Those of you deeply into both jazz violin and progressive rock no doubt jumped right on the play button above. Quite a few more will listen — so experience has taught me — purely out of interest in anything and everything Pink Floyd has done. But on the level of music history, the track above, a version of the cerebral English rock band’s Pink Floyd’s well-known 1975 song “With You Were Here” prominently featuring a solo from the French “Grandfather of Jazz Violinists” Stéphane Grappelli, should fascinate just about anyone. It speaks to the particular kind of high-profile musical experimentalism that thrived in that era, at least in some quarters — or, rather, in some studios. In this case, the Grappelli and the Floyd boys found themselves recording in adjacent ones. Why would the latter invite the former, already an elder statesman of jazz and a collaborator with the likes of Django Reinhardt, to sit in on a session? (Watch Django and Grappelli play together in the 1938 film, Jazz Hot here.) Well… why not? They needed something impressive to follow Dark Side of the Moon, after all.
Still, for all the richness of the result you hear here and all the fan-hours spent listening to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album in the 35 years after it came out, the public never got to hear Grappelli’s playing foregrounded until Immersion reissued it three years ago. This long-lost but rediscovered mix of the title track marks, to the mind of Pink Floyd founding member Nick Mason, a marked improvement over the version on the original album. “I think that was the jewel in that particular crown,” he said to Sonic Reality. “It was something that I assumed had been lost forever. I thought we’d recorded over it. [ … ] I can’t imagine why we didn’t use it at the time.” In the one they did use at the time, what remains of Grappelli’s playing came out so inaudible that the album’s credits didn’t even name the violinist. I’d like to chalk up another point for the cultural revision made possible by our technological age, but alas, I doubt any sort of rediscovery will break true Floyd acolytes of their adherence to the canon.
If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.
If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!
Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sings Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18
Watch Documentaries on the Making of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here
Dark Side of the Rainbow: Pink Floyd Meets The Wizard of Oz in One of the Earliest Mash-Ups
Watch Pink Floyd Play Live in the Ruins of Pompeii (1972)
Jazz ‘Hot’: The Rare 1938 Short Film With Jazz Legend Django Reinhardt
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.
Thank you…most enjoyable. My first taste of Pink Floyd in decades has re-awakened my joy for their art.
I recall seeing an interview about this session, where Grappelli was asked about how he found it. His reply, as I recall it, was “They are very nice boys, but always the same three chords!” in that lovely high pitched voice of his.
It’s nice to hear this version, but I think the folks who cut the album as it was released made the right call. Less is more. Maybe even Grappelli would agree that this version spends a whole lot of time on just three chords. :)
Just perfect… My favourite song, thank you.
I’ve never heard a violin being played with notes so bent, so purposefully.
Love your stuff
Le Hot Club de Floyd. This is incredible.
its not a song to Nick Mason the drummer – its a song to the late Syd Barrett, the founder of Pink Floyd and a kind of musical mentor for their work even he left the band after only 1 album and ended up in mental hospital
Wow…this is like a window into a parallel universe – wonderful.
I’m so glad this was expunged from the final record. Grappelli just doesn’t ‘get the Floyd. His happy, upbeat jazz is coming from totally the wrong place. It’s also way to fiddly – against the grain of Floyd’s moody textures.
OH, MAN….WERE YOU ALIVE “BACK THEN”? Grappelli was probably the “Pink Floyd” of his youth! Genius is genius however it’s delivered. Broaden your horizons, son.
I bought this from Amazon maybe a year ago for 99 cents and it’s the only version I’ll listen to.
I was lucky enough to see Grappelli live, he was in his 70s, he had a nasty virus, and he blew the audience away. I was surprised to see him at the piano as well where he also amazed the crowd. Just the idea of touring at that age, let alone sick as hell, still makes me shake my head.
Of course I love Floyd as well, and I sure had never heard of this – thanks!
Loved hearing this. I now get where Gilmour’s leads came from on this track. I didn’t belong on the final cut, but damn it’s fun to hear. And that’s a huge compliment. This is my favorite track of all time, so to hear any tinkering is approaching sacrilegiousness
I KNOW I’ve heard this on spotify but I somehow lost the track and it’s nowhere to be found. Really glad I found it on here. Just amazing.
Yes for sure I vividly remember Pink Floyd’s well-known 1975 song “With You Were Here” prominently featuring a solo from French “Grandfather of Jazz Violinists” Stéphane Grappelli which was great when communicating with girlfriends that made fireworks afterwards 😉
Doesn’t sound like Grappelli to me.
He was a far superior player than this dude,his tone was much more refined. Also stylistically different.
Someone’s having a lend of you!