Where do you even start with an album like this one?
The Dark Side of the Moon was released on March 1, 1973, and is the eighth studio album by English progressive rock band Pink Floyd. The album is continuous, meaning that each song is interconnected and never stops (unless you have to flip the LP over to side two).
The five songs on either side of the album represent the various stages of human life. Beginning with a heartbeat in “Speak to Me”, the music contemplates and weaves through themes of conflict, greed, the passage of time, death, and insanity and then ultimately ends with a heartbeat again. The last theme, insanity, has a particularly close meaning with the band in that founder member Syd Barrett had left the band in 1968 due to a “deteriorating mental state”.
“Speak to Me” and “Breathe” together stress the mundane and futile elements of life that accompany the ever-present threat of madness, and the importance of living one’s own life – “Don’t be afraid to care”. By shifting the scene to an airport, the synthesizer-driven instrumental “On the Run” evokes the stress and anxiety of modern travel, in particular Wright’s fear of flying. “Time” examines the manner in which its passage can control one’s life and offers a stark warning to those who remain focused on mundane aspects; it is followed by a retreat into solitude and withdrawal in “Breathe (Reprise)”. The first side of the album ends with Wright and vocalist Clare Torry’s soulful metaphor for death, “The Great Gig in the Sky”. Opening with the sound of cash registers and loose change, the first track on side two, “Money”, mocks greed and consumerism using tongue-in-cheek lyrics and cash-related sound effects (ironically, “Money” has been the most commercially successful track from the album, with several cover versions produced by other bands). “Us and Them” addresses the isolation of the depressed with the symbolism of conflict and the use of simple dichotomies to describe personal relationships. “Any Colour You Like” concerns the lack of choice one has in a human society. “Brain Damage” looks at a mental illness resulting from the elevation of fame and success above the needs of the self; in particular, the line “and if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes” reflects the mental breakdown of former bandmate Syd Barrett. The album ends with “Eclipse”, which espouses the concepts of alterity and unity, while forcing the listener to recognise the common traits shared by humanity.
The album was recorded at the famed Abbey Road Studios between May 1972 and January 1973. The first track recorded was “Us and Them”, which was followed six days later by “Money”. The iconic looped sounds of money used in the song were created by Roger Waters using various money-related objects. For example, he threw coins into a mixing bowl he used from his wife’s pottery studio and recorded the sounds. The next songs to be recorded were “Time” and “The Great Gig in the Sky”, after which the band took a two month break. The band came back to Abbey Road in January 1973 to finish recording, where they crafted “Brain Damage”, “Eclipse”, “Any Colour You Like”, and finally “On the Run”. The album was recorded using a quadraphonic mix and took advantage of the studio’s 16-track mix capabilities, especially in “Money”, where Waters had created multiple track loops.
The iconic album artwork, created by George Hardie, depicts a glass prism dispersing light into color. The design represents three elements; the band’s stage lighting, the album lyrics, and Wright’s request for a “simple and bold” design. The spectrum of light continues through to the gatefold – an idea that Waters came up with. Added shortly afterwards, the gatefold design also includes a visual representation of the heartbeat sound used throughout the album, and the back of the album cover contains Thorgerson’s suggestion of another prism recombining the spectrum of light, facilitating interesting layouts of the sleeve in record shops. The light band emanating from the prism on the album cover has six colours, missing indigo compared to the traditional division of the spectrum into red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
- Speak to Me (1:30)
- Breathe (2:43)
- On the Run (3:30)
- Time (6:53, contains “Breathe” (reprise))
- The Great Gig in the Sky (4:15)
- Money (6:30)
- Us and Them (7:51)
- Any Colour You Like (3:24)
- Brain Damage (3:50)
- Eclipse (2:03)
David Gilmour- vocals, guitars, VCS 3
Nick Mason- percussion, tape effects
Richard Wright- keyboards, vocals, VCS 3
Roger Waters- bass guitar, vocals, tape effects, VCS 3
Additional Musicians for The Dark Side of the Moon
Dick Parry- saxophone on “Us and Them” and “Money”
Clare Torry- vocals on “The Great Gig in the Sky”
Our Quick Pick 5
- The Great Gig in the Sky
- Us and Them
- Brain Damage
Like I said, where do you even start with this album? It is nearly flawless, and is regarded (at least it should be) as one of the greatest albums ever recorded. It falls at #43 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list. After you listen to this album straight through, you realize there is really no other way to listen to it. Each song feeds into the next so seamlessly that it really is difficult to only listen to one song without the need to go to the next.
Pink Floyd pushed musical boundaries with this one. They experimented with sounds, recording techniques, and deep experimental music forms, such as Musique Concrete. This is just one of those ones you listen to and lose yourself in the soundscape.