Wish You Were Here (4:40)

Cover of Orchestral Maneuvers: The Music of Pink Floyd

From Orchestral Maneuvers: The Music of Pink Floyd and 105 other releases

“Wish You Were Here” is the title track on Pink Floyd’s 1975 album Wish You Were Here. The song’s lyrics encompass writer Roger Waters’ feelings of alienation from other people. Like most of the album, it refers to former Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett and his breakdown. The main riff came to David Gilmour while playing his acoustic guitar in Abbey Road Studios. Gilmour then demonstrated the riff to Waters, who was impressed. They collaborated to complete the song, as Waters had already written some lyrics. In 2004, the song was ranked #316 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In the original album version, the song segues from “Have a Cigar” as if a radio had been tuned away from one station, through several others (including a radio play and one playing Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony), and finally to a new station where “Wish You Were Here” is beginning. Gilmour performed the intro on a twelve-string guitar, processed to sound like it was playing through an old transistor radio, and then overdubbed a fuller-sounding acoustic guitar solo. This passage was mixed to sound as though the guitarist was sitting in a room, playing along with the radio; it also contains a whine that slowly changes pitch—emulating the heterodyne between two drifting AM radio signals.

The intro riff is repeated several times and reprised when Gilmour plays further solos with scat singing accompaniment. At the end of the recorded song, the final solo crossfades with wind sound effects (reminiscent of “One of These Days” from the 1971 album Meddle), and finally segues into the second section of the multi-part suite “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”.

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