Early Years part 2, 1970-72

Although David’s rig was pretty basic during his first five years with Pink Floyd, both his tone and technique played a significant role in shaping the band’s sound after Syd’s departure. In this second part of the article we’ll look at David’s guitars, amps and effects between 1970-1972 and how he’s playing and tone evolved.

From psychedelia to art rock
After Syd’s departure in early 1968 Pink Floyd struggled to free themselves from the psychedelia label. It was also a struggle to maintain some level of creativity without their former songwriter. While 1968-69 was a period of trying to find his place in the band, the years between 1970-72 saw David experimenting a lot more both with his tone and different gear.

(left) David pictured with the white Strat he'd been using since summer 1968. The guitar got stolen on 16 May 1970 in New Orleans along with the rest of the band's equipment. (right) Pink Floyd headlined the Hyde Park Free Concert 18 July 1970. David played a sunburst 1959 Fender Stratocaster with a 1963 neck. The neck was later fitted onto the Black Strat in June 1972 and stayed on until late summer 1978.

Spring 1970
- main reference: Paris, France 23 January 1970
Pink Floyd continued to tour throughout the spring and used the time between the tours to record their new album Atom Heart Mother. David mostly used the same gear he’d been using since medio summer ’69 with a few new additions:


- 1966-67 all stock Fender Stratocaster with a white ash body, white pickguard and a rosewood 4-bolt neck with a large headstock.
– Fender Telecaster of unknown date with natural brown body, white pickguard and a maple neck.
– 1969 all stock Fender Stratocaster with a black alder body, white pickguard and a rosewood 4-bolt neck with a large headstock.
– Gibson J-45 acoustic steel string


- 3 Hiwatt DR103 All Purpose 100W heads with Mullard 4xEL34’s power tubes and 4xECC83’s pre-amp tubes. Controls for normal volume, brilliance volume, bass, middle, treble, presence and master.
– 3 WEM Super Starfinder 200 cabinets with 4×12” Fane Crescendo speakers with metal dust caps.


- Vox wah wah
– Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face (NKT275)
– Binson Echorec II

KQED April 1970
More did have some success in the States, which gave the band the opportunity to tour the country twice in 1970. On 28 April Pink Floyd recorded a one-hour TV-special for PBS TV at the KQED studios in San Francisco, USA. Being a small TV studio, the band had to scale down their equipment and David used only one Hiwatt head with a WEM cabinet. Still, the performance is a great reference for Pink Floyd’s sound at the time.

- Cymbaline from the KQED session in San Francisco, USA, 28 April 1970. Notice David’s scaled down rig with only one Hiwatt head and a WEM cab. You can also spot the Binson Echorec. The Stratocaster was bought at Manny’s in New York just a couple of weeks before the filming and it was later stolen in New Orleans 16 May.

David brought only the white Stratocaster to the States and after landing in New York in early April he bought a new 1969 black Stratocaster with a rosewood neck and white pickguard at Manny’s. The guitar was used on the following shows and featured on the on the KQED session. Sadly Pink Floyd’s equipment got stolen in May and although most it was returned, David’s white and the new black rosewood Strats were lost. Floyd was forced to cancel the rest of the shows and David returned to Manny’s and bought a new black 1969 Fender Stratocaster, this one with a maple neck. The guitar was to become David’s main axe for the next 15 years, known simply as the Black Strat.

Summer and autumn 1970
The Black Strat made its debut appearance at the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music on 27 June in front of 150.000 people. Pink Floyd officially premiered their new suite Atom Heart Mother with a full brass band and choir, although the song had been played since January.

On 18 July Pink Floyd headlined the Blackhill’s Garden Party – Hyde Park Free Concert and David is seen with a 1959 sunburst Fender Stratocaster with a 1963 rosewood neck, which was a gift from Steve Marriott from Humble Pie/Small Faces. Later, in June 1972, David would swap the neck with the maple on the Black Strat (more on that later). The festival is also interesting because WEM used the event to showcase their new PA system and it was around this time that David started with the 4 WEM speaker cab setup he used throughout the 70’s.

- Embryo performed at the Festival de St Tropez 8 August 1970. For some reason the cameraman decided not to film David but the footage gives a great reference for David’s classic germanium Fuzz Face tone. The guitar is a mid 1960’s Fender Stratocaster with a rosewood neck that David bought at a second hand shop in London.

