“The band is just fantastic,/That is really what I think./Oh by the way, which one’s Pink?” (“Have a Cigar”)
44.28 minutes of magic. Released on 12 September 1975, it was an instant success; record company EMI was unable to print enough copies to satisfy the demand. And “Wish You Were Here” it’s even more popular today as it was back in the days when it was first released. Exploring the former band-mate Syd Barrett’s mental illness and decline (“Shine On You Crazy Diamond”), but also about absence, alienation (“Wish You Were Here”) and subjects considering the music business (“Welcome To The Machine”/”Have a Cigar”).
It was difficult to write a new album after “Dark Side of the Moon”. On one hand “Dark Side…” brought them the mainstream success, on the other hand brought the critics of many of Barett’s fans such as Nick Kent and Pete Erskine of the music paper NME.
1. Shine on You Crazy Diamond (part I-V)
2. Welcome to the Machine
3. Have a Cigar
4. Wish You Were Here
5. Shine on You Crazy Diamond (part VI-IX)
It was Roger Waters’ idea to split the centerpiece track “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” in two, and join each half with three new compositions. It was recorded over numerous sessions at London’s Abbey Road Studios and engineered by Brian Humphries who previously worked with the group on “More”.
Jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin were performing in another studio in the building, and were invited to record a piece for the new album. Dick Parry featured again playing the saxophone on “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. The opening bars of “Wish You Were Here” were recorded from Gilmour’s car radio, with somebody turning the dial and the classical music heard is the finale of Tchaikovsky’s “Fourth Symphony”.
Recording sessions had twice been interrupted by US tours and the final sessions, which occurred after the album’s premiÃ¨re at Knebworth, proved particularly troublesome for Waters. He struggled to record the lyrics for “Have a Cigar”, requiring several takes to perform an acceptable version. Gilmour was asked to sing in his place, but declined, and eventually colleague and friend Roy Harper was asked to stand in. Harper was recording his own album in another of Abbey Road’s studios, and Gilmour had already performed some guitars for him. Waters later regretted the decision, believing he should have performed the song. The Blackberries recorded backing vocals for “Shine On”.
Richard Wright and David Gilmour have each declared “Wish You Were Here” their favorite Pink Floyd album. “Wish You Were Here” sold an estimated 13 million copies worldwide. On Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” it placed at number 209.