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Dark Side Of The Moon

by Eddie Delcher / 30.03.2011

We were having the best band/best album debate recently when someone said Lady Gaga’s ability to
continuously reinvent herself is unsurpassed. I decided to step in before the contents of my gut ended up all over everyones’ shoes: “What do you think about The Dark Side Of The Moon?”
Blank stares all around.
“You know by Pink Floyd?”

They looked at me, to quote Bill Hicks, like dogs shown a card trick. None of them had ever even heard of the band let alone their landmark Seventies meisterwerk which has made more money than the GDP of several developing nations.

Since its release in March 1973, The Dark Side Of The Moon has sold over 35 million copies and dawdled a record 591 consecutive weeks (that’s more than 11 years) in the Billboard 200! In 2002, 29 years after it first hit the shelves, the album still sold in the hundreds of thousands. It regularly makes it to the top of lists like “Rolling Stone’s Top 100 LPs”, “Best Albums To Have Sex To”, or “1000 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die”.

And does it ever remain a record worth listening to. From the first bars of “Speak To Me” until the last words of “Eclipse”, the Floyd takes us on nothing less than a magical mystery tour of life itself. Gulp.

It takes in madness (“The lunatic is in my head/ You raise the blade/ You make the change/ You rearrange me ‘til I’m sane”). Materialism: (“Money so they say/ Is the root of all evil today”) and, why not, aging and death and failure: (“And then one day you find/ Ten years have got behind you/ No one told you when to run/ You missed the starting gun”). Virtuoso lyricist/bassist Roger Waters, who wrote all this at only 22, captures existence in all its wonder and meaninglessness. And that’s just the lyrics.

Pink Floyd

Musically the album still sounds immediate and vital. “Speak To Me” is a crescendo-ridden montage inspired by a heartbeat. Expansive cinematic motifs recur throughout (clocks and cash registers). We segue into “Breathe” where the heartbeat morphs into hysterical screams before everything is swept away by David Gilmour’s liquid guitar. Then the stone cold classics. “Time” has so many ringing clocks in the famous intro that music stores around the globe used to use it as a sound test for stereos. Look out for those drum rototoms and that epic wailing guitar solo. Then there’s “Money” with possibly the most immaculate bass riff in rock and an inventive 7/4 time signature.

Dark Side has the time and sense to slow things way down with the proto-dubby echo-laden “Us And Them” and the demented “Brain Damage” – a song inspired by batshit former front man Syd Barrett’s descent into mania – and the triumphant “Eclipse” which returns us full circle to a heartbeat fading out.

One of the high points is “The Great Gig In The Sky” with its orgasmic screams and cries of sheer terror. It’ll make your arm hairs stand on end or your money back. Tape loops are all over the album. Waters innovated “splicing” – cutting the actual tape in places and inserting stuff – to create sounds that “glue” the record together and give it its fractured, haunting texture so influential on later grime and dubstep.

Bits of dropped in conversation happen a lot like “I don’t know, I was really drunk at the time” – funny looped responses to questions like: “When last were you violent?” or “Are you afraid of dying?” – which Waters asked everyone in the studio – including Paul McCartney and Abbey Road’s doorman Jerry Driscoll who contributed several lines to the album, including: “I’ve always been mad, I know I’ve been mad like most of us have. It’s very hard to explain why you’re mad even if you’re not mad.” McCartney’s responses didn’t make the cut.

The only fault with this record is its length – a mere 45 minutes – but it just wouldn’t be the same with anything extra. So sit down, press play, and wait for that heart to beat again, while hoping that 40 years from now, the future young will have reacquired a taste for music. And Lady Gaga will have long been forgotten, having fatally choked in an airport lounge on her own mediocrity.

Die Antwoord, Pink Floyd boxers

So much more than Ninja's jock print

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RESPONSES (37)
  1. james says:

    a timely reminder of a great record, when epochal records could still be made in a homogenised pop music industry. i take your point about the tape splicing innovation – but this was really only unusual in rock music at the time. readers might be interested in the postwar experiments in tape looping and splicing of the concrete music movement in France, and the BBC Radiophonic workshop, where that really started. and i think that a host of dub and reggae artists and producers using loops, delays and reverb in their echo chamber studios in the late 60s and 70s might disagree with you about influencing grime and dubstep! 😉 and great last line, btw..

