1973 – Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon

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Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

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Track Listing:

01. Speak To Me
02. Breathe
03. On The Run
04. Time
05. Great Gig In The Sky
06. Money
07. Us And Them
08. Any Colour You Like
09. Brain Damage
10. Eclipse

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The Dark Side of the Moon (titled Dark Side of the Moon in the 1993 CD edition) is a concept album by the English progressive rock band Pink Floyd. It was released on 17 March 1973 in the U.S. and 24 March 1973 in the UK.

The Dark Side of the Moon builds upon previous experimentation that Pink Floyd had explored in their live shows and recordings, but without the extended instrumental excursions that, according to critic David Fricke, had become characteristic of the band after founding member Syd Barrett left in 1968. Guitarist David Gilmour, Barrett’s replacement, would later refer to these instrumentals as “that psychedelic noodling stuff.”

Gilmour and Roger Waters, the band’s bassist (and principal lyricist on Dark Side), cite 1971’s Meddle as a turning point toward what would be realized on The Dark Side of the Moon.

The album’s themes include conflict, greed, ageing and mental illness (or “insanity”); the latter inspired in part by the deteriorating mental state of Barrett, who had been the band’s principal composer and lyricist. The album is notable for its use of musique concrète and conceptual, philosophical lyrics, as found in much of Pink Floyd’s other work.

The band’s most successful release, The Dark Side of the Moon is often considered to be the group’s defining work, and is still frequently ranked by music critics as one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time.

Miscellaneous Information

Concept

The Dark Side of the Moon explores the nature of the human experience and according to Waters, “empathy”. For example: “Speak to Me / Breathe” is about birth and being a child with new earthly experiences; “Time” deals with growing older and the overwhelmingly fast approach of death – youth being gone before one even realizes it; “The Great Gig in the Sky” explores thoughts of religion and death; “Money” mocks greed and consumerism, with tongue-in-cheek lyrics and wealth-related sound effects; “Us and Them” addresses ethnocentrism, conflict and the belief that a person’s self is “always in the right”; “Brain Damage” looks at mental illness and whether “insanity” is only relative, and growing too old to be who one once was; and “Eclipse” ends the album with a grand statement about free will and causality.

Waters is credited as author of all the lyrics on the album, and he created the early demo tracks in a small garden shed-turned-recording studio at his home. It was also there that he recorded the effects loop for “Money”, by recording the sounds of various money-related objects, including coins tossed into a mixing bowl from his wife’s pottery studio.  All four members of Pink Floyd – bassist and principal lyricist Roger Waters, guitarist David Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Richard Wright – participated in the writing and production of the album, which is a rarity among later Pink Floyd albums. However, it is the first of five consecutive Pink Floyd albums with lyrics credited only to Waters.

Although The Dark Side of the Moon was the planned title of the album, upon the discovery that the band Medicine Head was to release an album of the same name in 1972, the year prior to The Dark Side of the Moon’s release, the band changed the album’s title to Eclipse: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics. However, the Medicine Head album flopped, so Pink Floyd reverted to the original title.

Recording

Recorded by the band and staff engineer Alan Parsons at Abbey Road Studios between June 1972 and January 1973, the album sessions made use of the most advanced techniques available for recording instruments and sound effects in rock music at that time. Along with some Moody Blues albums, it is known for being one of the very first surround sound mixes, taking advantages of the early technology of quadraphonic systems of the time. A quadraphonic surround sound mix of the album was created by Parsons. However, he never completed it to his satisfaction, due to lack of time and multi-track tape recorders. The mix was released in SQ format by Harvest Records (Q4SHVL-804) but languished in obscurity for about 30 years before an anonymous “professional sound engineer” obtained the master tape from Abbey Road Studios in 2003 and created a DVD-Audio bootleg, which is now a torrent circulating the Internet. Pink Floyd rejected this quadraphonic mix for the 2003 SACD release, and instead chose to have their current engineer, James Guthrie, create a new, official 5.1 surround sound mix in SACD format. In 1975, Parsons wrote a paper for Studio Sound magazine titled “Four Sides of the Moon”, in which he discusses mixing of the quad. He has also done a side-by-side comparison of his quadraphonic mix to James Guthrie’s SACD mix.

Along with the conventional rock band instrumentation, Pink Floyd added prominent synthesizers to their sound. For example, Roger Waters and David Gilmour experimented with the EMS VCS3 Synthi A and analog sequencers on “On the Run”. The band also devised and recorded some unconventional noises: an assistant engineer running around the studio’s echo chamber (during “On the Run”); myriad clocks ticking then chiming simultaneously (during “Time”), and a specially-treated bass drum made to sound like a human heartbeat (during “Speak to Me”, “On the Run”, “Time”, and “Eclipse”). The heartbeat is most audible as the intro and the outro to the album, but it can also be heard underneath most of the album—the song “Time” and “On the Run” has the low thudding underneath the rest.

