Why does Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" album cover show someone spontaneously combusting? Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here

8 Answers 8


This isn't a definitive answer, but the album's lyrical content suggests existential themes of reaching out for some kind of genuine human connection within contexts that are dehumanized, depersonalized and faked. The image resonates with these same themes by presenting a glossy image of success --a deal between two wealthy power-brokers, backstage at a movie studio --and subverting it with the fact that one person is literally on fire, but both are pretending not to notice.


It looks like the Wikipedia article for the Wish You Were Here album has a section on the reasoning behind the cover art. Some excerpts:

The concept behind "Welcome to the Machine" and "Have a Cigar" suggested the use of a handshake (an often empty gesture)

And then:

The album's cover images were photographed by Aubrey 'Po' Powell, Storm's partner at the Pink Floyd design studio Hipgnosis and was inspired by the idea that people tend to conceal their true feelings, for fear of "getting burned", and thus two businessmen were pictured shaking hands, one man on fire. "Getting burned" was also a common phrase in the music industry, used often by artists denied royalty payments. Two stuntmen were used (Ronnie Rondell and Danny Rogers), one dressed in a fire-retardant suit covered by a business suit. His head was protected by a hood, underneath a wig. The photograph was taken at the Warner Bros. studios in Los Angeles. Initially the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, and the flames were forced into Rondell's face, burning his moustache. The two stuntmen changed positions, and the image was later reversed.


The album artwork has four images, two on the cover and two on the inner sleeve. Each of the pictures references one of the four elements:

  • Fire


  • Earth


  • Air


  • Water.


I don't think it goes any deeper than that.


Straight from Powell, Storm, Roger, and David. The industry burned them and other artists. They had no intention of being commercial they only wanted to make music. Listen to the lyrics of Have a Cigar and pay attention. Hence Welcome to the Machine. The industry was just a machine cranking out top selling albums. Once you quit or fell short bye bye.

  • By the way, which ones Floyd? This comment alone says it all Aug 19, 2019 at 11:29
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    Isn't it "Which one's Pink", not "Which one's Floyd" Dec 3, 2021 at 9:53

Think the guy on fire is supposed to be Syd Barrett who is credited for starting the band and Roger Waters is standing in his shadow, almost like all of Water’s creative, introspective, wise rhymes he made came from something that caused him great pain. Syd is trying to carry on “normally” in the businessy “real” world while his schizophrenia is burning him alive. I think the whole album is about Syd, wishing he was here -mentally and physically- with the band. I read the schizophrenia (that Syd believed he had, though never clinically diagnosed) modified the way he walked, always on his toes. Syd has his back turned to the sun while Roger is looking right at it with Syd in the way.


I think this is supposed to represent the band and their music label making a deal. The man on fire, which is supposed to represent Pink Floyd, is shaking hands with a clean, well dressed business man. They wanted to write songs about real things going on in the world, as long as the industry was making money off of the band.


I think it’s a man following in his fathers footsteps but his fathers dead and gone. This is a dream and the man knows that his father is probably burning in hell for all the things that he has done, but he loves his father, and he more than anything wishes he was there to shake his hand and be proud of him…

  • Welcome to Stack Overflow: Music. We try our best here to provide knowledgeable, definitive answers, as opposed to "guesses", wherever possible. Do you have any links to official band/artist statements that might back this answer up? Dec 3, 2021 at 15:45

here is a philosophical answer by my own perspective.in this picture two men are looking same and make a deal(try to make a good relationship to eachother) with himself but one man is on fire it signifies that fire-man was in guilt and cant see directly looking at himself(suited booted gentleman).he is burned in this sense.


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