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The album's cover image 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 overall theme of the album is absence. In fact, Roger Waters said that the title could have just as easily been "Wish We Were Here," when enthusiasm for the project waned in the beginning, as members of the group were filled with self-doubt about trying to follow up a wildly successful album — about being a rock band at all. Design team Hipgnosis took the theme and visualized it as four photos for the album jacket and sleeve, also playing on the four basic elements: earth, fire, air and water. To further the concept, the LP was sold wrapped in an opaque plastic, in some way making the album itself absent, if only from the eyes of the buying public. The now-familiar logo of the mechanical shaking hands was stuck to the outside, a symbol of a gesture that should be filled with warmth and meaning, but more often is reduced to a cold, empty ritual. The logo also evokes a song on the album: "Welcome to the Machine."
Wish You Were Here has been remastered and re-released on several formats. In the UK and US the album was re-issued in quadraphonic using the SQ format in 1976,[nb 5] and in 1980 a special Hi-Fi Today audiophile print was released in the UK.[nb 6] In the US it was released on CD in 1983, and in the UK 1985,[nb 7] and again as a remastered CD with new artwork in 1994.[nb 8] In the US, Columbia's CBS Mastersound label released a half-speed mastered audiophile LP in 1981,[nb 9] and in 1994 Sony Mastersound released a 24-carat gold-plated CD, remastered using Super Bit Mapping, with the original artwork from the LP in both longbox and jewel case forms, the latter with a cardboard slipcover.[nb 10] The album was included as part of the box set Shine On, and five years later Columbia Records released an updated remastered CD, 17 seconds longer than the EMI remasters from 1994, giving a running time of 44:28. Its label was a recreation of the original machine handshake logo, with a black and blue background.[nb 11] The album was subsequently re-released in 2000 for its 25th anniversary, on the Capitol Records label in the US.[nb 12] The album was re-released and remixed in 2011 in multiple editions as part of the Why Pink Floyd...? re-release campaign. The Immersion Box Set includes the new stereo digital remaster (2011) by James Guthrie on CD, a previously unreleased 5.1 Surround Mix (2009) by James Guthrie on DVD and Blu-ray, a Quad Mix (previously released only on vinyl LP and 8-track tape) on DVD, as well as the original stereo mix (1975) on DVD and Blu-ray.[nb 13] This campaign also featured the 2011 stereo remaster on 180g heavyweight vinyl [nb 14] as well as the 2011 stereo remaster and the 5.1 surround sound mix (2009) as a Hybrid SACD.