Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wish You Were Here (album)

Wish You Were Here  44:18
Studio recording January-March, May-July 1975 
* Released 15 September 1975 
* Re-released in the Shine On box set, 1992

Dick Parry saxophone on Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Roy Harper vocal on Have a Cigar
Backing vocals by Venetta Fields and Carlena Williams

Recorded at EMI Abbey Road Studios
Recording details: 6-9 January, 3-6 February, 3-12 & 24-27 March, 5-9 May, 2-3 & 5 June, 7-11 & 14-19 July. Quadrophonic mix made 29 & 30 September; 1, 6, 9, 13, 29-31 October (released November 1975).
Produced by Pink Floyd
Engineered by Brian Humphries
Assisted by Peter James
Thanks to Bernie Caulder and Phil Taylor
All lyrics by Roger Waters
Sleeve Design and Photography by Hipgnosis, assisted by Peter Christopherson, Jeff Smith, Howard Bartrop and Richard Manning
Dye transfers by Combined Graphics and Simon Bell
Graphics by George Hardie NTA

UK: Harvest SHVL 814  Debuted at #1 on the British charts
US: Columbia PC 33453 (27 September)  Reached #1 on the US charts after 1 week
Also reached #1 in Belgium, New Zealand, Italy, France and Spain

The recording of the album Wish You Were Here is the most well-documented in the history of the band, as well as the most difficult piece of work the group has ever done. At this point in time Roger's marriage with socialist Judy Trim was ending, partially due to their difficulty in producing offspring, and Nick's marriage with his beloved Lindy was also coming to an unhappy conclusion. This created an atmosphere of extreme despondency when the band went into the studio to record their eighth album on 6 January 1975.

Nick Mason:
"I really did find the time in the studio extremely horrible — not because of what was going on in the band but what was going on outside the studio. And the Pink Floyd being the band that they are, that meant it went on for nine months..." [Miles]

"We were all rather badly mentally ill. When we were putting that one together we were all completely exhausted." [Miles]

"[My] alarming despondency manifested itself in a complete, well, rigor mortis... I didn't quite have to be carried about, but I wasn't interested. I couldn't get myself to sort out the drumming, and that of course drove everyone else even crazier." [Schaffner 198]

Roger Waters: "The quality of life is full of stress and pain in most of the people I meet... and in myself." [Miles]

Rick Wright: "It took us a long time before we actually got into really getting down and making the album. There was a lot of sitting around. I think all of us were playing halfheartedly as well. It was a difficult period, after Dark Side of the Moon." [Schaffner 198]

Interviewer: "What finally prompted a move back into the studio?"
Roger: "A feeling of boredom, I think really. You've got to do something. When you've been used to working very hard for years and years, and reached the point you were working towards there's still a need to go on, because you realize that where you've got to isn't where you thought it was..."

Interviewer: "Was there some period during your apparent layoff when you all thought the band would
come together almost of itself and produce something?"
Roger: "It's so long ago... It's hard to remember, but I think there was that feeling that somebody would eventually come up with something, an idea. The interesting thing is that when we finally did do an album, the album is actually about not coming up with anything, because the album is about none of us really being there, or being there only marginally. About our non-presence in the situation we had clung to through habit, and are still clinging to through habit — being Pink Floyd. Though it's moving into a slightly different area again because I definitely think that at the beginning of Wish You Were Here recording sessions most of us didn't wish we were there at all, we wished we were somewhere else. I wasn't happy being there because I got the feeling we weren't together, the band wasn't at all together." [Shine On (Nick Sedgewick)]

"It could equally have been called Wish We Were Here..." [Schaffner 199]

"I felt that at times the group was there only physically. Our bodies were there, but our minds and feelings somewhere else. And we were only there because this music allows us to live and live well, or because it was a habit, to be in Pink Floyd and operate under that banner... [I wanted] to write something about it all, cutting Shine On You into two and projecting my feelings about what was going on." [Schaffner 198-199]

Since the French tour of summer 1974, the plan for the next album had always been to simply put Shine On on one side of the album, and the other new songs (Raving and Drooling and You Gotta Be Crazy) on the other side. However, the plan was changed when the band got into the studio in 1975, and things didn't seem to be working out. Roger explains what happened.

