The Album That Proved Too Trippy Even For Pink Floyd To Make

The Album That Proved Too Trippy Even For Pink Floyd To Make | I Love Classic Rock Videos

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In the 1970s, Pink Floyd reigned supreme in the progressive rock scene. Hot off the heels of their mega-selling album, Dark Side of the Moon, their influence was undeniable. Posters of the band adorned countless dorm room walls, and aspiring musicians everywhere tried to emulate their innovative recording techniques.

So, what outrageous experiment would these musical pioneers attempt next? Believe it or not, their initial plan was to create an album using nothing but rubber bands and pots and pans!

However, the road to Wish You Were Here was far from smooth. Months of work yielded an album so bizarre that even Pink Floyd themselves deemed it unusable. On top of this artistic hurdle, the band faced a multitude of personal struggles.

Divorces, creative clashes, and the declining health of a close confidant threatened to derail the entire project. Considering these challenges, it’s almost a miracle that Wish You Were Here ever saw the light of day.

The Dark Side of the Moon Was A Prog Monolith That Gave The Band Pressure

The Dark Side of the Moon launched Pink Floyd into superstardom. Their previous peak of #46 on the charts was shattered as the album soared to #1, eventually selling a staggering 15 million copies in the US alone. However, this newfound fame and fortune proved unsettling for the band. Bassist Roger Waters even declared it “the end of the road”.

Determined to maintain their innovative edge and recapture the magic of Dark Side, Pink Floyd embarked on a quest for a groundbreaking follow-up. This search for the perfect concept led them back to their experimental roots, a decision that would shape the creation of Wish You Were Here.

They Initially Experimented Using Household Objects To Make Music For The Album

Pink Floyd’s initial concept for Wish You Were Here was a radical departure from their established sound. They envisioned an album devoid of traditional instruments – no guitars, bass, or drums. Instead, they’d explore the sonic possibilities of everyday household items like aerosol cans, forks, and even wine glasses.

However, their ambition went beyond novelty. They meticulously crafted sounds from these unconventional instruments, striving for quality over mere gimmick. Waters reportedly spent days meticulously tuning a “bass” made from a pencil and rubber band, while drummer Nick Mason experimented with deadening the sound of pots and pans to mimic snare drums.

The ‘Household Objects’ Project Failed And Was Scrapped

Despite weeks of dedication to the “Household Objects” project, frustration mounted for Pink Floyd. As Nick Mason later admitted, “We never managed to produce any actual music…” Their efforts yielded minimal results, with Mason estimating they only achieved “a small number of tentative rhythm tracks.”

While this statement might be a slight exaggeration, it reflects the reality. Only a handful of tracks from these sessions have ever seen the light of day, and they sound unfinished compared to the meticulously crafted compositions found on Dark Side of the Moon.

This Unconventional Approach To Making Music Was Not Something New To Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd’s fascination with soundscapes wasn’t born during the “Household Objects” sessions. Their 1970 album, Atom Heart Mother, featured the track “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast”, which incorporated the sounds of frying food and dripping water alongside a musical riff. Delighted with the results, the band continued to experiment with sound effects on future albums.

Clock ticks and the rattle of bullets found their way onto The Dark Side of the Moon, further blurring the lines between music and sonic experiences. There was even an earlier, less ambitious attempt at using household objects as instruments during some 1971 sessions, hinting at the “Household Objects” concept’s lingering appeal.

The Hit The Wall And Were Left Frustrated

Months of experimentation with “Household Objects” took their toll. Frustration became a constant companion, and most of the band was eager to move on. David Gilmour, the band’s guitarist, described the sessions as “rather unsatisfying,” filled with “a lot of the time it would just be like plonky noises.”

Mason likened the project to a “delaying tactic,” a way to avoid the more challenging task of composing proper songs. Keyboardist Richard Wright recounted a pivotal moment where he directly confronted Waters, stating, “Roger, this is insane!” In the end, a collective sense of futility prevailed, and Pink Floyd abandoned the “Household Objects” concept altogether.

They Turned Their Attention To An Album About Absence

The failure of “Household Objects” forced Pink Floyd to re-evaluate their approach to Wish You Were Here. Waters began reflecting on the various “absences” he felt in his life. His marriage was crumbling, he perceived a lack of dedication from his bandmates, and he deeply missed their former bandmate, Syd Barrett, who had left due to mental illness.

