After Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd had a hard time coming up to expectations to produce more of the same. Wish You Were Here‘s release in 1975 was welcomed with marked critical disappointment (in fact Rolling Stone initially panned and trashed the recording, when reviewer Ben Edmonds wrote in the November 6, 1975, issue that “Passion is everything of which Pink Floyd is devoid”), but in fact the LP shows the same unity of purpose and obsessions with the transitory nature of life and fame as its predecessor. I remember hearing Alan Freeman play the entire album in quadrophonic (on stereo radio…yeah, right) and telling us how incredible it sounded in the studio. Thanks, Fluff.
The main track was Shine On You Crazy Diamond, which was transparently a homage to Syd Barrett, the band’s original, drug-addled and long-departed mentor. It was split into Parts 1-4 and 5-9 respectively, which opened and closed this dreamy masterpiece of an album (to my ears at any rate). In fact, legend has it that Syd actually truned up at the recording sessions, expecting to sing lead on this track. In the event, Roger Waters strives to get the same catch in his voice that Barrett had, and includes references to Barrett’s involvement (‘You Piper’, for example. alluding to the Floyd’s first, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn). FF 1976 #8, 1978 #29, 1979 #30, and 1980 #60 (!). What follows is my own analysis of the piece:
Part 1: Slowly shifting chords and something resembling birdcalls (a recurrent Floyd device) fade in and then fade out again to…
Part 2: David Gilmour’s guitar intones a four-note run that repeats to a background of a slow drumbeat.
Part 3: the first vocal part, sung by Waters in half-whispered, half-declaimed wonder.
Part 4: Dick Perry (who also provided the sax solo on Us And Them, one standout track from Dark Side) begins a lengthy and frenetic solo that peters out after all the other instruments have dropped away. On the album, this leads to Welcome To The Machine.
Part 5: on side 2, the song resumes with chord progressions, but this time with heightened tension, until…
Part 6: Gilmour unleashes an anguished solo that only falls back into the song’s melody after some fearsome runs and swoops.
Part 7: more vocals, with a suggestion that the ‘crazy diamond’ has gone on to some other realm (‘Pile on many more layers, and I’ll be joining you there‘).
Part 8: the theme switches to a kind of bluesy drum and keyboards tune.
Part 9: the slow chords from the beginning finally return, but this time in a major key, to suggest resolution. Touchingly, Rick Wright plays a melodic line from See Emily Play as the piece fades to black. (The last two parts are not on this download…well, you’ll have to buy the album then!)
A few months after Wish You Were Here was released, the band recorded a rather unlikely Christmas tune entitled “A Christmas Song” during Nick Mason and Roger Waters’ appearance on the John Peel Show on December 23, 1975. Now wouldn’t I like to have that! If anybody can help…
Buy: Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here
You boychild, you winner and loser