The Dark Side of the Moon

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This article is about the album by Pink Floyd. For other uses, see Dark side of the Moon.
The Dark Side of the Moon
A prism refracting white light into a rainbow on a black background
Studio album by Pink Floyd
Released 1 March 1973 (1973-03-01)
Recorded June 1972 – January 1973
Studio Abbey Road Studios, London
Genre Progressive rock
Length 42:59
Label Harvest
Producer Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd chronology
Obscured by Clouds
(1972)
The Dark Side of the Moon
(1973)
Wish You Were Here
(1975)
30th anniversary SACD Re-issue
A prism refracting white light into a prism imposed on a background of a tree at night
Singles from The Dark Side of the Moon
  1. "Money" / "Any Colour You Like"
    Released: 7 May 1973 (1973-05-07)
  2. "Time" / "Us and Them"
    Released: 4 February 1974 (1974-02-04)

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

Developed during live performances, an early version of the suite was premiered several months before studio recording began; new material 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 synthesizers 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 responsible for some of the album's most notable sonic aspects and the recruitment of non-lexical singer Clare Torry. The album's iconic sleeve, designed by Storm Thorgerson, 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.

The Dark Side of the Moon was an immediate success; it topped the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart for one week and remained in the charts for 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988. With an estimated 50 million copies sold, it is Pink Floyd's most commercially successful album and one of the best-selling albums worldwide. It has twice been remastered and re-released, and has been covered in its entirety by several other acts. It produced two singles, "Money" and "Time". 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 albums of all time.

Background[edit]

Following the release of Meddle in 1971, Pink Floyd assembled for an upcoming tour of Britain, Japan, and the United States in December of that year. Rehearsing in Broadhurst Gardens in London, there was the looming prospect of a new album, although their priority at that time was the creation of new material.[1] In a band meeting at drummer Nick Mason's home in Camden, bassist Roger Waters proposed that a new album could form part of the tour. Waters' idea was for an album that dealt with things that "make people mad", focusing on the pressures faced by the band during their arduous lifestyle, and dealing with the apparent mental problems suffered by former band member Syd Barrett.[2][3] The band had explored a similar idea with 1969's The Man and The Journey.[4] In an interview for Rolling Stone, guitarist David Gilmour said: "I think we all thought — and Roger definitely thought — that a lot of the lyrics that we had been using were a little too indirect. There was definitely a feeling that the words were going to be very clear and specific."[5]

Waters' early demo recording of "Money", made in his garden shed.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Generally, all four members agreed that Waters' concept of an album unified by a single theme was a good idea.[5] Waters, Gilmour, Mason, and Wright participated in the writing and production of the new material, and Waters created the early demo tracks at his Islington home in a small recording studio he had built in his garden shed.[6] Parts of the new album were taken from previously unused material; the opening line of "Breathe" came from an earlier work by Waters and Ron Geesin, written for the soundtrack of The Body,[7] and the basic structure of "Us and Them" was taken from a piece originally composed by Wright for the film Zabriskie Point.[8] The band rehearsed at a warehouse in London owned by The Rolling Stones, and then at the Rainbow Theatre. They also purchased extra equipment, which included new speakers, a PA system, a 28-track mixing desk with four quadraphonic outputs, and a custom-built lighting rig. Nine tonnes of kit was transported in three lorries; this would be the first time the band had taken an entire album on tour, but it would allow them to refine and improve the new material,[9][10] which by then had been given the provisional title of Dark Side of the Moon (an allusion to lunacy, rather than astronomy).[11] However, after discovering that that title had already been used by another band, Medicine Head, it was temporarily changed to Eclipse. The new material premièred at The Dome in Brighton, on 20 January 1972,[12] and after the commercial failure of Medicine Head's album the title was changed back to the band's original preference.[13][14][nb 1]

Photograph
The Rainbow Theatre in London, where The Dark Side of the Moon was played for the press in 1972.

