Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
In a career of excellent, thoughtful album covers, the image that emblazons the front of 1975’s Wish You Were Here may be the best. Depicted are two businessmen shaking hands in a sunny, industrial alleyway, one of whom is engulfed in flames. What this photo represents is up to interpretation, but one could link it to a few band developments at the time: monetary success, creative disagreements amongst the four members, the pressure to followup Dark Side of the Moon, and/or the deterioration of Syd Barrett’s health. Either way, there’s a strong mournful undertone to Wish You Were Here. It may not be about death as its title, perhaps, suggests, but it’s hard to dispute the fact that the album is born out of some unshakable sense of longing.
On the goofy, groovy “Have A Cigar”, that sense of longing is associated with not having the pressures of fame and fortune. The song is, quite blatantly, about capitalism and the impurities associated with profiting from art. It’s even sung from the perspective of (what one can only assume is) a bloated, chain-smoking record executive. “Welcome to the Machine”, by comparison, feels like a thematic cousin to “Have A Cigar” only through a darker, seedier dystopian lens. “What did you dream/ It’s alright we told you what to dream,” Gilmour sings, like a possessed fascist pawn in a George Orwell novel.
Similar to Meddle, Wish You Were Here is buoyed by one long track: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. The first half of the song is the album’s opening cut; the last half is the closing cut. It’s probably the closest thing to a symphony in the Pink Floyd catalogue. However the finest, most concise moment of Wish You Were Here comes with its crushingly sad title track, which begins with Gilmour strumming an acoustic guitar along to the radio. It’s a strikingly human moment on an album that actively laments the inhumane artificiality of everything.
Wish You Were Here may not be the band’s best record, but it’s undoubtedly their most reflective one.
1. Shine on You Crazy Diamond I-V
2. Welcome to the Machine
3. Have a Cigar
4. Wish You Were Here
5. Shine on You Crazy Diamond VI-IX