Why David Gilmour Was Never Meant To Be A Permanent Member Of Pink Floyd

It's hard to imagine Pink Floyd without David Gilmour. His silky, guitar work is all over the band's biggest albums like "The Dark Side of the Moon," "Wish You Were Here," and "The Wall," but when he first joined the band in 1968, his tenure was supposed to be temporary. According to RTE, the original plan was for Gilmour's predecessor and childhood friend, Syd Barret, to stop touring and take on a role writing material for the band, similar to the arrangement the Beach Boys used with Brian Wilson.

According to Biography, Barrett was struggling with his mental health and drug issues, which led the band to bring in Gilmour as a touring member to handle Barrett's vocal and guitar parts live. However, it quickly became apparent to the other remember of the band that their best path forward was to stick with Gilmour. It was a difficult decision for both the band and for Gilmour, who felt as though he had betrayed his friend (via Groovy History).

The start of Pink Floyd

Syd Barrett — who was born Roger Keith Barrett — knew bass player Roger Waters from school. In 1962, Barrett had played in a band called Geoff Mott and the Mottoes, but he had left the band to move to London to study painting. So, when Waters needed a guitarist for his band The Tea Set, he tapped Barrett to fill the spot in the band's lineup. Not long after, Barrett joined the band they changed their name to Pink Floyd (via Biography).

Barrett brought a lot to the table especially when it came to songwriting. "What was so stunning about Syd's songs," Waters told Rolling Stone, "was, through the whimsy and the crazy juxtaposition of ideas and words, there was a very powerful grasp of humanity. They were quintessentially human songs. And that is what I've always attempted to aspire to. In that sense, I feel a strong connection to him."

However, Barretts increasingly erratic behavior was causing problems for the band, even during their concerts, According to Groovy History, Barret would sometimes change arrangements or lyrics without telling anyone, and would occasionally start a song in the wrong key on purpose. Barrett eventually suffered a mental breakdown, and the band knew they had to make a change, and brought in David Gilmour.

David Gilmour replaces Syd Barrett

In 1967, Pink Floyd was on tour with Jimi Hendrix and had to routinely call in a substitute guitarist to take Barrett's place if he wasn't in a condition to perform or simply hadn't shown up to the venue, according to Biography. By the end of that tour David Gilmour became the defacto fill-in. The original plan was for Gilmour to handle Barrett's guitar and vocal parts in concert, while the increasingly reclusive Barrett continued to play in role in writing the band's music.

"They wanted me to play [Barrett's] parts and sing his songs," Gilmour said in a 1993 interview with Guitar World (via Ultimate Classic Rock). "Nobody else wanted to sing them, and I got elected. That was my job — as far as live shows were concerned, anyway. Me and Syd played together only five gigs in Pink Floyd."

It quickly became clear to the rest of the band that this arrangement just simply wouldn't work, and that Gilmour would be a better choice for the band's long-term future. Gilmour went on to help the band record some of their most well-known songs and records, but it wasn't without a hint of guilt for replacing his childhood friend. "It was kind of tragic. I don't suppose I saw any option, but to just do the best that I could. I'm sure we were all full of some sort of guilt, and remained that way for a long time" (via RTE).