Another novelty of the recording is the metronomic and rhythmic sequence of sound effects played during “Speak to Me” and “Money”. This was achieved by Parsons laboriously splicing together recordings of ringing cash registers, clinking coins, tearing paper, and buzzing counting machines onto a two-track tape loop (later adapted to four tracks in order to create a unique “walk around the room” effect in quadraphonic presentations of the album). The sonic experimentation on the album required every member of the band to operate the faders simultaneously in order to mix down the intricately assembled multitrack recordings of several of the songs (particularly “On the Run”).

Perhaps one of the less noticeable aspects of the album is the ability of Rick Wright and David Gilmour to perfectly harmonize with each other, such as on “Us and Them” and “Time”. In the Making of Dark Side of the Moon DVD, Roger Waters attributes this to the fact that, along with their talent, their voices both sound extremely similar. To take advantage of this, Parsons perfected the use of other studio techniques such as the doubletracking of vocals and guitars (allowing Gilmour to harmonize flawlessly with himself). He also made prominent use of flanging and phase shifting effects on vocals and instruments, odd trickery with reverb and the panning of sounds between channels (most notable in the quadraphonic mix of “On the Run”, when the opening Hammond B3 rapidly swirls around the listener).

Despite Parsons’ significant contribution to the success of the album, Pink Floyd have occasionally tried to downplay his role. He said in an interview with Rolling Stone, “I think they all felt that I managed to hang the rest of my career on Dark Side of the Moon, which has an element of truth to it. But I still wake up occasionally, frustrated about the fact that they made untold millions and a lot of the people involved in the record didn’t.

Voices

The album’s credits include, “Vocals on ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ by Clare Torry”. In 2004, Torry sued EMI and Pink Floyd for songwriting royalties, claiming that she co-wrote “The Great Gig in the Sky” with keyboardist Richard Wright. She was originally paid £30 for Sunday studio work. The High Court concluded that Torry was correct but the terms of the lawsuit were not disclosed. On Pink Floyd’s 2006 live DVD P*U*L*S*E, Torry is credited with the vocal composition for “The Great Gig in the Sky” segment.

Snippets of dialogue between and over songs are also featured on the recording. Roger Waters devised a method of interviewing people, whereby questions were printed on flashcards in sequential order and the subject’s responses were recorded uninterrupted. The questions related to central themes of the album such as madness, violence, and death. Participants were commandeered from around Abbey Road, placed in the darkened studio in front of a microphone, and told to answer the questions in the order which they were presented. This provoked some surprising responses to subsequent questions. For example, the question “When was the last time you were violent?” was immediately followed by “Were you in the right?”.  Recordings of road manager Roger “The Hat” Manifold were the only ones obtained through a conventional sit-down interview because the band members could not find him at the time and his responses (including “give ’em a quick, short, sharp shock…” and “live for today, gone tomorrow, that’s me…”) had to be taped later when the flashcards had been lost. Another roadie, Chris Adamson, was on tour with Pink Floyd at the time and recorded his explicit diatribe that opens the album (“I’ve been mad for fucking years, absolutely years, over the edge for yonks…”).

Pink Floyd’s road manager Peter Watts (father of actress Naomi Watts) contributed the repeated laughter during “Brain Damage” and “Speak to Me”. The monologue about “geezers” who were “cruisin’ for a bruisin'” came from Peter’s second wife, Puddie (short for Patricia) Watts.

The responses “And I am not frightened of dying, any time will do, I don’t mind. Why should I be frightened of dying, there’s no reason for it, you’ve got to go some time” (during “The Great Gig in the Sky”) and closing words “there is no dark side of the Moon really… as a matter of fact it’s all dark” (over the “Eclipse” heartbeats) came from the Abbey Road Studios’ Irish doorman at the time, Gerry O’Driscoll.

Paul and Linda McCartney were also interviewed, but their answers were considered too cautious for inclusion. McCartney’s bandmate Henry McCullough contributed the famous line “I don’t know, I was really drunk at the time” (during the segue between “Money” and “Us and Them”).

LP Packaging

The album was originally released in a gatefold LP sleeve designed by Hipgnosis and George Hardie, of Nicholas Thirkell Associates, and bore Hardie’s iconic refracting prism on the cover. Inside were two posters, one bearing pictures of the band in concert with the words PINK FLOYD broken up and scattered about, and the other being a slightly psychedelic image of the Great Pyramids of Giza taken on infrared film. Also included was a sheet of stickers of the pyramids. The album was also the first Pink Floyd album to have picture labels on the record where it depicted a blue prism with black background and the credits written either in grey lettering (European issues) or white lettering (US and Canadian issues).

