David Gilmour describes the beginning of studio sessions for Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here on Jan. 6, 1975 as both "difficult" and "painful."

The band should have felt confident, given the incredible success of their most recent album, The Dark Side of the Moon. "No, very much not like that!" Gilmour told Paul Rappaport, with a hearty laugh. "We were clueless for a long time, faffing about blindly trying to find a way forward."

Despite recording in what Gilmour termed "a shitty little hole," however, things got better: "That started quite painfully. It was difficult and we didn't know what we were doing," Gilmour said. "But by the time we added songs like 'Have a Cigar,' we were firing on all cylinders."

Then Pink Floyd hit another bump when Gilmour and bassist Roger Waters got into an argument over the track listing. "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" was set to become the album's centerpiece, but the band had also worked up early versions of two other songs which eventually ended up on their next album, 1977's Animals.

"Roger wanted to drop the one that became 'Dogs' and the one that was called 'Sheep,'" Gilmour remembered. "We had some arguing about that for a while. He was right; I was wrong. That's not the first time that happened."

Things went far more smoothly when it came to pairing Wish You Were Here with its famous album art, created by Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis. "[He] came in, as he would on every album, and would talk to us about what the album was about and what we were trying to get to," Gilmour said. "The theme of the album was absence, so you have a person swimming with an absence of water, a suit with an absence of a person."

Wish You Were Here eventually became Pink Floyd's second consecutive chart-topping album, going six-times platinum along the way. Expanded two-disc and box set editions of the project were released in 2011.


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