David Gilmour from Pink Floyd tells me “we don’t do drug songs”

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 22, 1984

By Steve Newton

“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.”

To hear the full audio of my 1984 interview with David Gilmour subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Trevor Rabin, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
Jeff Healey, 1988
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
…with hundreds more to come

One thought on “David Gilmour from Pink Floyd tells me “we don’t do drug songs”

  1. Mr. Newton,
    Thank you for a much better “Best Guitarist” line up than RS Magazine.
    Re: David Gilmour, after listening and watching on YouTube for the last 6-7 years, he has risen in my chart. As an acoustic guitarist with some okay fingerpicking ability and not very great left hand lead knowledge, I have found an exceptional quality to Mr. Gilmour that most others do not undertake. He constantly bends his strings up or down to the appropriate note instead of playing the scales. He COULD have arrived st the nite in the standard manner, but chooses a more melodic technic.
    I’m guessing he could play with a faster left hand after 50+ years, but he chooses a certain beauty and soulfulness (great blues ?) over the ‘usual’ guitar solos. Unique beyond words. An artist as much as a craftsman.

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