Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here", or WYWH, is considered by discerning fans of the band, musicians and many Rock writers to be one of, if not THE greatest, of Pink Floyd's recorded works. It certainly forms the third part of what a lot of true dedicatees of the band acknowledge as the great trinity, or suite, of albums at the very core of Pink Floyd's illustrious career - "Meddle", "The Dark Side of the Moon" and "Wish You Were Here". "Animals" was a ripping powerhouse and unique for it's toughness and peerlessly eloquent rage. "The Wall", of course, is a phenomenon, but for many long-time fans of this band's work, it does not stand out as their greatest MUSICAL project. "Wish You Were Here", for me, stands as the last, true "Pink Floyd" album. On it every member contributed significantly and relatively equally, as much as they did on "Meddle" and "Dark Side". It is clearly Richard Wright's swan song in the band as he never again wrote, played or sang like he did on WYWH. In fact, it would be impossible to imagine "Wish You Were Here" WITHOUT Wright's emotionally powerful, elegant, hauntingly atmospheric, versatile and sumptuously melodic keyboard work. After "Wish You Were Here" his input was sharply reduced, no longer writing for the band, not singing, which was a tremendous loss, and barely contributing keyboard work of any significant substance. So it would not be at all inaccurate or inappropriate to see WYWH as the end of Pink Floyd's most accomplished MUSICAL output. There were GREAT songs on "The Wall", truly - "Mother", "Goodbye Blue Sky", "Run Like Hell" and of course, the iconic , "Comfortably Numb", for example. But post "Wish You Were Here", Pink Floyd, as a BAND, had ended. From "Animals" on the 4 way balance that had made the previous 3 releases such unsurpassed classics, true BAND efforts, was gone. Waters increasingly dominated the writing and eventually the singing, pushing even David Gilmour, the bands most identifiable voice, to the sidelines. Wright was even kicked out of the band and retained as a session player only! Although there is much to admire in "Animals" and "The Wall", and we won't even speak of "The Final Cut", none of them measure up musically to what Gilmour, Waters, Wright and Mason had achieved before ... TOGETHER as a functioning, creatively viable band.
"Pink Floyd - The Story of Wish You Were Here" is a marvellously respectful and meticulously researched look at the many aspects that went into creating what many people feel is the greatest Pink Floyd album. It is brilliantly obvious that this documentary had the full participation and co-operation of the members of the band. This is no spurious bang off. It is a supremely high quality work that gets down deep into the personal emotions that led to the final creation, like no other Pink Floyd documentary has done, because, let us remember, "Wish You Were Here" is probably THE most deeply emotional album Pink Floyd ever released. It's very origins were deeply set in a very emotionally difficult time for the band and for each of its individual members. Under terrible corporate pressure from the industry to cough up another "Dark Side" immediately and watching their personal lives slide into difficulties, the pressures of the time led to a mix of paralysis, anger and deep sadness. The famous arrival of a hugely puffed up, bald Syd Barrett, eyes like "black holes in the sky" and his eyebrows brutally shaved off added even more emotional density to the weight and stuggling the band was experiencing. Gilmour and Waters, we hear, were in tears because of it. Both speak of the unexpected incident with tremendous gravity and barely disguised feeling. Richard Wright as well, in an interview done a few years back, speaks of Barrett's 'demise' in the saddest of tones. Indeed, Syd Barrett is the 'ghost' that haunted Pink Floyd either visibly or not, throughout their career until they dealt with his collapse and 'disappearance' that fateful day at Abbey Road. All of this is covered, sensitively and fearlessly, with respect and candor as well. The interviewers must've been very skilled indeed to have won the discernible confidence of the band members and an openness here that is remarkable, especially for a band who took great care for most of their career NOT to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Of note, both Waters and Gilmour seemed to have dropped the old acrimony and they speak of each other with true admiration, but more so Gilmour of Waters than Waters of Gilmour ... or Waters of anybody else for that matter. There is something in their talking about THIS album, about THIS time in their lives that seems to bring out the very best of their respective humanities. Nick Mason's thoughts and perspectives are particularly insightful even surprising at times. Wright, as usual, speaks with unadorned clarity and poignancy.
