2018-02-10

The Ballad of Fred & Ginger

Bright Side of the Moon
Bright Side of the Moon.

I'm a bit late with my review of Ginger Gilmour's Memoirs of the Bright Side of the Moon (2015), but I do have my reasons, or – at least - so I think. The big Pink Floyd websites ignored the book as they are only allowed to bark when Paul Loasby, who is David Gilmour's leprechaun, allows them to and on top of that The Holy Church does need to maintain its contrarious reputation.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit and do not necessarily reflect the policy of Pink Floyd, nor its members, nor any of their (ex-)wives.

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The luxurious hardcover book is thick and heavy, printed on glossy paper, with over a hundred pictures and taking it with me on my daily commute would only gradually destroy it as it would mingle with my Nutella sandwiches and my weird obsession for Belgian pickles.

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So I placed it in my special books section at home and promptly forgot about it for a couple of years. I am more or less a dozen of Pink Floyd related books behind and that list only gets bigger and bigger. One of the oldest books I have never read is Barry Miles' Pink Floyd: The Early Years (2006 already!) and I am still collecting courage to dig into the 2017 deluxe version of his In The Sixties autobiography that I received last year. I never made it past 1970 in Glenn Povey's Echoes (2007), that I mainly use as a reference work (and I never bought its 2015 enhanced and updated successor The Complete Pink Floyd: The Ultimate Reference). I have purchased Charles Beterams' Pink Floyd in Nederland (2017), but I hardly opened its predecessor Pink Floyd in de Polder (2007). Same thing for the Their Mortal Remains (2017) catalogue, although from the few pages I did read it appears to be a semi-pretentious bag of dubious quality and quite error prone. Nick Sedgwick's In The Pink (2017), scrupulously sought for but never consulted, and don’t get me started on my Hipgnosis / Storm Thorgerson coffee table books collection, but these all seem to overlap anyway.

Free

But back to Ginger Gilmour's memoirs. Besides the fact that it is thick and heavy, its cover is in bright pink and I didn’t want people to think I was reading a Barbie Dream Castle novel on the train. A pink cover and a pretty positive title, surely this must be a book with a message.

First of all, these are Ginger's memoirs and although there is a lot of David Gilmour inside, especially around the tumultuous The Wall / A Momentary Lapse Of Reason years, Pink Floyd isn't its primordial subject, certainly not in the later chapters when – SPOILER ALERT – their marriage has failed. Over the years Ginger has grown spiritually and artistically and this book minutiously reveals the path she walked / crawled / stumbled to get over there.

The main trouble is, for grumpy diabetics in a mid-life crisis such as me, that sucrose is dripping from nearly every page and that Ginger uses the word Beauty (with capital B) in about every other paragraph. Angels magically appear in Space Invaders droves. There is a lot of talk about Inspiration. And Meditation. Wonder. Goodness. Hope. Peace. LOVE. It's almost cuteness overload.

Fred & Ginger
Fred & Ginger.

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Ginger has found inner peace by soaking in a bath of alternative, new-age, eastern-style religious and philosophical mindsets and isn't afraid of saying so. It's just not my cup of tea and it must have been hard on the frail internal Floydian communication lines as well, as has been hinted by Mark Blake. When Animals appeared there wasn't only a cold war between the Pink Floyd members going on, but also between their wives...

Ginger also found herself clashing with Waters’ new girlfriend, Carolyne Christie. Both came from wildly different backgrounds and, as one associate from the time recalls, ‘they did not see eye to eye'.

Ginger would throw a tantrum, rightly so if you ask me, over promoters who found it funny to add pigpens – with real pigs - at Pink Floyd backstage parties. She wouldn't rest until the animals had been set free. In one hilarious case the freed pig destroyed a hotel room by shitting all over the place.

I can imagine the sneers from vitriolic Roger Waters towards David Gilmour, on tour and in the studio, about 'hippie chick' Ginger. The fact that David used to sneak out of the studio for steak sandwiches and hamburgers, something his vegan wife didn't really appreciate, must have made Gilmour an easy target for Roger Waters.

The book has 90 chapters, counts over 630 pages and Floydian content can be found in about the first two thirds. These titbits relish a Floydian anorak as they give an inside look on life on the road and in the studio. Like silly crew contests, for instance:

Chris Adamson won because he ate the most amount of raw potatoes and Little Mick won for eating the most amount of fried eggs. P43
Friends of the family.
Friends of the family.