Dark Side of the Moon: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics, as it was then known,[4] was performed in the presence of an assembled press on 17 February 1972—more than a year before its release—at the Rainbow Theatre, and was critically acclaimed.[15] Michael Wale of The Times described the piece as "... bringing tears to the eyes. It was so completely understanding and musically questioning."[16] Derek Jewell of The Sunday Times wrote "The ambition of the Floyd's artistic intention is now vast."[13] Melody Maker was, however, less enthusiastic: "Musically, there were some great ideas, but the sound effects often left me wondering if I was in a bird-cage at London zoo."[17] The following tour was praised by the public. The new material was performed live, in the same order in which it would eventually be recorded, but obvious differences between the live version, and the recorded version released a year later, included the lack of synthesizers in tracks such as "On the Run", and Bible readings that were later replaced by Clare Torry's non-lexical vocables on "The Great Gig in the Sky".[15]

The band's lengthy tour through Europe and North America gave them the opportunity to make continual improvements to the scale and quality of their performances.[18] Work on the album was interrupted in late February when the band travelled to France and recorded music for French director Barbet Schroeder's film, La Vallée.[19][nb 2] They then performed in Japan and returned to France in March to complete work on the film. After a series of dates in North America, the band flew to London to begin recording the album, from 24 May to 25 June. More concerts in Europe and North America followed before the band returned on 9 January 1973 to complete work on the album.[20][21][22]

Concept[edit]

The Dark Side of the Moon built upon experiments Pink Floyd had attempted in their previous live shows and recordings, but lacks the extended instrumental excursions which, according to critic David Fricke, had become characteristic of the band after founder member Syd Barrett left in 1968. Guitarist David Gilmour, Barrett's replacement, later referred to those instrumentals as "that psychedelic noodling stuff", and with Waters cited 1971's Meddle as a turning-point towards what would be realised on the album. The Dark Side of the Moon's lyrical themes include conflict, greed, the passage of time, death, and insanity, the latter inspired in part by Barrett's deteriorating mental state; he had been the band's principal composer and lyricist.[8] The album is notable for its use of musique concrète[4] and conceptual, philosophical lyrics, as found in much of the band's other work.

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".[8] "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".[23] 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.[24] "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".[4] 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).[25] "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.[26][27]

Recording[edit]

The album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, in two sessions, between May 1972 and January 1973. The band were assigned staff engineer Alan Parsons, who had worked as assistant tape operator on Atom Heart Mother, and who had also gained experience as a recording engineer on The Beatles' Abbey Road and Let It Be.[28][29] The recording sessions made use of some of the most advanced studio techniques of the time; the studio was capable of 16-track mixes, which offered a greater degree of flexibility than the eight- or four-track mixes they had previously used, although the band often used so many tracks that to make more space available second-generation copies were made.[30]

Beginning on 1 June, the first track to be recorded was "Us and Them", followed six days later by "Money". Waters had created effects loops from recordings of various money-related objects, including coins thrown into a food-mixing bowl taken from his wife's pottery studio, and these were later re-recorded to take advantage of the band's decision to record a quadraphonic mix of the album (Parsons has since expressed dissatisfaction with the result of this mix, attributed to a lack of time and the paucity of available multi-track tape recorders).[29] "Time" and "The Great Gig in the Sky" were the next pieces to be recorded, followed by a two-month break, during which the band spent time with their families and prepared for an upcoming tour of the US.[31] The recording sessions suffered regular interruptions; Waters, a supporter of Arsenal F.C., would often break to see his team compete, and the band would occasionally stop work to watch Monty Python's Flying Circus on the television, leaving Parsons to work on material recorded up to that point.[30] Gilmour has, however, disputed this claim; in an interview in 2003 he said: "We would sometimes watch them but when we were on a roll, we would get on."[32][33]

Photograph
The EMS VCS 3 (Putney) synthesizer

Returning from the US in January 1973, they recorded "Brain Damage", "Eclipse", "Any Colour You Like" and "On the Run", while fine-tuning the work they had already laid down in the previous sessions. A foursome of female vocalists was assembled to sing on "Brain Damage", "Eclipse" and "Time", and saxophonist Dick Parry was booked to play on "Us and Them" and "Money". With director Adrian Maben, the band also filmed studio footage for Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii.[34] Once the recording sessions were complete, the band began a tour of Europe.[35]

Instrumentation[edit]

The album is particularly notable for the metronomic sound effects during "Speak to Me", and the tape loops that open "Money". Mason created a rough version of "Speak to Me" at his home, before completing it in the studio. The track serves as an overture and contains cross-fades of elements from other pieces on the album. A piano chord, replayed backwards, serves to augment the build-up of effects, which are immediately followed by the opening of "Breathe". Mason received a rare solo composing credit for "Speak to Me".[nb 3][36][37]

