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Wish You Were Here

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Wish You Were Here is a concept album by Pink Floyd. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios between January and July 1975 and released on September 15, 1975 (see 1975 in music), the album would later be regarded as one of Pink Floyd's greatest albums and was ranked 209 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. Its lyrics, written by Roger Waters, concerned the music industry, and questioned the market-oriented record companies' lack of understanding and interest for musicians. The album also pays tribute to Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's former guitarist and chief songwriter, especially with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and the title track itself.


Album information

According to the 1991 Nicholas Schaffner Pink Floyd biography Saucerful of Secrets : The Pink Floyd Odyssey, Wish You Were Here was Pink Floyd's first album with Columbia Records in the US and Canada and its distributor CBS Records for the world outside of Europe. In Europe, the band remained with EMI under the Harvest imprint. The switch in labels, also according to drummer Nick Mason's book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd stemmed from the lack of promotion that EMI gave the band outside Europe, especially Capitol Records in the US and Canada. 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 (for after Roger Waters' departure) Pink Floyd (1987) Ltd., instead of the corresponding record label.

Also according to the book Saucerful of Secrets : The Pink Floyd Odyssey (and stated on the In the Studio with Redbeard episode of Wish You Were Here), Pink Floyd entered London's Abbey Road Studios during the first week of 1975 to begin work on their long anticipated follow-up album to their hugely successful album The Dark Side of the Moon. Although the band had three pieces of music already sketched out to be recorded ("Raving and Drooling" which later became "Sheep", "You Gotta Be Crazy" which later became "Dogs" and the centerpiece "Shine On You Crazy Diamond"), all was not well within the band. The overwhelming critical, commercial and financial success of Dark Side of the Moon had left the band physically and emotionally drained and the band spent the first few weeks just sitting around. When the band did get around to recording, their bodies went through the motions while their minds and feelings were elsewhere.

The initial plan was to record the three tracks they had played live on their 1974 European tour (which were "Raving and Drooling", "You Gotta Be Crazy" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond"), but bass player/singer/lyricist Roger Waters decided to change the vision of the album, split the two halves of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and write three shorter songs relating to the theme of absence, two of which ("Welcome to the Machine" and "Have a Cigar") were veiled attacks on the music business and the other (the title cut) was, like "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", about fallen Floyd member Syd Barrett. This move was, according to the Saucerful of Secrets book and in drummer Nick Mason's book Inside Out, one of the first debates between Waters and singer/guitarist David Gilmour. Gilmour wanted to record what the band had been playing live while Waters wanted to split "Shine On..." into two halves and create a concept album. Gilmour was outvoted three to one. Despite this disagreement, plus the hardships that occurred during the recording, Gilmour and keyboard player Rick Wright revealed in 1995, on the radio show In the Studio with Redbeard (which devoted an entire episode to the making of the album) that Wish You Were Here is their favorite Pink Floyd album.

The recording took over seven months with two breaks in between recording for two U.S. tours, one in April 1975 and the other in June 1975, where they premiered the multi-part "Shine On..." suite with "Have a Cigar" bridging the two halves.


Template:Unreferencedsection The original vinyl release was intended to be shrouded in an anonymous, all-black plastic wrapper (dark blue for the Columbia/CBS releases). Bruce Lundvall, then-president of the band's US distributor, Columbia Records, was (according to Hipgnosis member Storm Thorgerson in the book that accompanied Pink Floyd's 1992 box set Shine On and also his own book Mind Over Matter : The Images of Pink Floyd) appalled at the suggestion that they deliberately hide their product, so an additional image featuring the band name over the top of two robotic hands in front of the four elements was included as a sticker on top. Removing this outer wrapper then revealed the proper artwork with its now-famous cover: the flaming businessman, shaking hands with his counterpart (as in the robot image). Three other photographs on the back and inner sleeve represented the remaining elements: a faceless salesman selling Pink Floyd products in the desert (earth); a naked female figure in a grove, barely visible behind a windswept red veil (air); and a splash-less diver half submerged in Mono Lake (water). A postcard with an alternate version of the latter picture – and "Wish you were here" written on the back – was also included. All four photos in this design appeared to have each element 'breaking' (or burning) into the surrounding white margins.

The vinyl record's custom picture labels depicted the robotic handshake (as on the wrapper) with a mainly black with blue prisms background. This picture label was then used again for the 1995 SBM Mastersound reissue and the 1997 Columbia/Sony remastered CD.

