Saturday, April 28, 1973

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon hit #1

First posted 4/28/2012; updated 3/30/2019.

The Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
  1. Speak to Me (Mason) [1:16]
  2. Breathe (Gilmour/ Waters/ Wright) [2:44]
  3. On the Run (Gilmour/ Waters) [3:33]
  4. Time/Breathe Reprise (Gilmour/ Mason/ Waters/ Wright) [7:06] (live – 12/10/88, #34 AR)
  5. The Great Gig in the Sky (Wright/Torry) [4:44]
  6. Money (Waters) [6:32] (5/7/73, #13 US, #37 AR)
  7. Us and Them (Waters/ Wright) [7:40] (2/4/74, --)
  8. Any Colour You Like (Gilmour/ Mason/ Wright) [3:25]
  9. Brain Damage (Waters) [3:50]
  10. Eclipse (Waters) [2:04]

Released: March 1, 1973

Charted: March 17, 1973

Sales (in millions): 18.0 US, 3.91 UK, 45.0 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 11 US, 2 UK, 1 AU, 1 CN

Genre: classic psychedelic/progressive rock

Quotable: “One of the most consistently popular albums of all time.” – Tim Morse, Classic Rock Stories


Dark Side of the Moon is that rare album to garner astronomical sales…, staggering chart success (a record-setting 14 years+ on the Billboard album chart and “294 weeks on the UK album chart” CA and near-reverential critical acclaim.

No one could have foreseen the impending success based on Floyd’s first five years. They burst out of the gates with 1967’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn, an album spearheaded by then-leader Syd Barrett. When he “disappeared into a psychedelic haze” BN and mental instability, the band carved out a new identity, with leanings toward more progressive rock. With Dark Side of the Moon, “Pink Floyd…finally ditch their primal Syd Barrett psychedelia” Q by crafting an album “that is discovered anew by each generation of rock listeners.” AMG

“There's…something reassuringly obscure” SM about the album. “Setting aside [its] historical baggage,” PK “it is fascinating that an album whose central theme is madness” CRS “or things that drive people mad” CA “would become one of the most consistently popular albums of all time.” CRS “The band could hardly be accused of going for populist themes;” SM they tackle “death, violence, and paranoia” SM as well as “alienation, insanity and the tragedy of the human condition.” RV Perhaps because of that, the band received “the kind of cult adoration usually only granted to those whose critical cachet is in direct inverse to their popular appeal.” SM Put another way, “it's a long way from Saturday Night Fever.” SM

“The subtly textured music…evolves from ponderous, neo-psychedelic art rock to jazz fusion and blues-rock before turning back to psychedelia.” AMG “The sound is lush and multi-layered;” RS it's dense with detail, but leisurely paced.” AMG “Pink Floyd doesn’t rush anything; the songs are mainly slow to mid-tempo, with attention paid throughout to musical texture and mood,” AZ consquently “creating its own dark, haunting world.” AMG

“The primary revelation of Dark Side of the Moon is what a little focus does for the band.” AMG As far as previous endeavors went, “there was a lot of self-indulgent nonsense before this album happened along.” CDAtom Heart Mother and Meddle had hinted at Floyd's potential,” Q the latter of which “pointed the way forward with its epic ‘Echoes’ track, but this time the concept would be carried through the entire album.” SM “By condensing the sonic explorations of Meddle to actual songs and adding a lush, immaculate production to their trippiest instrumental sections, Pink Floyd inadvertently designed their commercial breakthrough.” AMG

Dark Side of the Moon isn't as much a concept album as a continuous, masterful” RV “piece of music.” DD ”The success of the album owes more to the cohesiveness of the record as a whole, rather than the strength of any individual songs.” PKDark Side of the Moon isn't ten of the greatest tracks ever written…it's ten tracks that work brilliantly in combination - a whole more than the sum of its parts.” AD

The History:

