What does Wish You Were Here mean?

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Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here Meaning

Song Released: 1975


Wish You Were Here Lyrics

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?
And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    May 4th, 2006 5:22pm report


    I can't believe how wrong most people are about this one. The album and "Shine On..." were definitely directed at Syd. But this song is not about him. It's from the point of view of the band (or anyone in their position) who has gone from a living a normal life in obscurity to sudden super-stardom. "Wish You Were Here" is a statement directed to the person the song writer USED to be.

    A band or songwriter spends so much time honing their skills and striving for fame and fortune, and then all of a sudden when they achieve it, they're surprised to find out that they don't feel like themselves anymore. Fame can be very hazardous to your health and well being (see any of these for a perfect example: Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin). It would be nice to enjoy the success and fame and still be the same fun-loving person as you used to be, but that just doesn't happen often.

    On the 30th Anniversary DVD for Dark Side of the Moon, David Gilmour makes a comment about the follow up album, and says "That's what the next album is all about -- Wish You Were Here...because we weren't". That's the key right there -- WE WEREN'T. It's got nothing to do with Syd.



  2. 2TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    May 5th, 2008 5:46pm report


    For me, it is definitely about "selling out" and giving up your dreams - about people who, gradually, gave up their ideals and forgot who they truly are, because they couldn't make the difference between true and false values, while trying to be successful in life, and they ended up in a self - made "cage". It is about not being able to tell between what is real and what is just a pretty imagination that is actually malicous and bad for you. It is like a well known truth that the devil isn't red and ugly,with a long tale and sharp teeth - he is usually wrapped in something nice, sweet and unbelievably attractive that promises you all the fun and all the happiness you can imagine....until it destroys you. You brought to this world as a free man, as an innocent child, able to see people who they really are, but, eventually, as the years go by, and your apetite for wealth and security goes stronger, you go under influence of media and "mainstream" opinion , and you start to give up your
    "I did it my way" philosophy, you abandon everything that is too different from general behaviour and accepted opinion, in order to fit in, to live in comfort: " did they get you to change your heroes for ghosts? .....cold comfort for change...DID YOU EXCHANGE A WALK ON PART IN A WAR FOR A LEAD ROLE IN A CAGE ? ". Did you exchange an opportunity to fight for your ideals, to take "a part in a war" , for a better position at work, a bigger car, popularity and fame ? Because, that kind of matrix world has thousands of rules, takes your individuality and orders you how to look, how to eat, how to have fun, how to have sex !
    So , when you, eventually, come to the point that you have all those things you wanted so bad, that you have your "heaven", your " blue skies" and your green field", suddenly, you can't realise why you are not as happy as you thougt you would be, and you can't tell anymore if your heaven is actually hell, and your blue skies are actually pain.... and you wish that the person you once were is back. You miss the free man you once were, the free man you killed, and all that is left from a rebel you once were, is a silent fish, swimming in a cage made of glass...everybody is looking at you, you are the star - the beautiful exotic fish, your bowl is luxurious and the glass is the best glass money can buy, but you are completely exposed, your every move is detected,under shiny lights you have no privacy.... AND THERE IS NO HOPE FOR ESCAPE.
    I keep these lyrics on my wall, to remind me, every morning,not to make that mistake.



  3. 3TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Dec 23rd, 2007 12:55am report


    Excellent site. Wonder how I did not find it earlier. This song is among my all time favourites, too. As one poster said here earlier 'Songs are meant to be dissected', so here's my interpretation- it might be totally different from what the writer intended, but I'm pretty happy with how it appeals to me.

    The musician/ poet is talking to his friend, the listener. In the process, verbalizing what he finds wrong with the world, and how most of us don't find it in us to do anything about it, despite the potential and aspirations we had. The questions seem to jump to a myriad topics, maybe part of some soul searching.

    While out to change the world, do we really know what we are doing? Can we really tell whether its turning out to be a heaven or a hell? (Ok, no idea what blue skies from pain indicates). Will turning the green fields into steel jungles make the world better ( dig at industrialization?).

    Can we really read smiles? Have we understood others? What's behind the facade- is it pain? Or what we see is true and the smile is carefree happiness.

    Have we become gullible ( due to advertising, corporate speak, politicians, and such ) that we cannot discriminate the true heroes from the pretenders. Was it worth paying the price of pollution by chopping down our trees, and global warming for cool winds? ( Or was it the prentenders who convinced us? )

    Have we become too comfortable ( cold comfort ) to challenge what is fed to us? Would we rather have the status quo and resist change? Did we settle for a successful, comfortable life of mediocrity (lead role in a cage) having forgone the chance to becoming risky foot-soldiers for a grander purpose ( a walk on part in the war )?

    The artist calls out to his friend/ the listener. Maybe coaxing him out of his comfortable shell? (Wish you were here) Maybe if we were back to our innocent, energetic selves, together we might do something worthwhile?

    But for now, we're caught in the cycle everyone's caught in. Swimming in circles, encountering the same old problems, applying the same hackneyed solutions. Living lives of conformity. What have we found? :) Just the same old fears of an ordinary life. Wish you were here ( to really listen? ), and maybe together we could make a real difference.

