Analogue Music | Always Here: Pink Floyd at the Center of My Soul

Always Here: Pink Floyd at the Center of My Soul

By John R. Herrman

On the day our son was born, we were as excited as hell to welcome him to the world.

We were even more nervous about what we were going to do once he got here.

My wife climbed into the passenger’s seat of our Ford Escape, I closed her door and got behind the steering wheel. My trembling hands turned the key in the ignition and the opening chords of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” filled the car. We looked at each other and knew we were going to be alright. This had been our song from the very beginning.

Before we were married, when I was a cavalry trooper stationed in South Korea, the song traveled 10,500 miles across the world to wake her up at sunrise on her birthday. Never mind that it was 7:00 p.m. in Korea and I had been drinking all day and annoying my squad by playing the song nonstop while we were trying to enjoy our day off with a Mortal Kombat tournament. I played it one more time, and she and I both felt it in our souls … “How I wish, how I wish you were here.”

I was not quite five months old when Pink Floyd released their ninth album. I honestly cannot remember the first time I heard “Wish You Were Here.” The title song, the album, and the band have, quite simply, always been a part of my life. Countless times over my 40-plus birthdays, the first song I heard when I turned on the radio in the morning began with those same chords and David Gilmour’s voice bringing me to the center of my soul. Any time I hear it, it is a Zen experience for me. A sense of peace and calm comes over me.

Within the past week, I was three minutes into the five-minute song when my phone started ringing. It was my dad. He had crashed his car. This is the same dad who introduced me to Pink Floyd and their music. The same dad who taught me what it meant to love music, and maybe the only person I know who loves music in the ways I do.

Fortunately, Dad was okay, and so was I, because this song that has been with me every breath of my life, was right there too, letting me know everything was going to be alright.

When I opened the book Pink Floyd All The Songs seemingly at random to do some research for this essay, I opened directly to the chapter on Wish You Were Here. It’s like the music is always with me.

I could go on and on with examples. But at what point are things no longer a coincidence?

It’s the lyrics of the song and the imagery they inspire that have the most impact on me. No matter the day I hear the song, or the time of day, something stands out as a memory, a reminder, a touch to the feelings the pulse through me.

Twenty-six seconds into the song there is a cough. I like to think it is clearing the way for the rest of the song, that the person fooling with the radio found what they were looking for.

That opening clutter, the sound of voices, radio static and the ending of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, it reminds me of the feeling of searching for the perfect song, and maybe missing it by a hair, but never really finding it. Then strumming starts and the searching stops. Twenty-six seconds into the song there is a cough. I like to think it is clearing the way for the rest of the song, that the person fooling with the radio found what they were looking for. Certainly, all that comes next is a perfect blend of lyrics and chords.

When I hear “We're just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl / Year after year, Running over the same old ground / What have we found? The same old fears. Wish you were here” I imagine two people who are far from each other—geographically, emotionally—and how they would trade anything and everything to get back to where they were. Back in love. I can feel the heaviness of the distance; it weighs on me. It makes me grateful. It brings back the memories of the time when I was distant from the one I love. The depth of the feelings lingers.

Wish You Were Here Cover
Wish You Were Here Cover

The band began recording the song in mid-May 1975 with the working title “Untitled (An Afternoon at Home with the Duke if Royden).” They shortly settled on “Wish You Were Here” and by the end of September 1975, the track was the title song to Pink Floyd’s follow up album to the acclaimed “Dark Side Of The Moon” album.

I have listened to countless covers of “Wish You Were Here” and no one seems to capture the intensity of the emotions quite like David Gilmour.

I have always viewed “Wish You Were Here” as a love song. Roger Waters, in an Indian Express interview published on, confirmed that at least part of the song was written for his buddy Phil Constantine, who died in 1976. There is speculation that some or all of the song was written for or to former founding member Syd Barrett. Reportedly, Syd did show up while Water and Gilmour were writing it. By that time, Syd was almost unrecognizable. Gilmour says he can’t play the song without thinking of Syd.

Barrett was most definitely the center of another song from the album that I love, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” That song is based on a poem written by Waters. In the documentary The Story of Wish You Were Here, Rogers said, “It’s my homage to Syd and my heartfelt expression of my sadness.”

As for “Wish You Were Here,” Waters claims that the lyrics there are not all about Barrett. Some of the lyrics, he said, are directed at himself, which can be said of so many of the songs he wrote over the decades. Waters and Gilmour wrote tirelessly together over the years, but one of the few things the pair agree on is “Wish You Were Here” is one of Pink Floyd’s best songs.

I concur.