Initially, Waters came up with “an idea for a song about insanity…during the Meddle sessions. A little later, the group found themselves in Nick Mason’s kitchen discussing the idea of a suite of songs all linked together. The insanity idea was held - madness, death, aging” AD and “Waters wrote a series of songs about mundane, everyday details which aren't that impressive by themselves.” AMG In fact, “they resemble a philosophical treatise much more than the outlook of an emotion-full poet…this is Doctor R. Waters, Ph.D., who has just finished adding rhymes to his latest thesis.” GS Still, “when given the sonic backdrop of Floyd's slow, atmospheric soundscapes and carefully placed sound effects, [the songs] achieve an emotional resonance.” AMG

While “Roger Waters’ [possesses an] almost peerless genius for writing profoundly evocative, yet unforced lyrical metaphors,” RV “the album [also] exemplifies Pink Floyd's musical range and technical virtuosity.” RV “David Gilmour’s “vocals are at their best” PK and his “guitar throughout is inspired, mixing jagged blues playing with atmospheric slide motifs and chords.” SM This “catches the band at its peak -- more musically varied than the spaced-out folkie-experimental music of Floyd's earlier albums, and less prone to Roger Waters' oppressive worldview than later albums.” PK

”Much of the album had been performed live under the title of Eclipse for some time before the Floyd even entered the studio, which accounts for it's instrumental cohesion. It also allowed the band time to experiment with the various segues and moods.” SM

The album “was recorded at the world famous Abbey Road Studio's in London, from June 1972 through to January 1973.” CA “By now the band were acknowledged masters of technology, and they utilised the latest facilities Abbey Road had to offer, ably assisted” SM by “their long-time engineer, Alan Parsons.” CD

“From an audiophile’s standpoint” CRS “technology wise, [Dark Side] was way ahead of it’s time.” CA “Copies…could always be found in hi-fi stores. Because of it's sound production, it was frequently used to demonstrate the latest range of turntables/amps/speakers as they came onto the market.” CA “Cosy couples happy in their new homes rushed out to buy copies…to play on their newly installed state-of-the-art Seventies hi-fi equipment, safe in the knowledge that here was the very best audio quality the world had to offer.” AD The album became “one of the great headphone albums and…the album of choice for a generation of herbal adventurers.” SM

”No previous album boasted such an immaculate production or such a huge load of special effects.” GS “This record is a follow-up to [The Beatles’] Sgt. Pepper with its wide variety of sound effects… and studio trickery” CRS “from stereophonically-projected footsteps and planes flying overhead (‘On the Run’) to a roomful of ringing clocks (‘Time’)” CD to “Money” with its “sampled sounds of clinking coins and cash registers turned into rhythmic accompaniment.” AZ The effects “are impressive, especially when we remember that 1973 was before the advent of digital recording techniques.” AZ

“Further adding to the record's mystique” CD is the “use of disembodied voices;” SM that is, “barely audible spoken passages [that] were sprinkled throughout--a result of hours interviewing random Abbey Road occupants about their views on insanity, violence and death.” CD

“The band would hold up cards with questions…such as ‘When was the last time you hit someone?’ or ‘What do you think of death?’ The most useful answers came from Abbey Road's Irish doorman - who contributed the album's stark final line: ‘There is no dark side of the moon really, matter of fact it's all dark’ - and roadie Roger the Hat, whose manic laughter was particularly apposite. Paul and Linda McCartney also took part, but their answers lacked the spontaneity of the others and weren’t used.” SM The “taped speech fragments may be old hat, but for once they cohere musically.” RC

The Songs:

As for the actual songs, the album kicks off with Speak to Me, a song composed by Nick Mason, which “gives us a good indication of what's to come throughout the rest of the album.” CA

“The screaming that ends ‘Speak to Me’…flows wonderfully” AD into the “sweeping glissando” SM of Breathe. “When David Gilmour finally sings…it's like being pulled up from the bottom of the ocean gasping for air.” RV “Waters rewrote ‘Breathe’ after its appearance on his and avant-garde composer Ron Geesin's score for The Body, a surreal medical documentary.” CD The track is “so laid back and relaxing, you'll be almost horizontal.” CA

