Oh my. This record. This record. Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon (DSOTM) is easily one of the most influential rock albums of all time, setting the bar high for anything else claiming to be a true rock album. It celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year, having been released in March 1973 and selling over 50 million copies since then.
I have listened to this album while stargazing at 3 AM, wading in the ocean late at night, half-asleep in between sheets on a warm Sunday afternoon, watching the sun set from my roof, and on rainy mornings before school. As a whole, this album has proven itself to be a suitable soundtrack for any setting.
“Speak To Me” unnerves the listener by having no music playing for about the first minute before bringing in a soft, then insistent heartbeat, steadily layered with other noises circling your head. It melds (like the entirety of the songs with one another) into “Breathe (In the Air)” which introduces you to the breathtaking (no pun intended) lyric/music combination that Pink Floyd so masterfully exhibits. While David Gilmour murmurs, “Breathe, breathe in the air/Don’t be afraid to care,” the accompaniment is simple but powerful.
“On the Run” projects an eerily repeated arpeggiation that, to be honest, seems a bit drawn-out, but adds to the developing atmosphere of the album. It seamlessly rolls into “Time,” a colossus of a track that manages to maintain both gracefulness and intensity musically while throwing out powerful lyrics such as, “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.”
“The Great Gig in the Sky” gives fervent-voiced Clare Torry centerstage, her wailing a raw improvisation over a piano riff that practically melts in the mouth. Added are, as throughout the album, recorded snippets of voices musing on themes like violence, war, and dying.
Although “Money” was the one real “single material” piece on DSOTM, it is by no means overrated. The tune is bluesy and the middle of the song gives way to a surprising rhythm change, from funky 7/4 to a well-worked 4/4. It’s just in time to herald in an iconic guitar solo, courtesy of David Gilmour, which musically mirrors the picture of frenzied and greedy materialism conveyed by the lyrics.
In “Us and Them,” my personal favorite, dreamy saxophone flutters in and out of the first few minutes, pulling the melody in its wake. The listener is already enraptured as the first lyrics are uttered: “Us and them/And after all, we’re only ordinary men.” The gorgeousness of the track nearly makes one forget about the melancholy lyrics, which only help to fuel the pure emotion contained in the song. Both the music and lyrics reach such an ardent climax, it can be physically hard to breathe.
“Any Colour You Like” is an intoxicating jam. The good vibes are so vibrantly present, it is easily strong as a stand-alone track, even though in reality it’s an instrumental bridge connecting “Us and Them” and “Brain Damage,” the following track.
“Brain Damage” finally introduces the album title, the lyrics, “…If your head explodes with dark forebodings too/
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon” prompting an “aha” moment as the listener makes a lyrical connection to the album title. The song has a contemplative, almost nostalgic feel to it. It is a meditation on mental instability–a quiet nod to former band member Syd Barrett–and rises to buoyant confidence in the chorus.
“Eclipse” is a soaring benediction to the album. It, cleverly enough, closes by returning to the beginning heartbeats thudding through “Speak to Me,” bringing the record full circle and leaving the listener with a reassuring sense of continuity. One can almost feel the band members giving their blessing on “all that you do…all that’s to come,” as you leave the music behind and embark into the world. Or return to the world after escaping, even if only for a brief period of time, into the otherworldly state of mind DSOTM coaxes one into.
The beautiful thing about The Dark Side of the Moon, aside from it being a prime example of Pink Floyd’s uncanny ability to craft masterpiece albums, is its timelessness. This album has a huge measure of excellence, to transcend to listeners 40 years later. The Dark Side of the Moon is a musical rite of passage, a study in everyday lunacy, and is sure to deeply stir emotion in any listener.