David Gilmour’s best collaborations

By Sergio Ariza

David Gilmour is best known for his career in Pink Floyd but his wonderful guitar has appeared on countless songs by many other artists, from studio albums to live performances. From Guitars Exchange we would like to celebrate his 73th birthday by highlighting ten of the most interesting.  

Syd Barrett - Baby Lemonade (1970)

We cannot start this review of Gilmour’s work without mentioning the figure he replaced in Pink Floyd, his friend Syd Barrett. After Barrett’s mental problems forced him out of the band, Syd spent almost a year out of the picture but in 1969 he began to appear again, seemed better, and had an apartment opposite Gilmour. So when Barrett decided to return to music Gilmour did not hesitate to help. First came The Madcap Laughs, on which in addition to playing bass, Gilmour produced the album with Roger Waters. Barrett was not in the best conditions and it was difficult to work with him but, in spite of everything, Gilmour again took charge of production on Barrett’s second album, Barrett. The track that opens this latter album is Baby Lemonade, a song that begins with Barrett on the electric guitar, in one of the moments during the recording in which he seemed relaxed. Gilmour recorded him and incorporated it into this great song on which he also plays bass and an acoustic 12 string.

Unicorn - Sleep Song (1974)

One of the most interesting and forgotten collaborations of Gilmour's career. The guitarist had come across Unicorn at a friend's wedding. Towards the end of the party they started a jam and Gilmour told them to play
Neil Young's Heart Of Gold and told them that he loved country rock. A week later, the Pink Floyd guitarist called them to produce an album in his newly created studio. There they worked side by side on the creation of Blue Pine Trees, an album on which Sleep Song stands out, and on which Gilmour shines playing a Fender Pedal Steel, and demonstrates his mastery of the instrument.

Roy Harper - The Game (1975)

Among Gilmour’s collaborations one of the most outstanding is the one that unites him with the excellent English singer-songwriter, Roy Harper. The relationship dates back to the mid-1970s when Pink Floyd were recording Wish You Were Here at one of the studios on Abbey Road and Harper did the same with HQ on another. It was the latter who proposed to Gilmour that he record the song that opened the album, The Game, with him. It was the rockiest piece he had recorded to that point and it opened with a Who style riff, played by Gilmour. To complete the circle, the bassist was John Paul Jones, of
Led Zeppelin, a group that had already recorded a song in tribute to the singer, entitled Hats Off To (Roy) Harper. The final solo is by Chris Spedding, who recorded it in less than 20 minutes, but is Gilmour who adds colour on the acoustic part. The fact is that when the Floyd stagnated with the recording of Have A Cigar Gilmour did not hesitate to recommend Harper as a singer and it was thus how the collaboration came about. Since then they have remained friends and Gilmour has appeared on several of Harper’s works such as The Unknown Soldier (1980) and Once (1990), in addition to having composed several songs together.

Pete Townshend - White City Fighting (1985)

In 1984, with Pink Floyd falling apart, Gilmour decided to resume his solo career. In a competitive spirit, Roger Waters also prepared a record, leading him to work with the best possible musicians, people like Steve Winwood, Pino Palladino, Jon Lord and Jeff Porcaro. Gilmour called his friend, and partner in that of being a guitar God, Pete Townshend, who put lyrics to three songs of his, All Lovers Are Deranged, Love on the Air and a third that was rejected, White City Fighting, as he did not identify with the lyrics. However the song was ‘re-fished’ by Townshend for his own solo record, White City: A Novel, the following year, where he also used Gilmour's excellent guitar for the entire record, mainly his Fender Stratocaster '57 red reissue of 1984. The funny thing is that before this happened , Gilmour had passed the music to Roy Harper to add other lyrics and Harper had sent him Hope, but Gilmour did not want that either, so Harper also recorded it in 1985, with Jimmy Page on guitar.

Bryan Ferry - Is Your Love Strong Enough (1985)

Another name with which Gilmour has collaborated regularly has been the leader of Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry. The first thing they did together was Boys And Girls, released in 1985, followed by Is Your Love Strong Enough, a song that appeared on the soundtrack of Legend by Ridley Scott and on which you can appreciate the characteristic Gilmour sound of the time on a remarkable solo. That same year Gilmour appeared next to Ferry in the legendary Live Aid.

