Wish You Were Here may not be as well known as the massive, globally successful Dark Side of the Moon, but it may be Floyd at their absolute peak. After breaking from their normal song structure on Dark Side, Floyd returned a bit to the style of their previous works, designing longer and experimental songs. It took awhile for the album to come together as the band was completely drained from the success of Dark Side and the touring that preceded it, but the end result is a true masterpiece.
Similar to Dark Side of the Moon, Wish you Were Here also starts with silence, leading you to think maybe you accidentally pressed pause instead of play. But soon, it starts streaming slowly, a synthesized organ with a single note. After a short time, a soft and sweet bluesy guitar solo from guitarist David Gilmour helps set the mood. And finally, at 3:53 into the song, we hear the spooky four note sequence that defines the entire album. “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” is one of Floyd’s greatest accomplishments, and despite the fact that it is not the title track to the album, it is the lynchpin that holds the entire album together and gives it special significance. In my opinion, bassist Roger Waters’ decision to have the song bookend the album was a masterful choice, as I not only think it sets the table, but ties up all loose ends as well.
On a basic level, the song is about Syd Barrett, the former frontman of the band who had left the band seven years prior due to his deteriorating mental health. David Gilmour came up with the classic four note theme, and Waters would remark that it reminded him of “the ghost of Syd.” The “ghost” of Syd had long presided over the band, but because of his importance to the band’s early days as well as the fact that the band couldn’t continue on with him because of his erratic behavior, the band had struggled on how to specifically express their feelings for him. It was Waters who decided to have an overall theme for the album, which they had done for the first time with their previous album, Dark Side of the Moon. The overall album is about the loss of camaraderie, the music industry and alienation. Of course Syd would be one of the centerpieces.
One of the most fascinating stories in the history of Rock and Roll is when Syd, who had been a recluse for years, randomly walked into the studio where Floyd was recording while they were finalizing the mix to “Shine On.” To make things even more surreal, it was the day that Gilmour was to be wed (which I think also speaks to the band’s devotion to their craft as they were working on the album on his wedding day). At first, no one recognized him as Syd had put on a significant amount of weight and had shaved his head and eyebrows. Once everyone recognized who he was, they realised just how bad of shape he was in. According to stories, the band ranged from horrified to breaking down in tears. They even played “Shine On” for Syd, but he didn’t recognize the song was about him, and even offered to join the band again. Barrett ended up attending Gilmour’s wedding reception, but left without saying goodbye. Until his death in 2006, none of Pink Floyd saw their bandmate ever again.
The song offers some sweet sentiments like “Remember when you were young, You shone like the sun.” The song also reflects on his path into darkness and insanity with “Now there’s a look in your eyes, Like black holes in the sky.” However, Rogers has stated that the song “is not really about Syd – he’s just a symbol for all the extremes of absence some people have to indulge in because it’s the only way they can cope with how fucking sad it is, modern life, to withdraw completely. I found that terribly sad.” Pink Floyd had started exploring with darker themes with Dark Side of the Moon, but Wish You Were Here took it to another level. It’s hard for me to believe that the song wasn’t written specifically for or about Syd, but if the true intention was to make him a symbol about withdrawing from life because of extreme sadness, it makes the album decidedly darker than Dark Side.
