A Song A Day – Wish You Were Here

WishYouWereHereIn the winter of 1965, a group of architecture students were joined by a Cambridge Art School student to form a band called “The Tea Set”. The Art School student was probably not happy with the name of the band and suggested the name “Pink Floyd” after two blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council; and the rest as they say is history.

The architecture students were Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright and Bob Klose and the art school student who would soon become the face of the band was Syd Barrett. Bob Klose soon left the band and Syd Barrett became the lead guitarist, vocalist and song writer for the band. Unfortunately, in 1968, Barrett had to leave the band.

Roger Waters soon filled up Barrett’s place as the song writer for the band and developed the idea of “Concept Album” and come up legendary albums such as “The Dark Side of the Moon”.  However, the band was still missing Syd and they compiled an album for him; aptly name “Wish You Were Here”.

Wish You Were Here” is the title track from that album and is one of my personal favourites of all times. The song, although an obvious reference to Barrett leaving the band, also talks about the detached feeling that most people go through life with (“We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl”).  The lyrics of the song were written by Roger Waters while the music riff was composed independently by David Gilmour. When Waters heard Gilmour play the riff in the studio, they decided to compose the song using it. Gilmour provided the vocals for the song.

Wish You Were Here” being a concept album, all its song blend into each other. Thus “Wish You Were Here” flows in from the previous song “Have a Cigar” through an interlude of a radio play and Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony (actually someone is switching between different radio stations). The song begins with the riff played on an acoustic guitar and the song gets louder as it progresses with electric guitar and drums entering later. The song ends with wind sound effects that take it into the next song (“Shine On You Crazy Diamonds”).

In the original form, the song was never released as a single. The album, however, got a great commercial success and critical acclaim immediately after it released. The song has featured on a number of compilation albums by Floyd including Delicate Sounds of Thunder, Echoes and Pulse. In 1995, the Pulse recording was also released as a single. This was one of the songs they played during the 2005 Live Aid Concert when the band reunited after 20 years. In 2004, the song was ranked #316 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In the thirty four years since its release, the song has been covered by numerous artists. Most notable amongst them are Dream Theater, Pearl Jam, Velvet Revolver and Wyclef Jean but none of them come even close to the original song. Fred Durst and Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit and Johnny Rzeznik of The Goo Goo Dolls performed this at the 2001 “Tribute to Heroes” telethon to benefit victims of the terrorist attacks on America.

This song has been very close to my heart and I am sure it is so for a lot of other Pink Floyd fans. I shall conclude with a quote of David Gilmour about the songs he writes:

If everyone interpreted the same meaning from a song that I have written, then I have failed miserably in my endeavour

Pink floyd performing the song live

Goo Goo Dolls and Limp Bizkit performing for “Tribute to Heroes”

Wyclef Jean’s version of the song