Wish You Were Here—Experience Edition
In the pantheon of gargantuan classic rock records, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, is a bona fide, mega-monster. Given its ubiquitousness on the airwaves to this day, it’s a safe bet that many of us could go without hearing a single WYWH track and do just fine. While the fine re-mastering job here will make many of these songs a fresh listen again, the real treat of this edition is Disc 2, on which we get to hear the Floyd shaping tracks from WYWH and 1977’s Animals in their preferred laboratory—the stage.
It’s virtually inconceivable to imagine a band of Pink Floyd’s stature undertaking such an experiment in the modern age, when fans count on greatest hits sets to justify big ticket prices. But here we hear the Floyd just a year on the heels of their platinum breakthrough Dark Side of the Moon, trying out a new sprawling epic called “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” David Gilmour has not yet worked out the flourishes that Floyd heads now know note for note, and his tone is more blues grit than the illuminated alien dew droplets we now associate with the tune. But there is a rough beauty to the version that’s a thrill to behold.
More interesting still are two early attempts (from the same 1974 Wembley date) at what would become “Sheep” and “Dogs” on Animals—known here as “Raving and Drooling” and “You’ve Got To Be Crazy.” The former is slower here and more plodding and less funky that what it would become, that is, until we reach Gilmour’s descending chord outro, where the band kicks into the groove that would ultimately define the best-known version. “You’ve Got To Be Crazy” is jazzier and considerably less menacing than “Dogs.” And Gilmour’s cluttered, scat-styled vocal is awkward and klutzy when juxtaposed against the streamlined architecture of the Animals track. The point here, however, is not perfection, but a fascinating glimpse of a band at work and on the move—at a time when superstars and open-minded audiences could share in the creative process. —Charles Saufley
Must-hear track: “Wish You Were Here” (with Stéphane Grappelli)