Shine On You Crazy Diamond is for many what Pink Floyd is all about. It’s the perfect combination of the instrumental Floyd and Roger’s lyrics and it’s one of David’s finest performances both in terms of his playing and tone. In this article we’ll examine the history of the song, David’s setups throughout the years and look at some of the blues references.
Shine On was written in early June 1974 during rehearsals at King’s Cross in London for the forthcoming French mini tour. David played four notes that immediately caught Roger’s attention and from there they started their normal procedure with pasting different bits and pieces together, all based on a standard three chord blues. The song was premiered at Parc des Expositions in Toulouse, France 18 June 1974.
While Dark Side of the Moon was a collection of shorter “pop” songs Floyd returned to an old formula with Shine On focusing on the music, which makes Wish You Were Here stand out as a stronger group effort than Dark Side. The album is also an example of how Pink Floyd was different from most prog bands. Although they wrote songs that lasted three or four times longer than the average radio hit, they always embraced their blues roots. An inspiration they both shared and got from Syd. Shine On also has that element of gospel like many of the songs on Dark Side of the Moon. It made their music more soulful and easier to understand and like, compared to the often complicated structures of the typical prog rock.
David’s guitars were recorded in Abbey Road between January and May 1975. His main setup included:
Fender “The Black Strat” Stratocaster
Fender 1000 twin neck pedal steel
Fender Dual Showman amp with a matching cabinet
Hiwatt DR103 amp with a WEM speaker cabinet
Leslie rotating speaker
The Black Strat had already gone through several changes at this point. In June 1972 David replaced the original maple neck with a ’63 rosewood from the sunburst Strat he had been using on and off since 1970. He had also replaced the stock pickups around June 1973 with the pickguard assembly from the 1971 bullet truss rod Strat that he bough in early 1972. The black pickguard replaced the white in July/August 1974.
There has been much debate over what David used for overdrives, – whether it was a fuzz, amp gain or an overdrive/booster of some sort. However, all the solos and rhythm parts includes a Colorsound Power Boost, which had been David’s main overdrive unit since early 1972 and one he continued to use up until The Wall sessions. The quadraphonic mix of the album also reveals that most of the rhythm guitars on the verse/chorus parts were dubbed by several tracks and underlined with both a piano and a fuzz bass.
David also used a Fuzz Face (BC108) for the slide solos and a MXR Phase 90 on Syd’s Theme, the third solo and rhythms on part 8 and a Binson Echorec 2 for delays.
The guitar solos 1974-77
The intro solo, played over Rick’s layers of organs, farfisas and wine glasses, was pretty much written during the recording sessions in early 1975 (the early pre-album performances starts with Rick’s keyboard solo and right on to Syd’s Theme). David recorded the solo with the Black Strat straight into the amp using the neck pickup. If you listen very carefully you can even hear little “mistakes” here and there.
Although David has been fairly true to the original album version in recent years, he often wandered off the signature pattern on the 1977 version and added a more hardcore blues feeling to the solo. Sometimes it was a bit too much but if you listen to some of the recordings from the US leg of the tour, both his tone and playing is just incredibly soulful.
The second solo on Shine On is one of David’s most famous signatures. That bend starting at the 13th fret is instantly recognisable. The tone on the album version is fairly clean with the Colorsound Power Boost set for a very mild crunch. David’s using the neck pickup and switch over to the bridge at the end.
Again, on both the early pre-album and 1977 performances David digs deep into his roots. He has often said that he prefers playing solos based on Gminor as there seems to be more to work with. His playing on Shine On – the second solo in particular – has many references to Leadbelly, Robert Johnson and of course BB King. Those single notes and the fairly basic structure is all King, – one of David’s biggest inspirations. The second passage or lick, which is similar to the fill right after “Nobody knows where you are…” is as if BB King would have played it himself.
The third solo in the intro section might seem redundant and Floyd did ditch it on the 1980s and 90s tours but it makes perfect sense as the climatic end of a blues jam. On the album version David cranks the Colorsound Power Boost and adds a MXR Phase 90 using the bridge pickup. The phaser was introduced in David’s rig in June 1974 and was extensively used throughout the tour on Breathe, Shine On, Have a Cigar (also used on the album version), Raving and Drooling (Sheep) and You Gotta Be Crazy (Dogs) and even Echoes.
This solo is also one of David’s most aggressive. Especially the 1977 version when he used a Big Muff, that must have blown a few circuits on the stage. More on David’s Animals effects board here. As the Animals tour reached the closing shows, David’s tone got wilder and some interesting versions of the solo has been documented on several bootlegs. A favourite of mine is from New York 2 July 1977. It’s sheer power… far from the soulful album version.
The slide solo was originally just a lot of wild echo sounds with no particular pattern, similar to the album version of One of These Days. David used the Fender 1000 twin neck pedal steel on the shows in France in June ’74 and this was actually the first time that he played a steel guitar on stage. Prior to this he had used the Stratocaster as seen on One of These Days from Live at Pompeii. During the band’s rehearsals at Elstree Film Studios in October ’74 Phil Taylor bought two new Jedson lap steels that David used on the late 1974 shows and they of course became his main slides for the next 30 years.
