Reverb can make a dry toneless guitar sound like something an angel played in a huge cathedral. It’s the tool of every producer making the music sound alive on record. Yet, reverb can also kill your tone and make every effort of producing the greatest tone on earth seem like a complete waste. In this article I’ll try to share some views on a topic that often cause a lot of debate.
Although David is mostly associated with the Stratocaster, he has always been a big fan of Telecasters. His very first “Floyd” guitar was a Telecaster and over the years, David has recorded and performed numerous songs with this classic guitar.
The article takes a look at all of David’s Telecasters, from the blonde he used when joining Floyd to the Custom Shop model seen on his latest tour. You will also learn more about David’s more famous Telecasters, like the 1959 Custom used on Dogs and the legendary 1955 Esquire, seen on the About Face album cover. Crank Run Like Hell on your iPod and enjoy!
We all know the story about how Gilmour used a custom designed guitar to reach the high tones on the Money solo from Dark Side of the Moon and most of us has also seen the guitar in action on the studio footage from Live at Pompeii. The Bill Lewis guitar is one of the most talked about in David’s collection; still the details about its origins are rarely documented.
David visited Bill Lewis and tried one of his guitars when Pink Floyd played in Vancouver, Canada, on October 9th 1970. Later that same month, Bill’s wife met Gilmour (and Bill) at the airport in San Fransisco where he got the guitar. The earliest footage of David using the Lewis is from Copenhagen, Denmark, November 12th 1970. It’s seen in action on several performances throughout November and December, notably on a French TV-show at ORTF-TV Studios in Paris 4. and 5. of December.The guitar made its studio debut during spring/summer 1971 when David used it to record the solo on Echoes and of course he used it to record the last part of the solo on Money in 1973. The Lewis is still in David’s possession and was last seen on the BBC Classic Albums Dark Side of the Moon documenray (2003) and at the Pink Floyd Interstellar Exhibition in Paris, France, in 2004.
I’m very pleased to share the following article written exclusively for Gilmourish.Com by former Bill Lewis’ colleague, Mark Fornataro.
“The Lewis custom guitar, designed by Bill Lewis of Vancouver, played a significant role in the recording of Dark Side of the Moon. David Gilmour’s Lewis, built for him in 1970, has the very rare 24 accessible frets. The fret spacing was worked out with the use of a computer, which back in the late 60s, when the guitar had its debut – was also rare. This allowed for better accuracy than usual, in terms of pitch, and of course the full 2 octaves on the high E string allowed Gilmour to reach notes unattainable on his Strat. The extra wide fingerboard which flattened out by the 24th fret is also a great advantage for bending notes.
Jimmy Page, who has a Lewis guitar, wrote me 1992, referring to the guitar as “quite revolutionary”. Not the least of these revolutionary features were Lewis’ own humbucking pick-ups which were cast in resin using a vacuum system, the first time pick-ups were designed in such a way; they are capable of a very clean sound with great sustain (David’s guitar also had switches on each pickup for humbucker and single coil options. – Bjorn). Another first, a trade secret at the time, was the neck design through the incorporation of two parallel rectangular steel bars running the length of the neck and epoxied beneath the fretboard for stability. This allowed for a very fast neck; much thinner than guitars of its time. Gilmour’s guitar is built of a single piece of Honduras mahogany, an ebony fingerboard and Schaller heads. The snap-off back made for easy accessibility to the electronic components.”
“The Lewis guitar first gained notoriety in Vancouver on August 9 1969 when Eric Clapton used one for an entire Blind Faith concert. The Vancouver Sun published a picture of him using it on August 11. After Bill Lewis started getting more orders for it luthier Mark Wilson and I were the only two working full-time handbuilding them. Wilson had suggested approaching Clapton. I started working with Lewis in October 1969 and got on the promotion bandwagon, suggesting approaching Gilmour and was thrilled to see him trying one out in the store in 1970. I remember he had his little finger hooked around the volume control, rocking it back and forth, thus producing an amazingly even vibrato. Mark Wilson died very young in the early 70s and the guitar which had always been a special labour of love, never mass-produced, went out of production. Bill Lewis, a master luthier who also made great acoustic guitars and had given a keynote address at a luthier’s convention, died in 1996 at age 61, leaving a legacy to be proud of.” (by Mark Fornataro © 2007)
Please join me in congratulating David Gilmour with his birthday! Put on your favourite guitar solo and eat some cake!
