Just about 50 years ago, a young British band who had a few albums and a couple of movie soundtracks under their belt set out to make an ambitious concept album encapsulating the rhythms of life. The band consisted of David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, and their name was Pink Floyd.
The Dark Side of the Moon was released on March 1, 1973. Upon its release, it was an instant commercial success and remained on the Billboard 200 for 736 consecutive weeks until 1988. In total the album sat on the Billboard 200 for 972 weeks, the longest of any album ever.
On March 1, 2023 Dark Side of the Moon turned 50, marking another impressive milestone in Pink Floyd’s legendary career. To celebrate, Pink Floyd has released a 50th anniversary box set including a fresh remaster of the album which will be available on streaming platforms March 24. The album still holds a great amount of relevancy and currently sits at 133 on the Billboard 200 charts. As our generation begins to explore “The Dark Side of the Moon,” it’s important to ponder why the album has maintained such relevancy.
To start, the album’s cover art is instantly recognizable even by those who have never heard of the band. The classic prism reflecting light into a rainbow eerily symbolizes the albums themes of the different paths that life can unfold. The cover is seen on t-shirts and posters, and has become synonymous with Pink Floyd since its creation.
Up until this point, none of Pink Floyd’s albums had attempted to be a concept album. After losing band leader Syd Barret to acid-induced insanity, the band struggled to find a clear identity. However, with the support of the band bassist and songwriter Roger Waters developed the idea to form a concept album with a clear theme throughout the entirety of its runtime, a pattern they would follow in their next several albums and find immense identity in.
The album begins with “Speak to Me,” a minute long heartbeat rhythm that falls directly into the subsequent track, “Breathe (In the Air),” an easy going tune about the beginning of one’s life and the different paths one is able to take. Then after a long run of eerie synths in “On the Run,” the album blares a multitude of haunting clock chimes and goes into one of Pink Floyd’s most well-rounded songs, “Time.”
“Time” explores the rapidity in which life passes one by as Richard Wright softly warns his audience, “And then one day you’ll find ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.”
After contemplating the fragility of time, Pink Floyd takes on the concept of death in “Great Gig in the Sky,” the undeniable climax of the album. Concluding side one of the LP, it features guest Clare Torry belting out an amazing vocal run that has echoed for 50 years.
The album then moves into tackling the issue of greed in “Money” and eventually makes its way into “Us and Them,” which contemplates the unnecessary and senseless acts of war.
Pink Floyd begins the conclusive chapter of “Dark Side” with the song “Brain Damage.” Its narrator begins to succumb to mental illness as Roger Waters sings “there’s someone in my head but it’s not me.” The album ends with “Eclipse” and ponders the complexities of life’s experiences and rings out the same way it began, with a heartbeat.
Some may argue that the heartbeat of “Dark Side of the Moon” has never stopped. The charts certainly say something about that, but a piece of art earns longevity beyond commercial success. Perhaps it was Roger Waters’ first run of cohesively themed lyrics. Or David Gilmour’s soulful singing and his intricate guitar solos. Maybe even Richard Wright’s revolutionary synths or Nick Mason’s jazz-influenced drumming style. It could be producer Alan Parsons’ innovative use of multi-track technology. I would argue it’s all those things and more.
It was the singing of universal experiences of birth, death, war and greed. Finally, it was Pink Floyd before any serious rifts formed between the members of the band. I don’t think this is Pink Floyd’s best album, but I think it’s their most important one. It undoubtedly established them as a serious band of the 1970s and gave them the platform on which they still stand today.
Written By: Steve Anderson