Saturday, April 28, 1973

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

Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd


Released: March 1, 1973


Peak: 11 US, 2 UK, 16 CN, 11 AU, 18 DF


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


Genre: classic psychedelic/progressive rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.

  1. Speak to Me (Mason) [1:16]
  2. Breathe (Gilmour/ Waters/ Wright) [2:44] (3 CL, 6 DF)
  3. On the Run (Gilmour/ Waters) [3:33] (27 DF)
  4. Time/Breathe Reprise (Gilmour/ Mason/ Waters/ Wright) [7:06] (2/4/74, 34 AR, 1 CL, 3 DF)
  5. The Great Gig in the Sky (Wright/Torry) [4:44] (13 CL, 18 DF)
  6. Money (Waters) [6:32] (5/7/73, 13 BB, 10 CB, 15 GR, 10 HR, 37 AR, 1 CL, 18 CN, 10 AU, 1 DF)
  7. Us and Them (Waters/ Wright) [7:40] (2/4/74, 72 CB, 2 CL, 3 DF)
  8. Any Colour You Like (Gilmour/ Mason/ Wright) [3:25] (26 CL)
  9. Brain Damage (Waters) [3:50] (1 CL, 3 DF)
  10. Eclipse (Waters) [2:04] (1 CL, 3 DF)


Total Running Time: 43:09


The Players:

  • Roger Waters (bass, vocals)
  • David Gilmour (vocals, guitar)
  • Nick Mason (drums, percussion)
  • Richard Wright (keyboards)

Rating:

4.689 out of 5.00 (average of 37 ratings)


Quotable:

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

Spotify Podcast:

Check out the Dave’s Music Database podcast episode Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon: 50th Anniversary. Premiere: 3/28/2023 at 7pm CST. Tune in every Tuesday at 7pm for a new episode.


Awards:

(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Dark Side of the Moon is the rare album to achieve the trifecta of success – near-reverential critical acclaim, astronomical sales (top 5 all time), and staggering chart success (18+ years on the Billboard album chart and over 518 weeks on the UK album chart). Drummer Nick Mason said, “You’ve probably got five different things that work for it,” explaining that “the lyrics are very important, but the music is important as well, and so are the sound effects, the voices, [and] the concept.” CM

“More than just a cultural institution, Pink Floyd’s eighth album is a landmark achievement in what rock music in the 1970s could become. For the band, it represented a global smash unlike any previous release, translating their penchant for often abstract prog into a more accessible format.” PM

History:

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Pink Floyd were “the lead astronauts in the universe of space-rock” CS becoming “about as popular as a band could get while still being considered an underground act.” CS They burst out of the gates with 1967’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn, a psychedelic classic spearheaded by then-leader Syd Barrett. When he “disappeared into a psychedelic haze” BN and mental instability, the band carved out a new identity, leaning more towards progressive rock.

“The group’s first post-Barrett albums, 1968’s Saucerful of Secrets and 1969’s Ummagumma, were surprisingly listenable” CS and “Atom Heart Mother and Meddle had hinted at Floyd's potential.” Q The latter featured the twenty-three-minute epic “Echoes,” which suggested the themes that later emerged on Dark Side. Still, Pink Floyd’s highest-charting album in the U.S. was 1972’s Obscured by Clouds at #46 and Dark Side “was as full of bizarrities as their previous LPs” CS so no one would have expected it to become the band’s breakout success.

“The primary revelation of Dark Side of the Moon is what a little focus does for the band.” AMG Previous endeavors featured “a lot of self-indulgent nonsense.” CD Dark Side was “a sturdy bridge between the blues-based psychedelia of their forebears, the avant-garde experimentation of their earlier works, and the cutting-edge electronica that was sweeping progressive bands to new levels of pomposity.” CS The band finally “ditch their primal Syd Barrett psychedelia” Q and “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

Theme:

“The band could hardly be accused of going for populist themes.” SM Dark Side “documents the fragility of the human mind in the modern world – tormented by societal contrivances and the futility of running against time.” CQ The album “takes you into a dark and eerie montage of the human condition – terrifying, moody, cynical, and heart-wrenchingly beautiful.” CQ “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 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 Still, because the “incredibly tight and smooth series of songs…stood up as individual efforts and as a cohesive whole” CS it made for an album that gained widespread appeal “as one of the greatest concept albums ever produced.” CS

Roger 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

Waters said, “When I say, ‘I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon,’ what I mean is, ‘If you feel that you’re the only one – that you seem crazy ‘cos you think everything is crazy – you’re not alone.” CM

The Music:

While 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 “The seeds of madness that lurk in the dreary predictability of daily life are magnified by the band’s foreboding melodies and lush textures” UT which evolve “from ponderous, neo-psychedelic art rock to jazz fusion and blues-rock before turning back to psychedelia.” AMG

“When it comes to sonic exploration and experimentation, Pink Floyd picked up where The Beatles left off, and eclipsed them. Dark Side of the Moon expanded music beyond the ears and – as corny and psychedelic as it sounds – into the mind. The cinematic, surround-sound experience of the album puts you directly into the music.” CQ

“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

It is “a continuous, masterful” RV “piece of music” DD that is “lush and multi-layered.” RS It is “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.” AMGDark 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 It “remains Pink Floyd at their most transcendent, a release as brilliant in construction as it is immensely cathartic.” PM

An Audiophile’s Dream:

”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 its instrumental cohesion. It also allowed the band time to experiment with the various segues and moods.” SM

The album was recorded over 38 days CM between June 1972 through January 1973 in London’s famous Abbey Road Studio. 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 Alan Parsons, their engineer, who’d also famously worked on the Beatles’ 1969 Abbey Road album.

“From an audiophile’s standpoint” CRS “technology wise, [Dark Side] was way ahead of it’s time.” CA Parsons helped Floyd push “the audio technology of the time to the brink, and freed music beyond passive listening and into a full immersion of sound.” CQ “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.” AD It is “the greatest (and most black-light-friendly) headphones album of all time, hands down” E’12 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


The Songs:

Here’s thoughts on each of the individual songs from the album.

“Speak to Me”
As for the actual songs, the album kicks off with Speak to Me, a song composed by Nick Mason. It “is both an overture and a collage, combining sounds from the songs that would follow (the cash register from ‘Money,’ Clare Torry’s vocal from ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’) with spoken vocals.” SP Random people passing through Abbey Road studios were asked questions such as “When was the last time you hit someone?” or “What do you think of death?” SM The title “Speak to Me” grew out of the phrase Alan Parsons used when prepping interviewees. SP

The answers were actually sprinkled throughout the album, the most notable being the “album’s stark final line” SM from Abbey Road’s Irish doorman: “There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.” SM Another highlight is “manic laughter” from roadie Roger the Hat. SM Paul and Linda McCartney were even asked questions, but they weren’t used due to lack of spontaneity. SM The “taped speech fragments may be old hat, but for once they cohere musically.” RC

“Breathe (In the Air)”
“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

The song first surfaced as an acoustic cut on the 1970 musical score for the “surreal medical documentary” CD The Body, a collaboration between Waters and Scottish composer Ron Geesin. Waters was inspired by Neil Young’s “Down by the River” while keyboardist Richard Wright credits Miles Davis’ “All Blue” for inspiring the chords he played. SP The track is “so laid back and relaxing, you’ll be almost horizontal.” CA

“On the Run”
“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 The instrumental was originally titled “The Travel Sequence.” It included sounds of a plane crash and airport announcements, which tied it to “The Great Gig in the Sky,” which was inspired by Wright’s fear of flying. SP

“Time/Breathe (Reprise)”
“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

During the Syd Barrett era, Wright was “the band’s second-most prolific singer and songwriter” SP but his “vocal and lyrical contributions became less frequent” SP after Gilmour was added and “the emergence of Waters as the band’s creative leader.” SP This song marked the last time Wright would sing lead vocal (shared with Gilmour) until 1994’s The Division Bell. SP

Parsons recorded the clock sounds that open the song. He had gone to a watchmaker’s shop to collect audio for the sound effect library for the studio. When he heard the working title of the song (“Time Song”) he offered the sounds to the band. SP

“The Great Gig in the Sky”
This song was introduced live in January 1972 under the working title “The Mortality Sequence” and would later be called “Religion” before getting its final title. This marked the last time the band would extensively introduce material live for an upcoming album. A bootleg called Tour 72 sold over 100,000 copies to the displeasure of the band despite it building anticipation for Dark Side . SP

The studio version showcased session singer Clare Torry improvising “a breathtaking wordless vocal…that complemented the often cold electronica elsewhere on the album.” CM “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

“Money”
Money, with its funky bass line, biting lyrics, and distinct sound collage, is immortal.” CQ “Cash registers rattle and coins chink from left speaker to right speaker on the introduction.” CA The idea stemmed back to 1971’s Meddle when the band make a point of “recording anything but conventional instruments, making sounds by opening bottles, tearing paper, or hitting furniture.” SP

The song, which “illuminates humanity's greed behind the fa├žade 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 Interestingly, while singles usually drive album sales, Dark Side had already achieved a million in sales before “Money” was released as a single. SP

“Us and Them”
”The music to Us and Them…had been kicking around the Floyd camp since 1969.” CA “Originally titled ‘The Violence Sequence,’” CD the song grew out of a piece Wright wrote for the Zabriskie Point soundtrack, SM “a study of American materialism from a foreigner’s perspective.” CD The song was rejected by the director for being “too sad.” SP

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. He is actually the only non-Pink Floyd member to play an instrument on the band. SP The song also features backing vocals from Doris Troy, Barry St. John, and Liza Strike, who all sang on John Lennon’s “Power to the People” in 1971. SP

“Any Colour You Like”
This ”is a fantastic little track that once again uses the synthesizer to maximum effect; it will give your stereo a good testing.” CA While nearly everything from the album became “a staple of classic rock radio,” SP this was the rare track that didn’t get much airplay.

It had the working title of “Scat” because of Gilmour’s wordless scat singing on the instrumental. SP The final title was a running joke between the band and roadie Chris Adamson, whose voice opens the album. SP

“Brain Damage”
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

Waters hated that Floyd’s music was considered “space rock,” saying that the band’s music “was never about anything but inner space.” SP “Brain Damage” was nearly titled “The Dark Side of the Moon,” but was “more about a metaphorical line between sanity and insanity than an actual celestial body.” SP

This song and “Time” “set the bar for how complex you could make a successful pop song. Without them, there would be no OK Computer, no ‘Karma Police.’” CQ

“Eclipse”
“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

The album’s title was briefly Eclipse: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics when British blues rock band Medicine Head released a 1972 album called Dark Side of the Moon. However, when that album went nowhere, Pink Floyd went back to its original title. SP


Conclusion:

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

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First posted 3/22/2008; last updated 6/12/2024.