By Steve Newton
Thirty years ago today–on May 15, 1984–legendary guitarist David Gilmour called me up from Toronto to promote his solo album, About Face.
Here’s the story that ran in Vancouver’s Georgia Straight newspaper in the June 22, 1984 issue.
It’s the first time the interview has ever appeared on the Internet–unless some other poor sap got sucked into retyping it.
“Well that’s artistic licence,” remarked guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour.
Over the phone from Toronto, Gilmour expanded on the motive behind “Murder”, a song from his new LP About Face which contains the line, “By your own admission, you raised up the knife.”
“If I’d left a gun in it,” he laughs, “then it wouldn’t have rhymed. And also it would have made everyone say, ‘Well that’s obviously John Lennon’. That would have been more misleading because–although Lennon’s murder is part of it–it isn’t nearly all of it. It’s just murder in general really.”
“Murder” is one of the more Pink Floyd-ish tunes on About Face, Gilmour’s second LP made apart from the innovative and enormously successful Brit supergroup. His first solo record, David Gilmour, was released in 1978 and did well on the charts. About Face got off to a much slower start, but is still hanging in there locally at #26 after 12 weeks on the Straight‘s Top 50.
Born in Cambridge, England, David Gilmour was asked to join Floyd in 1968 by his old school chum Syd Barrett, the founder of the group and musical leader at that time. Gilmour came in as second guitarist, but after just one month Barrett departed, leaving Gilmour in the lead position.
He first recorded with the group on Saucerful of Secrets (1968), then Umagumma (1969), on which each member of the band took a half-side for individual experimentation. Gilmour’s “The Narrow Way” set the tone of his early style, alternating between electronic experimentation, impressionistic guitar and soft vocals.
But perhaps the true strength of Gilmour’s work was best displayed in his musical contributions on the Wish You Were Here (1975) title track, “Dogs” from Animals (1977), and more recently “Run Like Hell” and “Comfortably Numb” from The Wall (1979).
Gilmour’s 1984 LP was made with a little help from his friends, including Steve Winwood, who played Hammond organ on the single “Blue Light”, and Pete Townshend, who contributed lyrics for “Love on the Air” and “All Lovers are Deranged”. David has known Pete since 1968, when Pink Floyd toured the States as support act for the Who.
“I was running out of time and lyrical inspiration,” he says, “so I was a bit stuck. And Pete had offered to help previously at one point, so I took him up on it.”
Apart from the two Townshend compositions, all the lyrics and music on About Face were written by Gilmour, and he is currently on tour in support of the record. But his live show isn’t anywhere as involved as the fabled Floyd presentations.
“It’s got pretty good lights,” he contends, “but we’re not having any major effects. It’s a music show, really.”
Gilmour’s traveling music show involves some pretty impressive musicians, such as saxman Raphael Ravenscroft (of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”), former Manfred Mann drummer Chris Slade, and blues-rock guitarist Mick Ralphs, whose previous credits include the legendary Mott the Hoople and Bad Company.
“We live close to each other,” says Gilmour of his relationship with Ralphs, “and I just mentioned that I was touring this year. He wasn’t doing anything at the time, so he said ‘Can I come?’ And I said, ‘Sure!’.”
So with an all-star touring band to accompany him, and another impressive LP under his belt, David Gilmour is hitting the road on his own. But does he ever miss the old Pink Floyd?
“No, not really. Not at the moment. I’m too busy to miss it. And I’m not the sort of person that thinks about what one could be doing if one wasn’t doing what one was doing.”
Fair enough. But Gilmour hasn’t left the Pink Floyd legacy totally behind him. He still performs two of their songs during his concerts, “Run Like Hell” and “Comfortably Numb”. In closing I asked David about the theme of the latter tune, and its apparent comment on the effects of illegal substances.
“Nope,” he chuckled, “we don’t do drug songs.”