On 8 August Pink Floyd played at the Festival de St Tropez. The whole performance was filmed by French TV and recently surfaced on several bootleg sites. It’s an awesome showcase of Floyd’s gear and sound from the period, with unique versions of Embryo and Atom Heart Mother (band version). David is using a white Fender Stratocaster with a rosewood neck that he’d purchased in a second hand shop in London earlier that summer. For some reason, he removed the pickup covers on the guitar and according to Phil Taylor’s book “The Black Strat – A History of David Gilmour’s black Fender Stratocaster” they were replaced by custom stereo pickups in the mid 70’s. Apparently David still has the guitar.

While playing in Vancouver, Canada in early October David met up with luthier Bill Lewis and bought one of his guitars. It was unique and quite ahead of its time with custom humbuckers and a single piece mahogany body. The guitar is first seen on stage in Copenhagen 12 November and on a TV performance for ORTF Studios, Paris, France 4 December. More about the Bill Lewis guitar here.

Again in Vancouver David also visited a pawn shop and reportedly bought a Gibson TV with P90 pickups and a blonde Fender 1000 double neck pedal steel. The twin neck was used on Meddle and several tracks on Dark Side on the Moon, notably Breathe and Great Gig in the Sky. It was also used on a couple of shows in June 1974 and can be seen on the BBC Dark Side of the Moon documentary from 2003.

- Pink Floyd jamming at the ORTF Studios in Paris, France, 4 december 1970. The piece is often referred to as “Corrosion”. It’s an interesting clip because, apart from the studio outtakes from Abbey Road on the Live at Pompeii film, this is the only live footage of the Bill Lewis guitar.

As talked about in part one of this article, David’s style was very much based on having to play Syd’s old guitar parts and songs as well as a strong contemporary influence in Jimi Hendrix. By summer 1970, with the new album and a lot of touring, David seems much more confident with his place in the band and his own playing and embraces his roots in the blues from the 1930s, 40s and 50s and legends like Leadbelly, Pete Seeger and BB King, which whom made him start playing guitar as a teenager. The influence is evident on songs like Atom Heart Mother, Fat Old Sun and live versions of Embryo. In my opinion, David’s playing on Atom Heart Mother (album) is much more reminiscent of Wish You Were than the typical Hendrix, space rock style on Meddle and Dark Side of The Moon.

With Fat Old Sun David had also managed to establish himself as a contributing songwriter. It’s a pattern that goes right up to songs like High Hopes, Lost for Words and On an Island, where David blends his love for classic blues and folk traditions with lyrics about childhood memories from Cambridge and absent friends. In a sense, David’s writing on both Atom Heart Mother and Meddle is very much reminiscent of Division Bell and On an Island.

The Fuzz Face
Atom Heart Mother is also a great showcase of the germanium fuzz tone and how David used it for boost and overdrive rather than the typical oversaturated, earpinching Hendrix tone. David developed techniques by using the volume control on the guitar to adjust the gain on the Fuzz Face and what you hear throughout Atom Heart Mother (the track) is a Stratocaster with the germanium model Fuzz Face (NKT275).

David is also seen experimenting with different pedals throughout spring 1970. At Fillmore East, New York 16 April an undocumented fuzz unit looking very much like a Sola Sound/Marshall Supa Fuzz lies next to the other pedals. Many sources also mentions an Orange Treble Booster being used on the albums and tours from the period but this has recently been denied by Phil Taylor and seems to have been a misquote from an old interview with David from 1978.

David started using Fuzz Face pedals with silicon transistors sometime during the first half of 1971. Listening to bootlegs from the spring tour, it’s hard to tell whether he used a germanium or silicon model or even both but by the time they filmed Live at Pompeii in October, it was all silicon Fuzz Faces. Compared to the warm overdrive from the germanium transistor the silicon has a bright, edgy tone with slightly more gain. Compare David’s tone on Atom Heart Mother with songs like When You’re In and Time and you’ll hear the difference. David also added a DeArmond volume pedal to be able to tame the new fuzz unit, since the silicon transistor doesn’t respond that well to using the guitar volume for gain and volume adjustment. The DeArmond is seen placed in front of the fuzz, which is a strange move but it makes sense, as David wanted to be able to control the input signal just like using the guitar volume knob. More about the Fuzz Face here.

