Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published February 3rd 2020
One of the best ever
In a recent column, I explained how I'd moved house and found a weird note for myself telling me to replace two CDs. The first of those was Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. The second was this column's subject.
Readers, Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd (1973) is next.
One of the most iconic covers in the history of rock music.
Now, let's give some back-story. I bought Dark Side Of The Moon in 1984 (I was 13) on cassette. Having been brought up in a household where music stopped in 1966 (with the exception of Abba), the only Pink Floyd song I had ever heard was 'Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)' when it was released as a single in 1979/1980, and we heard it on the radio all the time. Now, I am not complaining about the music I grew up with, as I have a love for old rock and classical music that has lasted me a lifetime. But I had a lot of catching up to do.
So, I was in my second year of high school (year 9), and my mate Brett took it upon himself to introduce me to the music I'd missed out on. This was one of those albums. I fell in love with it, so went out to buy more Floyd. That was how I discovered Wish You Were Here. This was music that was different to anything I had heard before. It was my introduction to prog rock, which has become a guilty pleasure of mine. Now, for what it's worth, I prefer Wish You Were Here, but there is no denying Dark Side Of The Moon is still an amazing album. It is one of the best-selling albums of all time and spent more time in the charts (anything from 700 to 900 weeks, depending on the country, the chart looked at and the definition of "on the charts" used) than any other album ever. If ever a rock album deserved the epithet "classic", this is it.
In a documentary I saw on the making of the album, Roger Waters said it is about the human condition through all aspects and stages of life. The album starts and finishes with a heart-beat for just that reason. However, I should say that it's not something that is apparent to me as I listen to the album. I just love the music I am presented with.
And this is that album!
'Speak To Me/Breathe In The Air' I tend to think of the first two tracks on the album as one long song. The slow build-up of sound, incorporating themes and noises from later on in the album meld seamlessly from the instrumental 'Speak To Me' into the sublime and pleasant 'Breathe In The Air'. (I should point out my cassette version has this title, as does the vinyl version Brett owned, but subsequent track listings on CD call it simply 'Breathe'.) The song is about trying to avoid a descent into madness apparently, but the beauty of it is in the glorious music.
'On The Run' And the previous track merges straight into this instrumental. It is dominated by the same throbbing synthesiser used so effectively on Wish You Were Here, with a frantic hi-hat cymbal beat that gives a sense of urgency. It is a great little track that I know some people like to use as a work-out track for its rather fast underlying beat. Different sounds, and yet not feeling out of place. That is a mark of Pink Floyd – well-pieced together song placement.
'Time' is next. This also includes a reprise of the track 'Breathe…'. Starting with a clash of alarm clocks, and then a build-up of music similar to 'On The Run', but leading into a song about how time affects everyone, but some people remain fixated on the lesser aspects of their lives. It is a depressing little song, but contains one of rock's greatest lines: "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way…" A sad song, really, about people wasting their lives, but still such a wonderful piece of music.
'The Great Gig In The Sky' And what would be side one finishes with a song that features one of only two times a guest vocalist took the lead singing for a Pink Floyd track. In this case, the artiste is Clare Torry. There are no lyrics, per se, but her voice is used as the lead instrument, making the sort of "ooh", "ahh" and other vocalisations that today would be done by a computer. What a superb use of the human voice.
'Money' For Pink Floyd, this is quite a heavy song, a rather acerbic look at money and commerce. It makes fun of greed and the consumer society, and has a great use of sound effects. It's also a good song to boot.
'Us And Them' This is another of the slow songs in Pink Floyd's canon that is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. The lyrics use the metaphor of war to convey the isolation felt by people in modern society. Again, this is the sort of song-writing that is severely lacking in pop/rock music today. It's poetry, not just a pop song ideal.
'Any Colour You Like' Another instrumental track. Synthesiser and guitar going back and forth. It's not a bad track, but compared to the rest of the album, it does not do much for me.
'Brain Damage/Eclipse' While the song 'Wish You Were Here' is one of Pink Floyd's very best, to me, this is the best track they ever released. I think of the two songs as one; they merge together in my mind. This is my favourite Pink Floyd song ever. 'Brain Damage' looks at madness; 'Eclipse' looks at the way people are all the same. The lyrics are incredible. The music just as amazing, building up and up until, finally, it ends as the album begins – with a heart-beat, and a lone voice saying, "There is no dark side of the moon really. As a matter of fact, it's all dark." Again, a song I cannot praise highly enough. Lyrically, this is as close to perfection as possible.
And that is Dark Side Of The Moon. There is a reason it is one of the biggest selling albums of all time ever. Now, there are a couple of reasons why I prefer Wish You Were Here – more guitar on Wish… and the music itself is so beautiful. But Dark Side… does contain my favourite Floyd song, and has an easier accessibility for people, having more distinct "tracks", despite each side playing almost like one long track, much like a Mike Oldfield album.
The two albums are sort of two sides of the same coin, but they are definitely different from each other. And Dark Side Of The Moon might just be an easier way to introduce Pink Floyd to the casual listener. Both are great. Both are wonderful.