Monday, September 15, 1975

Pink Floyd released Wish You Were Here: September 15, 1975

Orginally posted September 15, 2012.

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Release date: 15 September 1975
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Pts. 1-5 / Welcome to the Machine / Have a Cigar / Wish You Were Here / Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Pts. 6-9

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, -- UK, 21.3 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 12 US, 11 UK


Review: Pink Floyd had been around since the mid-‘60s, finally scoring their commercial breakthrough with 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon. In the wake of Dark Side’s monstrous success, the band were left drained and stressed by the pressure to match it. Singer/songwriter and bassist Roger Waters described the early attempts to record a follow-up as “torturous.” WK Both he and drummer Nick Mason were suffering through marriages which eventually ended in divorce. Singer/guitarist David Gilmour quarreled with Waters over the band’s musical direction and was frustrated with the “general malaise and sense of apathy.” WK

However, in the midst of “these volatile relationships, Waters found his grand theme for Wish You Were Here: the music business itself, and its tendency to crush the dreams of those who pursue fame, fortune and a chance at creative self-expression.” GW It gave him leeway to explore his frustration with the band’s disintegrating camaraderie and the drug-induced mental breakdown of Syd Barrett, one of the band’s founders and its original frontman. Barrett had cracked under the pressure of stardom and Waters painted him as “a messianic martyr to the soulless mechanisms of the music biz.” GW The cover art, which featured two businessmen – one on fire – shaking hands, reflected the idea of people hiding their real feelings out of fear of getting burned. WK

Wish “takes everything the band learned in the studio on Dark Side…to the next level.” IGN “The long, winding soundscapes are constantly enthralling” AMG and make the album “warmer than its predecessor.” AMG The album “is big and ambitious, even bombastic, [but] dodges being pretentious – the Barrett tributes are honest and heartfelt, beneath all the grand gestures and stereophonic trickery.” AZ The album may even be more more impressive musically than Dark Side as it showcases “the group’s interplay and…Gilmour’s solos in particular.” AMG He gets “lots of space for his most lyrical guitar playing ever” AZ and he “shoot[s] rays of light and glimpses of hope throughout the album.” GW The band once again made effective use of synthesizers and studio effects to create a production that was “sparkling, convoluted, [and] designed to sound deeply oh-wow under the influence – and pretty great sober too.” AZ Gilmour and keyboardist Richard Wright have both declared Wish You Were Here their favorite Pink Floyd album. WK

Shine on You Crazy Diamond (live, 1994)

Shine On You Crazy Diamond kicks things off with more than eight minutes of instrumentation before the listener gets any lyrics. It ranks among Gilmour’s “greatest guitar work.” GW Gilmour stumbled across the phrase, but with Water’s positive encouragement, the song was fleshed into the album’s centerpiece. When its two halves are taken together as a whole, the mostly-instrumental twenty-minute piece is similar to the band’s earlier work “Echoes.” The opening four-note guitar phrase reminded Waters of Barrett, so the song became one of “two, long touching [songs] about the band’s vanished friend.” AZ He is fondly recalled via phrases like “Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun” and “You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.” Waters said the song wasn’t really about Syd, but that he was “a symbol for all the extremes of absence some people have to indulge in because it’s the only way they can cope.” WK

The “ominous” GW Welcome to the Machine “begins with the opening of a door – described by Waters as a symbol of musical discovery and progress betrayed by a music industry more interested in greed and success. The song ends with sounds from a party, epitomising ‘the lack of contact and real feelings between people’.” WK

Welcome to the Machine

Both that song and the “unctuously disquieting” GW Have a Cigar “rank among Waters’ darkest compositions.” GW Like “Machine,” it lambasts the music business and works with “Shine On” to offer “an apt summary of the rise and fall of Barrett.” WK It also humorously asks “By the way, which one is Pink?,” a question frequently asked of the band. Thanks to Waters’ limited vocal range and the stress he’d already caused his voice recording “Shine On,” Gilmour was asked to sing the song. When he declined, friend Roy Harper was tapped – a move Waters later regretted as he believed he should have sung it himself. WK

Have a Cigar

On Wish You Were Here, Waters not only reflects on Barrett, but his own nature as both an idealist and domineering personality. WK Waters “seems keenly aware of the dangers of falling over the edge.” GW “The opening bars of ‘Wish You Were Here’ were recorded from Gilmour’s car radio, with somebody turning the dial (the classical music heard is the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony).” WK

Wish You Were Here

The album didn’t initially receive uniformly positive critical praise, but was an immediate commercial success. It went straight to the top of the UK charts with advance orders of 250,000. In the U.S., the album’s 900,000 in advance orders were the largest ever for a Columbia release. WK

Legend has it that Barrett made a surprise visit to the studio during the recording of the album. While the band were completing a final mix of “Shine On,” an overweight man with his head and eyebrows shaved entered the room. Initially the band didn’t recognize him. Mason recalled in Inside Out (2005) that Barrett’s conversation was “desultory and not entirely sensible.” WK Storm Thorgerson echoed Mason, saying, Barrett “He sat round and talked for a bit but he wasn’t really there.’” WK Barrett showed up again at Gilmour’s wedding reception, left without saying goodbye, and wasn’t seen again by any of the band.

Clips from various songs (animated video short)

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Saturday, September 13, 1975

Bruce Springsteen starts a “Run” on the charts

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Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run”

Writer(s): Bruce Springsteen (see lyrics here)

Released: 8/25/1975, First charted: 9/13/1975

Peak: 23 US, 16 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): 39.8

Review: Springsteen took six months to write TB-159 and 3 ½ to record RS500 his bonafide classic. The song underwent fifty pages of fine-tuning in his notebook TB-159 as he crafted his tale of the ficticious Wendy KN and the “young lovers on the highways of New Jersey.” RS500 However, as he told Rolling Stone, “I don’t know how important the settings are…It’s the idea behind the settings. It could be New Jersey, it could be California, it could be Alaska.” RS500

Indeed, “Born to Run” was more about a philosophy than a place. It served as more than just The Boss’ signature song – it was his declarative anthem about outwardly rebelling against whatever held back those young, romantic New Jersians. Part of the reason the song became such a touchstone for people, though, is because of “an equally powerful melancholy; the future seems so bright largely because the present’s so dismal.” MA-23

Beyond the lyrics, though, this was also Springsteen’s ode to the musical giants who’d shaped him. The song comes complete with a “seven-layer Duane Eddy guitar lick with Dylanesque lyrics, Roy Orbison vocal histrionics, ...Stones-style rhythm section, [and a] King Curtis sax break.” MA-23 It’s all stitched together with a Phil Spector-esque Wall of Sound – “strings, glockenspiel, multiple keyboards – and more than a dozen guitar tracks.” RS500 The result is a song with “the audible ambition of recapitulating the first twenty-some years of rock and roll.” MA-23

Springsteen had released two albums to critical acclaim, but low sales. “Born to Run” was what he called his “shot at the title…at the greatest rock ’n’ roll record ever.” TB-159 His first live performance of the song convinced rock critic Jon Landau, who later became Bruce’s manager. When Landau caught The Boss opening for Bonnie Raitt on May 9, 1974, he wrote in the Real Paper out of Boston: “ I saw rock and roll’s future – and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” SF

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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.