Guy Pratt has been the bass player for Pink Floyd since signing on for the tour to support 1987’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason. With the gig came a rapid accumulation of basses.
“I arrived for rehearsals in Toronto with the paltry stable of a Steinberger, a Status II fretless, and ‘Betsy’ – my ’64 Burgundy Mist Jazz,” he recalled. “But, the arsenal began expanding immediately, as people suddenly wanted to give me things.”
Spectors and Music Man Sting Rays joined as workhorses and, “I was given various pointy-headed monstrosities that were abandoned or ignored,” he recalled.
Pink Floyd’s final album was 2014’s The Endless River, but members have recently been involved in other projects; Pratt is part of Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, which is not your typical nostalgia band. Led by Floyd’s founding drummer (now 78), it focuses on the band’s early works through 1971’s Meddle.
“It’s great fun,” he enthused.” The bass was almost impossible to hear on the [original] records, so I have a pretty free rein. I play Rickenbackers for everything up to 1970 and Precisions for everything after. I’ve had various Rickenbackers – the best is a 2018 Jetglo, though it has a brute of a neck and is a bitch to play. But it sounds fabulous. I have a handsome 2003 Montezuma as a backup. I use two Precisions – a 2018 American Professional in sunburst which is nice but has quite a hard sound, so I combine it with my 2007 Bill Nash which is buttery and sumptuous.”
“Betsy” was cloned as an endorsement model by Bass Centre, and he takes it on tour, “…when my desire to have fun outweighs my desire for historical accuracy.”
Another recent project was the antithesis of fun. Pink Floyd recorded a benefit song in late March of ’22 to assist humanitarian organizations aiding Ukraine following the invasion by Russia. The inspiration was an a cappella version of the Ukrainian folk song, “The Red Viburnum in the Meadow,” by Andriy Khlyvnyuk while he was serving with the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces. Gilmour composed “Hey, Hey Rise Up!” using Khlyvnyuk’s vocals as a guide.
“I first heard of it at a birthday dinner with my son, Stanley, in Manchester,” Pratt remembered. “I got a text from David saying ‘Are you around over the next few days, and do you know where Nick is? I want to do something for Ukraine.’
“I went over for a quiet dinner a few nights later, and David played a video, telling me it was the singer from a band he’d performed with at a benefit gig for acts recently banned by Russia.
“Then he played the track he’d knocked up under it – a hell of a feat, as the guy was singing to nothing. I remember putting down a demo part about a week before we did our video. David wrote, built, and assembled the track; it was my idea to repeat the song after the solo and Nick’s to have the breakdown, so there is a nice air of chipping in for all involved.”
The song and video were both recorded on March 30. The bare-bones version of Pink Floyd included Gilmour, Mason, Pratt, and keyboard player Nitin Sawhney. Additional vocals were supplied by the Veryovka Ukrainian Folk Choir.
“I used the magnificent 1960 stack-knob Jazz that David gave me as a wedding present back in ’96,” he recalled. “She’s truly a wonderful bsass, but as a respect thing, I use her only when I work with David.”
By the end of ’22, donations from sales of the song had reached £500,000, including £50,000 from Gilmour and Mason. “I’d gotten David’s text on March 23 and it was released April 8,” Pratt said. “Pretty impressive by anyone’s standards, let alone Pink Floyd’s.”
As for the intent and results of “Hey, Hey, Rise Up!,” he added, “It’s great. It has helped some people, and it’s been so transparent, but it’s a record that should never have had to be made.”
This article originally appeared in VG’s May 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.