I couldn’t tell you the last time I owned an album that was listed on the Billboard Top 200 chart, but between the ages of 10 and 25, I could always count on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon – one of the first records I ever bought – to be there.
Dark Side of the Moon has been so successful and added onto so many millions of playlists over the years that it’s hard to imagine that at one time it didn’t exist.
The record was actually Pink Floyd’s eighth album, but most people had never heard a note from the English band until March 10, 1973, when Dark Side was first released.
The record was crafted as a concept album dealing with insanity, based in part on the mental breakdown of the band’s founder and former member Syd Barrett (“Moon” references lunacy). The record’s ten songs are joined together into one seamless piece of music, connected at times with a heartbeat signifying the possibility of madness in each stage of life.
The album was recorded in two stretches during the summer of 1972 and the early part of 1973 at legendary Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles made their records. The group took breaks in-between for tours, vacations, and time-outs to watch soccer games and Monty Python on the telly (they would later use some of the profits from the record to help finance Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)
Alan Parsons, who had previously worked on the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Let It Be albums, served as engineer on Dark Side. He would later enjoy substantial success with The Alan Parsons Project.
Roger Waters interviewed several tour members and friends about madness, and snippets of these cuts can be heard throughout the album. Peter Watts, the group’s road manager (and father of actress Naomi Watts), was responsible for the maniacal laughter in Brain Damage and Speak To Me. His wife added the “cruisin’ for a bruisin’” line between Money and Us and Them.
Female session vocalist Clare Torry can be heard in The Great Gig in the Sky for which she was paid a modest sum. In 2004 she successfully sued the band for royalties and is now credited as co-author of the song.
Although it held the top spot for only one week, Dark Side of the Moon would remain on the charts for a total of 741 weeks (!) and sell over 15 million copies stateside (over 45 million worldwide).
The songs on the record have been covered by several later performers, including a band called Poor Man’s Whiskey, who re-fashioned it as a bluegrass album called Dark Side of the Moonshine.
In honor of the anniversary of the release of this classic album, I plan to give it a listen from start to finish today.
“Honey, where’s our copy of the Wizard of Oz?”