- These are two different clips of Careful With That Axe, Eugene illustrating the differences between the germanium and silicon transistor Fuzz Face models. The first clip is from the KQED session in 28 April 1970 and the latter is from Brighton, UK, 29 June 1972. On the first clip David’s using the germanium model, which has a mild overdrive tone very typical for Hendrix while on the second clip he’s using the bright, edgy silicon model, which has a bit more gain and a “wild” tone.

It’s not documented what David might have used for overdrive tones during the 1971 tours. He might have just used the guitar volume to control the gain as he did the prior years. One theory is that he might have used germanium and silicon Fuzz Faces, the germanium for overdrive and the silicon for leads. Pictures from the Crystal Palace Bowl 15 May reveals two Fuzz Face pedals in his setup and audio sources definitely confirms an overdrive unit in addition to the typical silicon tone. The theory can be supported by the fact that Pink Floyd still played many of the old songs where David would typically use the germanium fuzz like Astronomy Domine, Cymbaline, Atom Heart Mother and Embryo. Again, the (Orange) treble booster claim is false and David didn’t start using the Colorsound Power Boost until early 1972.

Amps and effects summer and autumn 1971
- main reference: Lyon, France, 12 June 1971
David had now settled with the classic setup of 3 Hiwatt heads placed in a custom rack and the 4 WEM speaker cabinets. He had also started using a Leslie on stage, powered by one, and sometimes two, HH IC-100 solid state heads serving as preamps.


- 3 Hiwatt DR103 All Purpose 100W heads with Mullard 4xEL34’s power tubes and 4xECC83’s pre-amp tubes. Controls for normal volume, brilliance volume, bass, middle, treble, presence and master.
– 4 WEM Super Starfinder 200 cabinets with 4×12” Fane Crescendo speakers with metal dust caps.
– HH Electronic IC-100 100W solid state head
– Leslie 147 rotating speaker cabinet


- DeArmond volume pedal
– Vox wah wah
– Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face (NKT275 and/or BC108)
– Binson Echorec II
– Binson Echorec PE (European summer shows)

Live at Pompeii
Hailed by many as the greatest concert film ever produced, Live at Pompeii was filmed in the ruins of an old amphitheatre in Pompeii between 4-7 October 1971. The film is a superb reference for Pink Floyd’s and David’s equipment and sound from the era. Most of the songs are filmed and recorded in Pompeii while Careful with that Axe, Eugene and Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun were both filmed at the Studio Europasinor in Paris, France 13-20 December. They all did a lot of overdubs and the fact that they didn’t produce the soundtrack themselves makes the whole film sound quite different compared to how they normally sounded on stage.

David’s tone on especially Echoes is a favourite among many fans, – the bright, punchy clean tone and screaming fuzz with endless sustain. Again, it should be mentioned that most of David’s guitar was dubbed in the studio, so what you hear is a mix between the live sound and dubbed sound, which can be a bit tricky to replicate. See the Live at Pompeii Gear Guide for a complete list of David’s equipment.

- Echoes (part 1) performed in the ruins in Pompeii.

After years of speculation it was finally confirmed in Phil Taylor’s book “The Black Strat – A History of David Gilmour’s black Fender Stratocaster” that the Stratocaster used on Live at Pompeii is indeed the Black Strat. More on that here.

1972 world tour
Live at Pompeii was an as much a closure of the early era as well as a showcase of all their equipment. Although they toured for the rest of the year with the same set songs, they knew they had to write new material. A couple of weeks off around Christmas was enough for Waters to write an entire album and the band used January 1972 to rehearse what would become the main suite for the next tour and eventually end up released as Dark Side of the Moon well over a year and a half after the concert première.

David expanded his tone and setup even further with the new songs written for Dark Side of the Moon. A UniVox Uni-Vibe was introduced on songs like Breathe and Brain Damage and a Colorsound Power Boost (placed in front of the Fuzz Face) was used for overdrives and for boosting the (silicon) Fuzz Face for leads.

