Dark Side Of The Moon
Released: March 1973
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 566+
Certified Gold: 4/17/73
One of Britain's most successful and long lived avante-garde rock bands, Pink Floyd emerged relatively unsullied from the mire of mid-Sixties British psychedelic music as early experimenters with outer space concepts. Although that phase of the band's development was of short duration, Pink Floyd have from that time been the pop scene's preeminent techno-rockers: four musicians with a command of electronic instruments who wield an arsenal of sound effects with authority and finesse. While Pink Floyd's albums were hardly hot tickets in the shops, they began to attract an enormous following through their US tours. They have more recently developed a musical style capable of sustaining their dazzling and potentially overwhelming sonic wizzardry.
The Dark Side of the Moon is Pink Floyd's ninth album and is a single extended piece rather than a collection of songs. It seems to deal primarily with the fleetingness and depravity of human life, hardly the commonplace subject matter of rock. "Time" ("The time is gone the song is over"), "Money" ("Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie"), and "Us And Them" ("Forward he cried from the rear") might be viewed as keys to understanding the meaning (if indeed there is any definite meaning) of The Dark Side of the Moon.
There are a few weak spots. David Gilmour's vocals are sometimes weak and lackluster and "The Great Gig in the Sky" (which closes the first side) probably could have been shortened or dispensed with, but these are really minor quibbles. The Dark Side of the Moon is a fine album with a textural and conceptual richness that not only invites, but demands involvement. There is a certain grandeur here that exceeds mere musical melodramatics and is rarely attempted in rock. The Dark Side of the Moon has flash -- the true flash that comes from the excellence of a superb performance.
- Loyd Grossman, Rolling Stone, 5-24-73.
This LP is a tour de force for lyricist Roger Waters. The band is ingrained in a program of heavy, introspective statements, balanced well by their broadly intensive playing. This is music for intense listening. There are fine effects that make the guitar bristle. Best cuts: "Time," "Money," "Brain Damage," and the title tune.
- Billboard, 1973.
Dark Side Of The Moon is the album which dominated the '70s. Released on March 24, 1973, it ushered in an era of album-oriented rock and transformed Pink Floyd from ranking English acid-rock conceptualists to a goliath of the international super-league. It enjoyed unprecedented chart longevity, especially in America, where it was the group's first album to breach the Top 40. It remains a perennial presence, especially in the CD market, and in the four years since David Gilmour and Nick Mason revived Pink Floyd and set off on the Momentary Lapse Of Reason tour, Dark Side Of The Moon has sold four million copies, bringing the current sales tally to 23 million.
The album was made during the summer of 1972, at a time of rapid technological change. It was recorded on 16-track equipment at Abbey Road, with the new Dolby noise reduction system being adopted halfway through the sessions. A decision was taken not to do a quadrophonic mix, although that ill-fated system was just beginning to appear on the domestic market. EMI went ahead anyway and commisioned a quad mix from then-engineer Alan Parsons, which the record company played at a press conference held at the Planetarium to launch the album. The group did not approve and boycotted the event, their place being taken by life-size cardboard cut-outs. As was the practice in those days, the Floyd maintained a steady gigging schedule throughout the period of the recordings, but Dark Side Of The Moon was the first album which the band had both written and toured before going into the studio.
"It was called 'Eclipse' when we first played it live," recalls David Gilmour. "We showcased it to begin with at five nights at the Rainbow, which tightened it up performance-wise, although one or two of the pieces which were a bit more performance-oriented got thrown out and replaced in the studio. 'On The Run' started as some strange onstage jam, but when we discovered the sequencer capability of the little VCS3 synthesizer we used that instead."
The album bears the legend "Produced By Pink Floyd." "In theory we were all producing," says Gilmour, "but in practice it meant that Roger (Waters) and I would argue considerably about how it should sound." Chris Thomas (who later produced The Pretenders, The Sex Pistols and others) was called in at the mixing stage as a "neutral party" to try and resolve the the internecine wrangling.
Clearly, Dark Side Of The Moon has touched a deep chord with succeeding generations of record and CD buyers, a reflection perhaps of the timeless qualities of both its production and its theme. The production, although basic by today's standards, does not sound unduly primitive. Indeed, there are later Floyd albums which now sound more dated.
