I recently had the pleasure of meeting David Gilmour, the upshot of which was that he borrowed the SB-1 production prototype for a week or so… and liked it!
It all came about when my friend Chris got wind of rumours that David was going to be present at a book reading by Polly Samson (his wife) at Saltdean Library – which seemed like a not-to-be-missed opportunity to show him my guitar and hopefully get some (verbal!) feedback from him. So off we trotted, Chris, Julia and I – and sure enough, the rumours were true.
Actually I’m glad we went in any case, as Polly’s reading was fantastic, and very entertaining – I hadn’t read her books previously, but was prompted to order them as soon as I got home. They’re very good – thoroughly recommended.
After the reading, most of the audience hung around for tea and cakes (this is the sort of thing British libraries do, which is all the more reason not to cut their funding). I wanted to speak to Polly, as she had said a few things that caught my interest, but there was already quite a queue for her – so instead, I turned to the back… and there he was.
Now, anyone who’s ever met their guitar hero (or any other hero for that matter) can probably imagine how I was feeling at this point. This is a man whose music I’ve grown up listening to, whose solos I played at pub gigs with my band at school, whose videos I’ve worn out watching over and over again… (yes kids, it was VHS back then ;-)) A formative influence, you might say.
I’m not sure I was nervous per se, but certainly anxious – of making a bad impression, coming across as a spluttering fool, or just getting off on the wrong foot. None of which was helped by the chap in front of me having his request for an autograph gently rebuffed: “No, this is Polly’s event.”
So I suppose it was inevitable that my “Hello David, could I show you this guitar I designed?” was met with “No, not really.”
(Now it’s only fair that I say at this point, that David was not in any way being off-hand – quite the opposite in fact. I was struck by the way he has this wonderful ability to say ‘no’ in the most charming, polite and disarming manner, such that it’s almost impossible to be disappointed.)
“Obviously not right now,” I hastily added. “This is Polly’s event after all. [Yes, I know. Cough. Ahem.] Maybe we could arrange something for another time?”
(I’m getting my card out at this point.)
“Hmmmm….” But he does at least take the proffered card.
“Have a look at the web site when you get a moment,” I suggest, “and drop me a line if you’d like to have a go with the guitar.”
Which I thought was probably the best I could hope for really – I didn’t want to come across as pushy, after all. I’m very conscious that there’s a fine line between gentle persistence and aggressive pushiness, and I’m not really into the whole hard-sell thing – I firmly believe that, in business and life in general, long-term goodwill is far more important than a quick “close the deal, make the sale, thank you very much, see ya!” So I left David alone and went back to join the queue for Polly.
Some while later, I spotted him standing in the corner chatting to Phil Manzanera and, no doubt emboldened by the cherry flapjacks, cheekiness got the better of me – I sauntered over with a cheery “Are you sure I can’t show you this guitar now?”
(I’m taking the guitar out of its case as we speak, which leads to some ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and general murmurings along the lines of ‘ooh, that looks interesting’, and a brief discussion of its salient points…).
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” David offers. “I’ll borrow it. If you’re happy to lend it?”
Wow, I wasn’t expecting that! Seriously – I’d thought at most he’d take a quick look there and then and give me a few words of first impressions.
I actually hesitated briefly at first, because there was a chance I’d need it at short notice for a possible TV appearance. But David was very understanding and gave me his contact details should I need to get in touch in a hurry (with strict instructions not to divulge – so no, sorry, you can’t have them. Ner! ;-))
And then cheekiness once again got the better of me…
“You’re Phil, aren’t you?” I said to, er well, Phil, obviously. “Would you like to have a go when David’s finished with it?”
“We’ll have a look at it together this afternoon,” he replied. Which was rather decent, I thought. Considering he could justifiably have told me where to shove it.
“OK, well,” (addressing them both now), “I’d better not take up any more of your time. Would you like to take the guitar now or shall I hold onto it until you’re ready to leave?”
David suggested the latter and that he’d collect it on his way out, so I took it with me back to rejoin Chris and Julia. And true to his word, a short time later he came over, and with a smile and a “Shall I take that now?” left the building, guitar in hand…
I let a week or so pass, then dropped him a quick note to ask how he was getting on and whether he had any questions. Some correspondence ensued and we arranged for me to collect the guitar from him.
So at the appointed time, I went to David’s house, and was invited into his hallway, where he returned the guitar and we chatted briefly (he was very amiable, by the way, full of smiles and happy to chat, although he was clearly busy so I didn’t want to overstay my welcome). His verdict? “It’s nice – very well put together and very nice to play.” (I’m rather proud of that ;-) Thank you, David!)
He wished me good luck as he showed me out, so hopefully I managed not to annoy or offend him. After all, the last thing I wanted was to come across as (wait for it) all in all, just another prick in the hall…*
*Sadly I can’t take credit for this wonderful piece of punnery – thanks must go to Jamie Freeman for that.