Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd


When I was at Royal Holloway, I knew two people who got married and had a baby. I knew Steve and Charlotte through a mutual friend, Patrick, who I think Charlotte fancied for years to come. They got married at the end of our Second Year and Patrick was invited to the wedding, but I wasn’t. Over the course of my Third Year, we became friendly and I liked to visit them in their “married quarters” that they had been allocated. I borrowed Steve’s speakers for my 21st Birthday party. Steve, Charlotte, Mark (the baby), Patrick, Josephine (Patrick’s girlfriend) and I all went on a picnic to Henley the week before I left College. None of these names are real – not that I’m going to write anything horrible.

Once we all left College, I kept in touch with Steve and Charlotte for many years. Their family grew until several years later they had four boys. Every time I saw them I bought all the boys a little gift and as time went on, their house was overflowing with toy cars, books and stuffed animals that I recognised. They moved from Tottenham to Hemel Hempstead and we continued with reciprocal visits. Rather ungraciously, I always thought that Steve wasn’t particularly interested in me and Charlotte only ever kept in touch because she wanted to know about Patrick. In retrospect, this was a mistake on my behalf and I could have been much kinder. In the end, I cancelled visiting them on two separate days when I was supposed to visit them and after that we lost touch. Not my finest moment, by any means. I wish I had kept in touch. They were both very outgoing and friendly – sometimes their enthusiasm was a bit over the top but there was not an ounce of malice in either of them or their delightful boys. I was once asked by mutual friends what it was like to visit them and I replied “bedlam”. When these friends phoned me to tell me that they had just had their third boy, they announced that they now had “three quarters of bedlam”. I wish I had been more tolerant of bedlam. I still wish that. I’ve spent most of today tidying up the small bedroom where I write this because I can’t tolerate bedlam.

At Royal Holloway, I lived in a Hall of Residence for three years. It was great except that it seemed that every room had a postcard from “Dark Side Of The Moon” stuck on the door. Obviously, my musical tastes were more sophisticated at the time. Why listen to Pink Floyd when I could listen to The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Pearls Before Swine and John Stewart? I had bought “Umma Gumma” in 1969 but had sensibly sold it at Royal Holloway. Only to re purchase it 30 years later. Oh well – another mistake. So, I didn’t like Pink Floyd when I was at Royal Holloway. One day, several years after leaving Royal Holloway, I visited Steve and Charlotte. Steve was very pleased and excited to show me the album cover for “Wish You Were Here”. I had seen it but never paid much attention to it. After listening to him enthuse about it for ten minutes, I could appreciate how clever it was. The businessmen shaking hands with one on fire, making clever use of the phrase “getting burned” or ripped off. In Roger Waters’ case, by the music industry. The man in the suit representing an “empty suit” – the music business executive who is not bothered about the music but is only interested in making money. The diver in Mono Lake, California who doesn’t make a splash – obviously to make a splash means to become successful so this is another pointed comment about “the man”.

Steve was especially excited and effusive about the phrase on “Have A Cigar” where “the man” asks “by the way, which one’s Pink?” Roger Waters took this to extremes on “The Wall” where “Pink” is the leading protagonist in the story. I did find this line amusing mainly because I like taking pleasure in other people’s stupidity. This is not an attractive trait for a teacher but I always chuckle at this sort of thing.

Over time, I have come to love “Wish You Were Here”. I love “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (parts 1-10) which take up 26 minutes of this record in two sections. It was conceived as a song about former Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett, who coincidentally turned up at Abbey Road studios during the recording of the song. at first, none of the group recognised him as his appearance had changed so dramatically. Vanetta Fields sings background vocals on this song. She was an “Ikette” backing Ike And Tina Turner, she sung on “Greetings From L.A.” and “Look At The Fool” by Tim Buckley, “Exile On Main Street” by The Rolling Stones, “No Other” by Gene Clark, “Death Of A Ladies Man” by Leonard Cohen, “Full Circle” by The Doors and hundreds of other albums. She was a member of The Blackberries with Clydie King who sings “Abraham, Martin and John” with Bob Dylan on the “Trouble No More” DVD.

“Welcome To The Machine” is the ultimate put down of the music business. “What did you dream? It’s OK we told you what to dream.” Gerald Scarfe produced a violent video to accompany this song. It features an alien creature and rats running around a post-apocalyptic landscape. Smokestacks ooze blood, a tower grows out of a desert and transforms into a screaming monster, which viciously decapitates an unsuspecting man. An ocean of blood turns into thousands of hands until a building appears and flies away. It’s horrible. Clever but horrible. But a great track.

I especially love the title track. For some reason, I especially like the line “Would you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?” What is the correct answer to this question? Personally I don’t want either thank you. When a temporarily re-formed Pink Floyd played the song at Live 8, Roger Waters dedicated the song to all the people who weren’t there, especially Syd. However, at other times he has said that the lyrics are directed at himself. Stephane Grappelli plays violin on this song but he is so far down in the mix, it is nigh on impossible to hear him. He was paid £300 but the group felt it would be insulting to credit him when his part had been obliterated so he is not credited. The song has been covered by lots of different people. Miley Cyrus’ version is good! My favourite is by a Montreal choir called “Choir! Choir! Choir!”

I was wrong to lost touch with Steve and Charlotte. I hope they are well. I wish they were here.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

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