Written by Susie Salva
Pink Floyd’s The Story of Wish You Were Here on DVD/Blu-ray released by Eagle Rock Entertainment is an entertaining documentary following the story behind the creation of Wish You Were Here the authorized story of the album made with the full involvement and approval of the members of Pink Floyd.
Wish You Were Here was released in September 1975 and was the follow up album to the globally successful The Dark Side of the Moon and it cited by legions of fans, as well as band members David Gilmore, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason as their favorite Pink Floyd album. But with the enormous success of Dark Side thus ensued frustration about creating the follow up to that successor.
On the release of Wish You Were Here it went straight to Number One in both UK and US and topped the charts in many other countries around the world. This program tells the story of the making of this landmark release through new interviews with Roger Waters, David Gilmore, and Nick Mason and archive interviews with the late Richard Wright. Also featured are sleeve designers Strom Thorgerson, guest vocalist Roy Harper, front cover “burning man,” Ronnie Rondell and others involved in the creation of the album. In addition, original recording engineer Brian Humphries revisits the master tapes at Abbey Road Studios to illustrate aspects of the songs’ construction.
Much of the album can be seen as commentary on the loss of band mate and close friend Syd Barrett. Both Gilmore and Waters explain in candid explanation that the song Shine on You Crazy Diamond is an epitaph to Barrett. The sadness and loss of their friend gave then a flashpoint to jump off from to create the songs on Wish You Were Here. The band members discuss the album’s theme of absence, the greed of the music business and former band member Syd Barrett, who is famously celebrated on Shine On You Crazy Diamond, which both opens and closes the album.
With the mega success of Dark Side the band began to feel tremendous stress to create something on the stature of that album and thus ensued strife between band members. The band begun to have more money than their wildest dreams and Gilmore explains that there was a struggle between being an artist or a businessman. What happened next was a lack of enthusiasm and a disconnect as the band felt that they were not giving 100%. There was this ridiculous pressure and Waters was most frustrated. He explains the frustrated inertia. He wanted the album to be thematic and to be more coherent work to be a universal expression. The band was spending an exorbitant amount of time in the studio and they were lacking in momentum.
Rogers felt that the song Have A Cigar could make the band immortal but there was the dichotomy of a buying and selling machine and the song could be all powerful. There was a sense of being a puppet with the lyrics Which one’s Pink?? Roy Harper stepped in to sing on Have a Cigar, where Waters candidly states that he would have done a better job on the vocal.
The band hooked up with Storm Thorgerson a political artist who didn’t want to be limited in his designs an became fixated on the number four like the members of the band. He was trying to capture a moment in time with his art work.
Waters describes the beginning of the record as a bit melancholy mood and its meant to be that way. Gilmore liked to play around with the music and to find something within. He decided to record the guitar parts in another studio that makes it come across clean on the album. He demonstrates his guitar techniques and again mentions his tribute to Syd Barrett wanting things to be said accurately about him.
Joe Boyd the 1st producer talks about the sad truth that Barrett fried his brain on acid and it was sad that they were unable to help him out. Gilmore contains that there would have been no Dark Side if Syd was around. This disc covers the unexpected visit Barrett paid to Abbey Road during the recording, the difficulties of the early recording sessions and how the decision to split Shine On You Crazy Diamond, into two sections was the catalyst for the album’s successful completion.
Welcome to the Machine had many different effects and futurist sounds as Waters plays bass on the track and Gilmore acoustic. Waters contends that his experience in the music industry is that “the machine chews you up and spits you out.” The album art shows two men shaking hands (photographed in the studio lot of Warner Brothers) the notation of the music industry and the strafe that ensured with the band and their feelings of the business. Wish You Were Here finds Waters saying that it was “recklessly good,” where Gilmore states that “Waters writing has brilliant words” explains Gilmore. Waters one collaborator explains that, “One must free self and if not you stand on one square. Once decided to move that way encouraging me to encourage self.” He contends that that is his reasoning but maintains that it is up for interpretation for those that listen to the song.
In 1985 Waters reunited the original band to perform at Live 8 after 24 years apart. In 2008 Richard Wright passed away. Waters contends that, “Wish You Were Here was the most complete album and a difficult place to get to. The album deals with grief, anger and about love. The possibilities of love.” The album sold 19 million copies and No. 1 in the UK and US.
The bonus material not featured in the TV broadcast version, includes further interviews with Roger Waters, David Gilmore and Nick Mason plus Waters and Gilmore perform excerpts from the Wish You Were Here album. Waters and Gilmore are consummate songwriters and musicians.
The Story of Wish You Were Here is a fascinating document and fitting tribute to Pink Floyd’s outstanding achievement in the creation of this masterpiece.
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Written by Susie Salva