Effects 1972
- main reference: London, UK 17 February 1972

- DeArmond volume pedal
– Vox wah wah
– Colorsound Power Boost
– Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face (BC108)
– UniVox Uni-Vibe
– Binson Echorec II

- (left) David pictured at the Rainbow Theatre, London, UK, 17 Febuary 1972 with his pedals, - Colorsound Power Booster (noticed that the bass knob is taken off), Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face (silicon), Vox wah wah, DeArmond volume pedal and a footswitch for the Binson Echorec. (right) Setup from the Obscured by Clouds recording sessions in early 1972: UniVibe, Fuzz Face, Vox wah wah and DeArmond volume pedal. A Colorsound Powerboost is also spotted for the sessions.

David would also integrate the Leslie speaker into his overall tone. The cabinet was mixed slightly lower than the Hiwatts and the result would be a fatter tone with great depth and character, rather than the typical swirling rotating speaker tone. David also had a second microphone hooked up to the Leslie, which he used to sing a long with his solo on Any Colour You Like just like he would later do on Wish You Were Here.

The Black Strat remained as David’s main guitar and in June he would swap the ’63 rosewood neck from the sunburst Strat with the maple neck from the Black. The sunburst guitar, now with the maple neck, was used occasionally throughout the tour both as a spare and with an open Em tuning for One of These Days. This was before David would use lap steels on stage. A second (in fact the third counting the black/rosewood from April 1970) black Strat with a maple neck with a large headstock and the familiar bullet truss rod was also used as a spare throughout the tour.

Studio sessions
As already talked about, Atom Heart Mother is perhaps a more blues oriented album and has a more positive (in search of a better term) vibe to it compared to Meddle and Dark Side of the Moon, which are more space rock or simply rock for that matter. David’s tone on the latter albums is heavier, edgy and more coloured by studio treatments compared to the natural tone on Atom Heart. Obscured By Clouds falls somewhat in between with the typical bright silicon fuzz tones from Dark Side but a much more honest tone.

David would mostly record his guitars alone because no one could stand being in the same room as his amps. He would play extremely loud to get that rich sustain on songs like Time and Money. Both songs also features a silicon model Fuzz Face being used for the rhythms, while on the live versions David would use the Colorsound Power Boost.

It’s also interesting to hear how David uses similar patterns on different songs. The funky section on Atom Heart and Echoes, Childhood’s End and Time are all pretty much identical. David is basically following the drums with his strumming, – low strings on the bass drum and high strings on the snare.

Gearwise David would more or less use the same guitars, amps and effects he used on the tours. The Black Strat was used on all the albums, including the last sessions for Atom Heart Mother (David bought the guitar in the middle of the recordings). Most of the Atom Heart Mother album and songs like A Pillow of Winds, Fearless, Wot’s… Uh the Deal and Free Four featured acoustic guitars, – a Gibson J-45 acoustic steel string.

Pink Floyd continued to tour throughout 1972 and the songs for their new album would be rearranged, rewritten and changed dramatically before they ended up on Dark Side of the Moon in March 1973. It was an effective method and allowed the band to use the audience as a reference for new ideas and arrangements. 1972 was also the last year David had his pedals lying spread out on the stage floor and in early 1973 he would get his first pedal board built by him self and stage technician Chris Adamson.

David’s playing and tone from these five years still stands as a favourite for many fans. It was pure and no bullshit, just a brilliant guitarist and his gear. It’s also interesting to see that although David’s rig has changed many times over the years, grown bigger and more complex, it’s all based on the setups from these early years. He’s stilling using his old Hiwatts, the WEM cabs and the Fuzz Face and Colorsound Power Boost are replaced by similar sounding Big Muffs and Tube Drivers.

– “Atom Heart Mother, original recording (1970)
– “Meddle”, original recording (1971)
– “Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii”, original concert film 1971)
– “Obscured by Clouds”, original recording (1972)
– “KQED Sessions”, bootleg DVD (San Francisco, 28 April 1970)
– “Atom Heart Mother Goes on the Road”, bootleg (London, UK 16 Sept 1970)
– “Festival de St. Tropez”, bootleg DVD (St Tropez, France 8 August 1970)
– “Mauerspechte”, bootleg (Berlin, Germany 5 June 1971)
– “Moonwalk”, bootleg (London, UK 17 February 1972)
– Various concert and video footage (see YouTube clips)
– “Inside Out” Pink Floyd biography by Nick Mason
– “In the Flesh” by Povey/Russell for pictures and concert dates references
– “The Black Strat – A History of David Gilmour’s black Fender Stratocaster” by Phil Taylor
– Thanks to Rafal Zychal for lending his eyes