Missing the actual March 1 date wasn’t how I had envisaged celebrating it, but at the end of the day, I simply couldn’t ignore the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon– especially after I had found myself with some unexpected extra time to write a dedicated post about one of my favorite albums. Limiting myself to a brief song inclusion in yesterday’s installment of my Sunday Six recurring feature would have been pretty measly!
The Dark Side of the Moon is one of the rare albums I can think of that hasn’t lost any of its magic since its release on March 1, 1973. To start with, it continues to be a sonic gem to this day, which has aged very well. Moreover, while greed, division and mental disease, to name some of the topics the concept album explores, have existed since the beginning of mankind, these issues remain relevant today, arguably more than ever.
Since so much has been written about this album (once again, I’d like to call out fellow blogger Vinyl Connection’s outstanding recent post), I’ve decided to keep this upfront tight and mostly focus this post on the music. I also made the deliberate choice not to contribute to the over-exposure of Money, even though I still dearly love this tune. I will also skip the excellent Us And Them, since I just featured that track in my aforementioned Sunday Six.
Let’s start taking a closer look at the music with Breathe (In the Air), the second track on Side one (in vinyl speak!). Like all other tunes, the lyrics were written by Roger Waters, the mastermind behind the concept of an album to explore dark aspects of human existence. Come to think of it, “The Dark Side of the Human Condition” would have been an apt alternative title, though the chosen option much better captures the spacy sound. The music for Breathe was composed by Richard Wright and David Gilmour, Pink Floyd’s keyboarder and guitarist, respectively. Songfacts notes Breathe…is about an older man speaking to a baby, telling it to breathe. The old man then describes the unfortunate working life the baby will have to face: “Run, rabbit, run. Dig that hole, forget the sun.” The song implies that we need to overcome these messages and do what inspires us.
Once you hear the ticking clocks, you know it’s time for, well, Time. The album’s only track credited to all four members of Pink Floyd (including drummer Nick Mason) deals with the topic of mortality. From Songfacts: This song is about how time can slip by, but many people do not realize it until it is too late. Roger Waters got the idea when he realized he was no longer preparing for anything in life, but was right in the middle of it. He had just turned 28. Songfacts also notes the layers of clock noises were put together by Alan Parsons, who served as the album’s production engineer. The sounds of each clock were recorded separately at an antiques store and subsequently were blended together – quite a feat!
Side one closes with the magnificent The Great Gig in the Sky, which I simply couldn’t skip. The track’s key feature are extraordinary vocals by Clare Torry, a British singer who had been brought in by Parsons. “She had to be told not to sing any words,” Parsons told Rolling Stone in March 2003, as documented by Songfacts. “When she first started, she was doing ‘Oh yeah baby’ and all that kind of stuff, so she had to be restrained on that. But there was no real direction – she just had to feel it.” Torry rightfully ended up receiving a writing credit for her powerful contribution. This track continues to give me chills, even though I must have listened to it more than 100 times over the decades!
Let’s move on to Side two. As previously noted, I’m skipping Money and Us And Them, which also became the album’s two singles. Instead, I’d like to call out the two final tracks, which were each written and composed by Waters. First up is Brain Damage. Songfacts observes This is probably about insanity, something the band was quite familiar with. To me, there’s no doubt this tune is about mental disease! Songfacts adds, The line, “And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes” is a specific reference to Syd Barrett’s propensity for playing the wrong song on stage during his “episodes” towards his final days with Pink Floyd, which subsequently led to his dismissal. It’s really sad what certain drugs can do!
This leaves me with the final track titled Eclipse. It seamlessly follows Brain Damage, essentially making both tunes one song. From Songfacts: The album was well into production but didn’t have an ending until Roger Waters came up with the song. It reprises some lyrics to the opening track “Breathe” (“All that you touch, all that you see”) before closing out the album with the words, “There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.” Songfacts adds the closing statement was spoken by Gerry O’Driscoll, the doorman at London’s Abbey Road Studios, where this masterpiece was recorded. I think it’s safe to assume this makes Driscoll the most popular doorman most of the album’s listeners aren’t aware they know. I was one of them!
Following is a Spotify link to the album. If you own headphones, I highly recommend using them!
The Dark Side of the Moon has sold more than 45 million copies worldwide, which according to Wikipedia makes it the best-selling album of the ’70s and the forth-best selling in history after Michael Jackson’s Thriller (70 million), AC/DC’s Back in Black (50 million) and the soundtrack of The Bodyguard (45 million). A Billboard story published in March 2013 for the album’s 40th anniversary reported, Despite only reaching the No. 1 spot for one solitary week, the album continues to hold the record for the most weeks charted on the Billboard 200 (over 800 weeks!) and was a constant feature on the Billboard 200 from its initial release until 1988 – returning to the chart in late 2009 after Billboard revised its chart eligibility rules regarding older releases.
A look at the current Billboard 200 (week of March 4) reveals The Dark Side of the Moon at no. 155 with a total of now 972 weeks on the chart – that’s the equivalent of approximately 18.5 years! I imagine the upcoming March 24 reissue box-set The Dark Side of the Moon 50th Anniversary, if anything, is going to breathe in (no pun intended!) additional life for this amazing album!
Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; Billboard; YouTube; Spotify