As most musicians, David Gilmour also started his career when he was still a teenager and curiously, his first contact with the guitar was when he borrowed the instrument from a neighbor and never gave it back. He learned to play by himself using a book and a record set by the American Folk singer and banjo/guitar player Peter Seeger.
Gilmour joined Pink Floyd in 1967 and everything changed in the following years, since they became one of the best-selling bands of all time with more than 250 million records sold worldwide. He is considered one of the best guitarists of all time and over the years he talked a lot about his peers. He even pointed out one guitarist that he said he couldn’t play like and changed Rock music.
The guitarist that David Gilmour said he couldn’t really play like and changed Rock music
Although Gilmour is an amazing singer, he is often recalled as an incredible guitarist because of his unique sound and soulful playing, which was never easy to reproduce and the Pink Floyd cover bands always had a hard time to find the right way to play like him.
Even though the guitar may seem to be a limited instrument that can have only a certain amount of combinations in the composition, there are really a million ways to play. So over the decades many amazing guitarists appeared and many of them couldn’t really be replicated.
One of them is the late legendary Dutch-American guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who Gilmour said he couldn’t really play like. The musician said that in an interview with Guitar Classics magazine in 1985 when Van Halen was with the new singer Sammy Hagar.
He was asked if he had started out as a Blues fan and he said that he actually had a broad musical taste, mentioning Van Halen. “I was a blues fan but I was an all-around music fan. For me it was Leadbelly through B.B. King and later Eric Clapton, Roy Buchanan, Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen.”
He was then questioned if there were any particular songs that sparked him to imitate another player. Again, he mentioned Van Halen. “Of course, there were many. I was trying to learn 12-string acoustic guitar like Leadbelly. At the same time I was trying to learn lead guitar like Hank Marvin and later Clapton.”
“All of those different things had their moments and filtered through my learning process. These days I don’t listen to other people with the objective of trying to steal their licks. Although I’ve got no objections to stealing them if that seems like a good idea. I’m sure that I’m still influenced by Mark Knopfler and Eddie Van Halen as well,” David Gilmour said.
After mentioning Van Halen many times during the conversation, Gilmour was asked if he tried to adopt any Van Halen techniques. So the musician replied saying that he wished he could play like him.
“I can’t play like Eddie Van Halen, I wish I could. I sat down to try some of those ideas and I can’t do it. (But) I don’t know if I could ever get any of that stuff together. Sometimes I think I should work at the guitar more. I play every day but I don’t consciously practice scales or anything in particular,” David Gilmour said.
The Pink Floyd guitarist and singer is nine years older than the late Eddie Van Halen. When the American band was formed in 1972, Gilmour had already recorded five studio albums with Pink Floyd. The British band also was working on “Dark Side of The Moon”, the album that would change their career.
He once said he never heard Yngwie Malmsteen but liked Eddie Van Halen
After Van Halen released their groundbreaking debut album in 1978 the whole Rock and Roll scene was shocked. Eddie showed that there were new possibilities for the guitar playing. So a huge wave of Van Halen imitators appeared in the following decade. Gilmour told Guitar World magazine in 1988 that he really didn’t heard any of them. He admitted in the interview that he didn’t heard the Swedish virtuoso guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen at the time but loved Eddie. “I do like Eddie Van Halen’s playing a lot. Of course, I can’t do that at all. I don’t have the fingers for it.”
They had the opportunity to meet each other a couple of times over the years and in an interview with Guitar Player magazine in 2009, he said that Van Halen changed Rock music. “I’ve met him a couple of times. He always seemed to be a very nice guy. I have to confess I don’t listen to an awful lot of Van Halen, but Eddie is fantastic.”
“His moments of sheer, unbridled, joyful playing- as he did on the Michael Jackson track – can’t help but make you want to jump around on a dance floor. He was a major influence on a lot of people, wasn’t he? He changed Rock music. (Eddie) made a lot of very average players think they were a lot better than they actually were!” David Gilmour said.