The sound effects on "Money" were created by splicing together Waters' recordings of clinking coins, tearing paper, a ringing cash register, and a clicking adding machine, which were used to create a 7-beat effects loop (later adapted to four tracks in order to create a "walk around the room" effect in quadraphonic presentations of the album).[38] At times the degree of sonic experimentation on the album required the engineers and band to operate the mixing console's faders simultaneously, in order to mix down the intricately assembled multitrack recordings of several of the songs (particularly "On the Run").[8]

Along with the conventional rock band instrumentation, Pink Floyd added prominent synthesizers to their sound. For example, the band experimented with an EMS VCS 3 on "Brain Damage" and "Any Colour You Like", and a Synthi A on "Time" and "On the Run". They also devised and recorded unconventional sounds, such as an assistant engineer running around the studio's echo chamber (during "On the Run"),[39] and a specially treated bass drum made to simulate a human heartbeat (during "Speak to Me", "On the Run", "Time", and "Eclipse"). This heartbeat is most prominent as the intro and the outro to the album, but it can also be heard sporadically on "Time", and "On the Run".[8] The assorted clocks ticking then chiming simultaneously at the start of "Time", accompanied by a series of Rototoms, were initially created as a quadraphonic test by Parsons.[36] The engineer recorded each timepiece at an antique clock shop, and although his recordings had not been created specifically for the album, elements of the material were eventually used in the track.[40]

"The Great Gig in the Sky" features Richard Wright's piano composition accompanied by improvised vocal work from Clare Torry. This selection is taken from about two minutes forty seconds onward.

"Money" makes use of tape loops and a 7/4 time signature. Although similar to the original demo track recorded by Waters, it is considerably more rock orientated. This is an excerpt from the start of the track.

Voices[edit]

Several tracks, including "Us and Them" and "Time", demonstrate Richard Wright's and David Gilmour's ability to harmonise their voices. In the 2003 documentary The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon, Waters attributed this to the fact that their voices sound extremely similar. To take advantage of this, Parsons perfected the use of studio techniques such as the double tracking of vocals and guitars, which allowed Gilmour to harmonise with himself. Parsons also made prominent use of flanging and phase shifting effects on vocals and instruments, odd trickery with reverb,[8] and the panning of sounds between channels (most notable in the quadraphonic mix of "On the Run", when the sound of the Hammond B3 organ played through a Leslie speaker rapidly swirls around the listener).[41]

The album's credits include Clare Torry, a session singer and songwriter, and a regular at Abbey Road. She had worked on pop material and numerous cover albums, and after hearing one of those albums Parsons invited her to the studio to sing on Richard Wright's composition "The Great Gig in the Sky". She declined this invitation as she wanted to watch Chuck Berry perform at the Hammersmith Odeon, but arranged to come in on the following Sunday. The band explained the concept behind the album, but were unable to tell her exactly what she should do. Gilmour was in charge of the session, and in a few short takes on a Sunday night Torry improvised a wordless melody to accompany Richard Wright's emotive piano solo. She was initially embarrassed by her exuberance in the recording booth, and wanted to apologise to the band—only to find them delighted with her performance.[42][43] Her takes were then selectively edited to produce the version used on the track.[5] For her contribution she was paid £30, equivalent to about £350 in 2014,[42][44] but in 2004 she sued EMI and Pink Floyd for songwriting royalties, arguing that her contribution to "The Great Gig in the Sky" was substantial enough to be considered co-authorship. The High Court agreed with her, but the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.[45][46] All post-2005 pressings therefore credit Wright and Torry jointly for the song.[47]

Photograph
Clare Torry in 2003

Snippets of voices between and over the music are another notable feature of the album. During recording sessions, Waters recruited both the staff and the temporary occupants of the studio to answer a series of questions printed on flashcards. The interviewees were placed in front of a microphone in a darkened studio three,[48] and shown such questions as "What's your favourite colour?" and "What's your favourite food?", before moving on to themes more central to the album (such as madness, violence, and death). Questions such as "When was the last time you were violent?", followed immediately by "Were you in the right?", were answered in the order they were presented.[8] Roger "The Hat" Manifold proved difficult to find, and was the only contributor recorded in a conventional sit-down interview, as by then the flashcards had been mislaid. Waters asked him about a violent encounter he had had with another motorist, and Manifold replied "... give 'em a quick, short, sharp shock ..." When asked about death he responded "live for today, gone tomorrow, that's me ..."[49] Another roadie, Chris Adamson, who was on tour with Pink Floyd, recorded the snippet which opens the album: "I've been mad for fucking years—absolutely years".[50] The band's road manager Peter Watts (father of actress Naomi Watts)[51] contributed the repeated laughter during "Brain Damage" and "Speak to Me". His second wife, Patricia 'Puddie' Watts (now Patricia Gleason), was responsible for the line about the "geezer" who was "cruisin' for a bruisin'" used in the segue between "Money" and "Us and Them", and the words "I never said I was frightened of dying" heard near the end of "The Great Gig in the Sky".[52]

