“Have a cigar” is one of those old movie lines usually delivered by a leering mogul from behind a huge desk to an awestruck newbie in a humbling, lower chair. And that’s pretty much how it was meant when delivered by Pink Floyd back in 1975 on Wish You Were Here, their tribute to their sidelined comrade, Syd Barrett. The album has many side stories, including the appearance of Syd Barrett as a silent viewer of the proceedings, but one of the most peculiar and ironic aspects of the album is Roy Harper’s participation on the album’s third track, “Have a Cigar.”
Harper was in the same Abbey Road studios recording HQ and willingly provided the vocals for “Have a Cigar.” It’s one of only two songs on their releases not sung by the members of Pink Floyd. Waters had strained his voice and Gilmour was not satisfied with his own version. Several takes were made with Gilmour and Harper sharing vocals, though the tracked one is Harper’s great rendering of the tune. Several versions have been leaked or released from those sessions over the years, the latest being an interesting one on the bootleg From Abbey Road to Britannia Row. The song’s legacy isn’t all about cooperation and the joy of creation, however.
New Reasons to Celebrate
The irony of the song’s provenance and its meaning is that there have been issues surrounding the royalties and Harper’s pay for his work. Speaking of the issue in 2009 Harper announced his retirement, a retirement that could have meant 2000’s The Green Man was the last release of his career. Luckily he has shaken off the retirement cloak and recently issued what might be the best album of his career, 2013’s Man and Myth. Add to that a new Pink Floyd album (The Endless River) to be released in October 2014 and we have some things to celebrate, with a cigar or otherwise.