Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96kHz | FLAC | 5% RAR Recovery) | m3u, no cue or log (vinyl) | Full LP Artwork
949 MB (24/96) + 281 MB redbook | RS + Hot File | Genre: Progressive Rock | 1975
CBS Mastersound HC 33453 (1981)
Half Speed Mastered Extended Range Audiophile Pressing
As in their previous work, Dark Side of the Moon, the band made use of studio effects and synthesizers. Roy Harper was a guest vocalist on “Have a Cigar“. The album packaging, again designed by Storm Thorgerson, featured an opaque black sleeve inside which was hidden the album artwork. Wish You Were Here premièred at Knebworth in July 1975, and was released in September that year. It was an instant success; record company EMI was unable to print enough copies to satisfy the demand. Initially receiving mixed reviews, the album has since been voted to the 209th place on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Band members Richard Wright and David Gilmour have both declared Wish You Were Here their favourite Pink Floyd album.
During 1974, Pink Floyd had sketched out three new compositions; “Raving and Drooling”, “Gotta Be Crazy”, and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond“, and had performed them at a series of concerts in France and England, their first tour since 1973′s Dark Side of the Moon. The band had never employed a publicist, and distanced themselves from the press. Their relationship with the media soured, and following a deeply cynical critique of the band’s new material from Nick Kent (a devotee of Syd Barrett) and Pete Erskine of the music paper NME, they returned to the studio in the first week of 1975.
Wish You Were Here is the second Pink Floyd album to use a conceptual theme written entirely by Waters, and echoes his feeling at the time that the camaraderie that had served the band previously, was largely absent. The album begins with an eight minute thirty seconds instrumental preamble, before segueing into the lyrics for “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. “Shine On” is a tribute to former band member Syd Barrett, whose drug-induced breakdown had forced him to leave the band several years before. Barrett is fondly recalled with lines such as “Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun” and “You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon”.
The album is also a critique of the music business; “Shine On” fades seamlessly into “Welcome to the Machine”, which begins with the opening of a door—described by Waters as a symbol of musical discovery and progress betrayed by a music industry more interested in greed and success. The song ends with sounds from a party, epitomising “the lack of contact and real feelings between people”. Similarly, “Have a Cigar” scorns record industry “fatcats”, its lyrics containing well-used clichés such as “can hardly count”, “they call it riding the gravy train”, and “by the way, which one’s Pink?” —a question actually asked of the band on at least one occasion. “Wish You Were Here” contains lyrics which relate not only to Barrett’s condition, but also to the dichotomy of Waters’ character, as an idealist, and a domineering personality. The album closes with a reprise of “Shine On”, and further instrumental excursions.
Alan Parsons was the EMI staff engineer for Pink Floyd’s previous studio album Dark Side of the Moon, but following its release he declined their offer to continue working with them (instead becoming successful in his own right with The Alan Parsons Project). The group had worked with Brian Humphries on More—recorded at Pye Studios —and again in 1974, where he replaced a somewhat inexperienced concert engineer hired at short notice. He was therefore the natural choice to work on the band’s new material, although as a stranger to EMI’s Abbey Road set-up he encountered some early difficulties, including one instance where he was inadvertently responsible for spoiling the backing tracks of “Shine On”—a piece that Waters and Mason had spent many hours perfecting. The entire piece, corrupted with echo, had to be re-recorded.
Working from Studio Three, the group found it difficult at first to devise any new material, especially as the success of Dark Side of the Moon had left all four physically and emotionally drained. Richard Wright has since described these early sessions as “falling within a difficult period”, and Roger Waters found them “torturous”. Drummer Nick Mason found the process of multi-track recording drawn out and tedious, and David Gilmour was more interested in improving the band’s existing material. He was also becoming increasingly frustrated with Mason, whose failing marriage had brought on a general malaise and sense of apathy, both of which interfered with his drumming. Mason has since admitted that Nick Kent’s unrestrained diatribe in NME may have had some influence however in keeping the band together.
It was a very difficult period I have to say. All your childhood dreams had been sort of realized and we had the biggest selling records in the world and all the things you got into it for. The girls and the money and the fame and all that stuff it was all … everything had sort of come our way and you had to reassess what you were in it for thereafter, and it was a pretty confusing and sort of empty time for a while … David Gilmour,
However, after several weeks Waters began to visualise another concept. The three new compositions from 1974′s tour were at least a starting point for a new album, and Shine On You Crazy Diamond seemed a reasonable choice as a centrepiece for the new work. Mostly an instrumental twenty-minute-plus piece similar to Echoes, the opening four note guitar phrase reminded Waters of the lingering ghost of former band-member Syd Barrett. Gilmour had composed the phrase entirely by accident, but was encouraged by Waters’ positive response. Waters wanted to split “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, and sandwich two new songs between its two halves. Gilmour disagreed, but was outvoted three to one. “Welcome to the Machine” and “Have a Cigar” were barely-veiled attacks on the music business, their lyrics working neatly with “Shine On” to provide an apt summary of the rise and fall of Barrett; “Because I wanted to get as close as possible to what I felt … that sort of indefinable, inevitable melancholy about the disappearance of Syd.” “Raving and Drooling” and “Gotta Be Crazy” had no place in the new concept, and were set aside.