Perhaps the most notable responses "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 sometime" and closing words "there is no dark side in the moon, really. As a matter of fact it's all dark" came from the studios' Irish doorman, Gerry O'Driscoll.[53] Paul and Linda McCartney were also interviewed, but their answers were judged to be "trying too hard to be funny", and were not included on the album.[54] McCartney's Wings bandmate Henry McCullough contributed the line "I don't know, I was really drunk at the time".[55]

Completion[edit]

Following the completion of the dialogue sessions, producer Chris Thomas was hired to provide "a fresh pair of ears". Thomas's background was in music, rather than engineering. He had worked with Beatles producer George Martin, and was acquainted with Pink Floyd's manager Steve O'Rourke.[56] All four members of the band were engaged in a disagreement over the style of the mix, with Waters and Mason preferring a "dry" and "clean" mix which made more use of the non-musical elements, and Gilmour and Wright preferring a subtler and more "echoey" mix.[57] Thomas later claimed there were no such disagreements, stating "There was no difference in opinion between them, I don't remember Roger once saying that he wanted less echo. In fact, there were never any hints that they were later going to fall out. It was a very creative atmosphere. A lot of fun."[58] Although the truth remains unclear, Thomas's intervention resulted in a welcome compromise between Waters and Gilmour, leaving both entirely satisfied with the end product. Thomas was responsible for significant changes to the album, including the perfect timing of the echo used on "Us and Them". He was also present for the recording of "The Great Gig in the Sky" (although Parsons was responsible for hiring Torry).[59] Interviewed in 2006, when asked if he felt his goals had been accomplished in the studio, Waters said:

When the record was finished I took a reel-to-reel copy home with me and I remember playing it for my wife then, and I remember her bursting into tears when it was finished. And I thought, "This has obviously struck a chord somewhere", and I was kinda pleased by that. You know when you've done something, certainly if you create a piece of music, you then hear it with fresh ears when you play it for somebody else. And at that point I thought to myself, "Wow, this is a pretty complete piece of work", and I had every confidence that people would respond to it.[60]

Packaging[edit]

It felt like the whole band were working together. It was a creative time. We were all very open.

–Richard Wright[61]

The album was originally released in a gatefold LP sleeve designed by Hipgnosis and George Hardie. Hipgnosis had designed several of the band's previous albums, with controversial results; EMI had reacted with confusion when faced with the cover designs for Atom Heart Mother and Obscured by Clouds, as they had expected to see traditional designs which included lettering and words. Designers Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell were able to ignore such criticism as they were employed by the band. For The Dark Side of the Moon, Richard Wright instructed them to come up with something "smarter, neater—more classy".[62] The prism design was inspired by a photograph that Thorgerson had seen during a brainstorming session with Powell.

The artwork was created by their associate, George Hardie. Hipgnosis offered the band a choice of seven designs, but all four members agreed that the prism was by far the best. The design represents three elements; the band's stage lighting, the album lyrics, and Richard Wright's request for a "simple and bold" design.[8] The spectrum of light continues through to the gatefold—an idea that Waters came up with.[63] Added shortly afterwards, the gatefold design also includes a visual representation of the heartbeat sound used throughout the album, and the back of the album cover contains Thorgerson's suggestion of another prism recombining the spectrum of light, facilitating interesting layouts of the sleeve in record shops.[64] The light band emanating from the prism on the album cover has six colours, missing indigo compared to the traditional division of the spectrum into red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. (An actual prism would exhibit a continuous spectrum with no defined boundaries between colours, the colours in the opposite order and colour separation would be present inside the prism.) Inside the sleeve were two posters and several pyramid-themed stickers. One poster bore pictures of the band in concert, overlaid with scattered letters to form PINK FLOYD, and the other an infrared photograph of the Great Pyramids of Giza, created by Powell and Thorgerson.[64]