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  2. formica says:

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha, your idea of an escape from mediocrity is Roger Waters era Pink Floyd??? Buddy, there’s a mountain of better quality art out there for you to discover and to appreciate. More than enough has been written about this overrated piece of pompous crap already.

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  3. Lizzy says:

    yes. pink floyd is spectacular and dark side of the moon is one of the high points. I know its uncool, but i get a similar emotion about leonard cohen, its a response to the longevity of the feeings they evoke…
    like like like!

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  4. BM says:

    yes interesting last line, if only for the fact that Roger Waters has been choking on his own mediocrity for years. Exhibit A :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvTvWJWeQ2g

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  5. Anonymous says:

    @formica you have to back up any statement that disses such a great album! You gotta respect music that still sounds that good and stays relevant 40 odd years after it was made.

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  6. Cold Gin says:

    I say this every time someone comes up with one of these ‘great albums of the past’ thing – these albums were ‘made great’ by something other than the album. The reason they have lasting appeal after 40 years and the present ones don’t is because the present ones did NOT COME OUT 40 YEARS AGO. Something very essential has changed in the way music is being produced that means modern albums don’t have the same shelf-life, and the same thing could easily be said about the Beatles and Pink Floyd. People got together in a particular context – in a particular political, artistic, social, cultural, and let’s not forget technological context – and made these albums great through the review, criticism, record-sales etc. that followed. Nothing is ever great in itself.

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  7. JM Koet$ee says:

    Yes Cold Gin, music (an iconic album, an iconic song) gathers momentum through various social contexts. But the particular album or song is also CONTRIBUTING to that social context – that’s why it’s a Pink Floyd or Beatles or Rolling Stones song rather than an Abba song. Upshot, one can still abstract the particular icon and talk about it as icon because other songs & albums of the time didn’t achieve iconic status. That says more about the album than about the particular context.

    Then, if no or few albums now reach that kind of iconic status, what does it say about social contexts?

    Many of the 1970s/1980s iconic albums come from a time when there was still a wide, collective sense that an alternative world is possible for the broader world. So, albums that critique the status quo – political art – made an impact. Now it’s all fragmented into little issues, or people are too clever, seen-it-alls who are too cool to believe in an alternative future, or see beyond the present horizon of how the world is organised, etc. And so people diss whatever comes from an era when there was still such hope.

    Dark Side is a great album for its successful marriage of politics and production. It broke boundaries in production, it broke boundaries in content. And it shows that it is the self-obsessed artist that makes anything of worth, not market researched pop.

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  8. formica says:

    No, JM Kakpraat, it is considered by many to be a “great” album because it was one of the first well-marketed offerings from a successful band that borrowed and watered down ideas and juxtapositions that other lesser known artists had been working with for quite a while. This ongoing trumpeting of DSOTM as a “rock classic” is about as relevant as remarks from semi-literate dabblers that The Joshua Tree was one of the great albums from the ’80s.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Um… why is there a photo of the old Pink Floyd line-up, with Syd Barrett?
    Dark Side of the Moon clearly forms part of the Waters-Gilmour version Floyd

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  10. Anonymous says:

    *version of Floyd

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  11. Barry says:

    Nice article. just one issue – there is no problem with the length 😉

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  12. Melamine says:

    Dear formica,

    Sorry to read that you’re a twat and haven’t the time for such lowly offerings as Dark Side. It is, after all, only the stuff of every reputable musicians’ dreams. But quite obviously sub-par for you, o almighty superstar and rock god. When your albums go triple platinum, you’ll be laughing, won’t you?

    Suck cock in hell, you sarky twat.

    Love,

    Melamine

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  13. formica says:

    “only the stuff of every reputable musicians’ dreams” Really? Did Leonard Bernstein rave about it when it was released? You may not like my opinion, but at least I don’t resort to ridiculous hyperbole in an attempt to make a point.

