Tag Archives: wizard of oz

Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side”

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?”


Oz’s Real Wizard: L. Frank Baum

The real Wizard of Oz: author L. Frank Baum.

Have you ever met anyone old enough to drive who hasn’t seen The Wizard of Oz? Me neither.

The Wizard of Oz was made by MGM in 1939, and could easily claim the title of “America’s Favorite Film.” The movie was based on the wildly successful early twentieth century children’s books that were conceived in the imaginative mind of L. Frank Baum.

While the movie will always be a perennial favorite, and the books will never be out of print, I thought it was a good time to get re-acquainted with the man who created the magical Land of Oz.

Lyman Frank Baum was born in upstate New York in 1856 into a world of privilege. A weak heart prevented him from overexertion as a child, but he compensated by exercising his imagination in the creation of stories. As an adult he tried his hand at several trades, working at various times as a salesman, printer, and poultry breeder. But he could never keep far from the stage.

In 1880, his father built young Frank (he hated the name Lyman) a theater, where he acted, directed, and penned several successful plays. Within a few years he had married Maud Gage, the daughter of a famous feminist activist, and after the theater closed, the Baums moved to the Dakota Territory where they opened a store. Baum was popular with his frontier customers, especially the children, who would gather at the store begging for him to tell them one of his tales of magical lands. In spite of his storytelling, (and perhaps because of it), the business failed and Baum found himself editing a newspaper which also soon folded.

Baum and his growing family settled next in Chicago, where in 1897 he had his first success in authoring children’s books with Mother Goose in Prose. In 1900, he would write The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, one of the most successful children’s books of all time.

Baum would write 13 sequels in the Oz series over the next twenty years, along with several other works. He quickly tired of writing Oz books but was persuaded to write more by letters from countless children. He ended up writing them for the remainder of his life and the last Oz book, Glinda of Oz, was published a year after his death in 1919.

Ozcot, Baum's Hollywood home.

Baum eventually settled in Hollywood in an estate called Ozcot and founded the Oz Film Manufacturing Company, which brought the Oz books to the screen in a series of silent films. Future legends Harold Lloyd and Hal Roach acted in some of these early motion pictures.

By all accounts, Baum was a pleasant man who had a life sprinkled with great failures and even greater successes. As a fierce supporter of women’s rights, he was ahead of his time, but his ideas on how to deal with Native Americans were positively barbaric.

Perhaps such contradictions should be expected from a man whose body resided in the real world, but whose mind lived in the Emerald City.

(I will write more soon with stories from the area of Indiana where I was born (near the village of Toto), where the Baum family often vacationed.)