One of the more notable events during the recording of Wish You Were Here occurred on 5 June 1975. Gilmour married his first wife, Ginger, and it was also the eve of Pink Floyd’s second tour of the US that year. The band were in the process of completing a final mix of “Shine On”, when an overweight man—replete with shaven head and eyebrows, and clutching a plastic bag—entered the room. Waters, who was working in the studio, initially did not recognise him. Wright was also mystified by the identity of the visitor. He presumed that the man was a friend of Waters’ and asked him, but soon realized that it was Syd Barrett. Gilmour presumed he was an EMI staff member, and Mason also failed to recognize him; he was “horrified” when Gilmour told him. In Inside Out (2005) Mason recalled Barrett’s conversation as ‘desultory and not entirely sensible’. Storm Thorgerson later reflected on Barrett’s presence: “Two or three people cried. He sat round and talked for a bit but he wasn’t really there.”
Waters was reportedly deeply upset by the sight of his former band-mate, who was asked by fellow visitor Andrew King how he had managed to gain so much weight. Barrett said he had a large refrigerator in his kitchen, and that he had been eating lots of pork chops. He also mentioned that he was ready to avail the band of his services, but on listening to the mix of “Shine On” showed no sign of understanding its relevance to his plight. He joined the guests at Gilmour’s wedding reception in the EMI canteen, but later left without saying goodbye. None of the band members saw him from that day to his death in 2006. Although the lyrics had already been created, Barrett’s presence on that day may have influenced the final version of the song—performed by Wright, a subtle refrain from “See Emily Play” is clearly audible toward the end of the album.
I’m very sad about Syd. Of course he was important and the band would never have fucking started without him because he was writing all the material. It couldn’t have happened without him but on the other hand it couldn’t have gone on with him. “Shine On” is not really about Syd—he’s just a symbol for all the extremes of absence some people have to indulge in because it’s the only way they can cope with how fucking sad it is, modern life, to withdraw completely. I found that terribly sad.—Roger Waters,
As in Dark Side of the Moon, the band used synthesizers such as the VCS3 (on “Welcome to the Machine”), but softened with Gilmour’s acoustic guitar and percussion from Mason. The start of “Shine On” contains a remnant from previous but incomplete studio recordings by the band, known as Household Objects. Wine glasses had been filled with varying amounts of fluid, and a recording was made of a finger circling the edge of each glass. These recordings were multi-tracked into chords, and used on the opening of “Shine On”.
Jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin were performing in another studio in the building, and were invited to record a piece for the new album. Menuhin watched as Grappelli played, however the band later decided his contribution was unsuitable and recorded over it. Although Grappelli was not credited for his contribution (the band presumed that he might feel insulted), he was paid £300 for his contribution (£1,900 as of 2010). Dick Parry again played saxophone, on “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. The opening bars of “Wish You Were Here” were recorded from Gilmour’s car radio, with somebody turning the dial (the classical music heard is Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony).
Recording sessions had twice been interrupted by US tours (one in April and the other in June 1975), and the final sessions, which occurred after the album’s première at Knebworth, proved particularly troublesome for Waters. He struggled to record the lyrics for “Have a Cigar”, requiring several takes to perform an acceptable version. His problems stemmed in part from his limited vocal range, but also from the stresses placed upon his voice while recording the lead vocal of “Shine On”. Gilmour was asked to sing in his place, but declined, and eventually colleague and friend Roy Harper was asked to stand in. Harper was recording his own album in another of Abbey Road’s studios, and Gilmour had already performed some guitar licks for him. Waters later regretted the decision, believing he should have performed the song. The Blackberries recorded backing vocals for Shine On.
Wish You Were Here was sold in one of the more elaborate packages to accompany a Pink Floyd album. Storm Thorgerson had accompanied the band on their 1974 tour, and had given serious thought to the meaning of the lyrics, eventually deciding that the songs were, in general, concerned with “unfulfilled presence”, rather than Barrett’s illness. This theme of absence was reflected in the ideas produced by his long hours spent brainstorming with the band. Thorgerson had noted that Roxy Music’s Country Life was sold in an opaque green cellophane sleeve—censoring the cover image—and he copied the idea, concealing the artwork for Wish You Were Here in a dark-coloured shrink-wrap (making the album art “absent”). The concept behind “Welcome to the Machine” and “Have a Cigar” suggested the use of a handshake (an often empty gesture), and George Hardie designed a sticker containing the album’s logo of two mechanical hands engaged in a handshake, to be placed on the opaque sleeve. The album’s cover image was inspired by the idea that people tend to conceal their true feelings, for fear of “getting burned”, and thus two businessmen were pictured shaking hands, one man on fire. “Getting burned” was also a common phrase in the music industry, used often by artists denied royalty payments. Two stuntmen were used (Ronnie Rondell and Danny Rogers), one dressed in a fire-retardant suit covered by a business suit. His head was protected by a hood, underneath a wig. The photograph was taken at the Warner Bros. studios in Los Angeles. Initially the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, and the flames were forced into Rondell’s face, burning his moustache. The two stuntmen changed positions, and the image was later reversed.