David had a Fuzz Face and a volume pedal lying under the steel guitar that was fed into the Binson Echorec for delays.
The rhythm parts on Shine On are a mix between straight power chords, random strumming and classic blues. While parts 1-5 are pretty straight forward David does a lot of sophisticated work on parts 6-9. While he would normally play rhythms based on the drums and bass (Echoes, Childhood’s End, Time etc) his playing on Shine On is about creating different layers and textures.
Again the quadraphonic mix reveals many details and the rhythms during the slide solos on part 6 are particularly well crafted. David blends many techniques and although it may sound quite straight forward he incorporates licks and patterns reminiscent of Robert Johnson and Elmore James. Notice that there are two different guitars panned right and left almost duelling, playing opposite patterns and octaves.
David’s rig on the ‘94 tour is by far the biggest he’s ever travelled with. The sheer scale of it has both intrigued and confused the fans and his tone on Shine On in particular has always been the goal for many of us, – that fat warm overdrive with endless sustain. The fact is that David’s setup for Shine On ‘94 were basically the same as in 1974-‘75 and ‘77.
The intro solo includes an MXR Dynacomp and a Boss CS-2 compressor as well as a Boss CE-2 chorus. David uses two compressors on several of the songs performed on the tour and the reason might be that the SPC mid range booster feature on the EMGs produce a very mild overdrive and by using two compressors he’s able to get a very smooth crunchy tone with lots of sustain without actually using an overdrive pedal.
For the second solo and the verse/chorus sections David is using the Boss CS-2, a Chandler Tube Driver for heavier overdrive, a Boss CE-2 chorus and digital delay. The Chandler is an early version of the BK Tube Driver included in the 2006 Cornish board (the tone is perhaps closer to a Tube Screamer).
As in the 70’s David used both the Hiwatts and rotating speakers to create a bigger sound and if you listen very closely to Syd’s Theme on Pulse you can hear this slow rotating or shifting sound from the Doppolas. More on David’s rotating speakers here.
On an Island tour 2006
The version David performed on his 2006 tour is a mix between the acoustic version from 2001/02 and Pulse. Again, David’s setup is very basic and this time even closer to the older version without chorus or flangers. He’s using the red Strat with the EMGs, a Demeter Compulator, BK Tube Driver (one set for clean volume boost and the other for heavy overdrive for the second solo) and digital delay.
David struggled a lot with the Sound on Sound effect. Some times it worked and some times it didn’t and if it didn’t he got all sorts of feedback and ringing notes. However, all these “mistakes” only made him more focused and perhaps a bit frustrated and this is reflected in his playing just like when he was angry with Roger in 1977. Some of the solos performed in 2006 take us right back to that spontaneity and power from 1977.
Sound On Sound explained
The Sound on Sound effect was something David introduced on the 2001/02 acoustic shows. He wanted to be able to play Shine On without using keyboards and developed this technique of sustaining a chord with delay and playing on top of it.
The Sound on Sound effect, isn’t an effect in form of a pedal but rather the effect achieved when splitting the signal in two with a long delay assigned to one channel. David strums a chord and makes a volume swell with the volume pedal assigned for the Sound on Sound channel. The signal travels to the Sound on Sound unit (basically a A/B router unit made by Pete Cornish) and into the Roland digital delay, which is set to 1500ms lasting about 20 seconds. The signal then travels into a Hiwatt and WEM cabinet used only for this effect. Gilmour lowers the volume pedal and plays a solo fed through the “normal” signal path, while the Sound on Sound pad is sustained by the long delay. The pattern is repeated for each chord.
The effect can easily be achieved by using a delay with long repeats and an A/B splitting your signal into two cabinets. There’s also a couple of delay units that offers a Sound on Sound effect like the Boss DD-20 but it’s not quite the same.
Getting the Shine On tone
As described above, David’s setup for Shine On is pretty basic and much of his tone lies in just a clean tube amp and the pickups. A set of vintage low output pickups like Fender CS69 will give you the most authentic 1974-77 tones. The bright transparent tone blends nicely with most effects. However, if you’re desperately seeking THE Pulse tone, I recommend the EMG DG-20s – same set as David’s using on his red Strats with the EXG bass/treble booster and the SPC mid booster (read more here). I do recommend that you try these before you buy them though. They’re Pulse in a box but not very versatile and it can be hard achieving authentic Dark Side or Pompeii tones with them. You can however, get a convincing Pulse tone with vintage style pickups by adding more mid range to your tone with an EQ pedal or simply by using a Tube Screamer as your main overdrive unit. See this article for more tips on which guitars to buy.
