David Gilmour of Pink Floyd Takes Us Behind The Scenes of The Century’s Biggest Guitar Auction

David Gilmour of Pink Floyd Takes Us Behind The Scenes of The Century's Biggest Guitar Auction

The six-string world erupted in applause when Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour announced that he was going to auction his guitar collection, which included priceless instruments featured on songs like The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. Many people chalked it up to a lack in judgment, but he claims the idea has been cooking for a long time.

David Gilmour of Pink Floyd Takes Us Behind The Scenes of The Century’s Biggest Guitar Auction

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for years,” Gilmour replies softly but deliberately. “These guitars have been quite useful to me. They’ve given me melodies and tunes, but I think it’s time for them to move on and collaborate with other people on new music. Hopefully, they’ll also collect a significant sum of money, which I intend to gift to charity, and which will do some direct good in this world, despite its challenges.” The guitar industry has been anticipating this occasion since Eric Clapton auctioned many of his guitars at the James Christie salesroom at Rockefeller Center in New York in 2004. Gilmour’s 120-plus guitars are likely to fetch millions at Christie’s in Manhattan on June 20. His extremely rare #0001 Fender Stratocaster, which was used on Paul McCartney and Wings’ 1979 album Back to the Egg; a Candy Apple Red 1983 ’62 Reissue Strat that served as his main performance guitar for more than two decades; and the 12-string Martin acoustic heard on Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” will be among the most sought-after instruments. The headliner of the auction, though, will undoubtedly be Gilmour’s legendary ’69 guitar, dubbed “the Black Strat.” The instrument exists in its own galaxy, having been on some of the world’s best-selling albums and being featured on Pink Floyd classics including “Money,” “Comfortably Numb,” and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”

The Black Strat, like Jimmy Page’s EDS-1275 double-neck and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s #1, is one of the most famous and prized guitars of the last century. It will be difficult for Gilmour to let go of these legendary instruments, but he is certain it is the right thing to do — and the perfect time to do it. In the big picture, I’d like to raise some funds. In terms of refugees and starvation, there are numerous important issues in our society today. I have a philanthropic foundation through which the funds will be allocated to those in greatest need around the world. This sale will only be a drop in the bucket, but it has the potential to benefit a large number of people. These days, that’s more important to me. That’s a tricky one. I’d always wanted a Fender Stratocaster since I was a teenager, and when I finally got one, it was fantastic. To some level, I still romanticize Stratocasters and some of these guitars, but the more rational part of me sees them as “tools of the trade.” While my Black Strat is unique, I believe I could get the same results with a different instrument. So, I guess I’m not particularly sentimental. That’s correct. The neck has been replaced two or three times, and I believe more than one pickup has been replaced. It has undergone various alterations, the majority of which have been undone at some time. But that’s one of the reasons it’s one of a kind for me. On it, I worked out all of my wild ideas. I did include a small switch that allows you to select just the bridge and neck pickups, which you can’t do on a standard Strat. It was just a thought. I didn’t get rid of the notion, but I didn’t utilize it very much. You’ve been playing the Black Strat with a strap that once belonged to Jimi Hendrix in recent years. Is that anything that will be included in the deal? No, I’m afraid I’m clinging to that. That was a birthday present from my wife a few years ago, and I still have it. Which of the 120 guitars up for auction are the most valued to you? Obviously, it’s the Black Strat. It has been quite useful to me. It’s on every Pink Floyd album from the 1970s. That guitar played the opening chords of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” in 1974, and it also played the solo on “Comfortably Numb.” During the 1970s, it was all over the place. My Martin D-35 from 1969 is something I’ll miss. It was my main acoustic guitar during the 1970s, and I used it for the lead parts on “Wish You Were Here.” I still use it on a regular basis. It’s the most beautiful guitar I own for simple strumming. I’m also auctioning my my Martin D12-28, the 12-string guitar on which I penned “Wish You Were Here.”

Then there’s my Ovation 1619-4 six-string acoustic, which, thanks to its integrated electronics, served me well for a long period. It’s also significant because that’s the guitar I re-stringed with some high strings from a 12-string set, and it’s the one that inspired me to write “Comfortably Numb.” Throughout the years, I’ve used it for practically every live performance of “Comfortably Numb.” What will you do in the future? I’ll look for something that will perform the job just as well. These days, there are so many more possibilities. In the 1970s, superb guitars were often hard to come by. Yes, I suppose so. But I can’t deny that I like the old ones. Older instruments have their unique intonation, which can take years to acquire. But, as you point out, these changes come in waves. Acoustic guitar manufacturers such as Gibson and Martin went through eras where they produced exquisite guitars, and then periods where they tightened their overheads and produced less-than-stellar instruments. They eventually learnt their lesson, and in the end, they returned to creating excellent guitars. Fortunately, I’m familiar with guitar times and styles, so I’m sure I’ll be able to find another 1969 D-35 that’s just as nice as the one I had before. All you have to do is look in the correct locations, which, as you mentioned, are many these days.

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