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Culture Re-View: 50 years of Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon'

'Dark Side of the Moon' cover
'Dark Side of the Moon' cover Copyright Capitol/Harvest
Copyright Capitol/Harvest
By Jonny Walfisz
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We take a look back at the release of one of the greatest albums of all time, Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon'.

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1 March 1973: Pink Floyd release the prog-rock epic ‘Dark Side of the Moon’

Pinch, punch, first day of the month and no returns of any kind! The year is well and truly kick-started now we’ve reached its third month, and what better way to celebrate the slow shift to Spring than with one of the greatest albums of all time.

On this day, 50 years ago, Pink Floyd released the album that would propel them to a level of success few rock bands have ever achieved.

The first years of the band had been tumultuous. Formed in 1965 in London by Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason; the early days were defined by Barrett’s surreal psychedelic sound.

But trouble was afoot. Barrett suffered greatly through an extended mental breakdown caused by undiagnosed schizophrenia and extensive drug use. Barrett was replaced on guitar by David Gilmour during the recording of their second album, 1968’s ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’.

In the early 70s, Pink Floyd were finally getting into the groove of their progressive rock sound. Their first number one album ‘Atom Heart Mother’ had a single song on its A-side lasting nearly 25 minutes. Waters and Gilmour have gone on to disparage the album, but the prog-rock sound was established and cemented with their sixth album, 1971’s ‘Meddle’ featuring the iconic 23-minute track ‘Echoes’.

Inspired by ex-bandmate Barrett’s mental state and wanting to experiment with an album length concept, Pink Floyd encamped at the Abbey Road studios for almost an entire year of recording sessions.

STAFF/AFP
David Gilmour, Roger Walters, Nick Mason and Rick WrightSTAFF/AFP

The resulting album ‘Dark Side’ cycles through the essentials of life under the veil of a person going mad. Songs like ‘Time’ and ‘Money’ feature some of the band’s most iconic melodies amid gloriously indulgent lyrics deconstructing basic principles.

In many ways, it’s a surprisingly simple album. The allusions are clear, the instrumentation crisp, and the vocals are rich. It’s not necessarily the subtlest piece of art, but it doesn’t need to be. Each song is achingly well constructed, the guitar lines are always sumptuous, and Waters’ pontificating never tips into pretentiousness, although it certainly veers close.

Packaged with potentially the most iconic album cover ever, a prism reflecting light on a black background, the album was an instant success, critically and commercially. It is the third best selling studio album of all time, having sold 45 million copies. As of March 2023, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ has spent 972 weeks on the Billboard 200 charts.

The album made Pink Floyd titans of the music industry. They went on an impressive run of brilliant albums, following ‘Dark Side’ with ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Animals’ and ‘The Wall’.

In recent months, Waters has hit headlines again for less than ideal reasons. If you’re able to look past the later views of one of the band’s leaders and haven’t listened to their seminal album before, you’re in for a treat. All you need is 43 minutes, a dark room, the best speakers or headphones you can manage, and one of the greatest albums of all time awaits. Happy 50th birthday ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

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