Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd album)

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Wish You Were Here
An image of two men dressed in dark grey business attire standing in the grounds of a Hollywood film studio, facing each other and shaking hands. The man on the right's hair and clothes are on fire, but he seems oblivious to the fact. The upper right edge of the photograph appears singed.
Studio album by Pink Floyd
Released 12 September 1975
Recorded January–July 1975
Studio Abbey Road Studios, London
Length 44:28
Producer Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd chronology
The Dark Side of the Moon
(1973)The Dark Side of the Moon1973
Wish You Were Here
Alternate cover
The black plastic covers the whole vinyl package. The circle sticker at the right-center position shows two machines clasped together, resembling a handshake. The whole circle is divided into four quarters in different colors. The pink quarter, located on north, has "PINK FLOYD" in big font; below the band name is "WISH YOU WERE HERE" in small font. The yellow quarter is at west; the blue quarter, east; the green quarter, south.
Original vinyl shrink wrap
Singles from Wish You Were Here
  1. "Have a Cigar"
    Released: 15 November 1975

Wish You Were Here is the ninth studio album by English rock band Pink Floyd. It was released on 12 September 1975 by Harvest Records in the United Kingdom and a day later by Columbia Records in the United States. The album topped record charts in both regions.

Inspired by material the group composed while performing around Europe, Wish You Were Here was recorded during numerous recording sessions at Abbey Road Studios in London, England. Two of the album's four songs criticise the music business, another expresses alienation and the multi-part track "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is a tribute to Syd Barrett. Barrett's mental breakdown had forced him to leave the group seven years earlier, prior to the release of the group's second studio album A Saucerful of Secrets (on which he only appeared on three tracks). It was lead writer Roger Waters' idea to split "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" into two parts that would bookend the album around three new compositions and to introduce a concept linking them all. As with their previous album The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), the band used studio effects and synthesizers, and brought in guest singers to supply vocals on some tracks of the album. These singers were Roy Harper, who provided the lead vocals on "Have a Cigar", and the Blackberries, who added backing vocals to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond".

Wish You Were Here was an instant commercial success (despite the fact that Harvest Records' parent company EMI was unable to print enough copies of the album to satisfy commercial demand), and although it initially received mixed reviews, the album has since gone on to receive critical acclaim. It appears on Rolling Stone's lists of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" and the "50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time". Band members Richard Wright and David Gilmour have cited Wish You Were Here as their favourite Pink Floyd album.


During 1974, Pink Floyd sketched out three new compositions, "Raving and Drooling", "You Gotta Be Crazy" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond".[nb 1][4] These songs were performed during a series of concerts in France and England, the band's first tour since 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon. As Pink Floyd had never employed a publicist and kept themselves distant from the press, their relationship with the media began to sour. Following the publication by NME of a negative critique of the band's new material, written by Nick Kent (a devotee of Syd Barrett) and Pete Erskine, the band returned to the studio in the first week of 1975.[5]


Wish You Were Here is Floyd's second album with a conceptual theme written entirely by Roger Waters. It reflects his feeling that the camaraderie that had served the band was, by then, largely absent.[6] The album begins with a long instrumental preamble and segues into the lyrics for "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", a tribute to Syd Barrett, whose mental breakdown had forced him to leave the group seven years earlier.[7] Barrett is fondly recalled with lines such as "Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun" and "You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon".[8]

Wish You Were Here is also a critique of the music business. "Shine On" crosses seamlessly into "Welcome to the Machine", a song that begins with an opening door (described by Waters as a symbol of musical discovery and progress betrayed by a music industry more interested in greed and success) and ends with a party, the latter epitomising "the lack of contact and real feelings between people". Similarly, "Have a Cigar" scorns record industry "fat-cats" with the lyrics repeating a stream of cliches heard by rising new-comers in the industry, and including the question "by the way, which one's Pink?" asked of the band on at least one occasion.[9] The lyrics of the next song, "Wish You Were Here", relate both to Barrett's condition, and to the dichotomy of Waters' character, with greed and ambition battling with compassion and idealism.[10] The album closes with a reprise of "Shine On" and further instrumental excursions.

