Hero's birthday

>> Thursday, March 06, 2008

David Gilmour turns 62 today.


I sort of dabble with guitar. Sort of, not really. I don't pick it up very much anymore, though there's an acoustic leaning up against my bookshelf next to where I'm typing this and the entertainment room contains almost a half-dozen. But it's an instrument I love, more than love. At some level of my brain, I'm a guitarist even though that's not necessarily one hundred-percent honest on my part. In a way it may be a self-delusion. It doesn't matter, though: if my brain ever gets uploaded into some crazy virtual world like the one in the Matrix movies, my "residual self image" will surely have a guitar in hand whether I can play it or not.


The reason I play guitar is simple and clichéd. One day, when I was a teenager, I was listening to the song "Comfortably Numb" and I realized I wanted to be able to do that--I wanted to be able to make an inarticulate block of wood strung with wires howl and sing and mourn and yearn. My parents obliged by getting me a used Yamaha acoustic with the action set to high, which I still own despite the best efforts of a college ex-girlfriend. (I hope I don't sound misogynistic, but what is it about young women getting their boyfriends to loan them guitars for lessons that never materialize and then keeping the instruments after the break-up?)


I never did learn how to play like Gilmour, and whatever meager style I developed owed more to the great '80s "antiguitarists" like The Edge, Peter Buck, and Johnny Marr. Not that I ever achieved anything like their brilliance, either.


But I still idolize David Gilmour, in case you can't tell. He's not the flashiest guitarist in the world, or the fastest. But he's one of the most distinctive players in the world. And his playing has a level of soulfulness that is rare. That's such a horribly lame thing to say: what does it even mean? At best it's a cliché, at worst it's twaddle. But what other word is there? In his hands, the guitar is a vocalist. Some of Gilmour's solos have more in common with the vocals of Nina Simone than they do with the guitar playing of Hendrix or Clapton, say.


(I thought about comparing Gilmour's lines to Ella--they have Ella's smoothness--but Ella's vocals are often sprightly where Simone's are somber, as is much of Gilmour's playing. Much of it, but not all. I don't want to perpetuate the mistaken impression that all of Gilmour's work is sad just because so many of Pink Floyd's best-known songs are downbeat.)


I feel like I've embedded a ton of Gilmour here lately. Sorry. But it is his birthday, and that seems fitting. My first thought was to embed "High Hopes," a quintessentially Gilmourish song from Pink Floyd's last album. My second thought was to embed "Fat Old Sun," one of my favorite Gilmour songs, and kind of a happy song in its way. But I think I'm going to do what I didn't intend: "Comfortably Numb" is a song we've all heard a thousand times, yes. But it's the song I started this post with, so it seems like a fitting end. And it's probably the song that Gilmour is most associated with. And, just in case some of you are sick of me and David Gilmour, this version features David Bowie. So how's that?



Happy birthday, Mr. Gilmour, and thank you very much for everything.





6 comments:

Rebelcat,  Friday, March 7, 2008 at 5:11:00 AM EST  

Happy birthday David Gilmour!

I think it was both Pink Floyd and David Bowie that made me start playing guitar. No I didn't borrow any boyfriends guitar and I never had real lessons.

I found my grandpa's guitar from the 50's in my parents closet when I was about 15-16 years old and taught myself using his old guitar books. And I listened a lot on Pink Floyd, Bowie and Velvet Underground at the moment. I never learned how to play Comfortably Numb. But "Mother" and "Wish You Were Here" was easy stuff.

For years, all I did was to sit in my room listening to music and pick the songs out on the guitar. When I graduated from high school, my grandma bought me a new acoustic guitar. With strings of steel rather than nylon. It was a shock to my fingers. I played til my fingers bled.

The guitar was like a dear friend for years. I wish I had more time to play nowadays. But it's hard to find the time when you have a fulltime job and kids. And my fingers starts to hurt after 5 minutes now as the calluses are gone.

I got an electric guitar some years ago. But that's even harder to find time for. I don't really have any good place to play since we have a small apartment. The electric guitar is much noisier. If i play with headphones, I can't hear the kids calling me.

I want to move to a bigger place where I could have a rehearsal room. And where I could have my three guitars ready for action. Even though granpa's guitar needs a serious restoration by now.

Anyway...I liked the version of the song. I like both the Davids ;). David Gilmour is amazing.

Hmm...I wish I had time to write more. But I have 8 contracts to read. Work, work, work...

Eric Friday, March 7, 2008 at 11:56:00 AM EST  

See, this is why I wish you'd been posting comments all along! It's cool to hear someone else's experience.

I had a handful of "formal" lessons from someone who didn't have any real business teaching guitar, and then I did something to piss my parents off (I can't remember what) and they cancelled lessons as some kind of punishment, which turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to my playing even if I still have trouble getting my head around all that Dorian Pentatonic Episcopalian Dystolic scales mumbo-jumbo. Even after people have tried explaining it to me. It's one of those things that makes my brain curl into a fetal position, which I regret: it would be a much more useful and beautiful thing to know than some of the crap that fills my skull instead.

"Reading contracts?" he asked, curiously.

Rebelcat,  Friday, March 7, 2008 at 4:00:00 PM EST  

Well, I usually don't have any interesting stuff to write about. Hence why I don't blog. But I love music and have spent most of my life thinking about, listening to or in some way writing about music.

I never had lessons. I put on the stereo and played along to it. Without knowing how to read notes. Then I suddenly decided to study musicology at the univ and had to get a crash course in note reading and music theory. During the year I syudy musicology I realized how much easier it is to pick out chords if you know how they are related to each other.

And yea, contracts. Or agreements rather. The company where I work are going to renew the agreements with the customers. So we have to go through them all to see if we have to change something. I should also have read the basis for a purchase of new subcontractors for managing our database and servers. Reeeaaally boring to read.

Eric Friday, March 7, 2008 at 5:19:00 PM EST  

Not having anything interesting to write about is a common thing--hell, I'm not sure how much of what I post up here at Giant Midgets is actually interesting. But it's an excuse to write and to make a point of writing even when I don't have much to say. If people read something and enjoy it, it's a bonus.

I found both your comments interesting, for whatever it's worth. And there's no reason you couldn't blog about music if you wanted to. (I emphasize that last part because I'm certainly not trying to peer-pressure you into something you don't want to do, or don't have the time or energy for. No "Hey, c'mon and blog, all the cool kids are doin' it..." kinda thing is intended. But if your concern is that you're not interesting, well shee-ee-iit, woman, that's not stopping me, I don't see why it should be a hang-up for you....)

Rebelcat,  Sunday, March 9, 2008 at 5:54:00 PM EDT  

I guess it's a combination of having no time and no energy and the fact that I have no idea how to write an interesting post. Guess my life is just too dull ;).

Eric Sunday, March 9, 2008 at 9:28:00 PM EDT  

The beauty of the internet is that no life is too dull for a blog.

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