It’s strange to think about that it’s a year to this date that David released On an Island and some of us even had some tickets for a concert on the tour. What a fantastic year from a fantastic artist! Happy birthday David!
David’s long relationship with Pete Cornish dates to early 1976. Pink Floyd was just returning to the studio to record Animals and David needed a new board for his increasing amount of effects. Also, the shows had grown bigger and the music more complex. This demanded a board that could sustain the signal with a minimum tone loss and not least, provide Gilmour with an easy access setup without all kinds of messy cables and dying batteries.
Although the board has been well documented over the years, some of the info is conflicting and sometimes even plain wrong. In this article I will try to document the different versions of the board and hopefully put some rumours to rest.
The article is devided into three parts…
- “The Board”: Covering all the different stages of the board from 1976 recording sessions, through the Animals and Wall tours to present. Fully illustrated with exclusive pictures!
- “Analyzing the Effects”: A runthrough of all the different pedals built into the board, – when and how they were used.
- “Setups and Settings”: Breaking down each song performed on the tour, listing the equipment used complete with settings for each effect. You can also listen to some clips from the Animals tour to illustrate the different setups!
Put on Animals or your favourite bootleg from the era and dig in! Please let me know if you find any faults or if you’re sitting on info I haven’t included.
Vernon Fitch and Richard Mahon’s book “Comfortably Numb – A History of The Wall” was published last July and the book has already gotten much praise and publicity. It’s an outstanding piece of work documenting all aspects of one of the greatest albums of all time. I have enjoyed the book very much and I know many of you has already bought a copy. It’s a treat for me to share this Q & A with the authors…
Read my short review of the book here.
If you haven’t already bought the book, you can order a copy directly from PFAPublishing.Com.
- Congratulations with the book! It’s an overwhelming documentation of one of the greatest albums in rock history!
RM: Thanks! It took a lot of time and effort and I appreciate all of the positive feedback we’ve received.
- What was the initial idea behind writing about the Wall?
VF: Originally I was asked to write a very general book about The Wall album by a publisher back in the 1990s. That book never came to be, but the idea continued on. We expanded the idea to cover The Wall recording sessions, The Wall album, the preparations to stage The Wall live, The Wall stage shows, and the live Wall album.
- How long has it taken to write this book?
RM: We started the process back in late 1996.
- Was it difficult to decide what to write about and what to cut?
VF: No. The idea was to write a reference work about The Wall in which every piece of information about The Wall was to be included. We didn’t cut anything. The book is a collection of all known information about The Wall album and The Wall stage shows.
- I can imagine you got conflicting information from different sources. Was it difficult to choose which one to believe and how did you reflect that in the book?
VF: What I tried to do is to dig down and find out what really happened. If I received conflicting information from different sources, I went back and presented the conflicting information to both sources to see what they had to say about the conflict. I then asked other people about what they thought. In this way, we were able to work things out and eliminate the discrepancies correctly.
- Vernon, you’ve written what is considered by many to be the Floyd bible, The Pink Floyd Encyclopedia. Was it any different doing research for A History of the Wall compared to the PFE?
VF: Yes. The Pink Floyd Encyclopedia is an ongoing accumulation of topical information from thousands of different sources. Whereas, The Wall book was a matter of researching the history of Pink Floyd from 1978 through 1981 and then expanding on it by talking to people who were involved. The Pink Floyd Encyclopedia is an index of facts, whereas the Comfortably Numb book is an historical story.
- The book is packed with unique pictures of the band, handwritten notes and production drawings, some never before seen. Are they mostly from your own collections or did you get the chance to dig deep into the “secret” archives?
VF: They are from both The Pink Floyd Archives collection and numerous outside sources.
RM: Everyone who was contacted was asked if they had any pictures taken during that period. James Guthrie, Phil Taylor and Producers Workshop engineer Rick Hart were among the people who had wonderful pictures in their personal photo collections. Stage designer Mark Fisher also contributed his pictures and took the time to write captions for his sketches and photographs.