Interviewer: "It was then decided that these songs (Shine On, Raving and Drooling, and You Gotta Be Crazy) would also be the basis for the forthcoming album?"
Roger: "Yes, that was the idea for a long time... while we did that tour."

Interviewer: "When did the plans change?"
Roger: "When we got into the studio. January '75. We started recording and it got very laborious and tortured, and everybody seemed to be very bored by the whole thing. We pressed on regardless of the general ennui for a few weeks and then things came to a bit of a head. I felt that the only way I could retain interest in the project was to try to make the album relate to what was going on there and then the fact that no one was really looking each other in the eye, and that it was all very mechanical... So I suggested we change it — that we didn't do the other two songs but tried somehow to make a bridge between the first and second halves of Shine On, and bridge them with stuff that had some kind of relevance to the state we were all in at the time. Which is how Welcome to the Machine, Wish You Were Here, and Have A Cigar came in." [Shine On]

Dave Gilmour: "First of all we did a basic track of Shine On You Crazy Diamond from the beginning where the first guitar solo starts, right through 'shine on' [the lyrical section] and the part with the sax solo through to the continuation of Shine On. That was in all twenty minutes long, which was at one time going to be the whole side of one album. However, as we worked on it and extended it and then extracted things, we came to the decision that we would make that into the whole album and we began to work on the new stuff to slot in." [Miles]

Roger Waters: "When we changed the plan we had a big meeting — we all sat round and unburdened ourselves a lot, and I took notes on what everybody was saying. It was a meeting about what wasn't happening and why. Dave was always clear that he wanted to do the other two songs [Raving and Drooling and Gotta Be Crazy] — he never quite copped what I was talking about. But Rick did and Nicky did and he was outvoted so we went on." [Miles]

The band also subjected themselves to the grueling hardship of two American tours during the making of the album. Roger later explained how difficult it was to complete the album.

Roger Waters: "The album was very difficult; it was a bloody difficult thing to do, and it didn't quite come off, but it nearly happened... difficult because of the first six weeks of the sessions [for] Shine On, not the sax solo which was put in afterwards, but the basic track was terribly fucking hard to do because we were all out of it and you can hear it. I could always hear it, kind of mechanical and heavy. That's why I'm so glad people are copping the sadness of it — that in spite of ourselves we did manage to get something down, we did manage to get something of what was going on in those sessions down on the vinyl. Once we accepted that we were going to go off on a tangent during the sessions it did become exciting, for me anyway, because then it was a desperate fucking battle trying to make it good. Actually we expended too much energy before that point in order to be able to quite do it. By the time we were finishing it, after the second American Tour, I hadn't got an ounce of creative energy left in me anywhere, and those last couple of weeks were a real fucking struggle." [Miles]

Rick Wright:  
"I particularly like that record... I think that's my favorite album that the Floyd ever did. I like the feel of it — and in it. It's the kind of music — Dark Side as well — when all three of us were writing, together sometimes. I feel the best material from the Floyd was definitely when two or three of us co-wrote something together. Afterwards we lost that; there wasn't that interplay of ideas between the band." [Schaffner, 200]

"Roger's preoccupation with things such as madness and the business is something that I didn't feel nearly so strongly about." [Schaffner 199]

Interviewer: "Listen, Roger. What do you say to accusations about the album that you are biting the hand that feeds you... that the position you take up in a lot of the lyrics is highly dubious given the nature of your success?"
Roger: "Why? Biting the hand of the record companies?"
Interviewer: "Or the business..."
Roger: "Well the business doesn't feed me, you see. It's the people who buy the records who are doing the feeding. I mean, I like to believe that the people who buy the records listen to the lyrics and some of them some of the time think: Yeah, that's fucking true, or there's a bit of truth in them somewhere, and that's all that really matters." [Shine On]

The story of the Wish You Were Here album is largely reflected in the story of its centerpiece, Shine On You Crazy Diamond. See that song entry for more information on the development of the album.

Album Package
The album package was the most complex and symbolic that Hipgnosis would ever attempt. Storm pondered the lyrics in order to come up with a relevant visual theme.

