On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
We’re heading back to the UK today, dear reader, and we’re in London to check back in with Pink Floyd. When we last saw them it was in 1967 with the UK Top 10 hit, See Emily Play. When we rejoin the Floyd in 1975 they have survived the departure of their talisman, Syd Barrett, in 1968, and hit the big time in 1973 with the huge selling album, The Dark Side of the Moon. We pick up their story with the release of the album, Wish You Were Here, a difficult follow-up to their previous record and one that 1001 Songs have lifted the title track from.
I am currently working through all of Pink Floyd’s albums as part of a personal pilgrimage through their music and it has been a life-changing experience for me thus far. Although The Dark Side of the Moon helped to fulfil the group’s wildest dreams, the fame and the exposure destroyed the harmony that existed between them, their aversion to the music industry being captured in the Wish You Were Here album. The title track itself was written by Roger Waters and David Gilmour and is open to interpretation. On the one hand it’s seen as the group saying they miss Syd Barrett who was not with them to share in their 1973 success and Gilmour has said he always thought of Barrett when singing it. Waters, on the other hand, wrote the lyrics to describe a feeling of alienation, especially from the rest of the band. The song is pivotal in Pink Floyd’s back catalogue for it indicates the changing mood between the members, how disconnected they were from one another and how things would never be the same again. The song asks questions of whether we still feel things the same, such as can we “tell a green field from a cold steel rail” or “blue skies from pain.” It feels like Roger Waters was searching for something, perhaps for Syd Barrett, but also for those emotions he once had before major success and being immersed in the greedy clutches of the record industry left him feeling empty and raw. When you think of it like that, the title becomes even more sombre. Perhaps the “you” of the title actually being oneself, the person you once were gone and never to return.
Wish You Were Here was one of the few songs by Pink Floyd I knew prior to starting my journey through their music. That odyssey is ongoing but it’s been a rewarding trip so far. Despite the plethora of new songs I have immersed myself in, Wish You Were Here remains one of my favourites from the group. Having the opportunity to research the track further has only emphasised how much I love it but it’s also extremely poignant as it reflects a change in the serenity and cohesion between the members of Pink Floyd. It’s ironic that success should ruin rather than strengthen the band. What followed was Roger Waters dominating the group, firing Richard Wright in 1979, and ending the band in 1985 with his own departure. However, much to Waters’ chagrin, David Gilmour and Nick Mason continued Pink Floyd, bringing Wright back into the fold, but the success of the 1970s was never something they could regain with their albums which was a great shame, but they continued to sell out stadiums until the group’s official end in 2014. With Barrett having died in 2006 and Wright in 2008, Pink Floyd are sadly gone for good. I wish they were here.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us (1974)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)