I honestly don't know what Rolling Stone was thinking when it ranked "Wish You Were Here," the Pink Floyd album that hit the record stores 40 years ago today, #211. I think it deserved to be ranked higher — much higher.
I mean, imagine the challenge. Whatever Pink Floyd did would be the followup to "Dark Side of the Moon." It was probably inevitable that, whatever Pink Floyd did, it wouldn't measure up to "Dark Side of the Moon" with critics or consumers. In some ways, I suppose that is true. It probably doesn't measure up. Some have acclaimed "Dark Side of the Moon" as the greatest album ever recorded, and I would agree that it is one of the greatest albums ever recorded, for there are many that are deserving of that recognition.
Including, I think, "Wish You Were Here." I have long felt it was necessary to have both in my collection.
I have regarded "Have a Cigar" as my favorite track from the album, but it is really hard to beat the title track, "Wish You Were Here," and any Pink Floyd fan will tell you that the 26–minute "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is a Floyd classic, even if it was divided to bookend three other compositions.
I've always liked the relaxed sensation I get when I listen to this album. It is a pure, honest expression of human emotion, and Allmusic.com's Stephen Thomas Erlewine touched on that when he wrote that "the jazzy textures of 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond' reveal its melodic motif, and in its leisurely pace, the album shows itself to be a warmer record than its predecessor."
Pink Floyd has always been the most cerebral band I have ever heard. No one else even comes close. Listening to Pink Floyd, even listening to an album I have heard many times before, is new and special each time because the music encourages a free association of thought that is entirely dependent upon the state of mind of the listener.
And, in that sense, my favorite line from "Have a Cigar," which lampoons the recording industry — "Oh, by the way, which one's Pink?" — poses an appropriate question. If the experience is different each time, which one is Pink? And the answer, of course, is all of them.
"Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is Pink Floyd's magic carpet ride.
But don't dismiss "Wish You Were Here," Floyd's tribute to Syd Barrett, "the long and probably forever lost guiding light of the original Floyd," wrote Ben Edmonds of Rolling Stone. It shows the melancholy, introspective side of Pink Floyd's music.
Actually, it is not so much Pink Floyd's tribute as it Roger Waters'. The lyrics are his, and they embrace his emerging sense of estrangement. David Gilmour contributed the musical framework and has said that "Wish You Were Here" is his favorite Pink Floyd album. Pink Floyd's late keyboardist Richard Wright reportedly said the same thing.
I've always felt "Wish You Were Here" was a triumph for Pink Floyd — both the album and its title track.