The album’s back cover depicts a faceless “Floyd salesman”, in Thorgerson’s words “selling his soul” in the desert (shot in the Yuma Desert in California). The absence of wrists and ankles signifies his presence as an “empty suit”. The inner sleeve shows a veil in a windswept Norfolk grove, and a splash-less diver at Mono Lake – called Monosee on the liner notes – in California (again emphasising the theme of absence). The decision to shroud the cover in black plastic was not popular with the band’s US record company, Columbia Records, who insisted that it be changed (they were over-ruled). EMI were however less concerned; the band were reportedly extremely happy with the end product, and when presented with a pre-production mockup, they accepted it with a spontaneous round of applause.
Much of Wish You Were Here was premièred on 5 July 1975 at an open-air music festival at Knebworth. Singer Roy Harper was performing at the same event, and upon discovering that his stage costume was missing proceeded to destroy one of Pink Floyd’s vans (injuring himself in the process). Unfortunately this contributed to a delay in the setup of the band’s sound system; a pair of World War II Spitfire aircraft were due to fly over the crowd during their entrance, and the performance could not be delayed. A power supply problem pushed Wright’s keyboards completely out of tune, and the band’s performance suffered badly. It transpired that each time the master volume was turned up, Wright’s keyboards went out of tune. At one point Wright left the stage, but they continued with a less sensitive keyboard, a piano, and a simpler light show. After a brief intermission they returned to perform The Dark Side of the Moon, but critics displeased about being denied access backstage savaged the performance.
The album was released on 12 September 1975 in the UK, and on the following day in the US. In Britain, with 250,000 advance sales it went straight to number one, and demand was such that EMI informed retailers that only 50% of their orders would be fulfilled. With 900,000 advance orders (the largest for any Columbia release) it reached number one on the US Billboard chart in its second week. As of 1991 Wish You Were Here was Pink Floyd’s fastest-selling album ever, but initially received mixed reviews:
Shine on You Crazy Diamond is initially credible because it purports to confront the subject of Syd Barrett, the long and probably forever lost guiding light of the original Floyd. But the potential of the idea goes unrealized; they give such a matter-of-fact reading of the goddamn thing that they might as well be singing about Roger Waters’s brother-in-law getting a parking ticket. This lackadaisical demeanor forces, among other things, a reevaluation of their relationship to all the space cadet orchestras they unconsciously sired. The one thing those bands have going for them, in their cacophonously inept way, is a sincere passion for their “art.” And passion is everything of which Pink Floyd is devoid. —Ben Edmunds, Rolling Stone
Robert Christgau was more positive, writing “… the music is not only simple and attractive, with the synthesizer used mostly for texture and the guitar breaks for comment, but it actually achieves some of the symphonic dignity (and cross-referencing) that The Dark Side of the Moon simulated so ponderously.” Melody Maker however was disparaging: “From whichever direction one approaches Wish You Were Here, it still sounds unconvincing in its ponderous sincerity and displays a critical lack of imagination in all departments.” Despite this, in 2003 the album was ranked number 209 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 1998 Q readers voted Wish You Were Here the 34th greatest album of all time. In 2000 the same magazine placed it at number 43 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2007, one of Germany’s largest public radio stations, WDR 2, asked its listeners to vote for the 200 best albums of all time. Wish You Were Here was voted number one. In 2004 Wish You Were Here was ranked number 36 on Pitchfork Media’s list of the Top 100 albums of the 1970s. IGN rated Wish You Were Here as the 8th greatest Classic Rock album.
Despite the problems during production, the album remained Wright’s favourite: “It’s an album I can listen to for pleasure, and there aren’t many Floyd albums that I can.” Gilmour shares this view: “I for one would have to say that it is my favourite album, the Wish You Were Here album. The end result of all that, whatever it was, definitely has left me an album I can live with very very happily. I like it very much.”
Pink Floyd and their manager Steve O’Rourke had been dissatisfied with the efforts of EMI’s US label Capitol Records, and Wish You Were Here was Pink Floyd’s first album with Columbia Records, an affiliate of CBS. The band did, however, remain with EMI’s Harvest Records in Europe. As a result in the label switch, this gave the band ownership of their recordings from that point forward—every album from Wish You Were Here onward has been copyrighted to either “Pink Floyd Music Limited” or (after Waters’ departure) “Pink Floyd (1987) Ltd.”, instead of the corresponding record label.
The album was certified Silver and Gold (60,000 and 100,000 sales respectively) in the UK on 1 August 1975, and Gold in the US on 17 September 1975. It was certified six times platinum on 16 May 1997, and as of 2004 has sold an estimated 13 million copies worldwide. “Have a Cigar” was chosen by Columbia as their first single, with “Welcome to the Machine” on the B-side in the US.