David Gilmour has done some memorable guest appearances over the years. His instantly recognisable tone and soulful playing is often what makes those songs so special. At least to me. In this feature I’ll share my top 5 guest appearances by David.
Remember back in the mid 80s when MTV was playing music? Real music? I was about 10, I guess, when I first saw Paul McCartney upon the rooftop singing No More Lonely Nights. Obviously, I knew who Paul was but what caught my attention, every time, was this guitar solo.
At the time, my life was basically all about hard rock. I knew nothing about Pink Floyd nor David Gilmour, but I knew I liked this guitar solo that I heard. For all I cared, it could be McCartney himself playing guitar. Years later, having become a Floyd fan, I heard the song again and then it hit me who it was. No wonder I liked it!
David did a lot of guest appearances in the late 80s and early 90s. This was a time when few outside the business and the hardcore fan base knew his name. People knew Pink Floyd but ask a guy on the street who David Gilmour was and he would probably shake his head. David was not chosen as a guest player because of his name but his playing and tone.
As a guest musician, David often repeats himself. You’ve often heard the lick or tone before but that’s kind of the nature of the gig too. A guest musician is often asked to “do that thing that you do”. Artists choose you because they want that tone on their song or album. Still, it’s remarkable how well David’s playing always fits in and how it almost always takes centre stage.
Here are my top 5 guest appearances by David.
Despite the otherwise boring album, McCartney deliver a timeless ballad, beautifully arranged and of course, with David’s guitar as the definitive highpoint. It’s one of the few songs I know that doesn’t get an early fade out when played on the radio.
One of my favourite moments is that first lick after the first line in the chorus. There’s nothing subtle about it and the guitar just rips through the whole mix and grabs the listener. It’s a perfect hook.
The song has a warm feel and the lyrics makes you just want to curl up in your sofa but as a contrast, the guitar is cold and aggressive giving the impression of anger and resentment.
To me, this is a perfect pop song. I love everything about it and it’s always been one of my favourite Gilmour moments. Perhaps, partly because it hit me just when I started to discover music but it’s been a huge inspiration for me and my own music and I often have that rainy atmosphere and David’s tone in the back of my head when I’m writing.
For the session David used his 1983 fiesta red ’63 reissue Fender Stratocaster into a (possibly two) Fender Concert amp. At that point, the guitar had been modified with a Roland synthesiser pickup driving a Roland GR700 processor.
It’s hard to tell whether he used the Roland setup. It does’t sound like it and the effects rack used on the About Face tour can be spotted in the studio. If I were to guess, I would say that he used a Boss CS2 compressor into either a ram’s head Big Muff or Boss HM-2 (the latter possibly in combo with a Mesa Boogie MkI head), with a Boss CE2 chorus and MXR digital delay.
I’ve always been a huge Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry fan and David has done a lot of work with Ferry over the years. Is Your Love Strong Enough (featured on the Legend soundtrack), was recorded in 1985, shortly after the McCartney collaboration and you can hear the resemblance in the way David approaches his tone and playing.
While No More Lonely Nights has this intimate and down to earth feel, this song is bombastic and huge sounding. David delivers a flashy guitar solo that fits the song perfectly, with some amazing bends and whammy bar moves.
But let’s face it. David doesn’t really fit the rock star image and the way he is portrayed in the video, coming out of that wall covered in light and smoke, is so out of character. Still, we get a glimpse of the #0001 Stratocaster, which at least at the time, had rarely been seen.
It’s hard to tell what he used for the session. Although the tone is familiar, it is less typical than No More Lonely Nights and other work sounding a bit mid rangy and dark. Ferry often like to produce the guitars himself, so there might have been the case of David using whatever gear, or at least effects, he was handed although there’s a lot of processing you can do to a recorded guitar in the mixing.
This one pretty much speaks for it self. Two of the greatest guitarists on the same stage, clearly showing huge admiration for each other. Jeff Beck’s version Jerusalem is in itself a masterpiece and it was such a surprise to see them do this together.
This is by no means a perfect performance from David. It’s kind of typical of him concentrating on everything sounding perfect, rather than what he’s actually playing. Still, once he gets everything sorted out, he delivers beautifully with an amazing feel.
It’s also interesting to hear how much more technical Beck is and apart the fact that he’s played this song numerous times, he’s seemingly more on top of his game. But listen to David and the way he’s improvising, clearly revealing his deep blues roots. To me, this performance shows just how emotional David’s playing is and it says a lot about why he’s so much more than just the epic Floyd solos.
Setupwise, you can spot three Alessandro tube heads on top of two WEM speaker cabinets and of course, the Black Strat. He’s using the Pete Cornish MkII All Tubes pedal board, with a Tube Driver and delay (and possibly some compression).
Back in 1999 I was starved for anything Gilmour related. It had already been five years since the last Floyd album and tour and apart from the occasional guest appearance, there was just a deafening silence. Then, this album appeared with David being the main guitarist on all the songs.
I’m not sure what I had expected. I knew it was Paul returning to his roots, with a few covers and some new original material but I guess I had expected David to sound like, well, David. He didn’t.
Still, I listened to the album a lot and when the Cavern gig turned up on DVD I thought it was so cool to see David up on that small stage doing something completely different. And it sounded great!
Again, this is a great example of how you can hear a song and as soon as the guitar enters, you go “Ah! I know who’s playing!” The solo is simple but there’s no doubt who’s doing those bends and the little fills in between.
On this live clip from Live at the Cavern Club, David’s using his ’55 Fender Esquire into a Fender Bassman, with the Pete Cornish All Tubes MkI pedal board. The main effect setup for the show, including No Other Baby, was a Tube Driver with a hint of delay and probably some compression when needed.
Standing Around Crying was originally written and recorded by blues legend Muddy Waters in the mid 50s. Paul Rogers (Free/Bad Company) and David Gilmour recorded this version for the 1993 tribute album Muddy Waters Blues, which featured an impressive list of guitar greats.
David’s performance and tone is typical of how he sounded in the early 90s and the many guest appearances he did during that period. You can hear the same approach on songs like Heaven Can Wait (Paul Young), I Put a Spell on You (Mica Paris) and Understanding Women (Elton John).
What I love about this version, apart from David’s amazing tone, is that you can hear where his blues influences are coming from. There’s lots of BB King, Albert King and Peter Green in there and you can almost pin point each lick to each legend. Still, it sounds like David and he’s added something new and unique to the classic style.
I also love that you can hear that this is clearly a single run through (or at least very little editing). It’s not perfect and there are all these little mistakes and fret noises but that’s also the beauty of the performance.
There are no records from the sessions, as far as I know, but it is likely that he used the candy apple red 1983 Fender ’57 reissue Stratocaster, with the EMG pickups into a Fender Bassman or Deluxe. It could have been a Hiwatt SA212 combo but to my ears, the tone sound less mid rangy, which hints towards a Fender.
Effectswise I would assume he used a Chandler Tube Driver, possibly with a Boss CS-2 in front, with a Boss CE-2 chorus and the MXR Digital Delay rack.
So, there you have it! My top 5 David Gilmour guest appearances. I’m sure you have a different list and maybe I forgot one or two gems? Please share!