Every aspect of the creation of the album is covered. The music is looked at in great depth and like the "Dark Side of the Moon" making-of DVD from the same studio, Eagle Media, the main engineer is brought in to insert the master into the mixing desk and demonstrate how all of the many tracks were assembled to produce the grand final result. With "Dark SIde" it was Alan Parsons. Here it is Brian Humphries, who himself shows a great deal of barely hidden emotion when he hears many of the tracks in isolation, sometimes smiling at the memory, sometimes moved by it, remembering the moment in time that led to what he isolates in the mix. His analysis of the construction of the album is brilliant and full of never-faded admiration. His very English reserve gives way over the course of the film, gradually revealing the strong associations of feeling that the music and his memory of working with it evokes. Nick Mason, who has distinguished himself as a writer as of late, has some very revealing pieces of information and comment that have never quite been heard this way before. For example, he asks us to consider that without the departure of Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd "there would never have been a Dark Side of the Moon." His thoughts coming from just slightly back from the inner fray of Gilmour and Waters, provided him with a kind of aquiline overview of things, making his observations particularly insightful and, as always for him, somewhat humorous. For experienced fans there's still a lot here that is new, not so much in the events, something most fans are well aware of, but more in the personal insights and thoughts around these events. For example, as much as it's acknowledged that Barrett's departure actually released the band into a new freedom of possibility, it is also speculated by the band as to what might Syd have become if he hadn't imploded. One of the great debates in the Pink Floyd story - what if ?
Storm Thorgerson, Pink Floyd's cover artist for almost every single album they ever released also is given plenty of air time. How the cover was created is every bit as fascinating as the evolution of the music, and not without a fair bit of humour at that. Aubrey Powell, or "Po", Thorgerson's creative partner at that time in "Hipgnosis" is quite funny when he talks about the shots he had to take as a photographer and let's us in on how some of the mysterious images were created. This ALL before the digital age, before Photoshop or Aperture! Creating the classic 'diver' shot was a feat of ingenuity and painful physical endurance. Po's account is marvellous. Great care was taken to even acquire the stuntman who was actually set afire for the cover shot. He talks about the experience himself. Jill Furmanovsky, probably Floyd's longest running documentary photographer, who's black and white band shots festoon that albums final artwork, also gets to speak. Venetta Fields, one of the two female backup singers, also talks about how the project seemed to deeply influence her to give as much emotional commitment to her role as possible, to learn to understand and love the music. As difficult as the making of "Wish You Were Here" was, there was something about it's creation that was life-changing for everyone involved.
Everyone reveals a lot of detail and the interviews are paced nicely with shots of the band performing throughout different phases of its career, including some fantastic archival footage of their very early performances with Syn Barrett - blobs and strobes included. I had never seen footage of "Jugband Blues" before and here it appears with Syd looking frighteningly on the edge of total mental collapse. And just to sweeten the pot, there is an additional set of supplemental interviews that goes even further into more personal thoughts. Waters is particularly eloquent about the deeper meanings of the title song and it is quite moving, actually. The only voice that is sadly absent in the supplementary material is that of Richard Wright. There is an early interview, as mentioned, but it is not as long as the contributions of his band mates.
For the price that is being asked for this gem it is WELL worth the purchase. Sound, picture, editing, production, design, CONTENT, all of it is extremely well done. A lot of money went into this project and it's a classy product in every way. Inside there's a beautifully designed inner booklet, with classic photographs, very handsomely presented. The inside of the sleeve shows the "invisible man", offering his clear disc in the desert, as an image, sitting in an expanse of sand - a continuance of the imagery from the original album. The disc itself bears the 4 element theme with the 'machine' handshake, only this time with photographs of the 4 elements instead of artwork. This is 'answered' by the same image on the facing side on the booklet. All in all, very well thought out and tastefully done - which is what you normally expect from Pink Floyd. Read more ›