    -AP.
    PS- I would love to know if anyone else sees this the way I do.



  4.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 11th, 7:12pm report


    The album is about absense. The whole album. "the biggest misconception" is actually not. Yes "shine on" is about Syd. So is "wish you" Wish You Were Here, released in 1975, carries an abstract theme of absence: absence of any humanity within the music industry and, most poignantly, the absence of Syd Barrett. This theme is carried by the music as well as the artwork packaged with the album.Originally, the album was sold with a black cell- ophane wrapping, hiding any indication of what could be beneath. In addition to the classic acoustic title track, Wish You Were Here, the album includes the majestic, mostly instrumental nine-part “ShineOnYou Crazy Diamond”, a tribute to Barrett in which the lyrics deal explicitly with the aftermath of his breakdown.The album also includes the songs welcome to the Machine” and “Have a Cigar” (Roy Harper sang the latter), both of which harshly criticize the music industry. Pink Floyd achieved their first transatlantic #1 album with Wish You Were Here, reaching the topspot inboth U.K. and U.S.The album eventually sold over 10 million copies worldwide.



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 24th, 6:39am report


    I like the number 1 rated interpretation. Amazing. Possible better/greater meaning than was ever intended by the band. Now I like the song even more.



  6.  

    kooljohn176
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    Oct 1st, 2013 10:13pm report


    listen to Floyd often in the 70's, and at one time syd barret was first in the band and while his mind and body left the band, his soul and spirit gave inspiration to pink Floyd for many years in their songs, so in many ways he never left, he was there like a haunting presence in the band, not to take anything away from Rodgers and Gilmore, they were a phonamina that took the band to new heights.



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 11th, 2013 9:01pm report


    Ok, so to James Cameron who wrote on Apr 3rd.. i COMPLETELY 100% AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT ANONYMOUS. Obviously this is a person who to took a lyrical discussion and turned it into a hatred blog about someone he doesnt even know.. He says and i quote " get a real job and stop picking on the mentally ill." Well anonymous I must say that a real job is constructed differently for everyone. Maybe thats why your bitter. You probably work at place where you're not happy and that is why you consider it a job and not a career. It is the best feeling to wake up every morning, go to work and not feel like its work. Doing what you love is the best! And to Roger, David and Syd.. these are men who work creatively and bring passion, creativity, love, pain into your heart through music. They dont pick on the mentally ill.. and the way I see it. We all have issues.. we all have our moments and phases where not everything is or seems perfect. Wish you were here is a great song.. one that most people would agree is amazing. Yes.. maybe fame isnt for everyone but music sure is.. whether you like rock or hip hop, jazz or country. Its still music and it brings life into your life. Im sure everyone in this world and I literally mean everyone!! Has a particular song they can relate to.. So anonymous stop hating on Pink Floyd. If you have nothing good to say then dont bother saying anything at all.



  8.  

    Truthistru
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    Jul 19th, 2013 7:56pm report


    To the person that wrote this interpretation, It brought tears to my eyes and made me break down and cry...because it is the truth. So many people give up love, family, friends, real things that have true worth, that are so precious and bring true happiness and completeness to your spirit, they just trade it for materialism, superficiality,for lies, for falsehood, greed, for things that dont mean anything, have no purpose but to corrupt, they do it so easy, so quick like it meant nothing at all. And the sad thing about it those of us unplugged from the matrix that are in tuned, connected to truth and spirituality, can still feel heartache and we hurt worse for those we love still lost in it, and sometimes they never unplug.



  9.  

    James Cameron
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    Apr 3rd, 2013 4:26am report


    Sorry, but I felt compelled to comment on the post by "anonymous" on Sept 17, 2011 which started out with "I have loads and loads and shit loads of problems with Pink Floyd--most especially with Roger the Dolt. An arrogant, pretentious man who has made millions nearly billions on a mentally ill man whom he claims to have once been friends with."

    It's funny, but everything you wrote in your post is in complete dis chord with how I've come to see and know of Roger Waters as a song writer/ musician/ artist/ humanitarian and as a human being. Not only that, but you've taken the context of this site way out of the bounds for which I'm almost certain, it was intended - by choosing it to be an outlet for the heckling and bashing of a certain rock star whom you obviously have a deep-seeded and bitter hatred towards.

    To me, Roger Waters is nothing short of a rock "hero" and a role model of which we 'all' can look up to, and for all the reasons which are the "exact opposite" of that which you wrote in your "glob"; so go figure! Perhaps you just wrote it to try and 'stir it up', knowing that people like myself would be slightly nerve-stricken by such abusive nonsense, huh?

    Well, whatever the case, I wish you the best of luck... what with the therapy and all, and may the 'war' within your own mind one day draw up a permanent peace treaty that 'lasts'; but until then, as Roger himself might so eloquently have put it: "Shine on.. shine on, you crazy diamond!". ;o)



  10.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 2nd, 2013 4:42pm report


    Loving #1 interpret right now. Its so obvious.



