A Casual Ramble About 50 Years On The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd

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What is left to say on the quality of The Dark Side of the Moon?

It’s one of the greatest albums of all time? The magnum opus of the Pink Floyd discography? The most sublime production job of Alan Parsons’ career? The measuring stick for every sound buff’s next stereo system? The perfect accompaniment to The Wizard of Oz?

Well, take it from Nick Mason: “It’s absolute nonsense. It has nothing to do with The Wizard Of Oz. It was all based on The Sound Of Music.”

A live rendition worth listening to.

These kinds of accolades and weird synchronicities encumber the record with an unwieldy reputation that strips away the power of musicality. This is not a review. This isn’t even a set of impressions. It’s just a set of stories. Because there’s no other way to really talk about a record that’s now over 50 years old.

But before this year, I myself hadn’t put it on or listened to it with intent to listen—and naught but—since August of 2017.

That’s seven years of sobriety for a guy who has three Pink Floyd posters hanging in his living room. Two of which come from an original 1973 pressing. But to be fair: how does one top timing the record to hit “Eclipse” right as the moon eliminates the sun from the sky?

This act probably ruined my ability to enjoy the record at the drop of a hat and it influenced my overall attitude toward classic rock albums that had been otherwise teen year staples.

There’s a certain naivety to adolescence that makes any album feel so important that they must be engaged at all times. But this is juvenile folly. For songs like “Time” to be so ubiquitous would only fulfill the prophetic second couplet.

Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.”

– “Time”

Alan Parsons’ clock recordings lose their shock and awe once predicted; Waters’ cleaving delivery on “Death!” dulls after daily use. Gilmour’s riffwork goes rote on the radio. The sound would turn tinny if streamed on repeat. Such ubiquity ruins each personality.

So why now and not on the day of its 50th anniversary?

Take your pick of excuse: time constraints, energy, vibes. I was intent on listening to the record in celebration of a half-century’s story. As an album made with equal parts intent and spontaneity, it would do the music a disservice if one fails to match that energy. But to do so on the day felt like an obligation. Like going to church.

And there’s no church with gospel like “The Great Gig in the Sky.” Tales from the recording say that the band contracted Clare Torry for a day and told her to just whale on the microphone. She left it all in the booth, howling and howling, and after two-and-a-half takes, she felt she had done everything in her power.

Every testimonial points to Torry first relying on soulful convention and then being encouraged into longer, more dramatic vocal improvisation. By the time she left, she fully expected the takes to be left on the cutting room floor. Instead, she had left the band floored enough to list her on the album credits.

I’ve no idea whose idea it was to have someone wailing on it. Clare came into the studio one day, and we said, “There’s no lyrics. It’s about dying – have a bit of a sing on that, girl.” I think she only did one take. And we all said, “Wow, that’s done. Here’s your sixty quid.”

–Roger Waters, 2006

Torry actually received only thirty pounds for her efforts. And she wouldn’t win composition rights and royalties until 2005. But her performance was that key component, that improvisation to a practiced form. That spontaneous intent.

There was something about that morning in March that lent itself to being a day for The Dark Side of the Moon. A hunger to remove all distractions during the day and mark a time for the music. Thus the needle dropped at twenty past eleven.

The witching hour timeslot gave it power without deifying it. And it became a ritual without the weight of obligation. And in true fashion, the record finished round about midnight with a nightcap. So I can’t even really tell you which day it was that I listened to it. It’s now a memory without a timestamp, organic without being marketed.

My 50-year-old copy of a 50-year-old record. It may not look like much, but it’s got it where it counts.

The rule of three works for many things, but it seems to do well with marketing products. That’s not to say there are only three categories to describe the actual music. But like a cipher lock, there’s a combination of product descriptors that usually have two cohorts each.

An album’s market can be described as popular, alternative or independent. An album’s ideas can be described as iterative, transformative or experimental. An album’s influence can be described as mainstream, subversive or underground. The person reading can debate if they are on the right terms or if this rule has any merit.

But it’s quite simple: The Dark Side of the Moon is a transformative record.

This is a first for them. During the Syd Barrett years, their albums were often experimental. The studio/live compilations of Ummagumma and the soundtrack More stand out there. But the majority of their records were either iterative on their psychedelic rock origins or their ambient ambitions. And after Barrett left, the band mostly dawdled in an uneven limbo of soundscapes from 1970 until 1973.

(I’m looking at you, Atom Heart Mother.)

But from the daring electronica of “On the Run” to the imbued organ of “Us and Them,” from the showstopping soul of “Great Gig in the Sky” to the reset of cash register rock on “Money,” Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason use every tool in their box to create something that is not just a progressive rock album, but a music album in the fullest sense of the word.

And if the cloud bursts thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”

–“Brain Damage”

At once rock, jazz, gospel and electronic, the collection uses genre as a tool to explicate each musing on the record. Time, money, death and the descent into madness are fused together both thematically and musically.

This might not convince someone who is still skeptical or ultimately uninterested in the mythology of Pink Floyd, but that’s okay. Because there are other ways to measure an album’s success. Sometimes it can be measured with a single reaction. After the album was finished recording and Waters took home the reel-to-reel tape to play it for his wife.

As the recording came to an end, she cried. It’s impossible to corroborate if this was a simple tear or an out-and-out bawl, but it speaks to the impact that this album has. Writing just another column about it pales in comparison to such a reaction.

Waters took this as a sign it was complete work. And the sensation was publicly validated by the album charting for 13 years straight and continuing to top the vinyl sellers charts to this day. Very few albums have that combination of impact and longevity.

So it might be the most overloaded, wishy-washy, I’m-14-and-this-is-deep attitude to a cynical ear. But for the lunatic in my head, it was the perfect choice for that solar eclipse and then the perfect choice for one night in March, 50 years after release. In seven years’ time, it might be a perfect choice again.

I’ll be ready when it is.

Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

Producer: Self-Produced

Label: Capitol/Harvest

Genre: Progressive Rock

Release: March 1st, 1973


  1. “Speak to Me”
  2. “Breathe”
  3. “On the Run”
  4. “Time”
  5. “The Great Gig in the Sky”
  6. “Money”
  7. “Us and Them”
  8. “Any Colour You Like”
  9. “Brain Damage”
  10. “Eclipse

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About BenJamsToo

An insane man moonlighting as a respectable member of society from Portland, Oregon. A rock ‘n’ roller since his mother first spun The Police’s “Roxanne,” Ben is a lover of all things rock, soul, funk, jazz, blues, electronic and hip-hop. Perhaps it’s easier to list what he doesn’t like: most gangsta rap, country-western and modern metal disagrees with his stomach. Once upon a time, a friend told him to write about music. So he started doing that under the title of a Willie Bobo cover by Santana. Now he wonders about what Stu McKenzie has for breakfast, why John Congleton is the best damn record producer this side of the millennium and just how Common came to be his favourite hip-hop star. He’s been working on that last one for nearly a decade now. No answers yet.