By Greg Kennelty, July 17, 2017
Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon has reached a stage of cultural relevance that few other albums have. Its cover, designed by George Hardie, has adorned millions upon millions of shirts, posters, and flags, and its music has started countless middle school and high school kids down the path of discovering the classics. Overstating this album’s importance is impossible. Just to put things into brief perspective, as of April 2015, Dark Side Of the Moon has spent a collective and non-consecutive 900 weeks on the Billboard 200 and has sold over 45 million copies since its release. Upon its release, Dark Side Of The Moon topped the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes charts, and stayed there for 741 consecutive weeks.
The album has also built up its own lore of having possibly been written as the soundtrack to The Wizard Of Oz. Sure, it’s pretty unlikely considering the second half of the record doesn’t really match up with the movie at all, and the band denies it, but still – it’s fun to pretend sometimes. The album has even been covered front to back by The Flaming Lips, Kyle Shutt of The Sword under the moniker Doom Side Of The Moon, and numerous dub artists for the Dub Side Of The Moon compilation.
Not to mention there’s absolutely no way you could possibly walk into any dorm room building anywhere in the world and not find a Dark Side Of The Moon poster. Basically, you cannot escape this album.
Before Dark Side Of The Moon was recorded and unleashed unto the masses, it was toured as an ever-evolving embryo for about one year. Pink Floyd initially demoed Dark Side Of The Moon in a home-built studio in Roger Waters' garden shed in Islington, and performed the first variation of the album for the press at The Dome in Brighton on January 20, 1972. The album was subsequently taken on tour and received very well by the public despite mixed press reviews.
Pink Floyd recorded Dark Side Of the Moon at Abbey Road Studios with Alan Parsons, who had previously worked with the band on Atom Heart Mother. The album features unconventional recording techniques such as a treated bass drum to provide the heartbeat effects heard throughout the album, or recording a studio assistant running through an echo chamber for the footsteps heard on On The Run. Even the clock-heavy intro to Time employed rototoms alongside the clocks, and was originally a quadraphonic mix test of Parsons done prior to the sessions.
Another notable and eventually controversial contribution to the album was singer Clare Torry's vocals on Great Gig In The Sky. Torry was hired for one day to provide backing vocals for the track, and was paid £30 for her work. In 2014, Torry sued EMI and Pink Floyd for co-authorship of the song, saying her contributions were substantial and identifiable enough to for her to be considered a co-writer. The case was settled in favor of Torry for an undisclosed amount, and all post-2005 pressings of Dark Side Of The Moon now credit Torry as a co-writer of the song.
Other voices heard throughout the album are the band's roadies as well as various members of Abbey Road Studios’ staff, who answered candid interview questions about death, violence, and of course what their favorite color is. The most notable statement used on the album was Abbey Road doorman Gerry O'Driscoll saying I am not frightened of dying. Any time will do. I don't mind. Why should I be frightened of dying? There's no reason for it. You've got to go sometime, as well as stating that there's no dark side of the moon.
As for Pink Floyd's lineup, Dark Side Of The Moon features the classic quartet that would remain until 1985 – guitarist David Gilmour, keyboardist Richard Wright, bassist Roger Waters, and drummer Nick Mason. Besides the aforementioned Torry, Dark Side Of The Moon also features Dick Parry on saxophone for Money and Us And Them, and backing vocalists Doris Troy, Lesley Duncan, Liza Strike, and Barry St. John.
Iconic imagery and lasting legacies aside, Dark Side Of The Moon is an incredible album that everyone needs to experience at least once. Side one consists of everything from Speak To Me to Great Gig In The Sky, and chronicles the progression of life. The band's style of telling the story of a life is an interesting one, as it seems to focus mainly on anxiety and grappling with the pace at which life passes.
Breathe (In The Air) is an opening moment of reprieve, assuring the listener not to be afraid to care and to live their lives in an almost child-like way, and then immediately launches into the nervously frantic pace of adult life with On The Run. There's no peace to be found in Time, which assures you no matter what your choices are that time waits for no one, and that peace is only found in death – The Great Gig In The Sky. So to Pink Floyd, there’s birth, stress and chaos, and then brief peace and death. Noted.
The second half of Dark Side Of The Moon focuses less on an overarching storyline of an individual, and more on society as a whole. From making consumerism out to be a monster on Money and the illusion of choice on Any Colour You Like, to the tales of mental illness and allusions to Syd Barrett on Brain Damage, things haven't gotten much happier.
Frankly, it's where Dark Side Of The Moon succeeds the most. The music and atmospheres created throughout its runtime are second to none. The album's production sounds so warm and inviting, but in reality it's just sucking you into the most comfortably depressing, complacent void from which you can only watch the world go by. Every single instrument on Dark Side Of The Moon occupies its own space perfectly, leading any listener to the conclusion that it's all been meticulously composed down to the background keyboard flourishes and David Gilmour's light touches amidst Wright's synth solos. Even songs like On The Run, whose composition is half instrumentation and half Foley, give a sense of space that put you right in the middle of that particular time of the story arch. Dark Side Of The Moon is a spaciously produced album, one that employs flanger, reverb, ambient noises, and vocoders to aid the band in creating a deep, wide soundstage on which they act out their lyrics.
Dark Side Of The Moon’s cover art represents the overall mood of the album’s music. There comes a point in everyone’s life where all their thoughts, their ideologies, worries and fears begin to show their true colors – all it takes is that one moment .
Dark Side Of The Moon is a stone cold classic, plain and simple. Outside all the praise and societal relevance, it’s an incredibly well-produced, well-recorded album that stands the test of time. Dark Side Of The Moon is best enjoyed from the comfort of your couch with no distractions and the lights off. Light some candles and watch the flames grow, flicker, and eventually fade.