Perhaps Waters was writing about himself as well, as he would later intentionally withdraw and put up barriers between himself and others, which is what The Wall is all about. Waters would also write about his feelings of alienation later on in the title track. The song “Wish you Were Here” is sometimes referred to as another love song for Syd, and there are plenty of Syd references, but I think it also deals with the dynamic of the band during the time, as well as inner struggles inside of Waters. After the gigantic success of Dark Side of the Moon, the band was exhausted and were no longer as close as they once were. During the recording sessions, although the band members were there physically, they were drained mentally and were referred to as “not really there.” Gilmour has also expressed a sentiment that after the success of Dark Side, they fell a bit into a malaise, having accomplished all their dreams and not really knowing where to go from there. So the lines, “How I wish, how I wish you were here” can express the loss of camaraderie that used to exist within the band that is now, for the most part, absent, as well as wanting everyone in the studio to be “there”…not just physically, but mentally as well. I think the lyrics also refer to the inner struggles of Waters who was trying to balance the darker and more virtuous natures of his character. The lyrics refer to polar opposites, heaven and hell, blue skies and pain, green fields and cold rails, asking do you really think you can tell the difference. At face value, an initial reaction is of course you can tell the difference, only an insane person wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between those things, so the song must obviously be about and directed to Syd. But at a closer look, you can start to see that Waters isn’t singing to Syd, he’s singing to us, and asking us if we really think we can tell. Almost in a sense of “I used to think I could tell, but now I’m having a hard time because things have changed, and maybe someday you will too.” Sometimes if you take inventory of your actions, you’ll find that you’ve had difficulty telling right from wrong as well. As I mentioned, there are obvious references to Syd, with the “cold steel rail” referring to Syd’s lyrics on “If It’s In You.” I also think the “two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl” is about Syd and Waters, with Waters expressing empathy for him former bandmate, with the fish bowl symbolizing scrutiny that comes along with being famous. I think it’s telling that Waters would refer to himself as a “lost soul.”
Speaking of becoming famous, tracks 2 and 3 are obvious shots at the music industry. On “Welcome to the Machine”, the song starts with an opening door, which symbolizes the start of your musical career with a record label. The album cover of two businessmen shaking hands while one of them on fire provides a perfect visual for this song, as well as “Have a Cigar.” The man on fire represents the musical talents and artists that have been burned by the music industry along the way, and the shake represents the empty gestures and empty promises that go into recruiting these artists to “the machine.” I think by referring to the industry in general as a “machine” dehumanizes the nature of the industry and removes the distinction of “artist” from the performer. Which in my mind, is about as terrible of a thing that can happen to a piece of art. As brewers, we utilize a ton of science to produce our beer, especially when we’re stressing consistency and repeatability. But we also think of ourselves as artists. We’re not just throwing random ingredients in for the fun of it, every ingredient has a purpose as we’re trying to accomplish a vision we have in our mind. We may not be artists in the traditional sense, but we take our craft seriously and stress over what most people must think are inane details. The thought of a faceless machine producing “craft” products based off scientific data and polling results resonates to me the same way the music industry appeared to Waters. I think the suits on the cover resonate with me because of that is going on in the beer industry right now. The bitterness with the industry is expressed with the term “welcome.” It’s not “do you want to join the machine” or “would you like to join us”, it’s “welcome. this is your new reality. this is how it’s done” The lines “What did you dream? It’s alright we told you what to dream” refers to a sense of eventuality and that the self no longer has individual purpose, that we’re all machines driven by the corporations to serve their needs. With “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” wishing for a return of human camaraderie and a wink towards idealism, “Welcome to the Machine” is a stark contrast. The song ends with sounds of a party, symbolizing the events where music execs would pat themselves on the back for having no artistic qualities whatsoever, and how people don’t have real relationships as they’re all just trying to do their part to keep the machine running.
If we thought “Welcome to the Machine” was a blistering take on the music industry, then “Have a Cigar” is a third degree burn. The song is sung as a music executive recruiting a new band and offering up all the same clichés and empty promises that are all too common in the industry. The best part, and probably most famous part of the song is when the exec tell the band that he’s sincere in always respecting the band, thinks it’s fantastic, and then asks, “Oh by the way, which one’s Pink?” According to the band, that question was asked of them on more than one occasion (in case you’re new to the band, no one is named Pink). It’s a serious contradiction, and obvious lying through your teeth for the sake of greed and “keeping the machine running.” Waters doesn’t even have to gnash his teeth to express his bitterness and disdain. The second verse starts with “We’re just knocked out. We heard about the sell out. You gotta get an album out.” I believe this to be a reference to the success of Dark Side of the Moon and the following tour, in which the record label was probably trying to pressure the band to put out a new album right away to capitalize on their current fame. Of course, rushing an album out would severely diminish the quality of the work, it wouldn’t have the same heart in it, and essentially demotes the artist to the level of a robot or circus performer. Floyd would resist this temptation and released Wish You Were Here two years after Dark Side, and the heart they put into it shows. Keyboardist Richard Wright as well as David Gilmour have both stated the the album is their favorite of the Floyd catalogue, and hoards of fans will agree.
