Ask anybody on the street who Pink Floyd is, and they’ll most likely answer you with something from The Dark Side of the Moon. When Pink Floyd’s classic was released they were rocketed to stardom, complete with girls and money. However, back in the studio, the members of Pink Floyd felt the pressure of following up such a monumental success. This pressure led to tensions among band members. Wish You Were Here would be Rick Wright’s last writing credit until The Division Bell in 1994, and Roger Waters’ ever tightening grip on the band’s music would eventually see the break-up of Pink Floyd.
Interestingly enough, Wish You Were Here’s original release was intended to be a completely black and anonymous cover. Ripping through the outer covering would reveal the proper album cover, the man on fire. Columbia Records, the American publisher of the album, was shocked – obviously they wanted to sell a Pink Floyd album.
Roger Waters – Vocals, Bass
David Gilmour – Guitars, Vocals
Richard Wright – Keyboards
Nick Mason – Drums
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 1) – The album opens up with light strings and ambience fading in, which make up the overall feeling of the album. I don’t know what the instrument which takes the first melody is, something like a synthesizer maybe? but I think that’s just a plus. It makes the song more mysterious and ambiguous. A four-note guitar line follows, which is another one of the things that make this song absolutely phenomenal. That builds into the slightly more lively part. After nearly nine minutes the vocals enter… between the first lines there is a slight laugh in the background, which is another emotional highlight. Waters’ lyrics fit beautifully with this song and the fading guitar line in the end is just marvelous… 5/5
Welcome to the Machine – This song makes haunting use of effects to create the feel of a machine just waiting over you, watching… It rather creeps me out, especially when I’m listening to it at night. With Welcome to the Machine, Pink Floyd lashed out at the music industry. It has ingenious lyrics and effects, but tends to get a little repetitive at times… 4/5
Have A Cigar – Immediately started off with upbeat guitar and bass, this is another attack on the music industry, although a little bit remote… I still can’t quite grasp all of Waters’ comparisons. I had to laugh when I flipped the page in the booklet and there was a guy “swimming," fully geared, in a sand dune. That touch of humor, added with Waters’ voice when he sings, “Everybody else is just green," this song just seems out of place to me. The lyrics are top-notch, though, and the upbeat tempo is infectious… 4/5
Wish You Were Here – This is my favorite song on the album and one of my favorite songs of all time. The band’s tribute to Syd Barrett – beautiful, heartfelt, tear-jerking. Wish You Were Here employs virtually no effects, and for being the simplest song on the album, it is just marvelous. Waters is at the top of his game lyrically; I personally love the way the lyrics are similar to a list, and they name opposites, seeming to contradict each other. After the emotional climax the beginning guitar line fades out into the sound of howling wind which carries on to the final song… 5/5
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 2) – Overall, this song is almost identical to Part 1. It’s livelier, however, and different melodies are used. After the song culminates into a high point with the vocals, it quiets down into an upbeat interlude similar to the beginning of Have A Cigar, before dissolving into the opening notes of the album. The ending melody sounds subdued yet triumphant, making a spectacular ending to a spectacular album. 5/5
Wish You Were Here is largely a tribute to former frontman Syd Barrett, whose deteriorating mental health made him unable to stay with the band. It should be noted that as the band was recording the backing vocals on Shine On, Barrett turned up in the studio – this was also the day Gilmour married his first wife. The band performed for him Wish You Were Here, to which he stated, “Sounds a bit old." Rick Wright plays a small refrain from See Emily Play, the band’s second single and written by Barrett, in the final seconds of the album. Gilmour says he hasn’t spoken to Barrett since 1975.
This is my favorite Pink Floyd album, not to mention one of the best albums ever recorded. And while that may be biased, take a listen. You may think that I’m right. But that’s coming from a great Floyd fan – Wish You Were Here rates a 5/5.
Please go easy on me as this is my first review.