This was probably due more to luck than judgement. Although the Floyd have always been renowned for their stringent quality control, their music, like any other act's, was frequently locked into the spirit of its time. But not only are tracks like "Money," "Time," "Us And Them" and "Brain Damage" powerful, concise musical statements, they also boast a cohesive thematic content.
While Gilmour provided many suitably majestic instrumental passages, Roger Waters's lyrics bore down with stark perception on a universal subject -- the simple, often trivial pressures of daily life that can lead to insanity. Still a couple of years shy of his 30th birthday, Waters had already twigged the ultimate misery of it all, and he wrought his bleak verse with bold slashes of the pen. There was no air of a false new dawn or hippy optimism about this record; rather the beginning of the end. Despairing observation that with each new day... "you're older/ Shorter of breath and one day closer to death."
Dark Side Of The Moon has been available in CD format bearing EMI's 001 catalogue number since August, 1984, and it remains among the top 10 selling CDs of all time. With its striking sound effects of chiming clocks and ringing cash tills, it is the sort of album that has traditionally appealed to the audiophile section of the rock market and has doubtless been a priority purchase for many proud investors in the new CD technology.
Such fans may be surprised, if not dismayed, to learn that the early CD version of the album was transferred not from the master tape, but from a standard 15 ips Dolby copy, a practice which David Gilmour believes to be fairly widespread.
"We weren't involved initially. They just went ahead and did it. When we found out about it we had to do an investigation to find out where the real original master was, and then have it remastered."
Dark Side Of The Moon was undoubtedly a high water mark in the Pink Floyd odyssey. Gilmour now recalls that "it changed our fortunes everywhere. We became much more visible. We were selling out 12-15,000-seater venues in America, but thereafter we could sell out vast football stadiums and we had to change our ways of doing shows. Whereas we used to get a respectful silence from the audience, once 'Money' had been a hit single (it reached Number 13 in America) we had thousands of kids partying at the front. Some of the things we had been able to do previously, such as very quiet sequences, simply didn't work any more."
Either way, the album remains a work of rare intensity, a powerful evocation of the shadowy corners of the rock psyche. Plainly unsuitable as an accompaniment for the snappy advertising of beer or jeans, it seems entirely appropriate that the one track from Dark Side Of The Moon which has found its way into a TV commercial -- keyboard player Richard Wright's haunting interlude for piano and voice, "The Great Gig In The Sky" -- was adopted for a surreal Nurofen painkiller advertisement.
Large chunks of the album still feature prominently in the live shows of both Pink Floyd and Roger Waters and it is clearly a body of work that has become part of the collective rock consciousness. The secret of its longevity is anybody's guess, although one clue may be the curiously reductive quality which it has demonstrated over the years. As Gilmour notes wryly, "I thought it was a very complicated album when we first made it, but when you listen to it now it's really very simple."
- David Sinclair, Q magazine 5 star review.
With its technological mastery and its conventional wisdom once-removed, this is a kitsch masterpiece -- taken too seriously by definition, but not without charm. It may sell on sheer aural sensationalism, but the studio effects do transmute David Gilmour's guitar solos into something more than they were when he played them. Its taped speech fragments may be old hat, but for once they cohere musically. And if its pessimism is received, that doesn't make the ideas untrue -- there are even times, especially when Dick Parry's saxophone undercuts the electronic pomp, when this record brings its cliches to life, which is what pop is supposed to do, even the kind with delusions of grandeur. B
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
And the hit just keeps on coming. 292 weeks in the British chart were impressive enough, but in the United States this landmark cruised into its thirteenth year on the Billboard LP list in the spring of 1986. Equally incredible, it was then in the Top 10 of that magazine's compact disc chart, the oldest LP to feature.
This album even gave "the Floyd" their first US hit single, "Money," with the "shit" conspicuously bleeped out. But what is most phenomenal about this record is that, without any overt promotion or marketing, it evolved from being the quintessential "head" album to a prize atmospheric piece. In the so-called New Age, well-recorded psychedelia sounds right.
The credits on the label say it all:
In 1987, Dark Side of the Moon was chosen by a panel of rock critics and music broadcasters as the #15 rock album of all time.
- Paul Gambaccini, The Top 100 Rock 'n' Roll Albums of All Time, Harmony Books, 1987.