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  14. JM Koet$ee says:

    Formica: “borrowed and watered down ideas and juxtapositions that other lesser known artists had been working with for quite a while.”

    Formica, if you could name some of the ‘lesser known artists’, I’d be happy to give them a listen. Or, if I myself have forgotten some of them, I’d be happy to be reminded.

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  15. formica says:

    Off the top of my head: Soft Machine, King Crimson, early Roxy Music with Brian Eno, loads of Krautrock like Can, Cluster, Neu!, Faust etc,…

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  16. JM Koet$ee says:

    Well, we can can Krautrock from this convo because I don’t understand German, and for me Pink Floyd lyrics were key. The other bands – I know smatterings of, so will modulate based on your authority.

    But, can you quote a line or two of lyrics similar to and better than some lyrics on Dark Side?

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  17. Captain Obvious says:

    Apples and oranges mate. So you think Pink Floyd is better than Lady Gaga? You’re a fucking genius, give him a Pulitzer. Why not just write a piece on Dark Side rather than try to introduce with some inane argument about the new Madonna? What’s next, telling us all about how the Pixies are better than the Parlotones?

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  18. formica says:

    @JMK: now it’s your turn to oblige first. Quote us something from DSOTM which you think is deeply meaningful and we’ll take it from there…

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  19. JM Koet$ee says:

    Come on Formica, you know The Great Gig in the Sky has no lyrics…

    But seriously: http://www.pink-floyd-lyrics.com/html/dark-side-moon-lyrics.html

    I suppose it would now become you to point out how weak, vague, sentimental, meaningless [add your own adjectival compliment] the lyrics are. I’ve played this parlour game before in college radio lounge.

    Time:

    Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
    You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
    Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
    Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

    Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
    You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
    And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
    No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

    So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
    Racing around to come up behind you again.
    The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
    Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

    Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
    Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
    Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
    The time is gone, the song is over,
    Thought I’d something more to say.
    ——————————————-

    Is that remorse or admonishment for a slacker life style even before Linklater?

    [I don’t think Dark Side is their best album, neither do I value it as much as the author above; I was responding to a general dismissal of the album]

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  20. Melamine says:

    @formica

    The entire DSOTM is rife with meaningful lyrics. Here’s some now:

    “…one day you find ten years have got behind you.
    No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.”

    Perfectly poignant and wry comment on our lives as consumers and ratracers. But I suspect you’d disagree.

    And while we’re at it, why don’t we take a sample of Can’s ‘I Want More’ and scan it for deep and meaningful insights, shall we?

    “I want more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more.”

    (ahem)

    Over to you.

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  21. JM Koet$ee says:

    LOL @ Melamine vs Formica nicks.

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  22. Barry says:

    @ Cold Gin: Part of what you say is valid, but those albums are not great because they came out 40 years ago. They are great because they stood the test of time. Remaining valid for 40 years is what makes them great. Lady Gaga will not stand the test of time. It’s popular music. Nothing new really.

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  23. timeless says:

    Floyd’s Time is one of the all time best ever songs. What other song captures so well the quiet desperation of life slipping away? The musical equivalent of Dylan Thomas’ Do not go gentle into that good night.

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  24. portlandian says:

    Sheesh haters, just because it doesn’t suit you doesn’t mean there aren’t folks who would appreciate it if they knew it existed, the existence of good new art doesn’t mean good older art is less good. Thank you Eddie, you’ve done it justice, and it is one of my favorites ever. Not just iconic but still spectacularly beautiful and to the point.

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  25. Friday Friday Friday says:

    Sheesh, so much of bitter discussion on such a subjective subject.

    We know that music is music.

    Come together as one.

    Sort yourselves out and get on with it, time is wasting.

    Muppets.

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  26. Friday Friday Friday says:

    @Melimine —

    Epic response, superKIF!

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  27. formica says:

    Eish folks, the lyrics look an awful lot like schoolboy poetry to me. Elementary rhyming couplets, cliched imagery (even for the ’70s) and rather one-dimensional inferences abound. I find it hard to believe that this stuff could compete with the greats of lyrics and poetry through the ages, it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to greats of latter-day songwriting (Cave, Eitzel, Buckley, Hersh, Oldham etc).

