“Wish You Were Here” is the title track on Pink Floyd’s 1975 album. The song’s lyrics encompass writer Roger Waters‘ feelings of alienation from other people, drawing particular inspiration from his old friend Syd Barrett, the founder of Pink Floyd who left the band due to mental health issues. The song forms part of a concept album focusing on absence and disenchantment with the music industry. The song “Shine on you Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-9)” was already an homage to Syd, while this one also grieves his absence. The other two songs on the album (“Welcome to the Machine” and “Have a Cigar”) express the band’s newfound distaste for the pressures of the music industry, pressures that they feel helped cause Syd to crack, thus tying the album together as a coherent piece. David Gilmour and Roger Waters collaborated to write the music.
This was a rare case of the Pink Floyd primary songwriters Roger Waters and David Gilmour mutually collaborating on a song – they rarely wrote together. Gilmour had the opening riff written and was playing it in the studio at a fast pace when Roger Waters heard it and asked him to play it slower. The song built from there, with the pair writing the music for the chorus and verses together, and Waters adding the lyrics.
The song reflected the feeling of the band while they were recording the album. Waters felt they were not putting a full effort into the recording sessions.
When this song starts, it sounds like it is coming from an AM radio somewhere in the distance. It represents the distance between the listener and the music.
At 42 seconds, you can also hear Richard Wright cough. When he heard the song later, it inspired him to quit smoking.
While not a single upon release, it earned this status with a version recorded on the live album Pulse, where the cover depicted two lost souls staring into fish bowls.