What is the cover of "Wish you were here" supposed to signify?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Baba Oh Really, Sep 13, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Baba Oh Really

    Baba Oh Really Certified "Forum Favorite" Thread Starter

    mid west, USA
    Is the guy on fire supposed to be evil, or is the guy on the left evil and he bursts into flames when he touches him? Is it supposed to be record company executives making a deal?
  2. Capt Fongsby

    Capt Fongsby Simulacrum

    Getting "burned" in a deal seems like one probable interpretation.
  3. dj2hynes

    dj2hynes New Member

    i think they were pissed at EMI for lack of promotion in Europe. was probably less specific than that though.
  4. Never really like the original cover that much - prefer the alternate cover.


    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    making a deal with the devil to be a big rock star is kinda what its saying on one level to me, its open to much interpretation...really the art design of the entire package is rife with meanings and symbolism....elements of the earth, fire, water, earth...etc....

    a brilliant album package imo...
  6. bonjo

    bonjo Forum Resident

    That's not an 'alternate cover': the original LP came in black shrinkwrap with the fire/air/earth/water sticker, and then the original UK/EU CD simply used that image as the cover.
  7. Drifter

    Drifter AD survivor

    Vancouver, BC, CA
    I've always loved the cover, but prefer the cover that I grew up with in the mid 70s with the burning man casually shaking hands, instead of leaning forward (as seen on more current editions).

    Attached Files:

  8. That's right. :agree:
  9. I recall an interview with Storm Thorgerson, where he said that the various images in the album's packaging - the "burning man" cover; the faceless, empty suit holding a clear LP; the guy diving into a lake and making no ripples - were supposed to represent absence and the inability to connect or communicate. All tying back to the title track, natch.
  10. rburly

    rburly Forum Resident

    When I first listened to the album, without knowing anything about Syd, I always thought the album was making a deal with the Music Industry as in "Welcome To The Machine", and the picture represented (because it looks like a Hollywood lot) an music industry agent telling the band anything they wanted to hear (like the devil), so either the burning guy could be PF or the non-burning guy was PF.
  11. PFA

    PFA Forum Resident

    Hi Guys,

    The burning man picture is based on the phrase “getting burned.” The four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and a theme of absence permiate the cover art. The burning man-fire. The diver on the postcard-water. The inner sleeve with the picture of a red veil blowing in the breeze-air. The faceless faceless salesman in the sand-earth.

    On the original release the album was covered with a black (U.K) or blue (U.S.) shrink wrap so that you could not see the album cover-a form of absence. On the shrink wrap, a round mechanical handshake sticker was atached. The mechanical handshake traverses a circle divided into four quadrants consisting of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. The elements are mystical and alchemical references that reflect different aspects of Pink Floyd’s music. The four elements also refer to the four band members, and the four faces of the package.

    As for absence, all the pictures on the album refer to a theme of absence. The burning man (too frightened to be present lest he be burned). The diver (his splash is absent). Mechanical handshake (an empty gesture). Postcard (where people write “wish you were here,” often not meaning it). The businessman (often exhibit an absence of care or concern for others). The faceless salesman without a body (indicating his lack of humanity). The swimmer in the sand (an absence of water, an absence of awareness, an absence of purpose). The veil (a symbol of absence or departure at funerals, and a way of hiding a face or making it absent). The red veil hides a naked woman (an absence of clothes).

    There were alternate cover pictures on the Wish You Were Here LP (of course I am referring to when the album was initially released). The U.K./European releases showed the man leaning forward, while the U.S./North American release had the man leaning backward. There are also other differences, such as a different number on the movie studio in the background on some issues (most notably he Russian release). Of course, these differences have sadly been lost on CD releases.

    This is certainly one album that needs to be seen in vinyl form to witness what can only be described as an amazing presentation of art and music.

