Saturday, April 17, 2010

David Gilmour's Debut Solo LP

It was May of 1978 and David Gilmour’s first solo LP hit the stores and I believe I got it during the first week it was available. I was not disappointed, as it is an excellent album that I nearly wore out that summer before my first year of graduate school and the adverse poverty associated with being a graduate assistant making $55 every two weeks.

The album opened with an instrumental which is one of my two favorites from the LP, a song named after David Gilmour’s yacht – the Greek form of Michael – "Mihalis." The other favorite from the album was the single that received massive airplay on US album radio – “There’s No Way Out of Here.”

I had been a fan of Pink Floyd for six years running and had many of their albums that I amassed in the year before going to college. Come to think of it, I bought a lot of records during that year. The first was “Ummagumma” which I was attracted to largely because of the back photo showing the band’s instrumentation set up like an aircraft’s armaments.

“Ummagumma” was unusual in that sides one and two were live mixes of songs the band had previously released as studio recordings during and immediately following the era of Syd Barrett, the band’s originator and initial lead guitarist. Sides 3 and 4 were divided up as solo performances by each of the four members of the band each getting a half a side.

I remember trudging through the woods to the mall to buy the LP with my hard earned money from my 60 customer paper route hawking The Daily News and Pittsburgh Press. Having returned home shank’s mare, I couldn’t wait to put the LP on the turntable. Not to disturb anyone else in my family, I plugged in the headphones and plopped down on my bed. The first tune, “Astronomy Domine,” which was up-tempo, was a great headphone tune.

The next song was mellower, but had a strange title – “Careful with that Axe, Eugene.” It primarily featured Richard Wright’s keyboards and David Gilmour added some ethereal guitar effects using amp tremolo and while he played with volume control on his guitar. This Middle Eastern sounding tune was overlaid with some esoteric vocals by someone in the band – probably Roger Waters.

The song was very transcendent. I was half asleep when Roger Waters whispered, “Careful with that axe, Eugene.” Suddenly, Waters let out a blood curdling scream and I swear I levitated three feet off of my bed. I probably knocked five years off of my life that night. That was my introduction to Floyd. Wow, what an experience. Side two was better with “Set Your Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and “A Saucerful of Secrets” and no screams, shrieks, or any other heart attack inducing effects.

More albums by the band would be added to my collection including their debut LP “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” – the import version with different songs than the American release. It had “Astronomy Domine,” “Flaming,” and “Bike,” which were not on the American release on Tower Records. Tower had released “Flaming” backed with “The Gnome” as a single and I picked up a promo copy of it at a flea market in 1973. The only other difference was the American LP had the British single, “See Emily Play,” which was not on the UK album release.

The other Floyd related albums I amassed included both of Syd Barrett’s solo albums (“Barrett” and “The Madcap Laughs”). Although both have their moments, they can be summarized in a word – awful. There also were “A Saucerful of Secrets,” “The Soundtrack from the Film More,” and “Obscured by Clouds.” The latter two being my very favorites – that is until “Dark Side of the Moon” was released in 1973.

College severely cut into my record buying habits, although I did get “Wish You Were Here” when it came out; however, I took it back because it skipped. The store was out of the LP so I got something else and never bothered to replace it. With all of my Floyd recordings, I had gravitated towards Roger Waters as being my favorite band member and this was probably due to his half-side on “Ummagumma” – even though I’ll die earlier now due to his scream from side one.

David Gilmour’s debut solo album changed that and it pushed him into the number one spot in my book as Pink Floyd members go. Although my introduction to Pink Floyd was “Ummagumma,” listening to that album sounds very passé in 2010. I wouldn’t buy it today if I were looking at adding to my collection; however, David Gilmour’s debut LP is a different story. It is as relevant today as it was in 1978 and has held up very well over the years. To provide you an opportunity to enjoy it in its entirety, I have created a YouTube playlist featuring the album in its entirety and in order – enjoy.

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