When internationally renowned supergroup Pink Floyd released their Magnum Opus Wish You Were Here in 1975 it was just one year before Malcolm McLaren’s Sex Pistols spelled the death of music, particularly to the kind of bombastic rock music as embodied by Pink Floyd. And yet it felt as if these two albums were at least a hundred years apart. Pink Floyd, a call from the hazy past compared to the Pistol’s fresh brutality.
As always, and as kinda programatic for the Beer! Punk! Pogo! movement, the Sex Pistols failed. That’s not a problem as it was kinda system imminent for them to not only deconstruct the world but themselves along the way. 😉
So the sensitive kids could listen to Pink Floyd’s ultralong, meandering musical visions in their incense filled teenie caverns even after the world-shattering happenings of 1976. Because, quite contrary to the Pistols, Pink Floyd and their songs about loss and emptiness were out of time and space. PF was the embodiment of a parallel universe in which we could hang our Che posters on the wall in all our naiive earnesty and without any sarcasm.
What was it that made PF’s music so appealing to the masses of mostly teenaged kids? I can only speculate as I was more one of them punx and always found PF’s music went straight above my head. Their songs deviated from the usual pop structure as they meandered through a variety of styles and tended to be overly long. They were everything but earworms. I needed to reach my 30s – and the return of progrock – until I finally got behind PF and learned to enjoy their maniac music.
Back to WYWH, an album that consisted of only 5 tracks (tssk tssk, those fukn hippies), interwoven and separated into various tracks. Thematically tho it was tight as it dealt with the loss of PFs former frontman Syd Barret who went completely gaga and disappeared into some druggy hippie commune somewhere in the British countryside 8 years prior. In his short time with PF he must’ve been a major influence for the guys to still miss him so much.
PFs earlier album Dark Side of the Moon was a worldwide success that made them rich beyond their wildest dreams and they thought they’d reached their zenith. So when the recording and songwriting sessions started in London’s Abbey Road studios PF was a shambles, leaderless and unmotivated. And there were conceptual struggles between Roger Waters and David Gilmour. Plus the band was almost never at the studio at the same time completely as always two of them seemed to have gone awol. Roger Waters, who emerged as the lead songwriter, suffered extremely from the situation, which also reflects in his lyrics.
Another big topic for Waters was the feeling of being just a part of the big music machine, a cog in the gear assembly. Songs as Have a Cigar and Welcome to the Machine are dealing with these feelings. Pfff, a rich man’s first world problems if there ever were any.
Oh yes, kids, I gotta tell you about this very strange phenomenon in rock music, the so-called concept album: All songs in the opus are turning around a certain topic. Often these topics don’t even become clear as they exist solely in the drug-filled brains of the artists. “Pretentious crap” as even the crazy designer of Pink Floyd’s album covers said later in an interview.
Hmm, maybe this general unhappyness was the best that could happen to the band and the album, as it turned out not only as one of the greatest rock albums ever but also a defining moment for the band. And it made them even richer. I guess I’d like to suffer as Waters did if I can have some of his millions in exchange.
Meanwhile little Orca was like totally ignorant of all that and lost in her punk noise, searching for the 4th chord. Pink Floyd for her were just old men who missed to see the sign of the times. But, now, like 40 years later, we see all of Orca’s punk heroes gone and mostly forgotten, but PF still filling stadiums.
And honestly, who of us can supress the goosebumps when the acoustic guitar opener of Wish You Were Here blasts out of any stereo system or radio whenever we hear it? There was something in this record album, a certain quality that went beyond the great divide of pop, rock, punk, reggae and what else was there. This album has a kinda general appeal that should even partly speak to Britney Spears fans, or whatever the teenies of today are listening to.
Here we have Wish You Were Here:
And here, just because it was beautiful also Shine On You Crazy Diamond – with the probably most famous 4 notes in music history – the song they wrote for Syd Barrett:
The old geezers live in 2005: