Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here is an academic and engaging exploration of the origins of a rock and roll masterpiece, and not just through the band's recollections. Producers, sound engineers, art designers, and photographers -- many of the album's behind-the-scenes personnel chime in to share their thoughtful and insightful ruminations of the landmark recording.
Riding high from their breakthrough work, 1973's "The Dark Side of the Moon," Pink Floyd made the gigantic leap from an underground psychedelic band to stadium attraction. But the band wasn't ready for "Wish You Were Here" -- at least not musically. Pink Floyd headed into the studio with only a few ideas and scarcely were in the mood to get to the business of making a record. To counter the latter, the band's bassist and lyricist and creative visionary Roger Waters assumed the role of taskmaster.
"Wish You Were Here" was Pink Floyd at a crossroads, with Waters asserting control over the band and driving away the other three members (guitarist David Gilmour, keyboardist Richard Wright, drummer Nick Mason).
The album is arguably Pink Floyd's best -- a wildly diverse sonic achievement that paid tribute to a former bandmate, Syd Barrett (the moody-jazzy "Shine on You Crazy Diamond"), poked fun at the music business (the acidic "Have a Cigar"), feared the grind of life (the menacing "Welcome to the Machine"), and wondered about our place in the world (the country-tinged "Wish You Were Here").
Urban legend has it -- and this documentary confirms it -- Barrett, in fact, did show up unannounced during the "Wish You Were Here" recording sessions. Chubby, bald, and with his eyebrows shaved, he was unrecognizable to his former bandmates. And when they realized who he was, Gilmour and Waters were reduced to tears.
Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here touches on that moment, including a heartbreaking photo of Barrett, who died in cancer of 2006, that explains their shock and sadness at the sight of their lost friend. There are other fascinating stories, with each of the three surviving members of Floyd (Wright died of cancer in 2008) interviewed separately. Gilmour and Waters also perform some of the album's songs; a DVD/Blu-ray extra includes Waters' acoustic performance of Wish You Were Here that resembles something Johnny Cash easily could have covered.
Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here isn't just for fans of the band or classic rock, but a refreshing look back at an album that resonates more today than it did 35 years ago.
SRP: $19.98 Blu-ray, $14.98 DVD.