"I had some criticisms of Dark Side of the Moon…" noted David Gilmour. "One or two of the vehicles carrying the ideas were not as strong as the ideas that they carried. I thought we should try and work harder on marrying the idea and the vehicle that carried it, so that they both had an equal magic… It's something I was personally pushing when we made Wish You Were Here."[11]


Alan Parsons, EMI staff engineer for Pink Floyd's previous studio album, The Dark Side of the Moon, had declined the band's offer to continue working with them (Parsons became successful in his own right with The Alan Parsons Project).[12] The group had worked with engineer Brian Humphries on More, recorded at Pye Studios,[13] and again in 1974 when he replaced an inexperienced concert engineer.[14] Humphries was therefore the natural choice to work on the band's new material, although as a stranger to EMI's Abbey Road set-up he encountered some early difficulties. On one occasion, Humphries inadvertently spoiled the backing tracks for "Shine On", a piece that Waters and drummer Nick Mason had spent many hours perfecting, with echo. The entire piece had to be re-recorded.[9][15][16]

The sessions for Wish You Were Here at Abbey Road's Studio Three[17] lasted from January until July 1975, recording on four days each week from 2:30 P.M. until very late in the evening.[18] The group found it difficult at first to devise any new material, especially as the success of The Dark Side of the Moon had left all four physically and emotionally drained. Keyboardist Richard Wright later described these sessions as "falling within a difficult period", and Waters recalled them as "torturous".[19] Mason found the process of multi-track recording drawn out and tedious,[20] while David Gilmour was more interested in improving the band's existing material. Gilmour was also becoming increasingly frustrated with Mason, whose failing marriage had brought on a general malaise and sense of apathy, both of which interfered with his drumming.[19] Mason has since stated that Nick Kent's criticism in the NME may have had some influence in keeping the band together.[21][22]

Humphries said his point of view of these struggled sessions in a 2014 interview: “There were days when we didn’t do anything. I don’t think they knew what they wanted to do. We had a dartboard and an air rifle and we’d play these word games, sit around, get drunk, go home and return the next day. That’s all we were doing until suddenly everything started falling into place.”[18]

After several weeks, Waters began to visualise another concept.[19] The three new compositions from 1974's tour were at least a starting point for a new album, and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" seemed a reasonable choice as a centrepiece for the new work. Mostly an instrumental twenty-minute-plus piece similar to "Echoes", the opening four-note guitar phrase reminded Waters of the lingering ghost of former band-member Syd Barrett.[23] Gilmour had composed the phrase entirely by accident, but was encouraged by Waters' positive response.[24] Waters wanted to split "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", and sandwich two new songs between its two halves. Gilmour disagreed, but was outvoted three to one.[25] "Welcome to the Machine" and "Have a Cigar" were barely veiled attacks on the music business, their lyrics working neatly with "Shine On" to provide an apt summary of the rise and fall of Barrett;[26] "Because I wanted to get as close as possible to what I felt ... that sort of indefinable, inevitable melancholy about the disappearance of Syd."[23] "Raving and Drooling" and "You Gotta Be Crazy" had no place in the new concept, and were set aside until the following album, 1977's Animals.[6]

Syd Barrett's visit to the studio

One of the more notable events during the recording of Wish You Were Here occurred on 5 June 1975, the day Gilmour married his first wife, Ginger, on the eve of Pink Floyd's second US tour that year.[nb 2] The band were in the process of completing the final mix of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond"[nb 3] when an overweight man with shaven head and eyebrows, and holding a plastic bag, entered the room. Waters, who was working in the studio, initially did not recognise him.[7] Wright was also mystified by the identity of the visitor, presumed he was a friend of Waters' and asked him, but soon realised that it was Syd Barrett.[27] Gilmour initially presumed he was an EMI staff member.[24] Mason also failed to recognise him and was "horrified" when Gilmour identified him. In Mason's personal memoir of Pink Floyd, Inside Out, he recalled Barrett's conversation as "desultory and not entirely sensible".[28] Storm Thorgerson later reflected on Barrett's presence: "Two or three people cried. He sat round and talked for a bit but he wasn't really there."[29]

Waters was reportedly reduced to tears by the sight of his former bandmate, who was asked by fellow visitor Andrew King how he had managed to gain so much weight. Barrett said he had a large refrigerator in his kitchen, and that he had been eating lots of pork chops. He also mentioned that he was ready to avail the band of his services, but while listening to the mix of "Shine On", showed no signs of understanding its relevance to his plight. He joined the guests at Gilmour's wedding reception in the EMI canteen, but left without saying goodbye. None of the band members saw him from that day on until his death in 2006.[30] Although the lyrics had already been created, Barrett's presence on that day may have influenced the final part of the song – a subtle refrain performed by Wright from "See Emily Play" is audible towards the end of the album.[28]


As in The Dark Side of the Moon, the band used synthesizers such as the EMS VCS 3 (on "Welcome to the Machine"), but softened with Gilmour's acoustic guitar and percussion from Mason.[9] The beginning of "Shine On" contains remnants from a previous but incomplete studio recording by the band known as "Household Objects". Wine glasses had been filled with varying amounts of fluid, and recordings were made of a wet finger circling the edge of each glass. These recordings were multi-tracked into chords,[6] and used in the opening of "Shine On".