    Vernon Fitch
    Aftermath likes this.
  12. Vernon, many thanks for the Pink Floyd history lesson. :righton:
  13. adhoc

    adhoc Gentlemen Prefer Stereo

    Now that was a bloody brilliant post! Thanks Vernon! :righton:
  14. Murph

    Murph Formerly 7/4 war furor

    That was excellent! Thanks
  15. willy

    willy hooga hagga hooga

    I've heard and read about a naked woman within the red veil and have studied that pic for years.........but where is she hiding?
  16. broos

    broos New Member

    Another aspect of the coverart what is very special to me is "the hole where the water pours out and the scarf where the sand is falling out".
    And also the frontcover where the firedamage is going outside the picture instead of burning inside what it normally does.
  17. George P

    George P Turn Me Loose

  18. music4life

    music4life Well-Known Member

    South Elgin, IL

    You cant get a better answer than that, Excellent post!!:edthumbs:
  19. Feisal K

    Feisal K Active Member

    I have a CD release that came in a black plastic wrap with the handshake sticker on it, and the CD was in a cardboard sleeve. Even had a postcard :)
  20. bhazen

    bhazen Re: Member

    Newcastle, WA
    I bought Wish You Were Here LP in black plastic wrap the day of release; had to take a few back before I got one that wasn't warped.
  21. mrjinks

    mrjinks Optimistically Challenged

    Boise, ID.
    You probably can't see her on the cd-sized pic. Pull out the LP, look at almost the exact center of the picture (horizontally, not vertically): Her upper torso is clearly visible. Her shoulders are just slightly above the level of the grass, and it almost looks like she's holding a white bra in her right hand...
  22. jpmosu

    jpmosu a.k.a. Mr. Jones

    Dayton, Ohio, USA
    Alright, Vernon--how about working your interpretive magic with a "reading" of Led Zep's Presence?
  23. Daniel Thomas

    Daniel Thomas Forum Resident

    Thanks to Vernon for his excellent essay. You demonstrate perfectly what makes music so special to me. I have to admit that I have nothing left to add, other than to agree fully. As always, the impact of the album cover design is lost to CD; this was conceived for a vinyl lp canvas.

    I've always been a fan of Hipgnosis' work. I miss this sort of artistic design in pop music. Everything now is just simple Photoshop work, a simple billboard to sell the poorly-produced product. Pink Floyd created art.
  24. JohnG

    JohnG Boney Fingers Jones

    Long Island, NY
    WYWH remains one of my favorite albums of all-time. I bought the lp on its street date and it is a marvelous combination of music and art. I still have that original lp of course.
    I've re-purchased many times in the CD age and also have the Japanese mini-lp version that replicates the original lp.

    Neat stuff! :)

    Thanks for the history lesson Vernon.
  25. PFA

    PFA Forum Resident


    Thanks guys.

    Here are a couple of other interesting tidbits about the WYWH album cover for your amusement.

    I've always felt that the theme of absence extended beyond the cover art to the music itself. If you think about it, the album opens with the song Shine On that begins with a single chord, and a distinct absence of chord changes. I don't know if the band intended this, but I have always felt that this was yet another form of absence, tying it all together conceptually, from the album title to the album art, and even the music.

    And now for a humorous story about WYWH CD cover art.

    Back in the late 1990s I was in London and I paid a visit to Storm Thorgerson. He invited me up to the old Hipgnosis studio. This was the place where he designed his first Pink Floyd album cover, A Saucerful of Secrets. It was also the studio where the band was shown possible album cover ideas for Dark Side of the Moon until they saw the prism cover and said "that's it!"
    Well, Storm had just finished the back catalog campaign and had various Pink Floyd items strewn about. The back catalog poster, the 30th anniversary mono Piper, the Pink Floyd 97 vinyl box set. And at the time he was working on a Led Zeppelin project. There were all sorts of rough sketches tacked to the wall for possible Zep covers. Storm is an amazing person, a genuinely nice guy. We sat and talked about lots of things, including his early days living with Syd Barrett, and his various album cover designs.
    Now, being the collector that I am, I brought along a couple of items for Storm to sign. And it just so happened that one of the things that I brought was the Wish You Were Here CD. More specifically, I brought the first U.S. issue CD of WYWH, the 35DP-4 release. Now, for those that have this CD you know what the cover is like. It is awful. There is no booklet. All there is, is a 4-pane fold open insert with the lyrics on one side and a cover picture on the front and back with two of the panes left completely blank. And I handed this to Storm to sign.
    Well.... Storm took one look at it and said in a rather disgusted voice "What's this?," and frowned. He couldn't believe how bad it was. I explained that it was the first U.S. CD issue of WYWH and that early CDs were not known for their art work. Storm took the insert and signed it: "I hate this package. But I'll sign it anyway. S. Thorgerson." I have always considered this yet another form of absence connected to the very album cover that is filled with examples of absence. Storm's signature can be viewed as an absence of appreciation for the early WYWH CD cover!!!

    So there you have it. Tales from the Archives, so to speak...

    Vernon Fitch
    mario villarroel likes this.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page