- One thing that impressed me was that you’ve published Roger Waters’ lyrics. It must be the first time anyone has done that. I assume you got the permission from Waters, but how did you approach him?
VF: Roger was sent a draft of the book and was very kind in giving us permission to publish the lyrics.
RM: This is the first time that Roger Waters has allowed the lyrics, as they are sung on the album, to be printed. They include the second verse of “Another Brick in the Wall, part 2” and the third verse of “Mother,” which are not even written out on the album sleeve.
- How did you research all the info about who is playing what on the studio versions?
VF: I started by compiling my own version of who I thought was playing on the different songs on The Wall album. I then sent my listing to David Gilmour and he corrected many of my entries. Then David sent the listing on to James Guthrie who used the studio logs and his memories to refine it even more. From there, it went back to David who finalized it and he then sent it back to me. David & James were able to get it 95% complete (keep in mind that neither David nor James were at all of the sessions so there was some information they were not aware of).
I then began tracking down the missing information myself. Bob Ezrin was a big help. He remembered some of the unknown session musicians off the top of his head (from sessions only he was at). For others, he either contacted old studio engineers that he had worked with at the time, or he gave me leads on where I might track them down. I spent a considerable amount of time on the phone tracking down session musicians and musical contractors through the musicians unions in New York and Los Angeles. I eventually got in touch with the musicians that played on the sessions (many of whom are still active today).
After the listings were complete, I then spent a lot of time talking with James Guthrie and Phil Taylor about the equipment used by every musician on each song. The amount of time spent in researching it all and putting it all together was quite monumental!
- Gilmourish.Com visitors are probably most interested in your documentation of David’s gear. How was it to have a source like Phil Taylor?
VF: Phil is a great guy and was a huge help. He knows so much about David’s equipment, and the band’s equipment in general. He and James Guthrie and I had many conversations about specific pieces of gear that were used at the time of The Wall recording sessions and The Wall shows, and it all appears for the first time in this book.
- One last question for the both of you… What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
RM: Actually, it starts at the beginning for me. If I had to pick one song then I’d say “In the Flesh?” What I love is the way that “In The Flesh?” and “The Thin Ice” set the tone for the rest of the album. The descending “In the Flesh?” riff sounds like the ultimate in doom and gloom. Hearing the Stuka bomber change into the baby crying and then the stark contrasts between Gilmour’s and Waters’ vocal styles in “The Thin Ice,” I can’t think of a better way to start an album.
VF: Comfortably Numb is my favorite song on the album. That is why the book focuses on it. I think I’ve probably heard this song thousands of times over the years, yet it still gives me shivers down the spine when I hear it.
Electro Harmonix continues to invent new stuff and their new line of so-called Nano pedals is a welcomed alternative to the huge beasts that takes up too much space on a pedal board.
The Nanos are basically the classic effects in a smaller, MXR sized, box for half the price of the bigger counterparts. The line includes; Metal Muff, Small Stone, Small Clone, Bassballs, Muff Overdrive, Dr Q and LPB-1. The Muff Overdrive is a new pedal, – a much milder Muff sounding like a muddy overdrive. The surprise is the LPB-1, EH’s first effect from ’68, a treble booster. The whole line is looking really good, although the jacks, knobs and switch are mounted directly onto the PCB (hence the price). We’ll have to see if that will cause any problems…
The disappointment is the Small Clone chorus is which has a ridiculous volume drop when activated, – even more than the original. However, EH seem to have fixed the problem on the Small Stone phaser. The effect is warm, with a slight crunch and I must say definitely recommended over the Phase 90 (stiring up the never ending debate).
I have made some clips using my Classic 50′s Strat (4. position, middle/bridge pickups) and GarageBand. The setup is clean with a hint of reverb and delay.
- the Small Stone offers that super smooth tone inspiring to play a ’72 version of the song (rate 12:00 o’clock).
- the Small Stone is a great alternative to a UniVibe or Leslie (rate 3:00 o’clock).
Have a Cigar
- the Small Stone adds that nice crunch on a mildly boosted tone (rate 12:00 o’clock).
Raise My Rent
- the Small Stone has a Colour switch giving a much wider sweep and although Gilmour used a Leslie on the track, the effect sounds cool on the instrumental from David’s ’78 solo album (rate 2:00 o’clock and 4 o’clock).