Jazz violinist Stéphane 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. Menuhin watched as Grappelli played on the song "Wish You Were Here"; however, the band later decided his contribution was unsuitable and, until 2011, it was believed that the piece had been wiped.[32][33] It turns out his playing was included on the album, but so low in the final mix that the band presumed it would be insulting to credit him.[34] He was paid £300 for his contribution (equivalent to £2,300 in 2018).[35][36] Dick Parry again played saxophone, on "Shine On You Crazy Diamond".[22] The opening bars of "Wish You Were Here" were recorded from Gilmour's car radio, with somebody turning the dial (the classical music heard is the finale of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony).[37]


Recording sessions had twice been interrupted by US tours (one in April and the other in June 1975),[38] and the final sessions, which occurred after the band's performance at Knebworth, proved particularly troublesome for Waters.[25] He struggled to record the vocals for "Have a Cigar", requiring several takes to perform an acceptable version. His problems stemmed in part from the stresses placed upon his voice while recording the lead vocals of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". Gilmour was asked to sing in his place,[32] 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 guitar licks for him. Waters later regretted the decision, believing he should have performed the song.[39] The Blackberries recorded backing vocals for "Shine On You Crazy Diamond".[22]


The band played much of Wish You Were Here on 5 July 1975 at the Knebworth music festival. Roy Harper, performing at the same event, on discovering that his stage costume was missing, proceeded to destroy one of Pink Floyd's vans, injuring himself in the process. This delayed the normal setup procedure of the band's sound system. As a pair of World War II Spitfire aircraft had been booked to fly over the crowd during their entrance, the band were not able to delay their set. The result was that a power supply problem pushed Wright's keyboards completely out of tune, damaging the band's performance. At one point he left the stage, but the band were able to continue with a less sensitive keyboard, a piano and a simpler light show. Following a brief intermission, they returned to perform The Dark Side of the Moon, but critics displeased about being denied access backstage savaged the performance.[40][41]


Bordering an asphalt road, receding into the distance, are two rows of large beige coloured buildings. Another beige building blocks the horizon, above which mountains are visible in the distance. The sky is blue with no clouds. Several cars are parked outside the buildings. Near the photographer, at a large open entrance to one building, the word STOP has been painted in white on the road. Next to it, a fire hydrant is visible, in front of which the words FIRE LANE are painted on the road.
Part of the Warner Bros. studio complex in California, where the cover image was photographed
A rock formation rises from the surface of a calm lake. In the distance, the horizon is filled with hills.  The sky is blue with clouds The rocks appear grey in colour.
Mono Lake in California

Wish You Were Here was sold in one of the more elaborate packages to accompany a Pink Floyd album. Storm Thorgerson had accompanied the band on their 1974 tour, and had given serious thought to the meaning of the lyrics, eventually deciding that the songs were, in general, concerned with "unfulfilled presence", rather than Barrett's illness.[42] This theme of absence was reflected in the ideas produced by his long hours spent brainstorming with the band. Thorgerson had noted that Roxy Music's Country Life was sold in an opaque green cellophane sleeve – censoring the cover image – and he copied the idea, concealing the artwork for Wish You Were Here in a black-coloured shrink-wrap (therefore making the album art "absent"). The concept behind "Welcome to the Machine" and "Have a Cigar" suggested the use of a handshake (an often empty gesture), and George Hardie designed a sticker containing the album's logo of two mechanical hands engaged in a handshake, to be placed on the opaque sleeve (the mechanical handshake logo would also appear on the labels of the vinyl album this time in a black and blue background). The album's cover images were photographed by Aubrey 'Po' Powell, Storm's partner at the Pink Floyd design studio Hipgnosis and was inspired by the idea that people tend to conceal their true feelings, for fear of "getting burned", and thus two businessmen were pictured shaking hands, one man on fire. "Getting burned" was also a common phrase in the music industry, used often by artists denied royalty payments. Two stuntmen were used (Ronnie Rondell and Danny Rogers), one dressed in a fire-retardant suit covered by a business suit. His head was protected by a hood, underneath a wig. The photograph was taken at the Warner Bros. studios in Los Angeles.[43][44] Initially the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, and the flames were forced into Rondell's face, burning his moustache. The two stuntmen changed positions, and the image was later reversed.[45]

