Wish You Were Here (1975)


 
1. Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) 2. Welcome to the Machine 3. Have a Cigar 4. Wish You Were Here 5. Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)

 

A fter the incredible success of The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd found themselves in a situation very much like most bands that experience this same level of incredible success, and that was that things don't automatically become any easier, nor or the band members any happier, nor better off. This album is sort of reflection of that. The theme here is "emptiness", or, more plainly - wishing for something that simply was not.

In a strange way, the album is a bit of an homage to founder Syd Barrett - who was the driving force early in the band's career. He since had had a mental breakdown, and actually showed up unexpectedly when the band was recording this record. His state was so poor that it brought some of the band to tears. So maybe this was a sad memory of what was and/or what could have been had Syd been still around. Not to sound pessimistic, but my guess is they still would have arrived at this same, empty lonely place that all people arrive at when they suddenly acquire wealth, riches and/or fortune. It just doesn't change things all that much.

This album has a very lonely, spaced out feel to it. It's heavy on the keyboards and spacey synthesizers, and does have a lot of very strong guitar work from David Gilmour. This is why many musicians tend to rate this album as one of the best the band has to offer. Yes, there are a few "shorter", more accessible songs, but the lengthier piece Shine on You Crazy Diamond (S.Y.D. - get it?) is probably what this album is best noted for. The song is actually in (I think) nine parts, parts 1-5 open the album and parts 6-9 close the album. To me, it's a bit too much crazy diamond, but overall the piece holds up rather nicely.

The title track is one of the most radio friendly pieces that shows up in just about every performance the band has put on since. Lyrically, again, the theme is emptiness, or a lack of any substantial connection between people. When they sing "wish YOU were here", it's almost as if they're really saying, "wish I was here". Welcome to the Machine is a pretty cool number. A lot of cool sound effects, maybe trying to emulate time travel? Pretty heavy, as well, on the keyboards, and quite ahead of its time considering this was recorded back in 1975. The "machine" being sung about is the "rock and roll machine" that has apparently taken over our heroes' souls and made many former simple pleasures somewhat impossible.

The only other song is one that I've never really thought was that great. Have a Cigar is another stab at the cynacism of the music business. The song tells the story about a big time promoter meeting, greeting, wining and dining the big shot celebrity who has become incredibly famous, whereas they're almost entirely clueless of who the person is at all, other than they're making a ton of money ("oh by the way, which one's Pink?"). It's actually sang by an outsider (Roy Harper) because it was felt that neither Gilmour nor Waters had a "cynical" enough singing voice.

A very good album. I'm not much of a musician, and I prefer more songs as opposed to atmosphere, so this album doesn't rank in my "best of the best" categories. But for those who do appreciate such things, it's not a surprise that they might regard this as one of the band's crowning achievements.

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