Exploring the darker side of man and materialism, Dark Side of the Moon identified only too clearly the direction to be taken by Roger Waters both within Floyd and in his later solo work. Fueled by the anger of lost innocence Waters flies at the church, the state and commerce. Waters seems to be remembering Syd Barrett in his lyric "The lunatic is on the grass."
Recorded in an intensive six-month period at Abbey Road (engineered by Alan Parsons and mixed by Chris Thomas), Dark Side of the Moon is ideal CD material despite its venerable age. A production masterpiece even by today's standards, Dark Side was as much a recording milestone as Sgt. Pepper five years before. A complex avant-garde work mixing music and sound effects, Dark Side became a record-breaking best seller; tens of millions of copies having been sold worldwide.
The opening "heartbeat" has a demonic low bass energy; the chiming clocks are more startling than ever while the tumbling coins and cash registers of "Money" punch-in with tight left/right precision. The huge dynamic range and grand spatial manipulations of this recording are unlocked with rarely a hint of either the age or analogue origins of the master tapes.
- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.
Released in 1973, this album was still on the Billboard pop charts in 1986 after selling more than ten million copies in the United States alone. The original, and obviously most enduring, of the Seventies English concept-art rock albums. The eclectic techno-sound was very much attributable to the contribution of Alan Parsons, the project's Abbey Road engineer, the saxophone of Dick Perry, and Clair Torry's expressive, wordless vocals. Dark Side of the Mood has become, perhaps, the essential icon of Seventies rock. The sound quality depends on which of the two versions (Capitol or Harvest) is heard. The import Harvest release affords much the superior sound -- fuller, more rounded with significantly reduced tape hiss. The initial Capitol version was still a spatial and dynamic enhancement over the LP, but suffered from some muddiness and much more annoying hiss than the Harvest recording which, interestingly enough, runs four seconds longer. A-
- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.
Pink Floyd's instrumental prowess and mastery of sound effects, married for the first time to bassist Roger Waters' lyrics about madness, "Time," "Money," and other concerns make for the most impressive mood music of the decade (and sales of 25 million copies so far.) * * * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Dark Side of the Moon is the essential Pink Floyd piece, a seamless and inventive song cycle bolstered by a three-dimensional soundscape of instruments and special effects -- not to mention some first-rate songs like "Money," "Us and Them" and "Time." * * * * *
- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
It starts and ends with a heartbeat. In between, Pink Floyd created a suite of songs united by the themes of madness, ageing and death. It sold over 20 million copies. Roger Waters' lyrics are unremittingly bleak: witness "Time." Elsewhere Waters tackles materialism ("I'm all right Jack keep your hands off my stack" -- "Money") and insanity ("There's someone in my head but it's not me" -- "Brain Damage"). But like the prism on the famous sleeve, creating a spectrum of colour, out of all the pessimism comes some truly memorable music. A lush richness characterizes the album. "Money," announced by ringing tills, features a classic off-kilter riff, squidgy synths, Dick Parry's rock'n'roll sax and a stratosphere-scraping Gilmour solo. "Us and Them" sets church organ, sensitive guitar picking and jazzy sax against a meditation on war and homelessness, ending in a beguiling morass of delayed synth sounds. The theme of insanity in "Brain Damage" inevitably recalls Floyd founder member Syd Barrett; the snippets of laughter are particulary unsettling. Snippets of futuristic synths, tape loops, distant explosions, crazy dialogue and footsteps panning between the speakers frame the conventional songs, and made the album perfect for headphone listening and the early 70s' hi-fi boom. Misery never sounded so good.
- Collins Gem Classic Albums, 1999.
No college experience is complete without this watershed masterpiece with the Wizard of Oz on mute -- it's what headphones were created for (if you're too busy -- or too, you know, straight -- to try it, we can save you a little time: "Great Gig in the Sky" matches up with the tornado scene, the cash registers in "Money" kick in as soon as the action switches to color, Glenda the Good Witch appears on the "goody-good bullshit" lyric, and the closing heartbeat fades out when Dorothy presses her ear to the Tin Man's chest. Oh, and -- spoiler alert! -- rainbows figure prominently in both). Dim the lights and take a trip to the other side for an auditory story best enjoyed in one sitting, a wall of complex sound that reached sonic perfection, set the gold standard for prog rock and remains astonishing when heard today. Any album that sustained 741 weeks on the charts has to have done something right. * * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
For years I've been arguing that Dark Side of the Moon is the best rock album ever, with the emphasis on album. Because, while there are a few albums that contain more and better individual songs, with Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd produced a fully realized, coherent work of art. As such, it's just about perfect.