The album's back cover depicts a faceless "Floyd salesman", in Thorgerson's words, "selling his soul" in the desert (shot in the Yuma Desert in California again by Aubrey ' Po ' Powell). The absence of wrists and ankles signifies his presence as an "empty suit". The inner sleeve shows a veil concealing a nude woman in a windswept Norfolk grove, and a splash-less diver at Mono Lake – titled Monosee (the German translation of Mono Lake) on the liner notes – in California (again emphasising the theme of absence).[43][44] The decision to shroud the cover in black plastic was not popular with the band's US record company, Columbia Records, who insisted that it be changed (they were overruled). EMI were less concerned;[45][46] the band were reportedly extremely happy with the end product, and when presented with a pre-production mockup, they accepted it with a spontaneous round of applause.[43]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[47]
Blender 5/5 stars[48]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[49]
The Great Rock Discography 10/10[50]
Music Story 5/5 stars[50]
MusicHound Rock 5/5[51]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[52]
The Village Voice A–[53]

The album was released on 12 September 1975 in the UK, and on the following day in the US.[54] In Britain, with 250,000 advance sales, it went straight to number one, and demand was such that EMI informed retailers that only 50 percent of their orders would be fulfilled.[55] With 900,000 advance orders (the largest for any Columbia release)[56] it reached number one on the US Billboard chart in its second week. Wish You Were Here was Pink Floyd's fastest-selling album ever.[55]

On release, the album received mixed reviews. Ben Edmunds wrote in Rolling Stone:

Melody Maker's reviewer similarly opined: "From whichever direction one approaches Wish You Were Here, it still sounds unconvincing in its ponderous sincerity and displays a critical lack of imagination in all departments."[54]

Robert Christgau thought highly of the album, however, writing in The Village Voice at the time: "The music is not only simple and attractive, with the synthesizer used mostly for texture and the guitar breaks for comment, but it actually achieves some of the symphonic dignity (and cross-referencing) that The Dark Side of the Moon simulated so ponderously."[53] He later wrote: "My favorite Pink Floyd album has always been Wish You Were Here, and you know why? It has soul, that's why – it's Roger Waters's lament for Syd, not my idea of a tragic hero but as long as he's Roger's that doesn't matter."[58]

According to Acclaimed Music, Wish You Were Here is the 185th most ranked record on critics' all-time lists.[59] In 2012, it was voted 211th on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[60] In 2015, it was chosen as the fourth greatest progressive rock album by Rolling Stone.[1] In 1998 Q readers voted Wish You Were Here the 34th greatest album of all time.[61] In 2000 the same magazine placed it at number 43 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.[62] In 2007, one of Germany's largest public radio stations, WDR 2, asked its listeners to vote for the 200 best albums of all time. Wish You Were Here was voted number one.[63] In 2004 Wish You Were Here was ranked number 36 on Pitchfork Media's list of the Top 100 albums of the 1970s.[64] IGN rated Wish You Were Here as the 8th greatest classic rock album.[65] and Ultimate Classic Rock placed Wish You Were Here second best in their list of "Worst to Best Pink Floyd Albums,"[66]

Despite the problems during production, the album remained Wright's favourite: "It's an album I can listen to for pleasure, and there aren't many Floyd albums that I can."[7][67] Gilmour shares this view: "I for one would have to say that it is my favourite album, the Wish You Were Here album. The end result of all that, whatever it was, definitely has left me an album I can live with very very happily. I like it very much."[16]

Commercial performance

Pink Floyd and their manager Steve O'Rourke had been dissatisfied with the efforts of EMI's US label Capitol Records,[68] and Wish You Were Here was Pink Floyd's first album with Columbia Records, an affiliate of CBS. The band remained with EMI's Harvest Records in Europe.[69] As a result of the label switch, the band gained ownership of their recordings, so that, from Wish You Were Here onward, every one of their albums has been copyrighted to either "Pink Floyd Music Limited" or (after Waters' departure) "Pink Floyd (1987) Ltd." instead of the corresponding record label.