  11.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 22nd, 2012 11:58pm report


    What if nothing's as it seems. What if the human condition is essentially a prison and we can't remember who we really are. What if we are being controlled by a relatively few sick minds and being lied to about everything... history, science, religion... everything. Now read the lyrics again.



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 12th, 2012 10:19pm report


    Believe it or not it's about ww2 the lost souls and also people who fought against fascism but ended up having a worst master under communism, they fought for freedom but ended up in a big cage and wish you were here means east and west prominently germany and families split up by the wall east and west, darkside of the moon was about sid barret the lyrics the lunatic is on the grass has quoted by roger waters.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 28th, 2012 9:34am report


    I think it is just a song...lyrical, poetic and musicaly superb...to over anylize it, is to miss out one the pure joy of listening to what the band intended...an enjoyable musical experience...they left interpretation up to the listener, sure, but don't read to much into it...it is just a great song from a legendary band...



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 26th, 2012 6:00pm report


    Lyrics can have many meanings. This song was released during the Vietnam war. One of Pink Floyd's major markets was the United States and the Vietnam War was the most important event of that time. For me, a male American citizen who refused to fight in the war and because of this could not return to my home for many years have always believed that the lines "And 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." Signified that those who conformed to the war participated in it in minor roles whereas those who refused to serve were jailed or given asylum overseas. While the soldiers all came home after a short stint we disappeared for years. I know this a personal interpretation but it makes sense.



  15.  

    anonymous
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    May 20th, 2012 5:39pm report


    I guess I'm the only one thinking in this direction (and it might be completely wrong but then again: it's all about the subjective experience)... I feel like it refers to God. "Wish You Were Here" sounds like both longing and disappointment. "So you think you can tell Heaven from Hell" makes it even more obvious and I interpret it as: you divide Heaven and Hell up there, but down here things are real and they're pretty f***ed up. "Trade your heroes for ghosts" would (in this case) refer to all the Big Stories, saints and heroes who are now no more than ghosts unable to fix anything. Further more, "He" has "a lead role in a cage". It's still a cage, doesn't matter if you're the boss. Look around you. You're obviously not here and I wish you were.

    Anyway, maybe I've gone too far with this one. But it's how I felt it.



  16.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 24th, 2012 4:49pm report


    I think the song's about how Syd lost his mind. Like he was in another reality. Wish you were here is the other band members saying, our friend went crazy and he's not here mentally anymore. "Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky."



  17.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 24th, 2012 4:47pm report


    I think the song's about how Syd lost his mind. Like he was in another reality. Wish you were here is the other band members saying, our friend went crazy and he's not here mentally anymore. "Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky."



  18.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 11th, 2011 12:31am report


    This song, like many other pink floyd songs, should be listened to, when high. I feel the song unfolds a totally new meaning when listened to in a state of trance. "Wish you were here" is an one-end conversation between two versions of the same person, our real selves, the one who is stuck in the quagmire of the daily life, and the higher self, the one who is outside this circle of influence of the external stimuli.
    Day in day out we try to untangle the shackle life has put on us, we try to solve the mystery of the cycle of happiness and sorrow in our own way, we try to fit things in our definitions of black and white, good and bad, heaven and hell, and this constant endeavor makes us believe we can actually differentiate between every thing that surrounds us. Then comes a state which is above everything. A state of mind where nothing really matters, where words seem fake, the black and white world troubles no more and we realize how stupid we were to have cared about the small things and in the process made our lives small.
    I will explain this conversation, (or monologue) from the point of view of two forms,
    Form 1 - The normal us, or the conscious form.
    Form 2 - The higher form, the sagacious form.
    "So, do you think you can tell, heaven from hell, blue skies from pain, can you tell a green field, from a cold steel rail, do you think you can tell?" this part of the song is a mockery thrown by form 2 upon form 1. He mocks him by saying, "how silly you were to have cared about good & bad, black & white, when nothing actually matters. So what you can tell what is good and what is bad, how does it matter? that, what is good to you can be bad for me. How silly were you to have thought that you know the lines of difference, when everything in this world is absolute."
    "Did they get you to trade, your heroes for ghosts, hot ashes for trees. hot air for cool breeze, cold comfort for a change, did you exchange a walk-on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?"
    We all sell ourselves everyday. To find a momentary happiness, to achieve a short-lived goal, we weigh ourselves on the other side of the balance. They trade us daily and we sacrifice in the process. We sacrifice the things we love, the things that make us the man we really are. We tie the knot so tight that we forget it chokes us dead. Here form 2 feels sorry for form 1 and he sympathizes with form 1 and asks him were you put into trade too?.
    "How I wish, how I wish you were here, we're just two lost souls, swimming in a fish bowl, tear after year, Running over the same old ground.
    What have we found? The same old fears.
    Wish you were here.."
    Now form 2 asks form 1 to set free of all the attachments that bind him to the ground and stops him from flying away. He tells him that they have lived in the same fish bowl (body) for many years and have seen the same things and have developed the same fears, but form 1 has been affected by those fears and that is why he suffers, on the other hand, form 2 remains undeterred as for him the small things in life does not really matter. So form 2 wishes form 1 to come to his state.



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