Classic Album covers : Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd

Wish You Were Here is the ninth studio album by Pink Floyd and was released in September 1975

At the time, the members of the group were having difficulty keeping their private lives together and the band intact.  The theme of the album duly surfaced as ‘absence’

On one level, it’s about the withdrawal from reality of Syd Barrett, the group’s eccentric, departed founder. In a more general sense, “it was about the end of relationships,” says Storm Thorgerson, who worked on the album in conjunction with his associates in Hipgnosis. “Sometimes when a relationship has ended, it’s as though the other person isn’t really there anymore.”

In keeping with the times, the package was an expensive, time-consuming production. “We decided not to do something that was commercial,” says Thorgerson. “We wanted to be a bit more indulgent and arty.”

They went as far as to conceal the package in a dark shrink-wrap so that the album itself was, in a sense, absent. “The president of CBS at the time thought we were completely nuts,” Thorgerson says, laughing. Under the wrap are four bizarre photographs, each keyed to the central theme. The most striking, on the cover itself, depicts a man engulfed in flames shaking hands with a man in a business suit. “The fire was a symbol for getting burned or hurt in a relationship,” Thorgerson says. As for the handshake, he says, “it’s regarded sometimes as a very false communication, especially in America, where a lot of hand-shaking goes on.”

“Getting burned” was also a common phrase in the music industry, used often by artists denied royalty payments. Two stuntmen were used (Ronnie Rondell and Danny Rogers), one dressed in a fire-retardant suit covered by a business suit. His head was protected by a hood, underneath a wig. The photograph was taken at the Warner Brothersstudios in Los Angeles. Initially the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, and the flames were forced into Rondell’s face, burning his moustache. The two stuntmen changed positions, and the image was later reversed

Another photograph shows a man diving into a lake without creating a splash. “Is he there?” says Thorgerson. “In a sense, you might say there are no traces of his presence.”

The album’s back cover depicts a faceless “Floyd salesman”, offering the viewer a copy of Wish You Were Here, presumably at a nifty price; in Thorgerson’s words “selling his soul” in the desert (‘earth’). The absence of wrists and ankles signifies his presence as an “empty suit”.

The inner sleeve shows a veil in a windswept Norfolk grove and represents air, and a splash-less diver on the liner notes represents water and again emphasising the theme of absence

Oddly enough, Syd Barrett, the subject of the album’s major opus, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” turned up unannounced in the studio when the band members were recording the vocals.  he hadn’t been seen for about 7 years. he looked pale and vacant and asked if he could help. There was nothing he could do

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February 23, 2012

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