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The story of a signed guitar Print E-mail
Written by Chris Leith   
Thursday, 27 August 2015
David Gilmour-signed Fender guitar

Here at Brain Damage, we always like hearing visitors' personal accounts and thoughts about things Floyd related. Sometimes, there are interesting tales behind signed items in people's collections - such as Chris's, below...

In July 2015, I arranged for (possibly) the most prized possession of my Pink Floyd memorabilia collection to be finally professionally framed for wall hanging, it having sat either on a guitar stand or in a guitar bag, for the best part of nearly 15 years.

The reason this means so much to me, other than the obvious joy of having a guitar with a personalised signature of David Gilmour, but moreover the story behind the sheer chance opportunity, in which I was able to obtain his signature and the decision to choose a piece of my collection for signing. Unable to decide, I simply walked into my local guitar store and purchased a guitar. Why not?

Here is the entirely true story:

In about 2000, I was, and still am, involved in insurance for my career. This involved visiting people, at work or at home, who have submitted an insurance claim which required investigation. I had been given a claim where I was visiting someone at their home and in discussion with them noticed a strange, fairly unusual 'pub style' mirror on the kitchen wall, which said "Iron Maiden Edinburgh Odeon 1981 – sold out".

Already a number of years into being a Pink Floyd fan and collector, I seized on this and asked him about it. He said used to be a roadie for Iron Maiden in the 1980s. When I asked what he currently did for a living, he explained he was a road manager for Roxy Music and personal assistant to Phil Manzanera. I fell off my chair.

It's easy now, in 2015, to see Phil as an almost essential part of David Gilmour's sphere of music activity, from his involvement in the 2006 On An Island album and tour, and even more instrumental (pun intended) in the early stage kick-start of ultra-secret sessions for 2014's The Endless River, eventually becoming co-producer.

But in 2000, in terms of Pink Floyd connections, Phil would have been largely known mainly only for being co-writer of album track 'One Slip' from 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason album, was clearly an industry and personal friend of David's, but not to the extent as we all know today.

It’s also easy now, with the knowledge of the latter-00s album and live activity from Roger and David, but by 2000 David had merely been appearing in some of the usual sporadic charity events, save for a slightly more prominent role in Paul McCartney's put-together band for the 'Run Devil Run' album and shows, and again this was in the era of being before the landmark 2001 Meltdown performance, which in retrospect led to a sort of rebirth for David's activity. In all, it was a fairly barren spell to see or hear from David Gilmour.

But I digress.

When the guy I was visiting casually mentioned he was "going to the studio in a few days to see Phil and I know that David's going to be there….", I proceeded to fall off my chair again.

In the blink of an eye, with my collector's hat immediately on, and with a probable one-shot opportunity I broke all protocol and asked very politely indeed whether it would be too much trouble to obtain David's signature. No problem he said.

I racked my brains to try and work out what I could pass across to get signed from my collection. An LP? A ticket stub? A tour programme? None of these appeared to fit the bill. I went for broke and said I had a guitar (I didn't, dear reader) and would it be possible if he could sign that.

After the meeting, I remember driving back and heading straight to my local guitar store.

With David having 'retired' the black Strat a number of years before, and having played the '57 reissue Candy Apple Red Strat during the 1987-88 and 1994 tours, this had become the more memorable guitar he'd been seen playing in the ensuing years. I decided I would try and buy a red Strat.

Knowing that I couldn't afford to buy a real Fender Stratocaster, which I'm hesitating back then would been in the region of £1000-£1500, I elected to get the Squire Strat in red that I could afford, the one you see in the photos, which back in 2000 was about £150. A small price to pay, in more ways than one, right?

The guy in the shop was very confused after I had explained what I was wishing to buy, had no desire to play it, see it, or try it out (I couldn't play guitar), and that this would be easiest sale he would ever make. After I explained the reason, I think he 'got it'.

Looking back now, I must have been fairly naïve as I didn't even buy a proper gig-bag case for it. I arranged to happily drop the guitar off (with hindsight, having written my name on the manufacturer's cardboard guitar box – god knows why – this left me in good stead for a 'dedication', but this was not intended) and looked forward to hearing again shortly.

Days passed. Weeks passed. From memory, about 5 months passed, at which point I felt kind of awkward in ringing the guy and genuinely believed I'd been had. It was all a lie.

By sheer coincidence, in this period I took a call from the guy, and I shall never forget his tone as if I'd spoken to him merely the day before (aarrgghhh!!), saying my guitar was ready for collection. I have no idea why it took so long, and that part of the story is lost forever.

I arranged to pick it up, and without opening the box, took it home. Having got home, I laid it out on the table, opened it up, and in clear black pen on the scratch-plate, it said "To Chris, Best Wishes, David Gilmour". I was honoured.

Again, it is worth mentioning the context of getting this item – and certainly a 'dedicated' signature.

I've done my fair share of stage-door hanging, both pre- and post-show and these are difficult places at best to secure a signature on anything, normally in the melee of the artist arriving/leaving the venue, with entourage. David has never been one for signature queues. The odd photo, LP or stub signature if you're lucky, but that's your lot normally.

It is also worth mentioning that this was (certainly in the UK) largely the pre- eBay era, before artists became very wary of signing items such as instruments, usually due to the forgery market and the advent of 'professional' autograph hunters who would simply sell memorabilia on. We've all seen the 'scratch-plate' hunters seeking the scribble.

The framed guitar now takes pride of place on my wall, and I'd nipped in a classic era photo of the band for good measure. Sure, it's a cheap Fender Squire Strat, but the story behind it and the six words written on it mean it's priceless to me. I've played a few albums since it's been on the wall, and when it catches my eye, I do have a slight wry smile on my face.

I have long forgotten what the claim was about, but the story of how I obtained David Gilmour's signature on a Fender guitar is as vivid as ever.


A slight coda to the story is that sometime after, I took a call from the same guy who explained that Roxy Music were playing the Hammersmith Apollo soon as part of their 2001 reunion tour and "would I like a couple of free VIP tickets….". To be honest, I thought he'd done enough for me already…

I went to the show, which was fantastic, and was lucky enough to be taken backstage afterwards show and met founding member and saxophonist Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera (we didn't discuss his critical part in the Gilmour signature sadly), and by chance and at the last minute, Bryan Ferry.

A running joke at the time within a group of Floyd friends was that I always showed up at gigs wearing a suit – having always dashed from the office to get to a gig in London. Normally, this would be a slight problem in being overdressed at gigs, but in meeting Bryan Ferry, wearing a suit is almost de-rigueur.

Again, on-the-hop and in perma-fan mode I asked for his signature, and given the ticket stub was a little pathetic, looked down at the tie I was wearing and held it up flat and he agreed to sign that. A Bryan Ferry signed tie, almost ridiculously apt. Inexplicably, some years later I sold the tie on eBay, something I have really regretted.

Framing of the guitar:

A final mention, with Matt's permission, is to advise of the company I used to arranged for the framing of the guitar: 'Framers' based in Wimbledon, London, who I found by absolute luck having never used them before.

Jonathan and the team at Framers gave free, impartial advice on how best to approach this quite tricky project. From the superb design, frame and finish (hand painted with a matt black finish) which really shows off the piece, it was clear from the initial discussion of ideas and best way to present the guitar in the frame, that Framers were very professional, experienced and exacting on their own products.

The fact that the mounting brackets had to be specifically designed and hardly visible really showed their level of detail. I would certainly recommend Framers of Wimbledon, who specialise in framing/mounting of sports/film/music memorabilia, and will definitely be using them again on any future projects.

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