Pink Floyd are one of the most influential bands of all time. Their long and winding career produced some of the most iconic and essential pieces of popular music ever produced, and on the other hand, some of the worst music we’ve ever heard, but we shan’t talk about that.
Their first iteration, as psychedelic pioneers in the mid-1960s, a time when fronted by Syd Barrett, was momentous in helping to establish some of the most important hallmarks of what came to be known as psychedelic rock.
After Barrett’s well-publicised departure from the band in April 1968, the era of the Gilmour-Waters partnership began, and this would give Pink Floyd their most important period. They would release two records after Barrett’s departure, More and Ummagumma, both in 1969, before kicking off the ’70s with Atom Heart Mother.
Arguably a band of the ’70s, throughout the decade they could do no wrong artistically and went on what is perhaps the most consistent run of form that a band has ever had. It started with 1971’s Meddle and ended with 1979’s rock opera, The Wall, releases that would cement their legacy into the annals of rock music history.
One interesting point about this period is that the band’s follow up to The Dark Side of the Moon, 1975’s Wish You Were Here, received mixed reviews from critics and fans upon release, with many citing the significance of its predecessor as being unmatched. This is strange, as in many ways, Wish You Were Here can be taken as somewhat of a sister album to The Dark Side, touching on similar topics, coloured by the sadness that Barrett’s departure and health struggles stoked in the band.
Retrospectively, it is one of the most universally acclaimed records of all time and is hailed as a must-have for every rock fan. Possibly the most introspective the band ever travelled, it deals with loneliness, absence and mental torment in a more subtle way than its predecessor, but is similar to it in the way that the themes it touches on are universal, and most can understand them in some capacity. This is perhaps why it has aged like a fine wine.
Regardless of the somewhat lukewarm critical reviews, the album still went to number one on both sides of the Atlantic, with EMI, the parent company of Floyd’s record label, Harvest, unable to keep up with the demand. The band were also confident in what they had made, with both David Gilmour and keyboardist Richard Wright citing it as their favourite Pink Floyd album.
In 2011, Gilmour told Paul Rappaport that by the time the band had come to add the tracks ‘Have A Cigar’ and ‘Welcome to the Machine’ the band were “working on all cylinders”.
There’s a reason why Wish You Were Here endures to this day. The album caught the band at their most candid, and this honesty shines through and gives the album an edge that even The Dark Side does not have. For Gilmour and Wright to perceive it as their favourite Pink Floyd album also says a great deal.
It caught them at the point just before they went increasingly prog, and they managed to retain but augment the magic of The Dark Side of the Moon. They poured themselves into the record. Arguably, this was Pink Floyd at their creative zenith.