It is both interesting and somewhat telling that Eagle Rock’s Pink Floyd documentary The Story Of Wish You Were Here both begins and ends with footage of the band performing “Wish You Were Here” during their reunion at 2005′s massive Live 8 benefit show.
The footage of Floyd’s first performance together in 24 years is interesting mainly because it mirrors the way that the two parts of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” bookend the Wish You Were Here album itself — a decision that ultimately broke a creative logjam in the recording studio during its creation. Its one of many subjects discussed at considerable length here by the band members on this eye-opening DVD.
What makes this particularly telling however, is the sight of Roger Waters and David Gilmour with their arms around each other at the gig — especially given their long, well documented history of personal and legal acrimony in the post-Floyd years. Even more fascinating though, is the fact that in new interviews conducted for this DVD, the two often have complimentary, if not quite affectionate, things to say about each other.
While the odds on any new Waters/Gilmour collaborative project coming anytime soon are probably still a long shot at best, this is just one of the things that makes The Story Of Wish You Were Here such a fascinating, revealing documentary. Much of this film follows a format similar to Eagle Rock’s Classic Albums albums series — those obligatory, boring shots of the producer sitting behind the recording console for instance.
But what sets this one apart from the paint-by-numbers Classic Albums mold are the often revealing details and insights from Waters and Gilmour in particular.
This DVD provides much in the way of new details about the making of Wish You Were Here. This includes how the song “Shine You Crazy Diamond,” and the decision by Waters to split the song into the two sections which ended up bookending the album, became the lynch-pin in the records final completion. Gilmour and Waters, along with Nick Mason and the late Richard Wright (in one of his final interviews) also talk about how the band jettisoned two other songs to make room for “Shine On” (most likely “You Gotta Be Crazy” and “Raving And Drooling,” which both later ended up on 1977′s Animals as part of the songs “Dogs” and “Sheep”).
There are other new revelations here as well, such as how parts of what were previously widely believed to be Roger Waters vocal on the song “Have A Cigar,” were actually sung by Roy Harper (who is also interviewed). Other fun stuff here includes interviews with the original “burning man” of the iconic album cover, who reveals that he actually was set on fire for the photo shoot. There is even an outtake photo from the session which shows his smoking foot fleeing the scene of the crime.
Floyd fans should also appreciate the rare live footage of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd — which is much clearer than what has previously been available mainly on bootlegs. The only drawback here is that this rare footage is also frustratingly short, coming in short snippets that leave you salivating for more.
The segments with Gerald Scarfe, the political cartoonist who began working with Pink Floyd during Wish You Were Here, also provided a nice trip down memory lane. His animated images of the “Sandman,” the sea of blood, and the falling leaf which morphs into a tumbling man, brought back vivid memories of seeing Pink Floyd on the Wish You Were Here tour. I remember being absolutely hypnotized by the way those images were so perfectly synchronized to the music on that tour.
But again, it is the interviews with Waters and Gilmour that make The Story of Wish You Were Here such a keeper for Pink Floyd fans. Their recollections of how the songs on Wish You Were Here, with their primary themes of loss and absence (mainly that of original visionary, turned acid-casualty Syd Barrett) and a general disdain for the music business (“Have A Cigar,” “Welcome To The Machine”), provide new insight into the creative process behind this seminal rock masterpiece.
There is one particularly haunting story about the day Syd Barrett unexpectedly showed up at the sessions, looking so different from the former bandmate Pink Floyd once knew that Nick Mason didn’t even recognize him (there’s also a photo of a psychotic looking Syd from that day, complete with shaved eyebrows). There is also a mercifully brief segment where Syd’s final attempt at recording new music is heard for what I’m assuming is the first time.
DVD extras on The Story Of Wish You Were Here include new solo recordings of the song “Wish You Were Here” from both Gilmour and Waters (whose vocal is more like a raspy near-whisper), as well as interviews with the band members which weren’t included in the original cable TV broadcast on VH1.