by Lawrence J. J. Leonard
Is there any significant difference between longing, yearning, and pining. Each word gives a feeling of separation, emptiness, incompleteness or even loss. Why do Humans have such feelings and dreams and fears? These emotions often propel us into that place where being away from a loved one can invoke physical pain. Is it because we were designed this way? Was it a set of learned combinations?
Human societies must have suffered a lot in order to teach the next generation to be mindful of sadness. We still glorify pain and loss in our stories and songs today. When was the first time these words were ever spoken: “I miss you” ? We may have uttered this phrase aloud after reading a letter from someone far away. Or, we could have longed, yearned, and pined for a loved one after discovering that they were undergoing a difficult trial or some extreme hardship.
Our best artists use musical instruments to generate vibrations mimicking groans that excite the brain. These sounds invite use to relive our valuable memories. Mellow tones for self-awareness and high shrill vibrations for self-preservation. Distinctive melodies cause us to feel both joy and pain. David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright of Pink Floyd the progressive rock band constantly were constantly perfecting a combination of sounds to evoke emotion. This was evident in the group’s ninth studio album “Wish You Were Here.” It was released in the UK on the Harvest Record label, and on Columbia Records in the USA. Neither company could keep up with the public’s demand for the it. The saddest song on the record asked the most questions.
In 1975 Roger was inspired to arrange the album’s song set. He intentionally split up the tune “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” into two parts. These became bookends for the entire work. This song was a tribute to former band member Syd Barrett. His mental breakdown forced his departure seven years earlier.
The “Wish You Were Here” album fused orchestrated rock riffs with a type of lonely vibee that rock music fans still appreciate. Hard rock rhythms and guitar effects with accompanying mournful lyrics of anguish. Most of the effects were fine tuned to create sounds that mirrored real life: a radio speaker’s output, the wind that overtakes a pathway, the sound of an elevator, a crowded room of partygoers, and echoes.
The track that demanded the most effort was produced and re-produced until it was eventually stripped down to its elemental chords and acoustic essence. This song probed the most vulnerable of conditions, “Has your experienced changed you?” This is the question that loved ones most desire to know after a separation. Is it wrong to be so curious about someone we care about?
The title track is “Wish you were here. (unplugged version)” It was the second track on the second side of the album, a curious position for a song intened to be a hit. When released as a single in the fall of 1975 it climbed its way to the #13 position on the US Billboard Rock charts. It has been ranked #324 on the Rolling Stone magazine list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
So many ideas were thrown at the tune during production, from jazz violin to “country fiddle” to pedal steel overtones. The original version has recorded reception of a car radio throughout the song’s intro. “Wish you were here – album version.” It was David’s 12-string guitar that became the basis for the song’s recognizable open. It was processed to make it sound like the strumming was coming out of a car radio of the 1970s. A sound within a sound. Or, a musical picture in a picture – a technique copied visually by the American TV series Modern Family intro. By the time of the album’s release, the decision was made to let the sound-within-a-sound effect stand on its own.
We are like that most times. We put all of our hopes and fears into the projects we work on. If we are passionate enough, we invest these into our relationships, our children, our jobs, or our lives. It is easy when we have aspiriations for ourselves and decide where to go and how to get there. It is quite a different matter when we pin our hopes on our loved ones and worry if they stay strong when we are not together. If we reunite, we hope their experiences did not hurt or scar them. When we are not able to reunite, we can only let the universe know that we wished with our hearts that they could be near once again.
Lyrics written by David Gilmour and Roger Waters
So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.
Copyright © 1960-2018 Lawrence J. J. Leonard All rights reserved.