Pink Floyd released their 9th studio album in September, 1975 Wish You Were Here. I guess the question on everyones mind was how can you follow The Dark Side Of The Moon?
The band had become huge and global. EMI could not produce enough copies of Wish You Were Here for retailers to sell, the demand was that high.
Wish You Were Here is quite a unique Pink Floyd album. Although critically it attracted some sneers it is an immensely enjoyable LP. I guess the main line of attack is that Pink Floyd really did let loose the wank noodling on this album. I am in the camp that it is one of their best albums. The band now were prog rock monsters and this album adds a new string to that bow. They are no longer the experimental psychedelic outfit from the 60’s and this was the mid 70’s after all. The album fits its time very well. Punk hadn’t blown things up yet and Wish You Were Here probably played a part in sparking that backlash – it’s a win / win situation.
In 1999 I was living in a shared house with a mate and his brother and I was the only person that had to get up for work the next morning. I went to bed about midnight and they were half way through a bottle of absinth. Trying to get to sleep in the room above where they were sitting and listening to this album for the first time in about 5 years they polished of the rest of the bottle and I’ve never heard two people sing so hard in my life. It was amongst both the most annoying and funniest things I have ever heard. The thing is, they didn’t sing just the words, they sang every note. That’s the thing with Wish You Were Here. Although largely instrumental after three hears or so you will remember every single note. Then about half way through the album there was total, deadly silence. Either they were totally engrossed in the album and out of their minds – or dead. The next morning they were still alive. There may have been vomit.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Waters / Gilmour / Wright) is a lengthy album opener that sets a soundscape and uses keyboards to great effect. A very gentle build gives way at the four-minute mark to four very simple – but devastatingly effective notes. The build solidifies and jams for another lengthy and enjoyable period before a sax enters to faze the song out. The song is another nod to Syd Barrett and there are theories about the first letter from the first, third and fifth word of the title spelling SYD. This is probably just another coincidence. Also an unreconisable Syd Barret walked into the studio as the band were playing the song. The four remaining members did not realise who he was, he had a shaven head, was overweight and had shaved his eyebrows off. He was carrying just a carrier bag. When the band realised who he was there were reported tears. When asked why he had put on so much weight Syd Barrett replied “I’ve got a big fridge and I’ve filled it with lamb chops”.
Welcome To The Machine (Waters) is more keyboard led noodling that really does sound polished and ahead of its time. The tone of the lyric is delivered in a cold style. It works. There is more keyboard roaming and gentle guitar strings.
Have A Cigar is again cold lyrically. A record company exec is mocked “oh by the way, which one’s Pink?“. The song includes both the new synth led slow hazing around sound and are more traditional sound. It is more of a straight up slow rock song than any other song on the album.
Wish You Were Here (Waters / Gilmour) is an effective sad sounding slow song. Again it reflects towards Syd Barrett but probably goes further than this. The lyrics are openly interpretable and the music is both downbeat and very sombre. Despite this is has a fresh, clean sound and it is a lovely sounding song.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond is essentially the second part of the opening track. Combined it would run at about 26 minutes and it appears that the group disagreed about the decision to split the track up. It is a sprawling track and although quite a new direction circa 1975 does have a quintessential Pink Floyd feel and sound.
Without this guy the album would not have existed.
Whereas, with him it would never have sounded the way it does. It’s a tough one to figure out…