Waters believed these themes of loneliness and longing could form a powerful concept for the album. His bandmates, likely relieved to abandon the “Household Objects” experiment, readily agreed. The result? The now-iconic Wish You Were Here, an album that would explore absence, alienation, and the desire for connection.

An Upsetting Visit By Syd Barrett Deeply Affected The Album’s Themes

Syd Barrett was forced to leave the band in 1968 due to mental health struggles exacerbated by drug use. His unreliability, including forgetting to play during shows, made it an impossible situation. Sadly, his condition continued to deteriorate after his departure.

In a poignant and unsettling twist, Barrett made an unannounced visit to a 1975 Wish You Were Here recording session. The band members, who hadn’t seen him in years, barely recognized him. He’d shaved his head and eyebrows, and gained a significant amount of weight.  Reportedly, Barrett believed he was there to play guitar. This deeply affecting encounter deeply impacted Pink Floyd, inspiring thematic changes within the album.

Half Of The Album Was A Sprawling Nine-Part Tribute To Syd

“Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, the heart of Wish You Were Here, is a sprawling nine-part epic clocking in at over 26 minutes. Its sparse lyrics paint a portrait of someone losing touch with reality, yet retaining a special, unique place in the world. The psychedelic guitar work and the dedication from Pink Floyd leave little doubt: this is a tribute to Syd.

While the title track itself isn’t about a specific person, David Gilmour later admitted, “I can’t sing it without thinking about Syd.” The haunting beauty and underlying sadness of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” encapsulate the complex emotions surrounding Syd’s absence and the band’s enduring connection to their former leader.

The Tensions From ‘Household Objects’ Remained And Slowly Tore The Band Apart

The creative struggles that doomed the “Household Objects” concept lingered even after Pink Floyd abandoned pots and pans. Waters’ growing influence became a point of contention, particularly with Gilmour. Two of Gilmour’s songs were replaced with Waters’ “absence-themed” pieces following a vote by Mason and Wright, much to Gilmour’s frustration.

Further tension arose with the track “Have a Cigar”. Originally intended for Waters’ vocals, the band embraced the opportunity to have veteran rocker Roy Harper lend his voice when he happened to be in the studio. Despite Waters’ disapproval, Harper’s vocals remained on the final album cut.

The ‘Man On Fire’ On The Cover Was Real

The iconic cover art for Wish You Were Here was crafted by Hipgnosis, the design studio behind many of Pink Floyd’s previous album covers. Drawing inspiration from the album’s lyrics, the central image features a handshake – one participant engulfed in flames. This symbolizes the fear of emotional vulnerability and the potential to be “burned” when expressing true feelings.

The photograph itself was captured at Warner Bros. Studios in California. Stuntmen Ronnie Rondell and Danny Rogers donned business attire for the shoot. In a testament to the image’s commitment to realism, Rondell was genuinely set ablaze. The first attempt proved a bit too real, with wind whipping flames towards his face and singeing his mustache.

It Achieved Massive Success But It Also Changed Pink Floyd

While not quite reaching the stratospheric heights of Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here achieved commercial success, topping charts in both the US and UK. Reviews were generally positive, though some offered mixed reactions. Despite this, Pink Floyd’s live shows continued to be sell-out spectacles worldwide. This success, however, marked a turning point for the band.

Roger Waters’ influence grew, shaping the direction of their next three albums. The focus shifted from primarily instrumental explorations to a heavier emphasis on lyrics. Pink Floyd, previously known for their more neutral approach, became a vocal force, tackling themes of human nature, the music industry’s pitfalls, and corporate greed.

It Led To The Band’s Awe-Inspiring Stagecraft

Pink Floyd were no strangers to touring by 1975, having honed their live act for nearly a decade. However, this is when they truly embraced the awe-inspiring stagecraft that would become synonymous with their shows.

Their Wish You Were Here tour featured a massive 40-foot circular screen that wrapped around the stage, projecting captivating animations and film clips tailored to each song. Combined with lasers, fog effects, and pyrotechnics, the band’s exit punctuated by a blinding spotlight on a mirror ball, these elements created a truly spectacular visual experience.