The song ‘Wish You Were Here’ and the word hilarious go together about as well as dog and chocolate. The track is a beloved poignant classic and we all love a laugh but never the twain shall meet, and once you throw the term ‘accident’ into the mix the whole headline seems like an unfathomable mess. However, lo and behold, there is no doubting that a hilarious accident did indeed occur involving Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ — but allow me to explain…
When it comes to dangerous stunts, setting yourself on fire is right up there with checking out ‘what that strange sound was’ in a horror movie. However, when it comes to the trained professionals of the trade, being ablaze is probably covered on the second day of the course, right after they teach you how to jump from a bridge onto a passing garbage truck. But stunt performers, like the rest of us, have off days, and when those occur, the best they can hope for is that the accident will later be described as hilarious on Far Out.
The iconic album cover for both the record and single of the same name, ‘Wish You Were Here’, features two men besuited men shaking hands, except one of them is notably aflame. The artwork was snapped by the photographer Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell, down at Warner Bros. studio complex in California. The idea behind the image was to concoct a notion of people concealing their true feelings for fear of “getting burned” while paradoxically feeling the flames all the same.
In order to achieve the image two stuntmen were hired, Ronnie Rondell and Danny Rogers. Rondell must have drawn the short straw somewhere along the line because he was tasked with being set alight, while Rodgers merely had to extend his hand. In order to achieve the iconic image safely, Rondell wore a flame-retardant body layer underneath the business suit and popped a wig on top.
He was doused in gasoline and set on fire, and the photo shoot began. Sadly, however, at this stage, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction so all the flames were being gusted back towards him. While he was fortunately covered elsewhere to avoid a scorching; small perforations, to allow breathing meant that the flames blown towards his face ended up setting his moustache on fire.
While it could be argued that surely he should have shaved his moustache off prior to the stunt, you have to ask yourself, what sort of mid-seventies stuntman would Rondell be if he was nude from the nose down? The ‘tash was a prerequisite of the trade in the era, and as his muff duster sizzled out of existence, he probably bemoaned with great anguish the loss of at least a week’s work while he forced out a replacement.
Fortunately, aside from the top lip nudity and no doubt a few moments of extreme panic, Rondell escaped the incident unharmed. He stormed off set calling an end to the shoot, but the images were in the can and the rest, as they say, is ancient history in the great annals of rock ‘n’ roll iconography.