Since the departure of founder member Barrett in 1968, the burden of lyrical composition had fallen mostly on Waters' shoulders.[9] He is therefore credited as the author of the album's lyrics, making The Dark Side of the Moon the first of five consecutive Pink Floyd albums with lyrics credited only to him.[65][nb 4] The band were so confident of the quality of the writing that, for the first time, they felt able to print them on the album's sleeve.[9] When in 2003 he was asked if his input on the album was "organising [the] ideas and frameworks" and David Gilmour's was "the music", Waters replied:

That's crap. There's no question that Dave needs a vehicle to bring out the best of his guitar playing. And he is a great guitar player. But the idea which he's tried to propagate over the years that he's somehow more musical than I am is absolute fucking nonsense. It's an absurd notion but people seem quite happy to believe it.[3][nb 5] 

Release[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[66]
NME 8/10[67]
Q 4/5 stars[68]
Robert Christgau B[69]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[70]
Sputnikmusic 5/5[71]
Uncut 4/5 stars[67]
A monochrome image of members of the band.
A live performance of The Dark Side of the Moon at Earls Court, shortly after its release in 1973.
(left to right) David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Dick Parry, Roger Waters

As the quadraphonic mix of the album was not then complete, the band (with the exception of Wright) boycotted the press reception held at the London Planetarium on 27 February.[72] The guests were, instead, presented with a quartet of life-sized cardboard cut-outs of the band, and the stereo mix of the album was presented through a poor-quality public address system.[73][74] Generally, however, the press were enthusiastic; Melody Maker '​s Roy Hollingworth described side one as "... so utterly confused with itself it was difficult to follow", but praised side two, writing: "The songs, the sounds, the rhythms were solid and sound, Saxophone hit the air, the band rocked and rolled, and then gushed and tripped away into the night."[75] Steve Peacock of Sounds wrote: "I don't care if you've never heard a note of the Pink Floyd's music in your life, I'd unreservedly recommend everyone to The Dark Side of the Moon".[73] In his 1973 review for Rolling Stone magazine, Loyd Grossman declared Dark Side "a fine album with a textural and conceptual richness that not only invites, but demands involvement".[76] In his 1981 review of the album, Robert Christgau found its lyrical ideas clichéd and its music pretentious, but called it a "kitsch masterpiece" that can be charming with highlights such as taped speech fragments, Parry's saxophone, and studio effects that enhance Gilmour's guitar solos.[69]

The Dark Side of the Moon was released first in the US on 1 March 1973, and then in the UK on 24 March. It became an instant chart success in Britain and throughout Western Europe;[73] by the following month, it had gained a gold certification in the UK and US.[77] Throughout March 1973 the band played the album as part of their US tour, including a midnight performance at Radio City Music Hall in New York on 17 March, watched by an audience of 6,000. Highlights included an aircraft launched from the back of the hall at the end of "On the Run", which 'crashed' into the stage in a cloud of orange smoke. The album reached the Billboard Top LP's & Tape chart's number one spot on 28 April 1973,[78] and was so successful that the band returned two months later for another tour.[79]

Label[edit]

Much of the album's early American success is attributed to the efforts of Pink Floyd's US record company, Capitol Records. Newly appointed chairman Bhaskar Menon set about trying to reverse the relatively poor sales of the band's 1971 studio album Meddle. Meanwhile, disenchanted with Capitol, the band and manager O'Rourke had been quietly negotiating a new contract with CBS president Clive Davis, on Columbia Records. The Dark Side of the Moon was the last album that Pink Floyd were obliged to release before formally signing a new contract. Menon's enthusiasm for the new album was such that he began a huge promotional advertising campaign, which included radio-friendly truncated versions of "Us and Them" and "Time".[80] In some countries—notably the UK—Pink Floyd had not released a single since 1968's "Point Me at the Sky", and unusually "Money" was released as a single on 7 May,[72] with "Any Colour You Like" on the B-side. It reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1973.[nb 6][81] A two-sided white label promotional version of the single, with mono and stereo mixes, was sent to radio stations. The mono side had the word "bullshit" removed from the song—leaving "bull" in its place—however, the stereo side retained the uncensored version. This was subsequently withdrawn; the replacement was sent to radio stations with a note advising disc jockeys to dispose of the first uncensored copy.[82] On 4 February 1974, a double A-side single was released with "Time" on one side, and "Us and Them" on the opposite side.[nb 7][83] Menon's efforts to secure a contract renewal with Pink Floyd were in vain however; at the beginning of 1974, the band signed for Columbia with a reported advance fee of $1M (in Britain and Europe they continued to be represented by Harvest Records).[84]

