Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My favorite albums: Wish You Were Here

Aww Pink Floyd.

They're one of my favorite classic rock groups of all-time, easily in my top 5.
I'm trying to remember what specific track of theirs I first heard, I think it was "Another Brick in the Wall."

I remember the video to it so vividly due to the wild and crazy imagery of those kids falling into that meat grinder. And this was on Casey Kasem's Top 10 or Top something back in the 80's.

Here, watch what I'm talking about:

After that, it'd be a few more years until I rediscovered "The Floyd", but I would, buying up their later iconic albums like "The Wall", "Dark Side of the Moon", "Animals", and "Wish you were here."

And it's that last one that I'd like to highlight today.

Wish You Were Here made its debut in 1975, where it would go on to sell over 13 million copies worldwide, and be certified Gold, Silver, and Platinum 6 times.

WYWH was pretty much the follow up to Pink Floyd's biggest selling album at the time "Dark Side of the Moon", as the band sang about topics such as isolation, the darker side of the music industry, missed opportunities, and of course, former bandmate Syd Barrett.

The album only has 5 tracks on it, but with Pink Floyd, you know when listening to their albums it's all about quality, not quantity, and that their songs are usually pretty long.

The WYWH starts off with my favorite track on the album, and one of my top favorite songs ever, "Shine on you crazy diamond" Part 1-4.

I'll try and convey just how I felt, goosebumps and all when I first heard that song. I had just bought this album, put it in my cd player, and cranked up the volume way up. At first I did this because I didn't hear anything, so I keep turning the volume up higher and higher, and then I hear David Gilmore play those first chords, and I was "Oh shit!"

The song keeps building up and building up, with Richard Wright in the keyboards, until BAM! Like an atomic bomb going off in my ears and head, I hear the crescendo, and from there I was hooked.

You gotta hear this!:

I hadn't done Acid or smoked Pot yet at that time, but I imagined that's what it must have felt like as I heard that song for the very first time.

The song, and all 9 parts of it(yes 9 whole parts people!) is all about former bandmate Syd Barrett and his descent into madness after taking way too much LSD. The song's lyrics are a loving and touching testimony to the man's creative genius, and also a eulogy to the friend they used to know before he lost his shit.
The song's parts are divided up throughout the album, so you got the first four parts in the beginning, and then the last five at the end.

Altogether they make up one hell of a tribute, and one of the best recorded in rock and roll history.

Next up is the song "Welcome to the machine."

Roger Waters wrote this primarily about the darker side of the music business, and the whole money-making schemes and policies that he felt were valued more than the artistic side.

Love that image up there guys!
And in fact there's also an actual music video to go with the song in an age where there weren't that many music videos made to accompany the songs. Crazy notion I know;)

The video was created by famed British Satirist Gerald Scarfe and his students in 1977. And what a dark video it is isn't it?

Waters and the band liked Scarfe's work so much, that they commissioned him to produce most, if not all of the art for their "The Wall" album.

So all that crazy, twisted artwork you see on the album cover, and in the movie, is all Scarfe's design.

After that, is "Have a cigar?" which continues on the theme of the music industry. This song was based off a stupid question made by a record exec who famously asked "Oh by the way, which one's Pink?", as in the guy wanted to know who in the band was named Pink Floyd. Yeah, stupid, clueless execs. They never learn do they?

Here's the track:

Interestingly enough, Roger Waters or any of the band didn't actually sing the exec's part; it was actually friend and fellow musician Roy Harper. Waters was later quoted as saying he wish he had done the actual vocals, as he felt that Harper's interpretation didn't really suit the song.

Regardless, it seems history and sales seem to like the song the way it was recorded, so there's that.

Also of note, I wondered if this Roy Harper, was the same one mentioned in the Led Zeppelin song "Hats off to (Roy)Harper." on their third album. Well after looking it up, he is. So, now we both know a little more rock trivia:)

Next up is the track that shares it's name with the album, "Wish you were here."

It's no surprise that this song, along with most the songs on the album, are played heavily in rotation on most rock stations.

Like Shine on you crazy diamond, this song too, is about former bandmate Syd Barrett.
Just listen to the lyrics, and you'll feel just how much Waters and the band miss Barrett and his contributions to the group.

Here's the lyrics and the song:
So, so you think you can tellHeaven from HellBlue skies from painCan you tell a green fieldFrom a cold steel rail?A smile from a veil?Do you think you can tell?
Did they get you to tradeYour heroes for ghosts?Hot ashes for trees?Hot air for a cool breeze?Cold comfort for change?And did you exchangeA walk on part in a warFor a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were hereWe're just two lost soulsSwimming in a fish bowlYear after yearRunning over the same old groundWhat have we found?The same old fearsWish you were here

After that, the album finishes up with it's tribute to Syd with the final 5 parts of Shine on you crazy diamond.
Keyboardist Richard Wright really went all out for this one. I was watching a television special on the making of this album, and one of the main studio engineers and mixers commented that had Wright had 20 more minutes, he would have created a concerto. Really? You mean his keyboard and piano parts aren't already considered one?
Seriously, this song as a whole is one absolute favorites, and one of the best songs to come out of Pink Floyd's catalogue of hits.