Pork Chops

Most of the time Ginger recounts about her own life, with its big and little adventures and anecdotes, like getting married without the rest of the band knowing it and meeting a memory from the past in the studio later that day (something David Gilmour always denied it happened). But that story of what happened on the 7th of July 1975 has already been told here before: Shady Diamond.

Sound of Silence

David Gilmour never was an extrovert person and if there were problems in the band, he tried to hide those for his wife.

I was not always aware of the tensions growing in the band. Moreover, just how much of that tension subtly influenced our relationship. David held most of these matters to himself. P99

But of course not everything could be kept a secret. Ginger did see the signs that something was wrong when Roger Waters isolated himself from the rest of the band during the shoddy Animals tour, where at one point Rick Wright flew back home because he couldn't stand the bass player any more.

This could have been the end of Pink Floyd but unfortunately the Norton Warburg financial debacle meant that they had to produce a smash album to recoup their financial losses. Despite the animosity in the band the three others agreed to give Waters free reign. On holiday in Lindos, Gilmour listened for days to The Wall tapes. His reaction was not immediately positive:

I don't think I can really work with this. I have no idea how this could become something people would enjoy listening to. It is just Angst! P200
Ginger & Alice.
Ginger & Alice. Picture by Storm Thorgerson.

One of my Turns

As we all know The Wall did turn into a massive success, but creating it was a burden for all those involved. Roger turned into something of a dictator and started to harass the others. Ginger Gilmour witnessed a few of these exchanges.

What also made it difficult was the fact that he [Rick Wright, FA] was often the punching bag. The camaraderie of the band's relationship was always boy tease boy, but for me this was getting to be too cruel. Rick buckled. It was heartbreaking to watch. P217

Ginger stays vague about David Gilmour's apparent compliance with Roger Waters. The guitarist might even have suggested to Roger to throw Nick Mason out of the band and to continue as a duo. This was told by Roger Waters in one of his angry post-Pink-Floyd interviews and denied by Gilmour.

Anyway, creating The Wall was a continuous fight between the two main protagonists, with Mason diplomatically acting as the 'ship's cook':

I see various commanders come and go, and, when things get really bad, I just go back down to the galley.

Comfortably Numb

Ginger Gilmour describes the atmosphere during the sessions as follows:

I watched David's quiet and sometimes not so quit influences bringing music to us that spoke of hope, outside the lyrics. I saw his struggle. He tried so hard. I watched Rick's withdrawal give a podium for a victim within the subconscious aspects of the story. I watched Nick's struggle between friendship and finding his voice. P222

It can't be denied though that Nick and David pretty much agreed with Roger, until Waters sneered once too much...

David was in a mood when I arrived [at a Japanese restaurant, FA]. I will never forget the look of shock on everyone's face especially Roger's, with everyone's tensions riding high. Roger wanted to remove 'Comfortably Numb' from the album. It was one of the only songs, which David had a major credit for and he exploded. I think if he had known karate the table would have split in two! I will never forget the look of shock on everyone's face, especially Roger's. P232

The Wall, with Comfortably Numb included, was successful, but the problems were far from over. In 1981 a barn filled with Floyd fireworks went up in a fire, killing the farmer and several firemen in the explosion. Pink Floyd's army of lawyers reacted that it wasn't their problem and the band was later acquitted from all (financial) responsibility.

The Thin Ice

The tension in the band had its negative influence on Gilmour's marriage as well . The first cracks in the 'thin ice' started to show. David confided to Emo that he feared that the Sant Mat movement had too much influence on his wife, what Emo – himself a Charan Singh follower - duly contradicted.

A great deal of the book is about the many fantastic people Ginger has met over the years, ranging from the cook at a Greek restaurant to the great spiritual leaders of this world (all the people she mentions must run in the hundreds). David always liked to have his old Cambridge friends around, Emo and Pip and the people he played with in his pre-Floyd bands. When he hears the terrible news about Ponji he is genuinely shocked and saddened. (Read about Pip and Ponji here: We are all made of stars.)

Gilmour's behaviour changed radically when he became the new great leader of Pink Floyd, some of his old friends (and family members) claim. Polly Samson may have had a certain influence in this as well. Nowadays David hardly has contact with the old mob and it is believed the Roger-David feud is again as big as it was three decades ago. However, the Pink Floyd wars are now fought in private, between lawyers and managers, and only surface when new product sees the light of day. (See also: Supererog/Ation: skimming The Early Years.)

Fred & Ginger
Fred & Ginger.

Run Like Hell

After The Final Cut there was the battle for the band, a conflict that was more of importance for David than saving his own marriage.

