"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 at home, while playing on an acoustic guitar, and it became something which he continued to play in-between takes at Abbey Road Studios where it caught the attention of Roger Waters. 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. The radio was recorded from Gilmour's car radio. 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".
The song borrows the imagery of a "steel rail" from Syd Barrett's solo song, "If It's In You," from The Madcap Laughs album.
It is said that the sound of David Gilmour coughing on the intro to the track made him stop smoking.
Wish You Were Here is the ninth studio album by English progressive rock group Pink Floyd, released in September 1975. Inspired by material they composed while performing across Europe, it was recorded over numerous sessions at London's Abbey Road Studios. The album explores themes of absence, the music business, and former band-mate Syd Barrett's mental decline. Early sessions were a difficult and arduous process but it was Roger Waters' idea to split the centrepiece track "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" in two, and join each half with three new compositions. "Shine On" was a tribute to Barrett, who, in an ironic twist, made an impromptu visit to the studio while it was being recorded. The band failed initially to recognise Barrett, who had gained weight and changed in appearance.
As in their previous work, The Dark Side of the Moon, the band made use of studio effects and synthesizers. Roy Harper was a guest vocalist on "Have a Cigar". The album packaging, again designed by Storm Thorgerson, featured an opaque black sleeve inside which was hidden the album artwork. Wish You Were Here premièred at Knebworth in July 1975, and was released in September that year. It was an instant success; record company EMI was unable to print enough copies to satisfy the demand. Initially receiving mixed reviews, the album has since been voted to the 209th place on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Band members Richard Wright and David Gilmour have each declared Wish You Were Here their favourite Pink Floyd album.
So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.