Beneath the outer cover, which on the U.S. release was dark blue, Columbia originally released the LP with a slightly different sleeve, using an alternative picture showing the burning man standing up straight (instead of leaning toward the other businessman) and taken from a lower angle. Columbia started using the more familiar EMI photo in 1984 for their first CD issue and kept using it in subsequent reissues, the only exception being the "SBM MasterSound Collector's Edition". There are other, subtler differences in the artwork of the more commonly-found remastered CD: the naked female is clearly visible behind the veil in the LP artwork, but is almost completely obscured in the remastered CD booklet; the photo of the diver used in this booklet is larger, and shows more of the background salt formations; additional black-and-white photos of the band working in Abbey Road Studios were added to this booklet as well.

Syd Barrett's studio visit

According to drummer Nick Mason's book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett actually turned up at the studio in the middle of a recording session on 5 June 1975, which was also, according to the book Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey, the day David Gilmour married his first wife, Ginger. However, Gilmour denies that this was the same day during an interview in 2003, seen in The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story. Barrett hadn't been seen by any of the band members in five years. He arrived unannounced, his head completely devoid of hair (including eyebrows, as alluded to in The Wall film) and had put on so much weight that most of the band did not recognize him at first. Reports would indicate that Barrett repeatedly jumped up and down brushing his teeth during the visit. Waters later confided that the sight was enough to bring him to tears. While the band were listening to a song in progress (allegedly "Shine On You Crazy Diamond"), Barrett sat motionless; he is sometimes quoted as saying, when someone asked to play it back again, that this would be pointless as they had already just heard it. In a recent televised special on Barrett, Gilmour says that it was "Shine On" that they were recording as he showed up. In the same special, he says that Barrett asked (despite the album being nearly complete) if there was anything he could do, and said that he was available if needed. Later on, one of the band's technicians, Phil Taylor, drove past Barrett, who appeared to be looking for a lift. Avoiding an awkward situation, Taylor ducked down in the car as he passed. In a July 2006 interview with a New York City radio station before Barrett's death, Gilmour indicated that they never saw him again after that point. However, Roger Waters has said later on he almost bumped into Syd in Harrods, but did not speak to him. Echoing Barrett's presence, Wright plays a subtle refrain from "See Emily Play" in the final seconds of the album.

Press coverage

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 #1.[1]

Template:RS500 This happened twenty-eight years after the magazine initially panned and trashed the recording (which is not uncommon), when reviewer Ben Edmonds wrote in the November 6, 1975, issue that "Passion is everything of which Pink Floyd is devoid." [2] Rolling Stone once hosted the original review on their website, then removed it in favour of a 5 out of 5 star review from 2003 but recently re-instated the 1975 review. [3]

In 1998, Q magazine 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 1986, Slitz (at that point the leading pop/rock magazine of Sweden, with strong new wave/post-punk credibility) invited its readers to vote for the best produced rock album of all time. Wish You Were Here was voted #1 and Dark Side of the Moon #2.

Track listing

Side one

  1. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)" (David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright) – 13:31
  2. "Welcome to the Machine" (Waters) – 7:30

Side two

  1. "Have a Cigar" (Waters) – 5:08
  2. "Wish You Were Here" (Gilmour, Waters) – 5:26
  3. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)" (Gilmour, Waters, Wright) – 12:28


  • (1975) Have a Cigar / Welcome to the Machine (U.S. release only)
  • (1975) Have a Cigar / Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 1) (Italy and France release)

Reissues and remastering

Template:Unreferencedsection Wish You Were Here was originally released on Harvest Records in the UK and on Columbia Records in the US. In 1980 Columbia's CBS Mastersound label released a half-speed mastered audiophile LP. The album was first digitally remastered in 1992 for the box set Shine On. In 1993, Sony Mastersound released a 24 karat gold-plated CD of the album, which was remastered with Super Bit Mapping and also had all of the original art work from the LP, in both longbox and regular jewel case forms, the latter with a cardboard slipcover. Then, the 1992 remaster was made available in 1994 as a CD in its own right in the UK and Europe, on the EMI label with a running time of 44:11 on the CD and the CDs picture label depicted a flame with a black background. Then in December of 1997, Columbia Records released an updated remaster (which was 17 seconds longer than the EMI remasters from 1994, giving it a running time of 44:28). The Columbia CD's artwork featured a recreation of the original vinyl picture label (which was the handshake logo with a black and blue background). The album was subsequently re-released on April 25, 2000 in time for its 25th anniversary, on the Capitol Records label in the US, and on the EMI label for the rest of the world again using the 1992 Shine On remaster but with the artwork from the 1994 EMI reissue.

It had been rumoured that Wish You Were Here was to be re-released as a dual-layered Super Audio CD in late 2005 to commemorate the album's thirtieth anniversary, a treatment that Dark Side of the Moon had received in 2003, but the release was pushed back. The 2007 version of Storm Thorgerson's book Mind Over Matter - The Images of Pink Floyd claimed that the reissue was planned for February 2008, but that date also passed unfulfilled.

