The Dark Side of the Moon is the eighth studio album by the English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, released in 1th March 1973. It built on ideas explored in the band’s earlier recordings and live shows, but lacks the extended instrumental excursions that characterised their work following the departure in 1968 of founder 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 album was recorded in two sessions in 1972 and 1973 at Abbey Road Studios in London. 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 the band’s road crew and others provided the philosophical quotations used throughout. Engineer Alan Parsons was directly responsible for some of the most notable sonic aspects of the album as well as the recruitment of non-lexical performer Clare Torry. The album’s iconic sleeve features a prism that represents the band’s stage lighting, the record’s lyrical themes, and keyboardist Richard Wright’s request for a “simple and bold” design.
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 synthesiser-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 focused 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 (ironically, “Money” has been the most commercially successful track from the album, with several cover versions produced by other bands). “Us and Them” addresses the isolation of the depressed with the symbolism of conflict and the use of simple dichotomies to describe personal relationships. “Any Colour You Like” concerns the lack of choice one has in a human society. “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 and unity, while forcing the listener to recognise the common traits shared by humanity.
Dark Side of the Rainbow and Dark Side of Oz are two names commonly used in reference to rumours circulated on the Internet since at least 1994 that The Dark Side of the Moon was written as a soundtrack for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Observers playing the film and the album simultaneously have reported apparent synchronicities, such as Dorothy beginning to jog at the lyric “no one told you when to run” during “Time”, and Dorothy balancing on a tight-rope fence during the line “balanced on the biggest wave” in “Breathe”. David Gilmour and Nick Mason have both denied a connection between the two works, and Roger Waters has described the rumours as “amusing”.
In addition to its commercial success, The Dark Side of the Moon is one of Pink Floyd’s most popular albums among fans and critics, and is frequently ranked as one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
Track listing (All lyrics written by Roger Waters):
1. “Speak to Me”
3. “On the Run”
4. “Time” – includes “Breathe (Reprise)”
5. “The Great Gig in the Sky”
2. “Us and Them”
3. “Any Colour You Like”
4. “Brain Damage”
David Gilmour – vocals, guitar, synthesisers and production
Nick Mason – percussion, tape effects and production
Roger Waters – bass guitar, vocals, synthesisers, tape effects and production
Richard Wright – keyboards, vocals, synthesisers and production
Dick Parry – saxophone on “Money” and “Us and Them”
Clare Torry – vocals on “The Great Gig in the Sky”, background vocals
Lesley Duncan – background vocals
Barry St. John – background vocals
Liza Strike – background vocals
Doris Troy – background vocals