Sales[edit]

The Dark Side of the Moon became one of the best-selling albums of all time,[85] (not counting compilations and various artists soundtracks), and is in the top 25 of a list of best-selling albums in the United States.[47][86] Although it held the number one spot in the US for only a week, it remained in the Billboard album chart for 741 weeks.[87] The album re-appeared on the Billboard charts with the introduction of the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart in May 1991, and has been a perennial feature since then.[88] In the UK it is the eighth-best-selling album of all time.[89]

... I think that when it was finished, everyone thought it was the best thing we'd ever done to date, and everyone was very pleased with it, but there's no way that anyone felt it was five times as good as Meddle, or eight times as good as Atom Heart Mother, or the sort of figures that it has in fact sold. It was ... not only about being a good album but also about being in the right place at the right time.

–Nick Mason[74]

In the US the LP was released before the introduction of platinum awards on 1 January 1976. It therefore held only a gold disc until 16 February 1990, when it was certified 11× platinum. On 4 June 1998 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album 15× platinum,[47] denoting sales of fifteen million in the United States—making it their biggest-selling work there (The Wall is 23× platinum, but as a double album this signifies sales of 11.5 million).[90] "Money" has sold well as a single, and as with "Time", remains a radio favourite; in the US, for the year ending 20 April 2005, "Time" was played on 13,723 occasions, and "Money" on 13,731 occasions.[nb 8] Industry sources suggest that worldwide sales of the album total about 50 million.[91] "On a slow week" between 8,000 and 9,000 copies are sold,[85] and a total of 400,000 were sold in 2002, making it the 200th-best-selling album of that year—nearly three decades after its initial release. The album has sold 9,502,000 copies in the US since 1991 when Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard.[92] To this day, it occupies a prominent spot on Billboard '​s Pop Catalog Chart. It reached number one when the 2003 hybrid CD/SACD edition was released and sold 800,000 copies in the US.[47] 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 Catalog charts.[60] One in every fourteen people in the US under the age of 50 is estimated to own, or to have owned, a copy.[47] Upon a chart rule change in 2009 allowing catalog titles to re-enter the Billboard 200, The Dark Side of the Moon returned to the chart at number 189 on 12 December of that year for its 742nd charting week.[93] It has continued to sporadically appear on the Billboard 200 since then, for a total of 881 non-consecutive weeks on the chart since its release.[94]

Reissues and remastering[edit]

In 1979, The Dark Side of the Moon was released as a remastered LP by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab,[95] and in April 1988 on their "Ultradisc" gold CD format.[96] The album was released by EMI on the then-new compact disc format in 1984, and in 1992 it was re-released as a remastered CD in the box set Shine On.[97] This version was re-released as a 20th anniversary box set edition with postcards the following year. The cover design was again by Storm Thorgerson, the designer of the original 1973 cover.[98] A suggestion that on CD pressings a faintly audible orchestral version of The Beatles's "Ticket to Ride" can be heard after "Eclipse" over the album's closing heartbeats may be due to a remastering error.[47]

The original quadraphonic mix[nb 9] was commissioned by EMI but never endorsed by Pink Floyd.[29] To celebrate the album's 30th anniversary, an updated surround version was released in 2003. The band elected not to use Parsons' quadraphonic mix (done shortly after the original release), and instead had engineer James Guthrie create a new 5.1 channel surround sound mix on the SACD format.[29][99] Guthrie had worked with Pink Floyd since co-producing and engineering their eleventh album, The Wall (1979), and had previously worked on surround versions of The Wall for DVD-Video and Waters' In the Flesh for SACD. Speaking in 2003, Alan Parsons expressed some disappointment with Guthrie's SACD mix, suggesting that Guthrie was "possibly a little too true to the original mix", but was generally complimentary.[29] The 30th-anniversary edition won four Surround Music Awards in 2003,[100] and has since sold more than 800,000 copies.[101] The cover image was created by a team of designers including Storm Thorgerson. The image is a photograph of a custom-made stained glass window, built to match the exact dimensions and proportions of the original prism design. Transparent glass, held in place by strips of lead, was used in place of the opaque colours of the original. The idea is derived from the "sense of purity in the sound quality, being 5.1 surround sound ..." The image was created out of a desire to be "the same but different, such that the design was clearly DSotM, still the recognisable prism design, but was different and hence new".[98]

