Following the swift mental decline of Syd Barrett in the mid-1960s, Pink Floyd needed a new member to replace their iconic singer and guitarist. The band ultimately decided on Barrett’s childhood friend, David Gilmour, and with Gilmour in place, the British prog-rock legends would go on to become one of the genre’s best-selling acts.
However, rumour has it that Gilmour had not actually been the group’s first choice to replace Barrett. Allegedly, the London band had expressed desires for the pioneering guitarist Jeff Beck to join the group. Eventually, even David Gilmour would admit as much.
“Yes, that’s right. I’m not sure they contacted him. But they considered calling him,” Gilmour said back in 2002. “They always said they would have loved to recruit Jeff. He’s an amazing guitarist. But I don’t know if he would have been perfect for this job. We’ll never know. But the story would have been quite different.” Although Richard Wright once confirmed that, in fact, there had indeed been at least some form of contact.
Then, in 2009, Gilmour was asked about the rumour once more. He said, “Yes. It’s true. Before I joined, he was maybe the only other choice they were thinking about. It would have been a bit more explosive. I suspect Jeff would have left after six months. So I don’t think the compromises that one has to make to be in a group. I don’t think Jeff is that interested in compromise.”
Jeff Beck has been widely heralded as one of the greatest players to ever pick up the six-string. The former Yardbirds guitarist has a genuinely innovative stance on playing the electric guitar and is often noted for inventing the use of distortion in the 1960s, the technique that would prove to be a staple in rock music across the following decades right up to the present.
It’s an exciting prospect to consider such an illustrious artist joining one of the most influential rock bands of all time, although it ought to be noted that Gilmour more than proved himself to be capable in his own right.
Beck himself once said of seeing Pink Floyd at the Speakeasy Club in London, “Because it was so dark in there, and they were all Prisma [sic], you know that psychedelic lighting, they could have changed personnel every day, and you wouldn’t have noticed. And I didn’t know until about a week ago that they were after me.”
Beck had been speaking to Alice Cooper, who claimed that the members of Floyd had been too nervous to ask Beck to join the band. To this, Beck replied, “They’d have been nervous!? I would never have thought they would have given me the light of day.”