Friday, May 8, 2015

White City Fighting/Hope

When Pete Townshend learned, back in 1983, that David Gilmour was working on a new solo album, he offered his assistance, knowing how difficult it could be to step out from the shadow as large as that of a band such as Pink Floyd (or the Who). Gilmour took him up on it, asking him to write lyrics for three songs. Townshend did, but Gilmour only used two of them, the third being too different, thematically for him.

Gilmour then sent the song to his friend Roy Harper, singer of Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar," and asked him to write lyrics. Harper did but, again, Gilmour didn't think they'd work for him, so he simply dropped the track from About Face, his second (good but not great but better than Gilmour thinks) solo album.

Both Townshend and Harper ended up using their own lyrics, recording the songs themselves, the former with guitar help from Gilmour, the latter with guitar by some guy named Jimmy Page (whose band had also relatively recently dissolved).

There are many intriguing "what if" questions in rock and roll. What if Lennon hadn't been killed: would the Beatles have ever gotten back together? What if Kurt Cobain hadn't killed himself: what would have done musically? What if Jimi Hendrix hadn't died so young: where might he have gone musically?

This doesn't rise to that level. And after decades of listening to Townshend's, it's disorienting but fascinating to hear Harper's version. But I surely do wish Gilmour had perserved and written his own set of lyrics, so we could hear yet a third varation, and hear what it would have sounded like if he himself had recorded a version.

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