he theme of Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd's long-awaited follow-up to Dark Side of the Moon, is absence. On one level, it is about the withdrawal from reality of Syd Barrett, the group's eccentric, departed founder. In a more general sense, "it was about the end of relationships," says Storm Thorgerson, who worked on the album in conjunction with his associates in Hipgnosis. "Sometimes when a relationship has ended, it's as though the other person isn't really there anymore." The package was an expensive, time-consuming production. "We decided not to do something that was commercial," says Thorgerson. "We wanted to be a bit more indulgent and arty."
They went as far as to conceal the package in a dark shrink-wrap so that the album itself was, in a sense, absent. "The president of CBS at the time thought we were completely nuts," Thorgerson says, laughing. Under the wrap are four bizarre photographs, each keyed to the central theme. The most striking depicts a man engulfed in flames shaking hands with a man in a business suit. "The fire was a symbol for getting burned or hurt in a relationship," Thorgerson says. As for the handshake, he says, "it's regarded sometimes as a very false communication, especially in America, where a lot of hand-shaking goes on." Another photograph shows a man diving into a lake without creating a splash. "Is he there?" says Thorgerson. "In a sense, you might say there are no traces of his presence."
Oddly enough, Syd Barrett, the subject of the album's major opus, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," turned up unannounced in the studio when the band members were recording the vocals. "That was just Syd tapping into the creative consciousness," Thorgerson says. "It was very, very strange."
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