David’s Hiwatts are as essential as his Strats. What you want is an amp with as much headroom as possible (doesn’t distort when you turn up the volume) and without too much mid range. Hiwatts, Sound City and Reeves are ideal. I also recommend Fender Bassmans and Dual Showmans but a Twin could be a bit too bright and punchy. For smaller setups I recommend a Peavey Classic or even older Marshall combos for that warm vintage clean tone. See this article for more tips on which amps to buy.
Always connect your effects into the front inputs and set it up like this: bass 50%, treble 50-60%, mids 40% and the master volume should be about 1/3 of the channel volume. I also recommend linking the normal and bright channel inputs for more presence (link the upper normal and lower bright and plug your guitar into the upper bright). Set the bright volume slightly lower than the normal volume.
I think the trick with getting a good tone for Shine On is to keep things as simple as possible. Base your tone on your amp and your pickups and don’t use too many effects but stick to the bare necessities. Keep in mind that Pulse isn’t really a good reference for David’s tones because what you hear is a mix between the close mic’ed amps, the reverb drenched PA system and the processed album mix. If you’re trying to replicate a sound you should always compare the official live recording with a couple of bootlegs to get the right impression of how it really sounded.
1. Classic 1974-77 tone
MXR Dynacomp – sustain 10:00 and volume 2:00
EH Big Muff (3rd solo 1977) – sustain 2:00, tone 11:00, volume 1:00
Colorsound Power Boost (clean boost/mild overdrive) – treble 10:00, bass 12:00, gain/volume 12:00 and master 2:00.
Colorsound Power Boost (full overdrive) – treble 9:00, bass 12:00, gain/volume 4:00 and master 2:00.
MXR Phase 90 (1974-75) – rate 1:00
EH Electric Mistress (1977) – rate 10:00, range “off”, colour 10:00
Echo/delay – 370ms
If you can’t find or afford a Colorsound Power Boost, check out the Absolutely Analog Fist, ThroBak Overdrive Boost or Vintage FX Colordrive. You can also replace it with similar sounding pedals like a BK Tube Driver, Boss BD-2 (preferably a Keeley model) or an Exotic RC Booster.
For delays, check out the EH Memory Man or Trex Replica for authentic analog echo or simply a Boss DD.
2. PULSE (for EMG pickups)
Boss CS-2 – level 2:00, attack 12:00, sustain 11:00
Chandler/BK Tube Driver – volume 2:00, hi 1:30, low 2:00, gain 10:00
Boss CE-2 – rate 1:00, depth 11:00
Digital delay – 440ms
3. PULSE (for vintage style pickups and smaller setups/home)
Boss CS-2 – level 2:00, attack 12:00, sustain 11:00
Ibanez/Maxon Tube Screamer (preferably 808) – overdrive 2:00, tone 10:00, volume 2:00
Equalizer – mild mid range boost
Boss CE-2 – rate 1:00, depth 11:00
Digital Delay – 440ms
My stage setup
Fender Stratocaster with Fender CS 69 pickups
Sound City 50w amp with linked inputs – bass 50%, treble 50%, mids 40%
Gollmer Composus – comp 1:00, sustain 1:00, volume 2:00
BYOC Large Beaver “triangle” (3rd solo and slides) – gain 2:00, tone 11:00, volume 1:00
Maxon OD808 (intro solo) – overdrive 10:00, tone 3:00, volume 3:00
Colorsound Power Boost (Syd’s Theme and Muff boost) – treble 10:00, bass 12:00, volume 12:00, master 2:00
BK Tube Driver (2nd solo and rhythms) – volume 2:00, hi 1:30, bass 2:00, drive 11:00
EH Deluxe Electric Mistress (Syd’s Theme) – rate 10:00, range “off”, colour 10:00
Boss DD-2 – level 11:00, feedback 2:00, time 12:00
I’m using three different overdrives to achieve the best tones from my favourite versions. The Maxon OD808 has that warm, creamy tone perfect for replicating David’s Pulse tones on the intro solo and the BK Tube Driver has enough balls to give me that punchy powerful rhythms. The Colorsound is very similar and I often use it throughout the song but it somehow sounds better for cleans and for boosting the Big Muff on the third solo and the slides.
So, that’s pretty much it. I hope you got a little wiser and found some of the tips useful. I think the essence is to keep things simple. As I’ve said throughout this article, Shine On is a blues song and doesn’t require a whole lot of effects and stuff. Please feel free to share your favourite Shine On set up!
- “Wish You Were Here”, original recording 1975
- “Delicate Sound of Thunder”, official live album and VHS 1988
- “PULSE”, official live album and DVD 1995
- “Remember That Night”, official DVD 2007
- “Colmar”, Colmar, France 22 June 1974
- “Wembley FM pre-master”, London, UK 16 November 1974
- “Echoes in the Gardens” Boston, USA 18 June 1975
- “Welcome to the Machine” New York, USA 2 July 1977
- Guitarist magazine, January 1995
- “The Black Strat – A History of David Gilmour’s Black Fender Stratocaster” by Phil Taylor
- “Echoes – The Complete History of Pink Floyd” by Glen Povey