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The Dark Side of the Moon

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

Meant to be listened to from beginning to end, 'The Dark Side of the Moon' is one of Pink Floyd's masterpieces and rock's greatest album.

And he turns 50 on March 1, 2023.

Eu, com meu exemplar em Long Play do album Dark Side
Me, with my Long Play copy of the Dark Side album

The Dark Side of the Moon is the eighth studio album by British progressive rock band Pink Floyd, released on March 1, 1973. The disc marks a new phase in the band's sound, with more personal lyrics and smaller instrumentals, containing some of the most complicated uses of instruments and sound effects available at the time, including the sound of someone running around a microphone and the recording of multiple clocks ticking simultaneously.

Themes explored in the work are varied and personal, including greed, mental illness and aging, inspired mainly by the departure of Syd Barrett, a member who left the group in 1968 after his mental health deteriorated. The basic concept for the record was developed when the band was on tour, and much of the new material was performed live, long before it was recorded.

The band produced the work at London's Abbey Road Studios in different sessions in 1972 and 1973 alongside producer Alan Parsons, directly responsible for developing the most exotic sound elements on the record, and the cover, which features a prism being hit by a beam of light transforming it into a rainbow, was developed to symbolize the complexity that the band's sound hid behind its simple appearance. (I discussed the rainbow controversy on the album's 50th anniversary artwork here) —Wikipedia.

This album should be exalted. Yes, exalted. And I'll tell you why.

The album, considered Pink Floyd's masterpiece, is a concept album in the making to be listened to from beginning to end. The last song on the disc is precisely called “Eclipse”, and it is the culmination of the journey of almost 45 minutes that the quartet offers in its eighth album.

'The Dark Side of the Moon' moved away from the large musical suites to bet on a more compact proposal. Thus, the album revolves around various aspects of modern life, addressing topics such as mental illness, the passage of time, death, the vertigo of modern life and greed.

Acclaimed by critics and fans alike, 'The Dark Side of The Moon' was not only a turning point in Pink Floyd's career, it is also considered one of the greatest albums of all time.

The cover and title of The Dark Side of the Moon

The album cover became practically as famous as the songs themselves, becoming a kind of visual identity for the band and being reproduced in different products and contexts in the following decades.

On a black background, we see a prism being crossed by a ray of light that turns into a rainbow. The phenomenon, known in Optics as refraction, consists of the separation of light into a color spectrum. And then, folks, it's not an allusion to the LGBTQIA+ movement, which I favor. So, enough controversy about the cover, right?

The image was the brainchild of Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson, two designers who were known for producing the covers of several rock albums at the time.

When the album was released, many questions arose about the cover's symbology, but the band members never clarified its meaning clearly.

The most accepted theory is that it is a metaphor for the group's own sound. Just like a simple beam of light that transforms into a sequence of colors, Pink Floyd's music would be extremely complex, despite its simple appearance.

The title reproduces one of the verses of the song Brain Damage, which is part of the B-side of the album:

I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.

This "dark side of the moon" seems to represent what is not in sight and, for that very reason, is a mystery to us.

In the context of the song, the expression also seems to designate the moment when an individual becomes alienated from reality, isolation, madness.

Songs from The Dark Side of the Moon

With lyrics composed by Roger Waters, the album features more intimate verses than the previous ones, prompting reflections on countless difficulties and pressures of common life.

Among other themes, the album talks about timeless issues that are part of human nature, such as mental health (or the lack of it), aging, greed and death.

Side A

The disc starts with Speak to Me, an instrumental theme that has some recited (and not sung) verses. In them, we have the outburst of a person who feels like he's going crazy. This is someone who seems to be on edge and who claims that his mental health has been deteriorating for a long time.

Breathe, on the other hand, takes on a more positive tone, portraying human beings as someone who should be free and seek their path, individually and being honest with themselves.

On the Run is an instrumental track that manages to translate the sense of urgency, of movement. The sounds of clocks and footsteps that make up the song convey the idea of being on the move, running away from something.

Soon after, Time questions the passage of time and the ways we perceive it, underlining the importance of being able to live now, since life is passing at high speed.

The A-side ends with The Great Gig in the Sky, a song that recalls that death is inevitable and that, for that very reason, it should be faced with naturalness and lightness.

Side B

The second side of the disc starts with Money, one of the most famous tracks. It is a critique of capitalism and the consumer society that draws attention to the way in which people who live obsessed with earning and accumulating money.

Us and Them is a song that focuses on war, portraying it as something absurd and unjustifiable. The lyrics focus on the eternal separation between "us" and "others" that leads us to view our fellow human beings as enemies.

The instrumental Any Color You Like has a sound that can be perceived or imagined as a sequence of colors, waves, and patterns.

The track Brain Damage, directly inspired by Syd Barrett's crisis, tells the story of someone who seems to have lost his reason and fallen into the path of madness.

Similar to a farewell, the subject comments on his companion's instability, referring that he will find him "on the dark side of the moon".

The verse suggests that this individual believes he will have a similar fate to his friend, perhaps because of the life he leads.

Finally, in Eclipse there is a game of contrasts between light and shadow, life and death. The theme underlines the ephemerally of life, concluding that darkness ends up winning in the end.

Disc creation and reception

The album's songs began to be composed during an international tour. Soon after, the group decided to give a few shows to present the songs they were creating and see the public's response.

Thus, even before the recording was completed, the band left on The Dark Side of the Moon Tour, between 1972 and 1973.

It was also during this period that they recorded the album at Abbey Road Studios, immortalized mainly by their work with the Beatles.

Production and sound effects, quite innovative for the time, were in charge of Alan Parsons. As soon as it was released, The Dark Side of the Moon was hugely successful, becoming one of the biggest selling albums in UK history.

Seen as one of the most outstanding albums of international rock, it also gave rise to several reflections and theories. One of them, quite popular, is its relationship with the movie The Wizard of Oz.

Sources (texts in Portuguese):

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