David Gilmour’s association with the band Unicorn has not been particularly well documented over the years. Some publicity was given to the relationship late in 2009 when two rare David Gilmour produced albums by Unicorn ‘Blue Pine Trees’ and ‘Too Many Crooks’ were released on CD, but the story of David’s early involvement with them is little known. However, thanks to Todd Glenn from the most excellent Unicorn Site the story has unfolded. The following is an extract from the Unicorn Band History that appears on Todd’s site and we thank him for that and the two great pictures you see on this page.
Early in 1973 the band played at the wedding reception of Ricky Hopper who was a friend from Transatlantic days. Ricky had been a record plugger for the label. Another guest was David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and at the end of the evening he got up for a jam and suggested doing Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”. They played it and afterwards Dave told how he really liked Country Rock which came as a considerable surprise as Pink Floyd seemed a million miles away from that kind of music. A week later Dave phoned Pat to say that he had just completed a studio installed at his country retreat and, as a try out, he could offer a free day there to demo some songs. The band immediately accepted. A few days later they traveled up to Essex in the old Transit van to be met by a smiling David Gilmour at the gate. The smile was no surprise as he was just then reaping the rewards of “Dark Side of the Moon”. He showed them into the studio and said there was no need to bring any of their gear in from the van. He was right. Hanging on the walls was the most amazing collection of vintage Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker and Martin guitars and underneath them wonderful smelling Fender Amps and a Premier drum kit. They recorded three of Ken’s songs and Dave added some Fender Pedal Steel Guitar which he had just brought an his last American tour and was learning to play. They were invited back on several occasions to record.
On one of those occasions, after a meal, Dave played a video tape of Monty Python sketches. He must have had one of the first VCR’s in Britain and the band could not believe how much they had missed when only seeing a Python sketch once. Pat remembers Dave rolling on the floor laughing at the others rolling on the floor laughing at Monty Python. Things started to happen from then on. Dave said he was prepared to put up the money to record an album of Unicorn songs and that his manager, Steve O’Rourke, would sell it. Unicorn signed with Steve’s EMKA organisation and Ricky Hopper who had introduced them to Dave became the day to day and tour manager. Ricky was later to discover Kate Bush, then called Kathy Bush. Pete and Pat from Unicorn played on her first demo recordings at Dave’s studio.
The album was recorded in Olympic Studios in Barnes in London. It was the most enjoyable time the band ever spent. They were recording an album for the first time in years, and this time they had control over how the songs were played and how the studio’s possibilities were used. There were more than enough songs, they were well rehearsed and ready to record and all concerned were learning while they worked together. Dave Gilmour was producing on his own account for the first time and even the recording engineer was newly promoted to run their sessions. The fact that they were all relative newcomers made for a fresh and creative atmosphere. The engineer, Rufus Cartwright, was a very important part. Pete Perryer’s singing on these sessions was excellent. The performances of the whole band for this album “Blue Pine Trees” and the parts of the second album “Too Many Crooks” that were also recorded at Olympic were never bettered.
The album was mixed at George Martin’s Air Studio just off Oxford Circus in London. The engineer was John Middleton and the tape operators were the sons of Spike Milligan and Peter Sellars. On one occasion Kevin was taking a number of attempts at overdubbing a guitar solo. When he finally came up with the one to use Pat noticed that Sean Milligan was looking a bit sheepish. He asked, “You did record that didn’t you?” Milligan, showing a distinct family resemblance, answered, “Er no actually. But I think I can remember it” Steve O’Rourke, the manager of Pink Floyd, took about a week to make a great deal with Charisma Records in the U.K, with Capitol Records in the U.S. and EMI International for the rest of the world. All deals included big advances of cash against record sales and to top it all Capitol agreed to underwrite Unicorn to a tour of the United States.
You can read the Unicorn Band History in full at the Unicorn Site