The album ends with the latter half of “Shine On”, and to me, the instrumental end of the song expresses sorrow, loss and especially, longing. At the very end, I feel it turns sweet, as if the band is “remembering all the good times” after going through all the other emotions of the album.
While I was constructing this beer, I knew it had to be bitter to represent the bitterness the band was expressing toward the music industry, I knew I wanted it to have a little bit of a darker color to represent the darker themes they took on after the success of Dark Side of the Moon, but I also wanted to incorporate some sweetness to represent their tribute to Syd. I also wanted the beer to finish dry to represent the longing that I sense at the end of the album. Ultimately, I decided that the best option was a Black IPA.
I know there’s been some controversy in the industry about Black IPAs in regards to what their true name should be. The controversy stems from the name Black India Pale Ale, wondering how something can be black and pale at the same time. Some have suggested American Black Ale, some India Black Ale, but most detractors prefer Cascadian Dark Ale to pay homage to where the style was supposedly created. I used to be a big proponent of the term CDA, but whenever I would talk about it to people unfamiliar with the style, they’d ask “What is a CDA?” I’d reply “A Black IPA.” I’ve learned to embrace the term BIPA, even if it contradictory, since it tells the consumer exactly what they’re getting. Also, some sources claim the style was actually created in Vermont, far from the lands of Cascadia, so that detracts from their argument a bit.
A Black IPA to me should taste like a regular IPA, with just a minimal amount of roast from the black malt. In order to get the color, we use a dehusked black malt, since the husk on roasted grains is where the majority of the roast and astringency that you normally associate with a stout is found. That way we can get great color extraction without the beer becoming a hoppy porter. The color on this beer represents the darker themes, so it was important for it to be darker in color than our previous beer, Belgian Strong Dark…Side of the Moon. We used plenty of hops early in the boil to provide the bitter tones, as well as in the whirlpool and dry hop to provide citrusy flavors that represent Syd.
I also wanted to add some blood orange purée to this beer for a few reasons. For one, I thought that the flavors of the orange would provide tasty and interesting compliments to the hops in the IPA and would give it a great deal of depth. I also wanted some extra citrus sweetness to represent the very end of the album. Secondly, I thought the “blood” part of the oranges would also symbolize the nature of the lyrics in “Welcome to the Machine” where you want to put your blood, sweat and tears into an artistic piece of work, and the industry just wants to exploit you and your talents for profit…essentially squeezing you dry. Finally, I’ve wanted to brew an IPA with fruit for some time, and I thought it would be a terrific opportunity.
For hops, we used Apollo for bittering, Centennial in the middle and Amarillo, Citra, Equinox and more Centennial at whirlpool. And just as “Shine On” was split into two different parts, we did a double dry hop of Centennial.
The grain bill is pretty simple with using just 2 row, German Vienna, dehusked black malt and oats. I wanted to use the oats to provide a luscious and creamy mouthfeel at the end, which I used to symbolize the growing use of synthesizers within the band, which added an extra depth of complexity.
Finally, to get the dryness that I was looking for to symbolize the longing at the end of the album, I used a big pitch of our house ale strain that is extremely attenuative, and added the blood orange purée right after the height of fermentation to keep the yeast active.
I think that the blood orange is not too assertive and is pretty moderate, while the American hops jump out a bit more. You’ll get tangerine, grapefruit and other tropical flavors and aromas. The roast is very restrained, and I can barely tell that it’s there when I close my eyes. The beer finishes dry with just a small touch of creamy at the end. The final stats are 7.2% abv, 75 IBU and 30 SRM.
This was the album that took me from Floyd fan to Floyd becoming one of my favorite bands of all time, so this beer was very important to me. I believe I’ve created a wonderful beer to pay homage to one of my all time favorite albums, and I hope you’ll agree. To end, I’m not sure which lyric I’d like to close with, as there’s so many good ones to choose from this album. I’m not sure whether “Wish You Were Here” or “Welcome to the Machine” is more appropriate, but I think the most apt would be the end of the album, “Come on you raver, you seer of visions, Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!”
Shine on, everyone.