A diver makes a perfectly perpendicular and splash-less entry into a crystal blue lake that reflects the diver’s legs with mirror-like verisimilitude. Two businessmen dressed in suits shake hands in the middle of a parking lot; one of the men is engulfed in flames. “Whoa, that is so cooool !” we exclaimed in September 1975 when my friend and I saw the album cover art for Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd’s newly-released and my friend’s just-purchased follow-up to Dark Side of the Moon. In the store, the album was covered with dark blue shrink wrap, so the cool photos were not accessible until after the album was purchased, adding to the “coolness” of the packaging, which was created by Hipgnosis, the legendary masters of 1970’s album cover art. As we gawked at the Flaming Man Photo, a thin black disc appeared at the opening of the sleeve. “Oh yeah, there’s a record in here too!”
The album’s first track, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, had such a cool title we were predisposed to proclaim the song as brilliant even before we heard the first note. “Welcome To the Machine” and “Have a Cigar” were soooo cooool too, man. What about the title track? “Ehhhhh, it’s ok. Kinda slow.” You are correct–we were complete idiots in 1975. Our fickle and impressionable junior high school brains had been Grand Funk Railroaded and Bachman Turner Overdrived and Bad Companied and Top Fortied into a warped perspective of quality music.
In our defense, “Crazy Diamond” really was brilliant, and “Machine” and “Cigar” indeed were cool, although with hindsight they are more accurately described as well-crafted novelties. However, we were way off base with our assessment of the title track on Wish You Were Here. Co-written by Pink Floyd front men David Gilmour and Roger Waters and beautifully sung by Gilmour, the song endured the indifference of teenage would-be music critics and stands to this day as one of Floyd’s best songs.
In short, tonight’s FNWGG features David Gilmour giving an incredible performance of an incredible song. If this performance had been described to you without mentioning the song’s title or the name of the band that recorded it, saying only that it features a cello, an upright bass, a twelve string acoustic rhythm guitar and a six string acoustic lead guitar played by a member of one of the best rock bands ever, most likely you would have been all in to see it. And you would not be disappointed.