Live performances

"Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-IX)" was first played as early as 1974, over a year before the release of Wish You Were Here. It appeared in a much longer form encompassing all 9 parts. In 1975 the song was split into parts I-V and VI-IX, as it would later appear on the finished album. Between these two tracks, the band inserted "Have a Cigar", a song which criticized the music industry. Unlike on the album version, these versions included a repeat verse after the end of David Gilmour's guitar solo. It was not until 1977 that the band played Wish You Were Here in its entirety, including two previously un-played songs - "Welcome to the Machine" and "Wish You Were Here". For "Have a Cigar", guitarist Snowy White replaced Gilmour with the guitar solos, and for "Welcome to the Machine" and "Wish You Were Here" Gilmour used an electric guitar instead of an acoustic guitar during performances. The last time Pink Floyd would perform "Have a Cigar" was during the 1977 tour, and it would also be the last time that the Roger Waters led Pink Floyd would perform Shine On, Welcome to the Machine and Have a Cigar.

From 1987-1994, "Shine on You Crazy Diamond Parts I-V and "Wish You Were Here " were performed at almost every Pink Floyd concert. "Welcome to the Machine" was played from 1987-1989. In 1994, "Shine On" was used to either open the show on shows where Dark Side of the Moon was played in its entirety or open the second set when Dark Side was not played in its entirety, while "Wish You Were Here" was either in the second set or featured as an encore. The latter song was even performed with Billy Corgan at the 1996 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Both songs were performed at the 1990 Knebworth concert.

During his solo tour in 1987, Roger Waters performed "Welcome to the Machine", replacing Gilmour on lead vocals. Since 1984, Waters has also performed "Wish You Were Here" again replacing Gilmour on lead vocals. From 1999-present, Roger Waters has often played an edited version of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond". In 2001, David Gilmour at the Royal Festival Hall performed an acoustic version of "Shine On Parts 1 & 2" along with "Wish You Were Here". Both tracks were also recently played on Gilmours On an Island tour, with the latter song acting as an encore.

At the 2005 Live 8 concert, a reunited Pink Floyd performed "Wish You Were Here" for the first time since 1977, with both Waters and Gilmour sharing lead vocals during an emotional performance, which Waters dedicated to "everyone who's not here, but particularly, of course, for Syd".


Chart and sales success

Wish You Were Here peaked at #1 on Billboard's USA Pop Albums chart in October 1975 (dethroning Jefferson Starship's Red Octopus from the top spot for two weeks before being unseated by John Denver's Windsong) and stayed on the charts for a year. The album has, to date, sold over 12 million copies (6 million in the USA). It was certified Gold on September 17, 1975 in the US and as Sextuple Multiplatinum in the US on May 16, 1997 by the R.I.A.A.

In the UK, the British Phonographic Industry certified the album Gold (100,000 units) in the year of its release. It has yet to attain Platinum status (300,000 units).


Year Chart Position
1975 UK album chart 1
1975 Billboard Pop Albums 1
1975 Norway's album chart 2
1975 Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart 1


"I definitely think that at the "Wish You Were Here" recording sessions most of us didn't wish we were there at all, we wished we were somewhere else. I wasn't happy being there because I got the feeling we weren't together. The album is about none of us really being there, or being there only marginally. About our non-presence in the situation we had clung to through habit, and are still clinging to by through habit - being Pink Floyd."

- Roger Waters, Unidentified press article c.1977

"Wish You Were Here was a very good title for that album. I've often said what that album should have been called was Wish We Were Here because we weren't really."

– Roger Waters, July 1989, In the Studio with Redbeard for The Making of The Wall.

"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 and it was a confusing and sort of empty time for a while but...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."

– David Gilmour, December 1992, In the Studio with Redbeard for The Making of Shine On (parts 1 and 2 aired in December of 1992) and In the Studio with Redbeard for The Making of Wish You Were Here (first aired in September of 1995).

"It's hard to say but it just happens to be the album for me that from the moment it starts 'til it finishes, it flows, the songs flow into each other and it just has a wonderful feeling in it".

– Richard Wright, March 1994, US World Premiere of The Division Bell with Redbeard and In the Studio with Redbeard for The Making of Wish You Were Here (first aired in September of 1995).

"The line sounds like a weak joke, but it used to be a fairly common question".

-Richard Wright commenting on the line "Oh by the way, which one's Pink?" in Have A Cigar. From an interview cited in Pink Floyd - Through the Eyes of the Band, Its Fans, Friends and Foes, ed. by Bruno MacDonald, Da Capo Books, N.Y.C. 1997.

"It's an album I can listen to for pleasure. And there aren't many of the Floyd's albums that I can say that about."

-Richard Wright, from the "Pink Floyd: Legends" TV Special (first aired in 2001).


External links

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