“The non-vocal On the Run is a standout with footsteps racing from side to side” RS that “really does give the effect of being chased.” CA The song “evolved in the studio” SM as “an opportunity for the band to dabble and experiment with the (then) new VCS3 Synthesizer.” CA

“As ‘On the Run’ fades out oh so quietly, the clocks and ringing of Time literally leap out and grab your ears and tear them from the side of your head.” AD Pair that with David Gilmour’s “blistering guitar solo” CA and this “fine country-tinged rocker” RS may well be “the highlight track on the album.” CA “’Time’ illustrates one of the leading factors of insanity…Waters’ lyrics point out, ‘You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today / And then one day you find 10 years have got behind you.’” RV

”There's more laid-back stuff on the reprise of ‘Breathe’ before going on to hear a superb vocal performance by session singer Clare Torry, on The Great Gig in the Sky. “She puts everything she's got into her part;” CA she “enriches the already beautiful Rick Wright composition…with some terrific vocal wailing.” AD The song “is spooky; it's glorious perfect music.” AD

On Money, “cash registers rattle and coins chink from left speaker to right speaker on the introduction.” CA The song, which “illuminates humanity's greed behind the façade of charity,” RV features “another excellent…trademark guitar solo” CA from Gilmour and a bass line which is truly “something special.” GS The song “is broadly and satirically played with appropriately raunchy sax playing by Dick Parry,” RS “a long time friend of the band.” CA The song “has had loads of airplay over the years on radio stations all over the world” CA and while it “became a breakthrough hit for the group in the U.S.,” AD there were actually “no singles…taken from the album in the U.K.” AD

”The music to Us and Them…had been kicking around the Floyd camp since 1969.” CA “Originally titled ‘The Violence Sequence,’” CD the song “evolved from a piano piece Rick Wright had written for the soundtrack of Zabriskie Point,” SM “a study of American materialism from a foreigner's perspective.” CD The song “starts off quietly, but builds…into a really big production.” CA The song is also blessed with another “wonderfully-stated, breathy solo” RS from saxophonist Parry.

”The instrumental Any Colour You Like is a fantastic little track that once again uses the synthesizer to maximum effect; it will give your stereo a good testing.” CA

The lyric ”’the lunatic is on the grass’ opens Brain Damage,” AD “complete with manic ramblings in the background.” CA The song “clearly draw inspiration from [Syd Barrett’s] fate as rock’s most celebrated acid casualty.” SM

“Another gem of a track, the superb Eclipse,” CA “sounds like the end of a film, the end of an opera or stage show. It fades out to mirror the sound of a heart beat, the same kind of sound that opened the album.” AD Hence, Pink Floyd conclude their “dark symphony…it's clear that the entire world has gone mad and there may be no hope for anyone.” RV It then wraps up with the aforementioned words of Abbey Road’s doorman: “there is no dark side of the moon really, as a matter of fact it's all dark.”

Dark Side of the Moon was a benchmark record…[it] changed things considerably for Pink Floyd.” CD “The enormous success…was a double-edged sword…the band suddenly found itself playing football stadiums to huge crowds…Creatively, it almost finished them. They briefly toyed with the idea of making an album using nothing but household objects, which must have enthralled their record company.” SM

“Pink Floyd may have better albums,” AMG but “when it comes to their best album, however defined, it's just too hard to avoid Dark Side of the Moon. Sure, its insights are probably more meaningful to stoned teenagers with headphones than to adults listening carefully to the lyrics. But…it still makes for a consistently enjoyable listening experience.” PK “No other record defines them quite as well as this one.” AMG Dark Side of the Moon is that rare album to garner astronomical sales (45 million worldwide, making it one of the top three best-selling albums of all time), staggering chart success (a record-setting 14 years+ on the Billboard album chart and 294 weeks on the UK album chart), CA and near-reverential critical acclaim.

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