tempted? “But I absolutely don’t want to go back. I don’t want to go and play stadiums. I’m free to do exactly what I want to do and how I want to do it.”

So, there we have it. This is a musician who is happier doing what he wants to do rather than where he does it. And if his gut tells him to bring a busker playing wine-glasses onstage with him, well, that’s what he’s going to do. 

Stream the wine-glass performer below.