Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published February 3rd 2020
Pink Floyd at their best
I recently moved house. During the course of the move, a heap of stuff was delivered to me from my ex's place, including the remainder of my rather extensive music collection (and my book collection and all my DVDs). That was great for me, and I have spent way too much time with music in the background as I attempt to attack my university subjects or work on the two novels I am currently switching back and forth between. (For the record, I have completed 3 poems and 5 short stories instead of all or any of the above…)
Anywho, while going through said music collection, checking to make sure things were okay, I found a note I had left for myself back in 2013 (according to the receipt I had scrawled it on). It said, "Replace these!" The problem was, I was not sure what "these" I was meant to replace. So, I thought about it for a while. It was sitting inside the box cover of my Pulse CD, so I played it; that seemed fine, so it wasn't that double CD set. I looked through the rest of my CDs, wondering what I was thinking about. After a while, it finally hit me. One quick click to Amazon later and they were ordered; four days later, they turned up on my doorstep. The next twenty-four hours I spent with these two on constant rotation. As such, today I present the first of these two classic albums.
Readers, I give you Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd (1975).
I love this album. It has two themes, which are sort of intertwined. I should point out that I have watched two great documentaries on the making of this album, so I am getting a lot of my information from the interviews contained therein. It seems that after the mammoth success that was the album Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd were at a loss. They almost called it quits. But the record company forced them to live up to their contract and so they returned to the studio.
Part of the problem was that hanging over the heads of the members of Pink Floyd was original member Syd Barrett, who had lasted one album before LSD and mental health issues started to take his mind. After their success, they felt they owed him something.
And thus the two themes were there, in front of them – mental health, and the business-against-art attitude of the record companies (which it was felt might have added to Barrett's mental issues). And they combined to form such a magnificent piece of artistic triumph.
This is a 45 minute long album. It has 5 tracks. And it is awesome! Now, I should say, I have mentioned one of these tracks before in a very positive light, so regular readers have already been exposed to this greatness.
Obviously, I own this on CD, so I will sort of be ignoring the whole sides thing.
We open with 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)', a 14 minute long track of absolute beauty. The opening notes just linger, hanging in the air like a dissipating cloud, setting a mood that is a little melancholic, but which has an almost church-like glory. David Gilmour's guitar rings out over Rick Wright's keyboards before Nick Mason's drums and Roger Waters' bass kick in to give it more of standard a rock feel. This song is about Syd directly. But the lyrics, what few there are, are almost secondary to what is one of the closest pieces of rock music to a classical piece. I will say it again – this is beautiful.
Into 'Welcome To The Machine'. Starting with that throbbing synthesiser, it builds up gradually into a swirl of guitars and loops. This is a seven minute long song, but there are hardly any lyrics. They could be about Syd, they could be about the treadmill of the music industry, but I have a feeling it is about both. It is aurally very different from the track it follows, and yet it is not a jar from one to the other.
'Have A Cigar' is next (this would open side two on the original vinyl). This is one of only two tracks over all of Pink Floyd's albums where there is a guest vocalist – in this case, Roy Harper, a folk singer friend of the band. This is a song that is blatantly about how terrible the music industry is. Again, different to the other songs on the album, and a song filled with such spite it is incredible.
We then hit the title track – 'Wish You Were Here'. A stunning song. The members of Pink Floyd say they can't perform it without thinking of Syd, even though it is not directly about him. This is one of the first songs I learnt on the guitar. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of rock music ever written. There are a number of reasons why Pink Floyd will be remembered in 100 years or more – this is one of them. I cannot praise this song highly enough.
And we finish with 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)'. Very similar to the opening track, being a continuation, only a little more synthesiser heavy. Does not detract from the beauty of the song. So, so, so glorious.
There you have it. 45 minutes of such beauty and power. There has not been an album like this one released by a mainstream rock band since. I do not think anyone could ever match it. Some might try, but how could they succeed when compared to this? Four men, with a little help from their friends, using real instruments, writing their own music and coming up with something so wonderful.
People often ask me why I prefer classic rock. This is one of the albums I tell them to listen to.