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David Gilmour's legendary solo in Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb was his first take

David Gilmour
(Image credit: Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)

Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb features some of the greatest electric guitar work ever put to record. David Gilmour's double helping of guitar solos – voted third best of all time by Guitar World readers last year – are expertly constructed, comprising a flurry of Hendrixian-style blues licks, aggressive double stops and surgically precise whammy bar vibrato, not to mention a tone for the ages.

It might come as a surprise, then, that the solo we hear from the 4:31 mark was actually Gilmour's first take.

In an interview in the new issue of Total Guitar, The Wall producer Bob Ezrin recalls being overcome with emotion when Gilmour first played the lead line in the studio.

“The second solo in Comfortably Numb, which may be the best solo of all time, is actually a first take,” he says. “It was so powerful when I heard it and saw him play it, it literally brought tears to my eyes – and it has many times since then.

“Even though this is a record that I participated in, and by all rights by now should be fairly dry for me, that moment is still, for me, one of the most emotional moments in all of music.

Ezrin adds that despite the near-perfect first pass, Gilmour used “scores of takes” trying to improve it, but to no avail. “It never got better,” he continues. “It was always that first moment of inspiration that produced the magic.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Ezrin touches upon what makes David Gilmour one of the world's top guitarists.

“He has an innate musicality that's informed by the blues,” he explains. “So he's incredibly lyrical and melodic, and all his melodic structures are built on a blues foundation. And that makes them really soulful. 

“Aside from that he has a majesty of tone, and that comes from the combination of his slow vibrato and his really precise picking and how strongly he holds the strings, so that the notes ring a long, long time. Add to that an amazing instinct for what's going to work where, and you end up with one of the greatest guitar players of all time.

“For me, the bottom line about David Gilmour is you could give him a ukulele and a Pignose amp and he'd still make it sound majestic, beautiful and stirring.” 

Ezrin continues: “It's in the fingers, ultimately, and he has an exquisite left hand. He massages the music out of the guitar. And also his right hand – the combination of picking and the occasional use of the tremolo bar, again it's kind of caressing the instrument and pulling the sound out of it...

“I've had the privilege of working with some truly great guitar players in my career, but I have to say that David Gilmour is my favorite of all of them, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.”

Total Guitar's July issue dives into David Gilmour's playing on some of Pink Floyd's biggest tracks. Pick up your copy over at Magazines Direct (opens in new tab).

Last month, Gilmour hinted that Pink Floyd haven't necessarily closed the door on live shows yet.

“We haven’t even thought about doing live shows, but I suppose it’s a possibility,” he said. “I haven’t done one in such a long time, but who knows – I don’t know.”

His comments came after he asserted last year that a Pink Floyd reunion would never happen, calling such an idea “fakery to go back and do it again”.

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Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar (opens in new tab).