Storm Thorgerson:
"They seemed to be about unfulfilled presence in general rather than about Syd's particular version of it — and he certainly had his own unique brand. The idea of presence withheld, of the ways that people pretend to be present whilst their minds are really elsewhere, and the devices and motivations employed psychologically by people to suppress the full force of their presence, eventually boiled down to a single theme — absence. The absence of a person, the absence of feeling." [Schaffner 204]

"After the success of Dark Side it was quite difficult knowing what to do next. We had suggested seven different roughs for Dark Side. In the case of Wish You Were Here we only suggested one, but it was a very complicated one. The basic theme derived from Shine On You Crazy Diamond, especially from Dave's haunting guitar chords, and Roger's lyrics. This theme was the sense of absence, of not being present in a relationship or conversation. This absence related also to Syd Barrett, in more ways than one, and to the band's own difficulties in being there at the time making music, or in being a band at all – Dark Side was an even harder act for them to follow. All the pictures refer to absence in one form or another. The burning man is absent metaphorically – too frightened to be present, lest he be burned. The diver is absent physically, because his trace, or rather his splash, is missing. The 'handshake' on the sticker is as much an empty gesture as a genuine greeting. The title 'Wish You Were Here' then becomes relevant, and from the title came the post-card included in the original vinyl packing. Could the design be one thing for the shops and another thing for the customer? Once you had bought the record there was no sense in being subjected to the same criteria of design and advertising as you would in the shop. At home there's no need to grab attention, or be crassly provocative. So the cover was wrapped in a black plastic shrink wrap – one could not actually see what the design was. Since the theme of the album was absence, then the design in itself is absent, i.e. not visible. The idea was that when you got home you were supposed to peel off the black shrink wrap like undoing a present, and throw it away. One suspects that a lot of people slit the plastic down the side with a scalpel in order to preserve the colorful sticker but still get the record out. (There's no pleasing some folk.) The actual shooting of the cover was rather dramatic in itself. The man diving into the lake, Lake Mono in California, was a yoga expert who performed a handstand in a metal bucket frame. He held his breath for a long time so that the ripples caused by the commotion of getting into the diving position in the first place would die more or less away. He only had to do it 60 times, but then it is art, innit?

We tried to say the same thing to the man we set on fire, but he didn't think that was very funny. Although he was wearing an asbestos suit and an asbestos wig, when we set him alight he was unfortunately facing the wrong way as regards to the wind. The wind caught the flames and blew them back into his face, burning his mustache severely. We had, in fact, to get him to turn the other way and shake hands with his left hand and then reverse the photo in the final print, which does give it a slightly strange quality. Art by misadventure." [Shine On]

The black shrinkwrap was adorned by a sticker of two mechanical hands shaking, demonstrating the frequent lack of real feeling in this social convention. In the background can be seen a representation of the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water which corresponded respectively to the astrological signs of the four artists – Virgo, Aquarius, Leo, and Pisces for Roger, Nick, Rick, and Dave. The sticker also included the album title and artist name. Because of the shrinkwrap concealing the actual cover, Storm felt free "just for once, to separate art from commerce clearly — to do the sleeve without any commercial considerations in mind whatsoever because it couldn't be seen... This personal design could be composed of very arty pieces, pertinent to the record, yet as obscure as we liked — hence studies in absence." [Schaffner 205]

Inside, the handshake of the two men, one of whom is in flames, was indicative both of the fear of exposing one's real feelings and being burned, as well as the very concrete risk of getting burned by the record industry, which frequently ripped off budding artists. The references of the artwork on the back cover were even more obscure. The Pink Floyd salesman 'selling his soul in the desert' is a reference to a lyric in an unreleased Roger Waters song, Bitter Love. This illustrates the band's (or at least Roger's) contempt for an industry which commercializes art and the creative process and turns it into just another product.

On the inner sleeve can be seen a photo of a red veil concealing nude woman standing in a windswept Norfolk grove, as well as the photo of the splashless diver which Storm referred to.

Thus Storm, with extensive help from graphics designer George Hardie, was able to create an artistic package at once fascinating and thought-provoking, just as the music itself.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)
Welcome to the Machine
Have a Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)

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