This is a tribute to Syd Barrett, an original member of Pink Floyd - notice the title, Shine On You Crazy Diamond. He was their lead guitarist and wrote most of their early hits, but he gradually went nuts and was kicked out of the band in 1968, 3 years after the group started. Drugs played a big role in his mental illness.
During the final mixing sessions of this song in June of 1975, Barrett wandered into the studios, ready to help out. He was fat, bald, and as crazy as they remembered, but they let him stay for a while. Barrett wanted to rejoin the group, but they learned in 1967 and 1968 that having an insane member was not good for a band. Before he was kicked out, Barrett would get on stage and either refuse to play or play the same note over and over.
According to the Pink Floyd autobiography A Saucerful of Secrets by Nicholas Schaffner, when Barrett came into the control room, the remaining members of Pink Floyd were listening to the finished recording of the album. This was the eve before Pink Floyd were going on a US tour. David Gilmour didn't recognize him at first - they hadn't seen him in years. Syd was fat, bald, had shaved eyebrows and was wearing a white trenchcoat with white shoes. When someone tried to break the ice by asking Syd how he had put on so much weight, he maniacally replied, "I've got a very large fridge in the kitchen, and I've been eating a lot of pork chops!" That was the last time any of the Pink Floyd members have seen him. (thanks, Dave - Marieta, GA).
Gilmour came up with 4 notes that became the basis for this. Roger Waters thought they conveyed emotions Barrett must have been feeling, and wrote lyrics about him.
Waters sang lead. He recorded the vocal line by line over and over again, and killed his voice in the process. That's why English folk singer Roy Harper was brought in to sing "Have A Cigar
." He was close friend of the band's, as well as Led Zeppelin. (thanks, Adrian - Brookings, SD)
On the album Wish You Were Here, this is split into 2 parts, with "Have A Cigar," "Welcome To The Machine," and "Wish You Were Here" in between. It was going to be continuous, but Waters decided it should be split.
This was very difficult to record. They redid it a few times before getting a version they liked.
Dick Parry was brought in to play sax on this. He also played on "Us And Them" and "Money" from Dark Side of the Moon.
Pink Floyd started playing this live over a year before the album came out. The band thought they could improve on songs if they played them at concerts before recording them. At the time, it was known as "Shine On."
This was the last song Richard Wright got a writing credit for before Roger Waters kicked him out of the band during The Wall sessions 4 years later. A combination of Waters' increasing control over the group and Wright's mounting personal problems are what led to his departure. He would not rejoin the band until 1987, after Waters himself had left. (thanks, Adrian - Brookings, SD)
In 1986, Waters left the band and became enraged when they continued on without him. At subsequent Pink Floyd shows, they played this with Gilmour on vocals.
In The Simpsons episode "The Old Man and Lisa," Monty Burns meets a hippy at a recycling center and says to him, "Shine on you crazy diamond." (thanks, Tom - Mendon, MA)