Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here turns 35

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
Pink Floyd
Wish You Were Here
Rating: **** or **** 1/2

In 1973, Pink Floyd did something quite shocking: they had a hit album. Their eighth release, Dark Side Of The Moon, sold in the millions and made the band superstars. After touring for the album, the band were ready to make the follow-up album. Wish You Were Here is often referred to as a concept album. If there is a concept, it's very loose. Some believe the songs either have to do with bassist Roger Waters' feelings at the time or about the music business. Two songs on the album, however, are clearly about the band's lost former band mate Syd Barrett. Ironically enough when the band was recording the album on June 5, 1975, a man with a shaved head and shaved eyebrows walked into the studio. He also had a toothbrush in his pocket, which he would take out periodically to brush his teeth. The band was shocked to see that this man was indeed Syd Barrett. Drummer Nick Mason took a picture of Syd that day, which can now be seen in his autobiography from 2005. It was the last time the band saw him until his death in 2006.

The album starts off with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)", which has this keyboard and/or synth drone going on for almost four and a half minutes. Finally, the music kicks in at that time but it isn't until the eighth minute mark that the lyrics start. This song is clearly about Barrett, remembering him fondly ("Remember when you were young/You shone like the sun"), then in horror ("Now there's a look in your eyes/Like black holes in the sky"), and finally in sorrow ("You reached for the secret too soon/You cried for the moon"). Without a doubt, this is one of Floyd's best songs ever, despite how sad it is. "Welcome to the Machine" is a song that deals with the music industry. One could think of the industry as a machine. The song is perhaps one of the most spacey songs ever done by the band. "Have A Cigar" follows. This is yet another song about the music industry, except this time the song is a bit more straight-forward hard rock. The lyric of "Oh by the way, which one's Pink?" could refer to the clueless reporters who didn't know whether Pink Floyd was a person or a group of people. The song segues into the self titled track, which once again focuses on Barrett. David Gilmour sings "So you think you can tell/Heaven from hell". The chorus of "How I wish, how I wish you were here/We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl/Year after year" is a powerful one. The album closes with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)", which isn't much different from the first track.

Wish You Were Here is indeed a strong follow-up to Dark Side of the Moon. David Gilmour and Rick Wright (before he died, of course) have both cited Wish You Were Here as their favorite Pink Floyd album. For me, it's another one of my top 200 favorite album. Wish You Were Here sits at #26 on my list, making it my second favorite Pink Floyd album but very close to the album after Wish You Were Here, Animals which is at # 29.

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