The songs are simple, primal, and uncluttered. But they seem to contain worlds. The lyrics, despite tackling such heady themes, are refreshingly devoid of self-consciousness. They flow simply and naturally, as rhymes like "no one told you when to run / you missed the starting gun" fold into one another organically.
And, oh yes, the music is phenomenal. Few if any albums sound better, but Dark Side of the Moon's strength is not only found in the atmospherics and superb stereo reproduction. The band rocks, with David Gilmour, in particular, putting in spectacular performances on guitar and vocals. The album as a whole is also one big loop. It goes out where it came in, with a heartbeat, which seems appropriate for what may be rock's most successful meditation on the human condition.
It also makes a great soundtrack to the opening forty-three minutes of The Wizard of Oz. (Note: if interested in pursuing this, to best sync up the movie with the music, you will need to press play on the third roar from the famous MGM lion. Enjoy.)
Dark Side of the Moon was voted the 51st greatest album of all time in a VH1 poll of over 700 musicians, songwriters, disc jockeys, radio programmers, and critics in 2003.
- Eric Wybenga, VH1's 100 Greatest Albums, 2003.
"I think every album was a step towards Dark Side of the Moon," keyboardist Rick Wright said. "We were learning all the time, the techniques of the recording and our writing was getting better." As a culmination of their inner-space explorations of the early 1970s, the Floyd toured the bulk of Dark Side in Britain for months prior to recording. But in the studio, the band articulated bassist Roger Waters' lyric reveries on the madness of everyday life with melodic precision ("Breathe," "Us and Them") and cinematic lustre (Clare Torry's guest vocal aria "The Great Gig in the Sky"). Dark Side is one of the best-produced rock albums ever, and "Money" may be rock's only Top Twenty hit in 7/8 time.
Dark Side of the Moon was chosen as the 43rd greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.
- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.
Pink Floyd's eighth album, recorded at London's Abbey Road studios, took more than eight months to produce -- an extremely long time for its day. The album was launched at a special listening session at London's Planetarium in January 1973. Dark Side Of The Moon topped the US album chart, where it stayed for more than 300 weeks. In the UK the album reached Number Two and has continued to sell well ever since.
The album's first single, "Money" -- which includes a rhythmic accompaniment created from the sampled sounds of clinking coins and cash registers -- reached Number 13 on the US Hot 100, although it failed to make a great impression on the UK charts. To make the sampled money sounds fit the 7/4 beat, the tape had to be cut up and stuck back together, using a ruler to make sure the beats were accurate. A second single from the album, "Us And Them," was released in October 1973, but failed to make it into the top 100 in either the UK or the US.
A number of voices were used on the Dark Side Of The Moon, including the band's tour manager and roadie. Paul McCartney's voice was recorded but not actually used.
- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
Acid blues guitar solos. Lyrics that tackle woe and warmongering. A spacey title. Issued in 1973 by a group who were individually anonymous yet vastly influential.
This is Cosmic Slop by Funkadelic. Nothing to do with Dark Side Of The Moon, except that both soundtracked a cynical era, when Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War killed off whatever was left of the Sixties spirit after Altamont.
The Floyd's zeitgeisty opus, however, had mundane beginnings. Anxious to shed their psychedelic shackles, the band gathered in Nick Mason's kitchen to compile a shortlist of things that bothered them. Those pressures -- time, money, madness, death -- were wedded to vaguely funky rockers much like those on Obscured By Clouds, then toured for a year as Eclipse (A Piece For Assorted Lunatics). Sprinkled with studio fairydust -- gospel vocals, explosive solos, sound effects -- Eclipse became Dark Side Of The Moon. A Stateside million-seller on the strength of the band's live reputation, the album went interstellar when parent company Capitol turned "Money" into a rare Floyd hit.
