Wish You Were – Pink Floyd (Lyrics In Description)
Recently I was jamming with a friend of mine and we were playing an old Pink Floyd song called “Wish You Were Here”. After playing it, we talked about the lyrics and what the song means. A good discussion it was, so I thought I’d write out the lyrics and what they mean.
“So, so you think you can tell?
Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain?
Can you tell a green field, from a cold steel rail? A smile from a veil? Do you think you can tell?
Did they get you to trade? Your heroes for ghosts, hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? Cold comfort for change, and did you exchange? A walk on part in the war for the lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here. We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year. Running over the same old ground, what have we found? The same old fears, wish you were here.”
I know it’s a bit to take in, but let me start by saying what the song is about. Pink Floyd’s original frontman Syd Barett, had a very bad drug problem. It left him with serious brain damage, and he was put into an asylum. The band was very torn and depressed because of this, so guitarist and co-lead vocalist David Gilmour, along with bassist and vocalist Roger Waters took that pain and made this beautiful song about wishing Syd was with them able to play music.
“So, So you think you can tell. Heaven from hell. Blues skies from pain. Can you tell a green field, from a cold steel reil? A smile from a Veil, do you think you can tell?”
I think what Gilmour & Waters were saying in that verse, was really just a conversation. I know David and Roger were definitely depressed because of losing Syd, and I’m sure they had friends comfort them. When Gilmour says “so you think you can tell, heaven from hell”, he means can you find the difference between agony and ecstasy, and find that fine line between happy blue skies and pain. And a smile from a veil really means, that can you see a hidden clue from a distance. Of course a veil is hard to see through, so I think the friend was responding with “There’s good in this. Look hard and you’ll find it.”
“Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees, hot air for a cool breeze? Cold comfort for change, and did you exchange? A walk on part in the war for the lead role in a cage?”
This is probably the most perplexing verse in the song. Confused, I still kinda am. But my theory is that Gilmour was changing the subject in the conversation because he felt uncomfortable, so he asked his friend if his enemies convinced him to give up on what’s right, and make the chat less difficult for him. And cold comfort for change is pretty confusing, I’m thinking that was just a filler for “did you exchange”, which meant did you sacrifice. And did you participate in this battle just to get defeated. And the lead role in a cage thing is would you rather participate as a walk on in the war, or go to jail in a cage.
“How I wish, how I wish you were here. We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year. Running over the same old ground, what have we found? The same old fears, wish you were here.”
This is probably the easiest one to describe in the song. I believe the chat ends in some sort of strife and that David is just crying out “I wish Syd was here.” And that even though your lost, I am too. And we’re running over the same old ground, going through the same pain. And I don’t know what we’ve found good about this. But we have the same fear of never seeing each other again, and “I just wish you were here.”
Thanks for reading guys! If you would like me to do more lyrics in description based stuff, drop a like! And post your request in the comments below!
And make sure to check out my cover of this song on my new YouTube channel “The Book of Luke”