David Gilmour's painful memories ignited
by one particualy Pink Floyd song
Ever since Pink Floyd officially split, the opportunity for the individual members to perform songs from the band’s huge catalogue has never disappeared. Following Roger Waters’ departure from the group, as a trio performing under the band’s moniker, it was never a problem for David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason to provide a searing setlist of their finest prog-rock tracks.
Even performing, as they often did, in solo ventures, the band members were all happy to dip into the previous work of The Floyd. However, there is one song that has now become too painful for David Gilmour to even think of performing, Pink Floyd’s masterpiece, ‘Echoes’.
Shared on the band’s 1971 album Meddle, ‘Echoes’ should be a top contender for the number one slot when discussing the finest Pink Floyd tracks ever made. It is the ultimate in progressive rock, providing a song structure that would put some operatic composers to shame.
The song was the first real step the group made towards their eventual domination of prog rock, and Gilmour’s solo on the song is perhaps the most crystalline vision of that future. Gilmour combines aggression and fluidity to make a solo worthy of the Pulitzer Prize.
Following the solo Gilmour gets a bit tech-happy and creates an atmospheric tone that you’re unlikely to hear from any other band in the world. All in all, the song is a sincere reflection of the enigma that is Pink Floyd. It makes it even more unusual for Gilmour to shun the track in his solo sets.
However, it would seem, the song now holds too many painful memories for the guitarist to include in his setlist. Following the 2008 death of composer extraordinaire and the man usually charged with providing the keyboards for the track, Richard Wright following a battle with cancer, Gilmour has avoided the song because of its connection to him. He and Gilmour shared a connection that is rare, not just within a band famous for its turmoil, but in life as a whole.
The revelation arose when Gilmour was about to perform at the Amphitheatre of Pompeii in 2016 - a replica of Pink Floyd’s famous 1972 show there, where the group performed a truly awe-inspiring version of ‘Echoes’, the stage was seemingly set for the song to be wheeled out for the audience. However, Gilmour was forthright in his reason for the track’s exclusion:
“Yes, it would be lovely to play ‘Echoes’ here. But I wouldn’t do that without Rick.”
It wasn’t just the memories of their playing together that would trouble Gilmour if he were to play the song, but the track itself feels inextricably linked to Wright.
“There’s something that’s specifically so individual about the way that Rick and I play in that, that you can’t get someone to learn it and do it just like that. That’s not what music’s about.”
For Gilmour, refusing to play one of Pink Floyd’s greatest songs isn’t only for the preservation of his own sensibilities but an act that ratifies the connection he shared with his longtime friend Richard Wright, and the shared link we all have with music as a whole. In refusing to play the song, Gilmour is confirming just how special it is.
Below, watch the final time David Gilmour and Richard Wright performed Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’ together.
*Photo courtesy Roger Goodgroves/ REX/ Shutterstock