By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
Since it’s incarnation, Rock and Roll has spawned hundreds of stand-out, must-have records with diverse and eclectic sounds. But very few have served as a rite of passage for an entire generation like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
Released in 1973, Dark Side of the Moon began as an extended piece of music called “Eclipse: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics” that the band would play in the middle of their sets in the early 70’s. However, by late ’72, the band headed for the studio to lay down this epic conceptual masterpiece, not knowing they would change the course of history in the process.
After losing the genius of their original lead songwriter and guitarist, Syd Barret, Pink Floyd recruited guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour in 1968 and spent their next five albums heavily experimenting, trying to find a sound. They grew acclaim from the underground and rising progressive rock community and enjoyed modest success in their native England. But it wasn’t until Dark Side of the Moon, their seventh studio album, that they finally broke into the international scene and became stadium-sized rock stars, a status which they grew to resent.
Upon it’s release, Dark Side of the Moon became an instant hit. It’s a concept album, dealing with the pressures of entering adulthood, and viewing the world as such. It touches on themes of personal anguish, extroverted resentment and the reoccurring theme of lunacy throughout. By the time of the album’s release, the members of Pink Floyd were all in their late 20’s, approaching their 30’s. It has moments of angst, but filtered through the frustrations of an adult.
“And then one day you’ll find, ten years have got behind you. No one told you where to run. You missed the starting gun,” are the lyrics to classic hit single “Time,” penned by bassist and then-lead songwriter, Roger Waters. They serve as example of what not only the band, but much of their generation was feeling at the time: “What the hell happened to our dreams of changing the world?”
The album opens with the spoken line, “I’ve been mad for fucking years. Absolutely years,” before culminating into a series of noises leading into the spacey “Breathe.” From there, one of the first hints of what would become techno music, “On The Run” blasts off into sonic paranoia leading into the epic “Time,” featuring some of the best guitar work David Gilmour has ever recorded, and that’s saying a lot! Side One of the album closes with the haunting “Great Gig in the Sky,” featuring the a beautiful piano composition by keyboardist Rick Wright and chilling vocal shrills by female session vocalist Clare Torry.
Side Two begins with arguably the band’s most successful single, “Money.” Ironically, this anthem railing against greed and indulgence served as their ticket to stardom, breaking them across the pond in America and beyond. “Money,” which in it’s opening sequence featured an early form of the technique of sampling, is also a very unconventional rock hit. It’s 7/3 time signature, over a very English bass line, contradicts the bluesy vocals. Even more unconventional is the jazzy saxophone solo performed by the great Dick Perry before the song climaxes back into a traditional 4/4 rock time signature for another ripping Gilmour guitar solo.
From there, the mellower “Us and Them” and psychedelic “Any Colour You Like” continue enchanting listeners on this sonic journey, leading them straight into the beautiful and chaotic closing tracks, “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse.”
“And everything under the sun is tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon,” is the last line sung before closing with one last haunting spoken line, “There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”
After the success of Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd went on to continued growing success. Late 70’s punk did little to slow them down, as their 1979 album, The Wall, became another cultural and artistic benchmark and multi-platinum seller. After 1983’s The Final Cut, Roger Waters left Pink Floyd and enjoyed a successful solo career. Pink Floyd continued making records up until 1994’s The Division Bell, where they went into an unofficial retirement. Waters rejoined Pink Floyd for a brief 20-minute set at 2005’s Live 8 global benefit concert, and it was the last time the Dark Side-era Pink Floyd had performed together.
In 2008, Rick Wright died of cancer, and Pink Floyd was finally put to rest. Waters still tours, usually playing Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety, and has been occasionally joined by Gilmour and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason.
40 years later, Dark Side of the Moon is continuing to sell, with a cultural impact that has not weakened. It remained in the top 200 albums for 10 years, and is one of the top-selling albums of all-time, just behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The album featured a sound that was years ahead of it’s time, and became a must-have for rock fans of the generation. However, as the years pass, newer generations are falling in love with it all over again. Perhaps its subject matter, angry yet thought-provoking, is an issue that teens and young adults of all generations and all walks of life can relate to.
A documentary on the making of Dark Side of the Moon can be seen here.