Album Notes - Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

March 9, 2023

On March 1, 1973, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, and Roger Waters released the seminal Dark Side of the Moon, a 10-song masterpiece that seemed both a long time in the making as part of the band's natural evolution, yet completely unexpected and a significant step up from all previous work. Not much needs to be said about this album considering its ubiquity and status in popular culture. Yet, a couple of choice nuggets:

  • Dark Side of the Moon never hit #1 on the UK charts. The album that beat it during its opening week? 20 Flash Back Greats From The Sixties, a compilation featuring songs like "Wild Thing" and "Time of the Season." Way to go England. 
  • After the album's original 1973 release, it didn't leave the Billboard top 200 until 1988. That's 741 weeks! Insane. It has also since returned to the charts numerous times bringing its current total up to 972 weeks, a number that will continue to climb. 
  • Some of the money the band made off of its immense success went to fund Monty Python's Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The comedy troupe's brilliant second film was in dire straits in terms of funding, and the gang turned to rockers including Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Elton John to cover expenses. Dark Side of the Moon truly is the gift that keeps on giving. 

There will be no shortage of love paid to to Dark Side, but I'd also like to focus on its subsequent follow-ups that I prefer: Wish You Were Here and Animals

Released in 1975 and 1977, respectively, I still get goosebumps listening to the magnificence of these 85 post-Dark Side minutes of Floyd brilliance. Respect for that '73 masterpiece, but I go back and forth on whether Wish You Were Here or Animals sticks as my favorite Pink Floyd record. My answer today may change tomorrow.

Wish You Were Here is largely the last "group" album before Roger Waters took over everything, although one could convincingly argue that same sentiment for Dark Side of the Moon. There's also the nuts story of when in the Abbey Road studios as the band was recording the vocals for the opening "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," a song written about their former lead singer Syd Barrett, an overweight and balding man showed up, leaving the band members initially confused over the presence of an outsider during their precious recording sessions. As he sat and listened, no one could figure out who this strange being was. Turns out it was none other than Syd himself, completely unrecognizable to the band. Waters admits to breaking down into tears, unable to initially identify the former band leader and friend. What a time for him to choose to show up. And what a moment for history to document Waters as actually having a heart.

If Wish You Were Here is not my favorite Pink Floyd album, then it is definitely Animals. A lot of the music on these two records was written and performed live at the same time, dating back to 1974. Bootlegs of live Floyd shows featuring songs called "Raving and Drooling" and "You've Got to Be Crazy," which would become "Sheep" and "Dogs" respectively, have abounded since the mid-70s. These tunes were essentially finished and sound almost the same in those '74 performances as they do three years later on the official release of Animals, minus some lyrical differences and a key change. Animals is also somewhat of an inverse of its predecessor. Whereas Wish You Were Here is two looooong tracks bookending the album with three shorter tunes in the middle, Animals features three raging jams inside the two brief "Pigs On the Wing." 

The fact that it's 2023 and this music is still being discussed speaks to the gloriousness of what was transpiring in the EMI studios and the minds of those British legends five decades ago. And it appears to be going nowhere soon.