The album was certified Silver and Gold (60,000 and 100,000 sales respectively) in the UK on 1 August 1975, and Gold in the US on 17 September 1975. It was certified six times platinum on 16 May 1997,[70] and by 2004 has sold an estimated 13 million copies worldwide.[44] "Have a Cigar" was chosen by Columbia as their first single,[9] with "Welcome to the Machine" on the B-side in the US.[nb 4]

Reissues and remastering

Wish You Were Here has been remastered and re-released on several formats. In the UK and US the album was re-issued in quadraphonic using the SQ format in 1976,[nb 5] and in 1980 a special Hi-Fi Today audiophile print was released in the UK.[nb 6] In the US it was released on CD in 1983, and in the UK 1985,[nb 7] and again as a remastered CD with new artwork in 1994.[nb 8] In the US, Columbia's CBS Mastersound label released a half-speed mastered audiophile LP in 1981,[nb 9] and in 1994 Sony Mastersound released a 24-carat gold-plated CD, remastered using Super Bit Mapping, with the original artwork from the LP in both longbox and jewel case forms, the latter with a cardboard slipcover.[nb 10][44] The album was included as part of the box set Shine On,[72] and five years later Columbia Records released an updated remastered CD, 17 seconds longer than the EMI remasters from 1994, giving a running time of 44:28. Its label was a recreation of the original machine handshake logo, with a black and blue background.[nb 11] The album was subsequently re-released in 2000 for its 25th anniversary, on the Capitol Records label in the US.[nb 12][44] The album was re-released and remixed in 2011 in multiple editions as part of the Why Pink Floyd...? reissue campaign. The Wish You Were Here - Immersion Box Set includes the new stereo digital remaster (2011) by James Guthrie on CD, an unreleased 5.1 Surround Mix (2009) by James Guthrie on DVD and Blu-ray, a Quad Mix (which had been released only on vinyl LP and 8-track tape) on DVD, as well as the original stereo mix (1975) on DVD and Blu-ray.[nb 13] This campaign also featured the 2011 stereo remaster on 180g heavyweight vinyl [nb 14] as well as the 2011 stereo remaster and the 5.1 surround sound mix (2009) as a hybrid Super Audio CD (SACD). In 2016, the 180g vinyl was re-released on the band's own Pink Floyd Records label this time remastered by James Guthrie, Joel Plante and Bernie Grundman.

Track listing

All lyrics written by Roger Waters.

Side one
No. Title Music Lead vocals Length
1. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I–V)" Gilmour, Wright, Waters Waters 13:32
2. "Welcome to the Machine" Waters Gilmour 7:32
Total length: 21:04
Side two
No. Title Music Lead vocals Length
1. "Have a Cigar" Waters Roy Harper 5:24
2. "Wish You Were Here" Waters, Gilmour Gilmour 5:40
3. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI–IX)" Waters, Wright, Gilmour (Parts 6–8)
Wright (Part 9)
Waters 12:29
Total length: 23:10


Charts and certifications



  1. ^ The first two would later be renamed "Sheep" and "Dogs", and reappear on Animals.
  2. ^ There seems to be some confusion about the date that Barrett turned up, and Gilmour's wedding. Blake (2008) writes that Gilmour's wedding was on 7 July, the date also given by Ginger in "The Pink Floyd FAQ", but that witnesses swore they saw Barrett at his reception at Abbey Road. Other authors claim that the reception and Barrett's visit were on 5 June.
  3. ^ Nick Mason has expressed doubt over this.[17]
  4. ^ EMI Capitol 72438–58885[71]
  5. ^ EMI Harvest Q4 SHVL 814 (UK), Columbia PCQ 33453 (US)
  6. ^ EMI Harvest SHVL 814
  7. ^ Columbia CK 33453 (US), EMI CDP 7460352 (UK)
  8. ^ EMI CD EMD 1062
  9. ^ Columbia HC 33453
  10. ^ Columbia CK 53753
  11. ^ Columbia CK 64405
  12. ^ Capitol 72438297502
  13. ^ Capitol 509990294352
  14. ^ Capitol 5099902988016


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Further reading

  • Reising, Russell (2005), Speak to Me, Ashgate Publishing, ISBN 0-7546-4019-1 
  • For a television documentary on the album, see The Story Of Wish You Were Here, Eagle Rock, 25 June 2012 

External links

  • Official Pink Floyd website
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