Warren Zevon - Run Straight Down (1989)

The seventh album of the creator of Werewolves Of London, Transverse City, must be one of the biggest ‘star collaborations’ in history, a record on which Neil Young,
Jerry Garcia, Chick Korea, Mike Campbell, Jorma Kaukonen appeared alongside our protagonist David Gilmour, who shines on Run Straight Down. Although it is most likely that in the studio he used his red Strato or his black Steinberger - as they are the two he used most at that time, along with a Hiwatt and his Pete Cornish pedal board - in the video he appears with a guitar that is unusual for him, a white Gretsch Penguin.

Kate Bush - Love and Anger (1989)

We owe a lot of things to David Gilmour but one of those that is often overlooked is his role in introducing that wonderful lady Kate Bush to the world. It was the Pink Floyd guitarist who, after being dazzled by the talent of the 16-year-old teenager, paid so she could make a professional demo and be signed by a record label. Since then he has not hesitated in helping Bush whenever she asked, either by producing a couple of songs on her first album, singing onThe Dreaming's Pull Out The Pin (1982) or playing the guitar on songs like Passing Through Air or Love and Anger, which pertains to one of Bush’s greatest works, The Sensual World, released in 1989. As you can see in the video, he uses the Gretsch Penguin white again.

B.B. King - Eyesight To The Blind (1997)

When you listen to Pink Floyd B.B. King does not usually come to mind, but if one listens carefully to any of David Gilmour's solos, like those of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, one finds the gigantic influence of the most legendary blues guitarist of all time. So it is not surprising that on the last day of 1997, David Gilmour was honoured to play alongside the giant on the Jools Holland program, with the presenter at the piano, on a version of Eyesight To The Blind. There is no one who plays with more emotion than King but Gilmour is not far behind with his red Strat, before the approving eye of the master.

Paul McCartney - I Saw Her Standing There (1999)

Gilmour's admiration for the Beatles is perfectly summed up by some statements he gave in 2006: "I would have loved to be part of the Beatles, I was always a huge fan, I was taught to play the guitar, I learned everything with them. Bass, solo guitar, rhythm, everything; they were fantastic." It's no wonder that Gilmour has always been willing to collaborate with Paul McCartney...
although he may also have a weakness for bass players who also sings and composes. The first collaboration between both dates back to 1979, when Gilmour participated on Rockestra Theme of Wings Back to the Egg and continued with the hit No More Lonely Nights and the album Flowers In The Dirt. But for a fan like Gilmour his best moment came in 1999 when, after the death of Linda McCartney, Paul decided to return to his roots and record a rock and roll and rockabilly album called Run Devil Run. To present it live, he had no better idea than on December 14, 1999, to return to the legendary Liverpool Cavern. For the occasion Gilmour took his 55 Fender Esquire, known as 'The Workmate' because of its shattered appearance, and he enjoyed playing and singing along with McCartney, as well as Ian Paice from Deep Purple on drums, on Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Elvis and Ricky Nelson covers, plus a couple of McCartney originals. Of course, the moment he enjoyed most was playing one of the first Beatles hits, I Saw Her Standing There, when he could finally felt like one of the 'Fab Four'.

David Bowie - Arnold Layne (2006)

We finish by closing the circle. If we opened this selection with Gilmour helping the man he replaced in Pink Floyd, we will close it with Gilmour paying tribute in the best way possible, by playing one of Barrett’s songs, with one of the biggest stars, and one of the greatest admirers of Syd Barrett, on the planet,
David Bowie. It was in May 2006 at London's Royal Albert Hall, Gilmour had just released On An Island and celebrated his success with three dates at the legendary British venue, making a review of his career in which he did not miss a final tribute to Barrett, with one of his most iconic songs, Arnold Layne, the first single from Pink Floyd. Gilmour was accompanied by Richard Wright, who recorded it in 1967 along with Barrett, Phil Manzanera and Bowie himself. The song paid tribute to the genius that started it all and, without intending it, it became a kind of sweet goodbye, as Syd passed away less than two months later, on the 7th July 2006.