When David Gilmour Joined Pink Floyd, It Was Supposed To Be Temporary

By | February 14, 2020

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Pink Floyd, (L-R; Rick Wright, Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Roger Waters) pose for a publicity still circa 1973. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

First, he replaced Syd Barrett, then Roger Waters -- David Gilmour, once the new guy in Pink Floyd, came to be its leader in its later incarnation. In 1967, Pink Floyd was a group on the rise. They'd found commercial success with their psychedelic first singles, "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play,” and their unforgettable debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn but lead singer and songwriter Syd Barrett was growing more erratic by the day and his behavior was threatening to bring the band down before they ever really took off. To offset Barrett’s behavior the band brought in David Gilmour, a friend of the band, to take over on guitar in an attempt to right the group. By 1968 Gilmour was a full fledged member of the band and Barrett was on his way out. 

It was Nick Mason’s idea to bring in Gilmour

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Following the release of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Syd Barrett retreated into himself. He became part Brian Wilson, part Loki. At live shows he started songs in the wrong key, he sang the wrong words on purpose and changed the arrangements without telling anyone. Regardless of the fact that this is was evidence of a mental breakdown the band needed a change. Drummer Nick Mason invited David Gilmour to jam with the group in December 1967.

The original plan was for Gilmour to hang around the background and provide rhythm guitar while Barrett continued singing, but as Barrett's erratic behavior increased Gilmour’s role in the group changed as well. They felt they could continue with Barrett as a stay-at-home songwriter with Gilmour taking over vocal duties. Gilmour explained:

There was discussion that he would eventually sort of stay home, being a Brian Wilson sort of writing character, and we’d continue using his material. I would be the frontman, on stage. But it wasn’t really workable. The notion passed by very quickly. In fact, I think there were only five gigs, as I remember it, where there was the five of us played together. Then we ceased to go pick him up.