I remember the moment David further closed his heart, and rage took its place. P381

To finance the new project Nick Mason mortgaged his 1962 GTO Ferrari. David Gilmour put his houses at stake, without consulting his wife first.

We, our family security, were on the tightrope as well. (…) No wonder David grew more withdrawn from me. Our eyes stopped meeting. I kept looking. He was holding more than tension. He was holding a secret. P382

In order to make the new Floyd viable the family had to go on tax exile again. David didn't have the guts to tell his wife, so he ordered Steve O'Rourke to pass the message during an informal dinner. It made Ginger wonder if her husband would also instruct his manager to tell her if he wanted a divorce.

Visions of an Empty Bed

David Gilmour, who was already afraid that new age and eastern philosophies had too much influence on his wife, unwillingly pushed her further away as she sought guidance in the mental colour therapy of The Maitreya School of Healing and in the teachings of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiya order. Ginger Gilmour (in Mark Blake's biography):

I was getting more alternative - starting to meditate - and he was doing more cocaine and hanging out with all kinds of people.

Diet Floyd minus Waters was on a two years world tour, but dieting is not what happened backstage. Every night an alcohol and dope infested inferno was launched with emperor David Gilmour approvingly joining in the caligulesque festivities. On the few free days he was back in Britain, he didn't bother to show up at home, not even to greet the children.

Young Lust

Ginger Gilmour is very discrete about David's party life, but she doesn't withhold the one conversation she overheard backstage at a London show:

“Wow, I wouldn't mind getting into Gilmour's pants!”
The other woman, whose voice I recognised, said,
“No problem. I will introduce you. Get it on!” P503

This was the story of The Wall all over again, now with David 'Fred' Gilmour and Ginger as the couple in trouble.

We, David and I, were living in separate houses, separate lives joined only by our children and a piece of paper affirming, “until death do us part'. P481-482
Pink Floyd Compilation
Pink Floyd Compilation.

House of Broken Dreams

In summer 1998 they went to Hawaii for a last time together, trying to act like a family but sleeping in different beds. A bitter Gilmour had the habit of answering the phone with the sentence 'House Of Broken Dreams'. This line was picked up by Graham Nash who wrote a song about Ginger and David's family situation. House Of Broken Dreams would appear on the Crosby, Stills & Nash album Live It Up (1990):

Separate houses separate hearts
It's hard to face the feelings tearing us apart
And in this house of broken dreams love lies
(Listen to it on YouTube: House Of Broken Dreams.)

By then Ginger Gilmour sought and found her own way of survival by painting and sculpting. In December 1989 she co-organised a charity Christmas Carol Fantasy. She notes, in her typical spiritual mood that seeps through the text and that gets more frequent near the end:

I felt I was being guided by something greater than me, the Divine power of our Creator and his team of Angels. Miracles happened each day.

I'm not sure if angels were involved or not, but David Gilmour, who was by then living on his own on Malda Avenue, agreed to help her out for the rock'n roll section of the show. He assembled the Christmas Carol Fantasy Band that comprised of Paul Young, Vicki Brown, Jon Lord, Mick Ralphs, Rick Wills, Nick Laird-Clowes, performing Imagine and Happy Christmas (War Is Over).

Outside the Wall

The divorce did not embitter Ginger and she writes with much love about David Gilmour and Pink Floyd. She seems to be such a nice lady and her book is so filled with uplifting optimism that it almost is a sin to criticise her, but it is not without flaws.

Ginger Gilmour sees divine intervention about everywhere so that I can only deduct that over the years she created her own personal cuckoo land. This is mostly harmless, but after a time it gets slightly irritating. An example. Ginger invites Buddhist Lama Kalu Rinpoche to one of The Wall shows in Los Angeles. When he leaves the concert, just before the final, something apparently magical happens when he walks through the crowd.

I will never forget the expressions that lit up their faces in contrast to what they were witnessing. It was as though they saw Christ. Their hearts opened with the thought that he had graced them by being there. P244

Not only did the concertgoers have the show of their life, they were also blessed by the apparition of a godlike creature, according to Ginger. Harmless as this may be, it may not always be the case. Suggesting that mental colour therapy could help with diseases such as AIDS sounds pretty much like potentially dangerous quackery to me.

But for the look behind the curtains of this band, during one of its darkest seasons, this bleeding anorak is thankful.


All pictures previously published by Iain 'Emo' Moor (and grabbed from his Facebook timeline). Fred was David Gilmour's nickname in Cambridge.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥

Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013, p. 252, 268, 336.