Pink Floyd released their legendary album Wish You Were Here album on September 12, 1975. I was 14 years old at the time and did not know much about Pink Floyd. I saw some incredibly strange posters being hung at the record store called Sam Goody’s at the Smith Haven Mall in New York. The posters were promoting the new Pink Floyd album Wish You Were Here. There were so many posters surrounding the store and large displays of the band’s new record so I figured this must be a pretty important album if they were getting this much promotion. Hey I was only fourteen and just really starting to get into music so I didn’t know much. We did not have the advantage of having any internet and other resources available to us 24 hours a day like young people have now. If you didn’t have any other older brothers or sisters and your parents weren’t into rock music as most parents of 1970s teens were not, you were kind of on your own in learning about rock music. All you really had was the radio and Creem magazine.
Of course, the release of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here was a huge deal back then because it was serving as the follow up album to their legendary record Dark Side Of The Moon. That album seemed to stay forever on the Billboard album charts breaking records left and right. Nonetheless, I asked the salesman Jimi LaLumia who would become a cult artist with his band The Psychotic Frogs if this Pink Floyd guy was any good. Jimi just looked at me, shook his head very patiently, and told me I should buy the album and that Pink Floyd was not a guy but the name of a very popular band that sounded unlike anyone else.
The man was never wrong with music. I purchased the album for around four dollars and walked home with it. As I embarked on that forty five minute walk home from the mall, I just kept staring at the images that were blowing my mind. Why was the guy on the cover shaking hands with a guy on fire? Who were those the Pink Floyd guys. The postcards included also blew my mind. Where was this place, why was everything so strange? Little did I know that I was holding in my hands one of the greatest classic rock albums ever released. And in 1975 neither did many others….yet
Of course, the music knocked me out instantly as it did for so many other millions of rock fans. Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album would become one of the band’s greatest releases of their career. Only two years later at sixteen years old, I was standing with eighteen thousand other fans at Madison Square Garden in New York City screaming in joy at Pink Floyd’s Animals concert performance having become a full fledged knowledgeable rock and roll fan and huge Pink Floyd fan. A kid can learn a lot in just two years.
As anyone who has listened to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here throughout their entire life knows, side one of the record only contains two titles. The album opener “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” (Parts I–V) and side A’s closing number “Welcome to the Machine.”
The opener “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” (Parts I–V) was written by Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Richard Wright. The lead vocals on the epic piece was performed by Roger Waters. This was a stunning piece of music that really defines the entire album more than any other piece of music on the record. The suite runs over thirteen minutes long and continues on side two as the album closer in parts (Parts VI–IX) which runs close to another thirteen minutes. The albums total running time comes in at forty four minutes and eleven seconds. The “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” suites takes up a total of twenty five minutes and sixty seconds making up for over half of the albums running time.
“Shine On You Crazy Diamond” presents rock and roll fans with such a daunting listening experience. Rock fans had never heard anything like it before. Its slow haunting beginning entraps you instantly as Richard Wright’s synthesisers portrayed a cinematic landscape that everyone’s own individual imagination could shape as they wished. The only limitations were one’s own creative visions as a listener. The arrival of David Gilmour sparse but brilliant guitar riffs further enhanced the visual and mild altering experience. And then there it is at about the four minute mark when that metallic guitar riff takes the band into the heart of the song as David Gilmour continues to perform like he is from another world. Nick Mason and Roger Waters are in such a locked hypnotic groove surrounded by Richard Wright’s synths that it all just perfectly becomes music of legend.
Side two of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album closes with the intense track “Welcome To The Machine.” The song’s opening effects set up a scene where the listeners knew they were in for something pretty special. The opening guitars chords lay the ground for the chilling vocals by David Gilmour. Richard Wright’s synthesisers surrounds David Gilmour’s vocals line with mechanical sounds of doom. This is music that’s as rare as its gets. The lyrics “Its alright we told you what to dream,” offers insight instantly to what this albums is all about. It’s in the heart of this song where we discover the rage that Pink Floyd has in their souls against the destructive forces of corporate entities on artists and human life itself. This is once again rock and roll rebellion. But it’s done for the first time in a deep progressive rock manner with a futurists almost 2001 Space Odyssey musical design. It’s simply the work of a group of musical geniuses hitting one of the highest points in their career.
Continuing with our look back at Pink Floyd’s classic album Wish You Were Here album here we take a listen to the album’s opening track on side two entitled “Have a Cigar.” The great Roy Harper sang lead vocals on the song. Pink Floyd continues with their lyrical rants against cooperation as they focus in empty promises by record company executives and other unscrupulous music industry individuals. While we could hear the point of these lyrics even at a young age, the music was just so entertaining and brilliant it pretty much completely overshadowed the meaning of the lyrics for many of us who were just floored by the band’s playing on the track. David Gilmour’s guitar playing is more on fire on the song than the dude on the cover of the album.
The title track of the album Wish You Were Here followed “Have A Cigar,” on side two. This was the outlier on the album. The song opened up like it was being played out of a old beat up transistor radio until the magnificent guitar playing of David Gilmour infiltrates your space with such brilliant production. High School guitar players like my friend Danny Sobstyl jumped on this one as they performed the song in coffee houses and cafes everywhere. It was just one of those perfect accessible songs that musicians could play with an acoustic guitar. A spectacular composition that sounds just as strong and important in 2021 as it did in 1975.
As we stated and covered earlier, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album closes with the second half of the “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” suite. This classic Pink Floyd album was the band’s ninth studio album release. The album was released on September 12, 1975. The album cover was once again created by the art firm known as Hipgnosis. We covered Pink Floyd album Cover Art in a very detailed article. Pink Floyd recorded the album at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London made famous by The Beatles. The album has become known as one of the greatest classic rock albums ever released as it has sold over twenty million copies. Many Pink Floyd fans claim Wish You Were Here as their favourite Pink Floyd album. Even David Gilmour and Richard Wright have said it was their favorite Pink Floyd album they ever released. That pretty much sums it all up right there.
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A Look Back At Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here Album article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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