"Wish You Were Here" is the title track on Pink Floyd's 1975 album Wish You Were Here. The song's lyrics encompass writer Roger Waters' feelings of alienation from other people. Like most of the album, it refers to former Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett and his breakdown. The main riff came to David Gilmour at home while playing on an acoustic guitar, the riff became something which he continued to play in-between takes at Abbey Road Studios where it caught the attention of Roger Waters. They collaborated to complete the song, as Waters had already written some lyrics. In 2004, the song was ranked #316 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In the original album version, the song segues from "Have a Cigar" as if a radio had been tuned away from one station, through several others (including a radio play and one playing Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony), and finally to a new station where "Wish You Were Here" is beginning. The radio was recorded from Gilmour's car radio. Gilmour performed the intro on a twelve-string guitar, processed to sound like it was playing through an old transistor radio, and then overdubbed a fuller-sounding acoustic guitar solo. This passage was mixed to sound as though the guitarist was sitting in a room, playing along with the radio; it also contains a whine that slowly changes pitch—emulating the heterodyne between two drifting AM radio signals.
The intro riff is repeated several times and reprised when Gilmour plays further solos with scat singing accompaniment. At the end of the recorded song, the final solo crossfades with wind sound effects (reminiscent of "One of These Days" from the 1971 album Meddle), and finally segues into the second section of the multi-part suite "Shine On You Crazy Diamond".
"Wish You Were Here" later appeared as the 5th track on A Collection of Great Dance Songs (with the radio intro following the end of a heavily edited Shine On You Crazy Diamond) and as the 23rd track on the Echoes compilation (with the radio intro following "Arnold Layne", and at the end crossfading with "Jugband Blues").
A live recording included in the 1995 live album P*U*L*S*E was issued as a single/EP. As of 2006, this is the last single released by Pink Floyd to date (although promos of Echoes, The Wall Live and "Money" (2003 edit for the 30th Anniversary Issue of Dark Side of the Moon) have been released).
"Wish You Were Here" made its stage debut on the band's 1977 tour, which featured a performance of the entire album at every show. It was not played live by the band for nearly ten years after this, yet became a concert staple after its reappearance in 1987 — and was performed at nearly all subsequent Pink Floyd concerts. In the original 1977 concert performances, Gilmour would play his Fender Stratocaster instead of acoustic guitar whilst Snowy White played a 12-string Ovation acoustic guitar. At some of these shows (all of the US shows, notably), Mason tuned an actual transistor radio on stage to a local radio station, seguing into the pre-recorded bit from the album to start the song and Rick Wright would perform an extended piano coda as the wind effects played. When Pink Floyd were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Gilmour and Wright (Mason was in the audience) performed the song with the assistance of their presenter Billy Corgan on rhythm guitar. In 2004, Waters and Eric Clapton performed the song at the Tsunami Aid concert, and in 2005's Live 8, Waters rejoined his former bandmates (albeit for this one-off show) in London to perform it, along with 3 other classic Pink Floyd songs.