These days it is available in anniversary editions, and has been re-made by reggae mischief-makers (2003's Dub Side Of The Moon) and Phish. Opened out, the gatefold cover displays a prism endlessly refracting a beam of light. Evoking both the Floyd's legendary light show and the "vaulting ambition" in the lyrics -- it remains one of rock's most iconic images.
With its burden of heritage, you would expect it to be a bore. In fact, it is a tuneful, rousing set of brilliant songs. For Floyd virgins, this is the place to start.
- Bruno MacDonald, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.
Sometime in the mid-'90s, people began gathering in the living room to share a curious mixed-media experience: watching The Wizard of Oz while listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, the enormously popular space-rock classic that stayed on the Billboard charts for more than a decade. If, the urban legend goes, you start the music precisely when the MGM lion roars for the third time, all sorts of unlikely coincidences happen. Roger Waters utters the phrase "look around," and Dorothy looks around. The chimes that usher in Floyd's "Time" coincide with the appearance of the Wicked Witch of the West on her bike, then stop when she gets off. And so on.
Such synchronicities can be interesting. But Oz visuals are ultimately a distraction, because Dark Side, which spent 741 consecutive weeks (fourteen years) on the Billboard 200 top-selling album chart, is an engrossing movie all by itself. Make that several movies: Depending on where you drop in, it can seem a dour Eraserhead-style psychodrama ("Brain Damage"), or a riddling art film about existentialism ("Us and Them"), or a morality tale on greed ("Money").
Each song is a fully realized self-contained statement, but also functions within Pink Floyd's larger scheme: The album is an integrated suite, an extended listening experience with no pauses. The pieces drift aong and float into each other, linked by plush instrumental atmosphere. Textures throughout are as soft as a padded cell; this is art rock that makes good use of multitracking to create layers of sound. The vocals are delivered with total stoner detachment -- except, that is, for guest Clare Torry's tornado-like wordless gyrations, which define "The Great Gig in the Sky." And though much of the album moves at a crawl, it all feels thrilling. More than partial credit for this goes to guitarist David Gilmour, whose solo passages are filled with elegantly sustained notes. Where other guitarists look to stun, Gilmour rarely steps out of slow motion, and his exquisitely shaped phrases lift the music to plateaus of breathtaking grandeur. (A career best in this regard comes on the follow-up to Dark Side, Wish You Were Here, and the majestic twenty-six-minute "Shine on You Crazy Diamond.")
By the time Dark Side culminates in the sweeping cosmic koan "Eclipse," it becomes clear that PInk Floyd has managed to conform, at least loosely, to a familiar Hollywood storytelling arc. You know the one: We start out in a place kinda like Kansas. And wind up somewhere else entirely.
- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.
(2011 Deluxe Reissue Editions) The six-disc Immersion reissue of Pink Floyd's perfect 1973 essay on alienation and madness is more like drowning, with multiple alternate mixes of an album you already know by heart. There is also just enough outtake action and concert video from that era to infuriate the cash-scrapped completist. The majestic suspense of Richard Wright's instrumental demo for "Us and Them," composed by the pianist in 1969, is the sweetest prize, proof of the warm grace he brought to singer-bassist Roger Waters' grave reports from inner space. Two '72 versions, live and studio, of "The Travel Sequence" capture the Floyd at a jamming peak, with a funky interplay between Waters and guitarist David Gilmour, before the band recasts that segment as the electronic chase scene "On the Run."
The great, previously unissued illumination in the box set also comes in the two-CD Experience package: Dark Side performed live in November 1974 by a Floyd at a unique height in their concert history. Like the earlier epics "Atom Heart Mother" and "Echoes," Dark Side was tested and shaped onstage, before recording. At this London-arena date, the Floyd were reproducing the album's details with precise theatrical confidence. There was continuing exploration too -- in Gilmour's rocket-blues soloing in the lengthened rock-city stretch of "Money" and the band's collective ascent in the extended midsection of "Us and Them." Reeling from success but not yet divided by it, Pink Floyd were still playing Dark Side as triumph, not their greatest hit. It's worth hearing it that way again. * * * * 1/2
- David Fricke, Rolling Stone, 10/27/11.
The greatest (and most black-light-friendly) headphones album of all time, hands down.
The Dark Side of the Moon was chosen as the 37th greatest album of all time by the editors of Entertainment Weekly in July 2013.
- Entertainment Weekly, 7/5/13.
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