In fact, David Gilmour and Richard Wright both say WYWH is their favorite Pink Floyd album, and it's really hard to disagree with them on that one.
Oh and the cover. A quick story on that one, is that artist Storm Thorgerson came up with the idea of the album cover being all black, meaning that it didn't matter what the outside packaging looked like, but that rather it was the music inside the cover that really mattered. 
Here's the wiki-link that explains all of that and the story behind the man on fire shaking hands with that other guy:
Very cool to think that they went to all that trouble to have a stuntman set on fire just so that they could capture that image to go along with the famous saying about "Being burned."

After this album, PF would go on to make 1977's Animals, another solid 'Floyd album.And then the famous The Wall album after that.
I'll highlight these and other PF albums at a later date.
Hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane as much as I did:)


Omega Agent1 said...

Dude, these album post really keep me well rounded. Everybody knows the Wall, now I know more. Good looking out.

Dale Bagwell said...

@Omega, dude you have no idea just how much I appreciate that sentiment. Outside of you and Dan, I think most people that see that section just skip it and wait for my funny skits. So thanks for appreciating the effort and love that goes into these album posts. I just can't help but to share my love and passion of these albums and this music with everyone. Plus, it helps me when the whole skit-making thing gets a bit monotonous, and trust, me sometimes it does.

Randomnerd said...

Oh no, I read them, even if I don't always comment. Wish You Were Here is the first Pink Floyd song I remember hearing. I can't say it's actually the first one I ever heard, because my Dad played them a lot, and I was very little, but it's the first one that I actively remember singing along to. It's still the first one that comes to mind, out of all of them, and the first whole album I reach for when in a Floydy mood. Which is often, quite directly behind Zeppliny moods. I think the next album of theirs I remember in totality listening to was the Division Bell, which Dad put on at the local Pizza Hut when he found it on the Juke Box. But that's another Story.
I love your in depth analysis, and there's really not much else to add, except Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Shine On.

Dale Bagwell said...

@Randomnerd, hey thanks for stopping by. I wasn't trying to single anyone out, I just figured most people who saw those posts, were like "Meh."

But, hey I'm glad you like them. Again, I like doing these album reviews because it forces me to be creative and use a different part of my brain. Not to mention I have alot of (I guess)useless classic rock trivia that would make Eddie Trunk of That Metal Show proud:)

I'll be honest though, I haven't listened to the album Division Bell in its entirety, but rather have heard a couple songs here and there from the album. I know it was the real true PF album w/o Waters, and it did pretty well sales-wise.

So thanks, and you too Random, you too:)

Randomnerd said...

I tell ya, Dale, that form of signing off, the Shine on thing, is kind of typical between me and a couple of my friends. Who are actually younger than me, now that I think of it. But yeah, I actually listen to more "Classic Rock" than most anything else, although I listen to a LOT of music, of all kinds, I find myself going to the "classics" for what I call my "reboot". It's how I find my musical baseline. Besides being brought up in a house filled with Progressive Rock and healthy respect for Great Music in general, I find it hard to go through a day without listening to something that sounds GOOD. So it's fun when you post these. Whether I've listened to it in a while or not, or I have it in my itunes or in a dusty binder or not, it's fun to listen to again, a brush off the memories. Embarrassing ones, they may be, of me in footy pajamas, or dancing while intoxicated in my first apartment, but I enjoy it all the same.

Dale Bagwell said...

Ha ha, hey if you're having a good time, then it's not embarrassing. Now listening to justin beiber or any of those current shit pop/boy/boy-band singers, now that's embarrassing, especially if you over the age of 21:)

I mean yeah, to each his own, but please keep that soft "music" away from me and The House, or else I'll send my legion of angry and disgruntled DC and Marvel action figures after the responsible party:)

But hey, you're definitely a classic rock fan Random, so mad respect, and you'll always have an open invitation to stop by the House anytime you want:)

Dan said...

I used to know a boxer who only trained to 'Shine on' - considering its tempo I allways thought it was an odd choice but never asked what the connection was. All I do know is when I was a radio DJ it gave me enough time to dash to the gents (and wash hands) before the song finished and I was back on air.

Dale Bagwell said...

A boxer "shining on"? What the hell was he doing? Wacking it, before a fight?:)

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