Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon [Finely Tuned #1]
When music was written and performed to the best of their musical abilities, Pink Floyd was like an untamed beast whose roars were meant to echo through the endless tunnel of time. ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ is one such roar, and is arguably one of the most iconic works of art in the history of music. It is widely believed to be the reason for Floyd’s second incarnation, which in turn gave them a platform to go on and build the musical repertoire they are known for. Since its release in 1973, it has become a cornerstone to 20th century culture, and has provided great inspiration to artists within and outside of music.
The legendary album art portrays the heart and soul of the Floydian Universe by incorporating three themes: the band’s light show; the theme of ‘ambition’ and ‘greed’ (the prism); and Richard Wright’s call for something ‘simple’ and ‘dramatic’ (the dispersion of light). Simple and dramatic is exactly how the music on this album is, and its ability to be relatable to every generation in the last forty years simply boils down to its theme. The album broadly deals with the elements of the modern-day world that drive men to madness. There is no secret which accounts for its phenomenal hold on the public imagination; it is just the invasive, penetrating simplicity of the lyrics and familiar everyday ideas like ticking clocks, tearing paper, and ringing cashboxes. Voices arguing. Bodies running. Engines revving. Lungs breathing. Lips drinking. Tidal gravity, seismic trembling, journeys, death.
The album kicks off with ‘Speak to Me’, the song itself features no lyrics (although it contains parts of the conversation tapes that Pink Floyd recorded, as well as a short snippet of Clare Torry’s vocal performance on ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’) and consists of a series of effects which blend into the next song on the record; ‘Breathe’. It sounds more like a father’s depressing reflection on life, and a warning to his son about what’s to come in the future. ‘On the Run’ also features no lyrics except airport announcements, and is known to feature one of the most advanced synthesizers of its time. The song ‘Time’ serves as the conductor of the record and drives and gives it the direction it subsequently takes. The lyrics in the song is an involved presentation that has a delivery that is progressive as well as personal.
‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ is a song about humans giving in to their fates and embracing their mortality. In an interview for Mojo magazine in March of 1998, keyboardist Rick Wright mentions that this song is about life gradually descending into death. The highlight of the song is the breathtaking and wordless vocals of Clare Torry, which she astonishingly recorded in a single take. ‘Money’ takes the next spot on the album. A funky bass line over an odd time signature forms the backbone of the song in which Roger Waters denounces consumerism and greed. But it is the instrumentation that takes the limelight, and the words often get lost in the dense musical landscapes and waves of studio effects.
Session musician Dick Parry contributes an excellent saxophone solo in ‘Us and Them’, and backing vocals are featured throughout to create ethereal sounds. Lyrically the song features a war-time scenario, but metaphorically it points towards the everyday battles of “only ordinary men”. While the song ‘Any Color You Like’ does not feature any lyrics, it is often speculated that the song ties to the concept of the record by considering the lack of choice one has in human society, while being deluded into thinking one does. Roger Waters has often stated that the insanity based lyrics of the album are based on the former Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barett’s mental illness and the song ‘Brain Damage’ paints exactly that picture. The line “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon” indicates how Waters could relate to Barett’s mental foibles and also is an obvious reference to the title of the album. The song ‘Eclipse’ serves as the album’s end with a repetitive melody that builds up, then ends with a very quiet outro. With the moon eclipsing the sun at the end of the album, the album seems to suggest that the madness will pass like the eclipse that is blocking the sun will eventually come to pass.
Finely Tuned is The MIT Post’s weekly album review column. It is an attempt to add a new dimension to the way Manipal looks at music. Every week, we will bring you a fresh album; carefully picked from a catalogue composed of both critically acclaimed mainstream releases and noteworthy independent ones.