Loss is the overarching theme of the records included in our Pink Floyd vinyl bundle. Sure for any basic fan of Pink Floyd we know “Wish you were here" is about Syd Barrett, thats easy but really with all three of these records we are missing a key member or collaborator of the band in one capacity or another.
Wish you were here, a record written based off an accidental 4 note live improvisation, was a record that had so much pressure to follow up Dark Side- their seminal moment as a band. The 4 notes harvested from a live record that would eventually become the refrain for Shine On You Crazy Diamond, had reminded Waters of a Syd Barretts’ compositional aesthetic, thus the album became a requiem to their ‘alive only in physical form’ but very much gone, friend and former leader.
After a solemn symphonic journey though the intro, the iconic four notes when they finally materialize, is an almost terrifying moment- terrifying the way an epiphany hits you, like an apparition from a deity, and now you have a purpose.
Imagine the first minutes of this song, as Pink Floyd (cue synth drone strings) a band with massive pressure to follow up a major record (cue curious dry guitar lead), in this very unclear space (drop the faders) and then suddenly, visited by a ghost (four notes), that polarizing moment, clarity (drum fill) execute. The way this hits the listener must have been very much how the band felt when they got a surprise visit from Barrett during the recording of the song. This encounter deeply troubled Waters and would for years to come.
Sightings of Barrett can also be picked out in Pink, the hero in the story for The Wall- a character coping with the death of his father and the pressure of super stardom, withdrawing himself from emotion and society behind a wall of apathy.
Following the recording and due to his lack of interest and input on the albums composition, Wright was quietly asked to leave the band. So really this record was essentially made without a key member of the band. Wright would tour for this album but as a hired gun, and at this point the band is so at odds with one another, they would all travel in separate winnebagos and often get separate hotels.
As with the Beatles, you can always hear what songs were written by each member with really only a cursory understanding of the band. “Young Lust" is quintessentially a Gilmore song, in all its hormone driven rock regalia, and then in its inverse, “Nobody Home” is a fragile narrative that really locks in the type of storyteller Waters was.
Gilmore would soon become this storyteller, with audible growth on his solo album and then “momentary lapse of reason” (the bands first post-Waters record). But it wasn’t until “The Division Bell” that Gilmore really lands it. I mean you still have the smokey rock club sex addled jammers like “What do you want from me” but then he follows it up with a really new voice on “Poles Apart.” Real optimism in the track but also very fragile subject matter. And really you have everything you want from a Pink Floyd song on this record- strange interludes, dangling in uncertainty that are then swept back up in driving rhythms and soaring rifts … very much like ‘Wish you were here,’ but much more mature and from a different perspective.