The Dark Side of the Moon

pink floyd

The Dark Side of the Moon is the eighth studio album by English progressive rock group Pink Floyd, released in 1973.

The concept album built on ideas explored by the band in their live shows and earlier recordings, but it lacks the extended instrumental excursions that characterised their work following the departure in 1968 of founding member, principal composer and lyricist Syd Barrett. ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’s’ themes include conflict, greed, the passage of time and mental illness, the latter partly inspired by Barrett’s deteriorating mental state.

The group used some of the most advanced recording techniques of the time, including multitrack recording and tape loops. Analogue synthesisers were given prominence in several tracks, and a series of recorded interviews with staff and band personnel provided the source material for a range of philosophical quotations used throughout. Engineer Alan Parsons was directly responsible for some of the most notable sonic aspects of the album, including the wordless singing of Clare Torry.

The album’s iconic sleeve features a prism that represents the band’s stage lighting, the record’s lyrics, and the request for a ‘simple and bold’ design. The sleeve was designed by Hipgnosis and George Hardie, and bore Hardie’s iconic dispersive prism on the cover.

The album was an immediate success, topping the Billboard chart for one week. It subsequently remained in the charts for 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988, longer than any other album in history.

Each side of the album is a continuous piece of music. The five tracks on each side reflect various stages of human life, beginning and ending with a heartbeat, exploring the nature of the human experience, and (according to Waters) ’empathy.’ ‘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 focussed 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. ‘Us and Them’ addresses the isolation of the depressed with the symbolism of conflict and the use of simple dichotomies to describe personal relationships. ‘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 band-mate Syd Barrett.

The album ends with ‘Eclipse,’ which espouses the concepts of alterity (a philosophical term meaning ‘otherness’) and unity, while forcing the listener to recognise the common traits shared by humanity.

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