Skip to main content

Revisiting Classic Albums: Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd

Few records in music have attained the legendary heights of Dark Side of the Moon. Pink Floyd’s heady triumph has become its own brand, with an aesthetic that extends beyond its foundation of progressive rock. The name alone immediately conjures up the prism cover art, which has been slapped on everything from bumper stickers and t-shirts to blacklight posters and even automobiles.

pink floyd
David Redfern/Getty Images

Yes, the album syncs up frighteningly well with the beginning of The Wizard of Oz (unintentionally, the band says). But it’s also a masterpiece musically, combining innovative sounds with production finesse that was way ahead of its time. The result is a record that plays fluidly from start to finish, influenced by experimental rock, blues, jazz, and artistic studio expressionism.

The band was well-known by the ’70s. Members gathered around a concept album approach, a grouping of songs revolving around a more direct and cohesive theme. The then-recent departure of founding member Syd Barrett and his mental struggles, along with the exhausting act of being a prominent rock band in the heyday of the classic rock era, had Pink Floyd thinking about madness. Instead of writing spacey or analogous tracks, the band would look things like greed, death, and insanity dead in the eye.

Interestingly, the album was originally intended to be something Pink Floyd would play in its entirety and lug around as a single touring item. Initially dubbed Dark Side of the Moon: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics, it was to involve tons of extra live stage gear, like a PA system and a 28-track mixing desk. Ultimately, it made its way to Abbey Road Studios where Alan Parsons helped release it to the world.

pink floyd dark side album cover
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The layering of samples and effects is impressive even now, almost fifty years later. Keep in mind that in ’73, stacking recordings like this was exhausting and all done to tape, sometimes with the use of multiple mixers operating simultaneously. The album beautifully weaves in everything from field recordings to flashcard responses from studio staff (most famously, “Why should I be frightened of dying?” at the beginning of “The Great Gig in the Sky”). Equally entertaining is the legend that Roger Waters would skip out on sessions to watch his favorite soccer team Arsenal and that the band would sometimes prefer Monty Python over playing.

A living, walking animal, the album begins with a fitting heartbeat sample (and ends that way, too), which spills organically into the wave-like first electric guitar chord of “Speak to Me.” At this point, the listener is already underwater, in a sea of whale song that’s resonant and weirdly reassuring.

By “On The Run,” conditions are growing eerie. The listener feels as though he’s entering the darkness of the psyche, with droning sounds intertwined with maniacal laughter and a huge degree of tension. “Time” possesses an intro any band would kill for, with a gorgeous uprising arc capped by excellent, measured percussion. The song demonstrates great vocal interplay between David Gilmour and Richard Wright and Zeppelin-esque guitar work.

Then, “The Great Gig in the Sky,” the hardest song on the planet to cover via karaoke. It features session vocalist Clare Torry going absolutely bonkers, a free-verse-meets-gospel sort of vocal journey that’s impossible to replicate. The story goes that she apologized for its intensity after the recording session only to be showered with praise by the band. Her vocals ebb and flow like the tide itself during this ocean of a song.

Pink Floyd - Money (Official Music Video)

“Money” is sinister and bluesy, reminding us of the perils that come with currency. The bass line from Roger Waters alone is famous. Throw in neat samples of coins and cash registers and you’ve got the backbone to hip-hop before the genre even existed. The record then sways along via “Us and Them,” a touching, anthemic song bolstered by synths, brass, and big background vocals. Like a tortured genius, the song exudes both potential and a sense of dread, scampering toward either end of the spectrum but always returning to Gilmour’s calming vocals.

The song segues cleanly into “Any Colour You Like” — so much so it’s easy to forget they’re two separate tracks. While there’s a fair amount of jamming throughout the album, it’s kept pretty buttoned-up to this point. Here, they let loose, playing something you’d expect more from a basement in the wee hours than a famous recording studio. 

The final two blows dealt by “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” serve as the perfect climactic finale for the album. Craziness has seeped in and, with the latter song especially, there’s a feel of submission. It’s a swelling, sonic reminder that we’re oh so small in the overall scheme of things and that all of these dualities (life/death, creation/destruction, buying/stealing) are silly tidbits beneath the dual force of them all, the sun and the moon.

Strangely, it’s not the only 42-minute sonic block worth diving head-first into from 1973. Even more strangely, Dark Side of the Moon seems to grow more relatable with each coming year. Because it deals in the always on-topic subject of coping with the modern world, the record may be even better, somehow, another fifty years from now. As robots take over, digital technology spans the horizon, and cars begin to drive themselves, this monumental rock album will continue to be the soundtrack of us all going mad. 

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
The 9 best movies to watch over Father’s Day weekend
Watch these films together and bond with your dad or father figure
Family watching TV together

In between grilling burgers and brats and checking sports scores, celebrating fatherhood presents a chance for men (and masculine-identifying people) to enjoy the people who appreciate and support them. Bonding over a great story on the big screen that both dads and children can relate to brings the entire family together for some fun!
Sure, they’ll still have to take out the garbage and clean the garage. But when the paternal figures in your life get an opportunity to rest on their day, the best Father's Day gift you can give is quality time. If his favorite hobby is watching movies, then you're in luck! Here are some Father's Day movies to watch with dear old Dad (Gramps, or Freat Grandpa). 

Daddy's Home (2015)

Read more
How to turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary
These tips will help you sleep better and feel rested in the morning
A redesigned bedroom with hardwood floors and a wood ceiling

Of all the rooms you'll spend time in over the course of your life, one of the most important is your bedroom. It’s where you start and end your day, and your mood when you wake up can affect your performance and attitude as you head out to take on the day.

When getting ready for bed at night, if you take the stresses of work and life to bed with you, you’re just not going to sleep well. As the place where you rest, recharge, and recenter yourself, your bedroom should be a sanctuary, a calming place that allows you to fully let go, relax, and get a good night’s sleep.

Read more
This is how long a Tempur-Pedic mattress lasts – plus, how to extend its lifespan
Tips to help your investment last longer
Tempur-Pedic Tempur Adapt mattress

Buying a Tempur-Pedic mattress is a process that should be done with an ample amount of care and consideration. Not only can mattresses be quite a significant financial investment, but because they serve as your foundation for sleeping night after night for what should be many years, it’s extremely important to buy a high-quality, comfortable mattress. After all, a poorly made mattress will break down prematurely and may fail to provide the support, pressure relief, temperature regulation, and comfort you need to get restful sleep. A bad mattress can even cause back, shoulder, hip, or neck pain, and if it does an inadequate job of arresting the transfer of motion, you may find yourself constantly disturbed by a bed partner's restlessness.

Tempur-Pedic mattresses are among the upper echelon of mattresses in terms of quality, comfort, and effective design, which is why they are consistently one of the most popular mattress purchases every year and adored by nearly every customer. Each Tempur-Pedic mattress model is specifically designed to precisely adapt to the weight, shape, and temperature of your body to eliminate potential pressure points and intimately contour to your body to provide maximal cradling support and comfort. The materials and construction of each mattress minimize motion transfer and enhance airflow and heat dispersion.

Read more