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 slightly different versions of the original posters and stickers that came with the original vinyl release, along with a new 30th anniversary poster.[102] In 2007 the album was included in Oh, by the Way, a box set celebrating the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd,[103] and a DRM-free version was released on the iTunes Store.[101] In 2011 the album was re-released as part of the Why Pink Floyd...? campaign, featuring a remastered version of the album along with various other material.[104]

Legacy[edit]

The success of the album brought wealth to all four members of the band; Richard Wright and Roger Waters bought large country houses, and Nick Mason became a collector of upmarket cars.[105] Some of the profits were invested in the production of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.[106] Engineer Alan Parsons received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical for The Dark Side of the Moon,[107] and he went on to have a successful career as a recording artist with the Alan Parsons Project. Although Waters and Gilmour have on occasion downplayed his contribution to the success of the album, Mason has praised his role.[108] In 2003, Parsons reflected: "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."[33][nb 10]

It's changed me in many ways, because it's brought in a lot of money, and one feels very secure when you can sell an album for two years. But it hasn't changed my attitude to music. Even though it was so successful, it was made in the same way as all our other albums, and the only criterion we have about releasing music is whether we like it or not. It was not a deliberate attempt to make a commercial album. It just happened that way. We knew it had a lot more melody than previous Floyd albums, and there was a concept that ran all through it. The music was easier to absorb and having girls singing away added a commercial touch that none of our records had.

–Richard Wright[110]

The Dark Side of the Moon frequently appears on rankings of the greatest albums of all-time. In 1987, Rolling Stone listed the record 35th on its "Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years",[111] and sixteen years later, in 2003 the album polled in 43rd position on the magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[112] In 2012, The Dark Side of the Moon was voted 43rd on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[113] In 2006, it was voted "My Favourite Album" by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's audience.[114] NME readers voted the album eighth in their 2006 "Best Album of All Time" online poll,[115] and in 2009, Planet Rock listeners voted the album the "greatest of all time".[116] The album is also number two on the "Definitive 200" list of albums, made by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers "in celebration of the art form of the record album".[117] It came 29th in The Observer '​s 2006 list of "The 50 Albums That Changed Music",[118] and 37th in The Guardian '​s 1997 list of the "100 Best Albums Ever", as voted for by a panel of artists and music critics.[119] The album's cover has been lauded by critics and listeners alike, VH1 proclaiming it the fourth greatest in history,[120] and Planet Rock listeners the greatest of all time.[121] In 2013, The Dark Side of the Moon was selected for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[122]

Part of the legacy of The Dark Side of the Moon is in its influence on modern music, the musicians who have performed cover versions of its songs, and even in modern urban myths. Its release is often seen as a pivotal point in the history of rock music, and comparisons are sometimes drawn between Pink Floyd and Radiohead—specifically their 1997 album OK Computer—which has been called The Dark Side of the Moon for the 1990s whereby the two albums share a common theme: the loss of a creative individual's ability to function in the modern world.[123][124][125]

Covers, tributes and samples[edit]

One of the more notable covers of The Dark Side of the Moon is Return to the Dark Side of the Moon: A Tribute to Pink Floyd. Released in 2006, the album is a progressive rock tribute featuring artists such as Adrian Belew, Tommy Shaw, Dweezil Zappa, and Rick Wakeman.[126] In 2000, The Squirrels released The Not So Bright Side of the Moon, which features a cover of the entire album.[127][128] The New York dub collective Easy Star All Stars released Dub Side of the Moon in 2003[129] and Dubber Side of the Moon in 2010.[130] The group Voices on the Dark Side released the album Dark Side of the Moon a Cappella, a complete a cappella version of the album.[131] The bluegrass band Poor Man's Whiskey frequently play the album in bluegrass style, calling the suite Dark Side of the Moonshine.[132] A string quartet version of the album was released in 2004.[133] In 2009, The Flaming Lips released a track-by-track remake of the album in collaboration with Stardeath and White Dwarfs, and featuring Henry Rollins and Peaches as guest musicians.[134]

Several notable acts have covered the album live in its entirety, and a range of performers have used samples from The Dark Side of the Moon in their own material. Jam-rock band Phish performed a semi-improvised version of the entire album as part their show on 2 November 1998 in West Valley City, Utah.[135] Progressive metal band Dream Theater have twice covered the album in their live shows,[136] and in May 2011 Mary Fahl released From the Dark Side of the Moon, a song-by-song "re-imagining" of the album.[137] Milli Vanilli used the tape loops from Pink Floyd's "Money" to open their track "Money", followed by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch on Music for the People.[138]