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  28. JM Koet$ee says:

    Formica, that was predictable. So post some better lyrics dealing with the same theme.

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  29. formica says:

    Let’s not play this game for too long, shall we. Here’s something from one of the great unheralded songwriters of our time:

    Why don’t you be good for something
    And draw down the shade
    On a sign that sat up all night shivering
    On a sign that sat up all night afraid
    Well now chains on the oasis that
    Leads a man to drink
    Drunk on the kind of applause
    That gets louder the lower you sink
    Gratitude walks on Sixth Street
    Pull it from the air
    And they throw it in the blue
    And you’re spinning under their wheels
    Trapped in your room
    You’re jumpy, you don’t want to see
    You don’t want to see them have their fun
    Slap her face if she should laugh
    Push him down if he should try and run
    Gratitude walks on Sixth Street
    Take a number for your big woman
    They sold the rules of dream land
    in cotton, wool, and cement
    Well it’s never what you want
    It’s just the kind of thing that always happens here
    Yeah you watch the good old days pass you by
    Leaving your cupboards bare
    Gratitude walks on Sixth Street

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  30. formica says:

    Just noticed an error from the website where I grabbed this. “Woman” should be “lament”.

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  31. Happy says:

    Dark Side Of The Moon is a great album, because people-who-want-to-prove-that-they-know-more-about-good-music-than-you won’t allow you to disagree. The there are the people-who-know-even-better who diss the album, but they are even worse.

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  32. tim lester says:

    Eddie . . I have a question .

    Lady Gaga has set a world record by selling more than 300000 sales rendering her album The Fame platinum digitally. . making her album the most downloaded album of all time . .
    have you had a single on International Billboard charts at number 1?
    to illustrate . . Lady Gagas single Dance . . alone . . stood in international charts at top ten slots for most of 2009, beaten only by Elvis and the Beatles . .

    I really dont know where you get your concept of mediocre . . in terms of pop music . .

    Great article . . but that cheap, uneducated chirp at the end . .is just a stain on your work

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  33. JM Koet$ee says:

    Aah, American Music Club… what Leonard Cohen really wants to be.

    But Formica, I was hoping you’d post lyrics from bands either contemporaneous to or preceding Dark Side, which is what your central argument is: that there were bands before or at the same time that were doing far better things than Pink Floyd.

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  34. formica says:

    @JMK: a few years earlier than DSOTM and another one of the unheralded greats:

    You’ll lose your way
    A boy child rides upon your back
    Take him away
    Through mirrors dark and blessed with cracks
    Through forgotten courtyards
    Where you used to search for youth
    Old gets a new life
    Reach out you can touch it’s true
    He’s not a shadow of shadows
    Like you, you see
    Hearts hold on holding
    If you stay one, you’ll stay free
    Go seek the lady
    Who will give, not take away
    Naked with stillness
    On the edge of dawn she stays
    Night starts to empty
    That’s when her song begins
    She’ll make you happy
    She’ll take you deep within her
    Window lights for wanderers
    Hide hard in your swollen eyes
    Echoes of laughter
    Hide in the cities thighs
    Love catch these fragments
    Swirling through the winds of night
    What can it cost
    To give a boy child back his sight
    Extensions through dimensions
    Leave you feeling cold and lame
    Boy child mustn’t tremble
    ‘cos he came without a name

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  35. JM Koet$ee says:

    Formica, still coy to name the band or writer? Why?

    Nevertheless, “the lyrics look an awful lot like schoolboy poetry to me.” The intermittent cross-rhymed quatrains show someone struggling to write. That internal rhyme of latinate abstractions – extensions through dimensions? – is as empty as much spoken-word stuff. And there’s the “cliched imagery and rather one-dimensional inferences abound.”

    But these lyrics commit the greatest sin ever – they’re boring.

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  36. formica says:

    You just dissed Scott Walker. I have little doubt that you would find the music he makes these days just as “boring”.

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  37. JM Koet$ee says:

    Or I’m out of my depth?

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