Is that the all-time greatest Rock song? Some will say that’s it’s too low-key for the pantheon. Those would be popular epic ballads such as “Light My Fire,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Comfortably Numb,” “Tuesday’s Gone,” “Plainsong,” and “November Rain.” And maybe “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.”
But you’re all familiar with Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and chances are that you respond to something in that song. Maybe it’s the clear notes of the intro solo that join the low-fidelity plucks and strums. Or when the percussion kicks in with the G chord:
Do you think you can tell
And did they get you to trade
Or it could be the build-up toward “How I wish, how I wish you were here.”
The lyrics allow for free-association. They are elegiac and YouTube commenters testify to the song’s powerful tug at their feelings of loss of a loved one. Somehow, I connect that aspect of the song with one of my other favorite songs; specifically, with the bridge and the climactic final verse of Mother Love Bone’s “Stargazer,” with its own slightly bizarre lyrics:
[spoken, just past 3:15] “Tell you what…”
And then, the bridge:
Stargazer you cry in blue
Anything I’ve ever seen
It ain’t as good as you, child
Then the D chord sleight of hand, easy for a beginner guitarist: D Dsus4 D Dsus2 D. If you watch a cover performance that shows this, you’ll see how it’s done. It’s pinkie action. And then the chords go to Am and G:
I’m not trying to push your feelings
But I know you hold me
Like putty in your hands
And then the wild outro verse with its soaring backup chorus. I call myself an advanced-beginner and can bang out “Stargazer” pretty well on my acoustic guitar with the original playing along. As to “Wish You Were Here,” there are many worthwhile versions:
Avenged Sevenfold. Pure White Energy video with scenes from their arena concert and band members’ sons rocking along. It will make your Friday evening.
David Gilmour performs it unplugged. Also look up the Pulse Live or the 2006 Gdansk concert version for a performance in full power.
Guns N Roses smashed it last year in Minneapolis. There is an extended “Wish You Were Here” outro solo featuring Slash and Richard Fortus taking turns on lead guitar, followed by the band’s outro to “Layla” and a full rendition of “November Rain” with Axl Rose on piano and vocals.
You don’t need to be a musician to be curious about the anatomy of a song. I learned to play the tone-bending intro solo to “Wish You Were Here” from Justin.