Dark Side of the Rainbow[edit]

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".[139] David Gilmour and Nick Mason have both denied a connection between the two works, and Roger Waters has described the rumours as "amusing".[140] Alan Parsons has stated that the film was not mentioned during production of the album.[141]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Roger Waters

Side one
No. Title Music Lead vocals Length
1. "Speak to Me"   Mason Instrumental 1:13
2. "Breathe"   Gilmour, Wright Gilmour 2:46
3. "On the Run"   Gilmour, Waters Instrumental 3:35
4. "Time"   Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour    Gilmour, Wright 7:04
5. "The Great Gig in the Sky"   Wright, Clare Torry[nb 11] Torry 4:48
Side two
No. Title Music Lead vocals Length
6. "Money"   Waters Gilmour 6:23
7. "Us and Them"   Wright Gilmour, Wright 7:50
8. "Any Colour You Like"   Gilmour, Mason, Wright Instrumental 3:25
9. "Brain Damage"   Waters Waters 3:50
10. "Eclipse"   Waters Waters 2:03

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1973) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[142] 11
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[143] 42
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[144] 28
Canadian RPM 100 Albums[145] 1
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[146] 2
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[147] 10
French Albums (SNEP)[148] 94
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[149] 3
Italian Albums (FIMI)[150] 2
New Zealand Albums (Recorded Music NZ)[151] 1
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[152] 2
UK Albums Chart (OCC)[153] 2
US Billboard Top LPs & Tapes[153] 1
Chart (1994) Peak
position
US Billboard Top Pop Catalog Albums 1
Chart (2003) Peak
position
US Billboard Top Pop Catalog Albums 1
Chart (2014) Peak
position
Hungarian Albums (MAHASZ)[154] 35

Certifications[edit]

Country Certification Sales Last certification date Comment Source(s)
Argentina 2× Platinum 120,000 1 August 1994 [155]
Australia 14× Platinum 980,000 30 June 2011 [156]
Austria 2× Platinum 100,000 15 May 2003 [157]
Canada 2× Diamond 2,000,000 14 March 2003 [158]
France Platinum 2,555,400 1980 5th-best-selling album of all time in France [159]
Germany 2× Platinum 1,000,000 1993 [160]
Italy Platinum 100,000 2003 [161]
New Zealand 16× Platinum 240,000 7 November 2011 6th-best-selling album of all time in New Zealand [162][163]
Poland Platinum 100,000 2003 [164]
United Kingdom 9× Platinum 4,114,000 by 1 January 2012 15 April 2005 8th-best-selling album of all time in the UK [89][165][166]
United States RIAA 15× Platinum 15,000,000 4 June 1998 [167]

Release history[edit]

Country Date Label Format Catalog no.
Canada March 1, 1973 Harvest Records Vinyl, Cassette, 8-Track SMAS-11163 (LP)
4XW-11163 (CC)
8XW-11163 (8-Track)
United States Capitol Records
United Kingdom March 24, 1973 Harvest Records SHVL 804 (LP)
TC-SHVL 804 (CC)
Q8-SHVL 804 (8-Track)
Australia 1973 Vinyl Q4 SHVLA.804

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ "At one time, it was called Eclipse because Medicine Head did an album called Dark Side of the Moon. But, that didn't sell well, so what the hell. I was against Eclipse and we felt a bit annoyed because we had already thought of the title before Medicine Head came out. Not annoyed at them but because we wanted to use the title."—David Gilmour[14]
  2. ^ This material was later released under the title Obscured by Clouds.[15]
  3. ^ Mason is responsible for most of the sound effects used on Pink Floyd's discography.
  4. ^ The sleeve notes for Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall credit Roger Waters as sole lyricist.
  5. ^ Gilmour's comments on this matter may be found on page 7 of John Harris' book.
  6. ^ Harvest / Capitol 3609
  7. ^ Harvest / Capitol 3832
  8. ^ According to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems[85]
  9. ^ Harvest Q4SHVL-804
  10. ^ Alan Parsons was paid a weekly wage of £35 while working on the original album.[109]
  11. ^ All post-2005 pressings including "The Great Gig in the Sky" credit both Wright and Torry for the song, as per her successful court challenge.[41]
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  7. ^ Harris 2006, pp. 73–74
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  12. ^ Reising 2005, p. 28
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  14. ^ a b Povey 2007, p. 154
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External links[edit]