DAVID GILMOUR’S PRIMARY J-200 CELEBRITY, PLAYED DURING PINK FLOYD'S HISTORIC LIVE 8 PERFORMANCE, 2005
The Gibson J-200 Celebrity was produced in a limited run of just 90 instruments to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Gibson Company in 1985. With rosewood back and sides the Celebrity would deliver more colored overtones synonymous with rosewood. Rather than the large block and “pineapple” pearl position markers found on most J-200s, the Celebrity boasted pearl inlay in a floral motif reminiscent of those found on L-7 and L-10 arch-tops of the 1930s.
After first trying Dire Straits bassist John Illsley’s J-200 Celebrity at London’s AIR Studios in September 1986, Gilmour contacted Gibson in an attempt to track one down. In an interview with Guitar World magazine in May 2006, Gilmour recalled: I was in AIR Studios and that guitar was lying around. I tried it and liked it. I contacted Gibson and asked if they had any left, …they were looking in their storeroom and they found one that had somehow never reached its destination. And they let me have it. The guitar was supplied directly by Gibson USA to David Gilmour in exchange for an endorsement agreement in November 1987. Gilmour liked the J-200 Celebrity so much that he set out to acquire a second example in 1994.
Along with his trusty Martins, the J-200 Celebrity was used extensively during the recording sessions for Pink Floyd’s 1994 album The Division Bell, which took place primarily at Gilmour’s Astoria houseboat studio between January and September 1993. Gilmour experimented with an E-Bow (an electric device designed to replicate a bowed effect on an electric guitar) on the J-200 Celebrity during the sessions, with the recordings appearing on the intros to Take It Back and Keep Talking. In an interview with Guitar World magazine in September 1994, Gilmour explained that the E-Bow was used …on a Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar that is processed through a Zoom effects box, then directly injected into the board. That' s a pretty bizarre configuration. Well, I guess I experiment more than I think I do. I had a Zoom in my control room one day and I was mucking about with something. Suddenly, I thought I should stick the E-bow on the strings and see what would happen. It sounded great, so we started writing a little duet for the E-bowed acoustic guitar and a keyboard. We never finished the piece, but [keyboardist] Jon Carin decided to sample the E-bowed guitar part. We kept the sample and ended up using it as a loop on "Take It Back," and again on "Keep Talking." Gilmour also used the J-200 for a folk-like accompaniment on Lost For Words and, tuned to DADGAD, for Poles Apart. Co-written by Gilmour, Polly Samson and Nick Laird-Clowes, Poles Apart was revealed by Samson to be about founding members Syd [Barrett] in the first verse and Roger [Waters] in the Second. Gilmour explained the unusual tuning in an interview with Guitar World magazine in September 1994: …I thought it was something new that I had invented. One day, I was on holiday in Greece and I had an acoustic guitar with me. I just decided to tune the bottom string down to D and continued to experiment until I arrived at that tuning. Then I mucked around a bit and "Poles Apart" fell out of it a few minutes later.
The band took a break from recording to appear at The Cowdray Ruins Concert on 18th September 1993 in aid of the local King Edward VII Hospital. Set amongst the ruins of Cowdray Castle in West Sussex, the spectacular line up also included Queen’s Roger Taylor and John Deacon, Genesis and Eric Clapton. With Genesis’ Mike Rutherford on bass, Pink Floyd performed three songs – Run Like Hell, Comfortably Numb and Wish You Were Here – before returning to the stage with the full line up for a jam of Ain’t That Peculiar and Gimme Some Lovin’. Gilmour chose this acoustic to play Wish You Were Here, the title track of Pink Floyd’s 1975 album of the same name and, like Poles Apart, also written about founder member Syd Barrett. Only fan footage remains from the superstar event, however photographer Richard Young captured Rutherford and Gilmour, grinning with his J-200, in rehearsals ahead of the show.
Gilmour continued to use this acoustic for performances of Wish You Were Here throughout Pink Floyd’s 1994 The Division Bell Tour, along with a second J-200 Celebrity, newly acquired from John Illsley of Dire Straits and tuned to DADGAD for performances of Poles Apart (lot 79). With the addition of another J-200 on loan from guitar technician Phil Taylor, a total of three Gibson J-200 Celebrity guitars were carried on the tour. Footage of Gilmour playing this guitar during the show at Earls Court, London, on 20th October 1994, can be seen in the live concert video Pulse, released on VHS in 1995 and on DVD in 2006. Gilmour again selected the J-200 for a solo performance of Wish You Were Here at a charity concert to launch the Lavender Trust at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts on 2nd May 1998.
The J-200 Celebrity made a significant reappearance seven years later for a performance of Wish You Were Here, broadcast live to an estimated 1.5 billion viewers across the world during the historic reunion of David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright and Roger Waters in their classic-era Pink Floyd line up at Live 8 in London’s Hyde Park on 2nd July 2005, their first performance together in 24 years. Bob Geldof is credited with persuading the band to reunite as headliners of the benefit concert, spearheading a string of 10 concerts held around the world in the run up to the G8 summit in Scotland with the aim of putting pressure on G8 leaders to end global poverty, and marking the 20th anniversary of Live Aid. During the opening strains of the penultimate song on Pink Floyd’s short set list, Waters dedicated the band’s performance of Wish You Were Here to …anyone who’s not here – and particularly, of course, for Syd. Numerous photographs exist of Gilmour playing the guitar on this momentous occasion and footage of the band’s performance was included on the official Live 8 DVD, released on 7th November 2005.
Almost a decade later, material from the 1993 recording sessions for The Division Bell was revisited for Pink Floyd’s fifteenth studio album, The Endless River. Reworked with 21st Century digital technology and supplemented with new material recorded between 2013-2014 at the Astoria, Gilmour’s 1993 recordings on this J-200 Celebrity can be heard on a number of tracks on The Endless River, including Ebb And Flow and Things Left Unsaid. Released in November 2014 as a tribute to keyboardist Richard Wright, who had passed away in 2008, the predominantly instrumental album debuted at number one in the UK, France, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand, and Canada.