In a 1991 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, the refracting prism album cover was #35 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest album covers of all time.  In 2003, VH1 named the album’s cover the 4th Greatest Album Cover of All Time on their 50 Greatest Album Covers of All Time special.

Reception

The Dark Side of the Moon is the third best selling album of all time worldwide (not counting compilations and various artists soundtracks), and the 20th-best-selling album in the United States. Though it held the No. 1 spot in the USA for only one week, it spent a total of 741 consecutive weeks, over fourteen years, on Billboard’s list of the top 200 best selling albums, longer than any other album in the history of music. The album was finally removed only by a rule change after 23 April 1988.  To this day, it occupies a prominent spot on Billboard’s Pop Catalogue Chart, reaching number one when the 2003 hybrid CD/SACD edition was released and sold 800,000 copies in the U.S. alone. On the week of 5 May 2006, The Dark Side of the Moon achieved a combined total of 1,500 weeks on the Billboard 200 and Pop Catalogue charts.

Sales of the album worldwide total over forty million as of 2004, with an average of 8,000 copies sold per week and a total of 400,000 in the year of 2002 — making it the 200th best-selling album of that year nearly three decades after its initial release. It is estimated that one in every fourteen people in the U.S. under the age of fifty owns or owned a copy of this album.  According to an 2 August 2006 Wall Street Journal article, although the album was released in 1973, it has sold 7.7 million copies since 1991 in the U.S. alone and continues to log 9,600 sales per week domestically.

The LP was released before platinum awards were introduced by the RIAA on 1 January 1976, and it initially only received a gold disc. However, after the introduction of the album on CD, The Dark Side of the Moon would eventually be certified platinum in 1990. On 6 April 1998, the RIAA certified the album at 15x platinum, denoting sales of fifteen million in the United States alone – making it their biggest-selling album there (The Wall is 23 times platinum, but as it is a double album this only signifies sales of 11.5 million copies [20]). “Time”, “Money” and “Us and Them” remain radio call-in request favourites, with “Money” having sold well as a single in its own right.

Some of the profits from The Dark Side of the Moon were invested in the making of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The members of Pink Floyd were reportedly huge Monty Python fans, to the point of interrupting recording sessions to watch the Flying Circus. However, David Gilmour has disputed the claim that the band regularly halted sessions to watch football or Monty Python. In an interview with Uncut Gilmour said, “We would sometimes watch them but when we were on a roll, we would get on.”

On 3-11 February 1995, the opening sequence of “Time” was played as a wakeup call for the crew of space mission STS-63.

Re-Issues and Re-Mastering

In 1979, The Dark Side of the Moon was released as a remastered LP by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL). Alan Parsons has expressed approval of MFSL’s mastering of the album. It has since been re-released several times on CD. MFSL remastered and re-released the album again in CD Ultradisc form in April of 1988, with new, factory-sealed examples of this version currently selling for well over a hundred dollars on the Internet.

Ticket to Ride on The Dark Side!

The Dark Side of the Moon was again re-released later as a remastered CD as part of the 1992 box set Shine On. The 1992 remaster was then re-released by itself as a 20th Anniversary box set edition with postcards. On most CD pressings, an orchestral version of The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” is barely audible after “Eclipse”, playing very faintly over the heartbeats that close the album. It is unknown why this was included, but it may have been the consequence of a remastering error. The bootleg recording A Tree Full of Secrets includes an amplified, re-processed version of this oddity, which allows it to be heard clearly. This is not audible on the original vinyl.

The Dark Side of the Moon was re-released as a 30th anniversary hybrid Super Audio CD (SACD) with a 5.1 channel DSD surround sound version remixed from the original 16-track studio tapes. Some surprise was expressed when longtime producer James Guthrie was called in to mix the new surround mix rather than the original LP engineer, Alan Parsons, who had already produced a definitive quadraphonic mix shortly after the original album was released.  Speaking of the surround sound mix for On the Run, Parsons said, “After hearing his mix for a while, I think I’m hearing stereo with a bit of surround.” Parsons went on to praise the mix for other songs. This 30th anniversary edition won four Surround Music Awards in 2003.

The Dark Side of the Moon was also re-released in 2003 on 180-gram virgin vinyl (mastered by Kevin Gray at AcousTech Mastering) and included reprints of the original posters and stickers that came with the original vinyl release, along with a new 30th anniversary poster.

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