I consider today’s album one of the most meaningful and impactful albums in the history of rock music, and accordingly, one of the most significant blogs I will publish throughout this journey. I have never really thought about trying to rate albums like the Rolling Stone list, but if I did, this would have to be a strong contender for Number One. Yes, tonight is the night I revisited the masterpiece “The Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. Somehow, this album is only rated #55 on the above-noted list, a ranking I struggle to reconcile. Beyond the unprecedented duration of success (958 weeks on the Top 100 Albums charts), this is just a remarkable creation of sound from beginning to end. Even from a packaging standpoint, if I had to choose my all-time favorite album cover, it would be “The Dark Side of the Moon”, and it isn’t close.
Way before the band was ripped apart by divisive and clashing personalities, this is the creative mind of Roger Waters and the powerful guitar and vocals of David Gilmour blended at their very best. Richard Wright on keyboards is also an essential force on this record, along with drummer Nick Mason. Other key contributions come from Dick Parry on saxophone, and the unmatched vocal performance of Clare Torry on “The Great Gig in the Sky”, and credit must also be given to lead engineer Alan Parsons for his creative sound generation techniques.
Each album side is a blended and continuous piece of music, with individual songs connected by theme and sound. The opening heartbeat grips you from the beginning as Nick Mason opens us with “Speak to Me”. The next three songs feel like one piece as the soft melody of “Breathe (In the Air)” is suddenly jarred into the frenetic instrumental “On the Run”. These two tracks set the stage for the overwhelmingly powerful and intense “Time”. The blend of Gilmour and Wright’s harmonized vocals, taken higher by one of my favorite guitar solos of all time, make this a track I can never forget, a true high point on a consistently excellent record. The darkness and depth of Waters’ lyrics help us all to see, for good or bad, the mortality we all eventually face, and as we grapple with that, Wright and Clare Torry hit us with the surreal piano and vocal improv, “The Great Gig in the Sky”, closing out the rush of side one.
Side two opens with looped cash registers and Waters’ opening bass line, leading into the cynical rocker “Money”, once again sung by Gilmour, along with another of his devastatingly spot-on guitar solos. His work on this album is phenomenal. Like side one, each song blends into the next, and we are treated to one of the most peaceful, settling, and relaxed songs of all time, “Us and Them”. The above-noted saxophone work of Dick Parry takes this song to another level, along with the embedded semi-nonsensical interview and text insertions from random crew and peers. Feeding into the teetering brink of sanity, these clips also serve to reinforce the utter Englishness of this band. The collective result is yet another one-of-a-kind breakthrough for the band.
We are then jarred back out of balance by another instrumental track, “Any Colour You Like”, before Roger Waters takes the microphone for the last two songs, the perfectly connected “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse”. This entire album is an emotional and powerful experience, particularly if given proper setting and consideration. To do this justice, I waited until the sun had set, and being in Colorado, took myself to the highest location in near proximity. On a peaceful summer evening, I took in the entire album without distraction, as I looked down upon the distant nightline of the sprawling city of Denver, recapturing this nocturnal sense of musical love and adventure from my nights here as a growing young man.
The entire experience did not disappoint, and as noted, as Roger Waters closes out this concept with a wallop that leaves you stunned and breathless, as we are left alone with the same beating heart we first encountered forty minutes before. The only other album I can think of that comes close to closing with this kind of buildup is the second side medley of “Abbey Road”. Perhaps this isn’t completely coincidental, as this album was also recorded at Abbey Road Studios, and Parsons also served as an engineer on that recording several years before.
There may be other albums that ultimately move me and impact me as much as this album, but it is hard for me to envision any collective recording from beginning to end that is anymore brilliantly conceived as a single art form than this record. Strong words, I know, but this is a story I have been waiting almost 40 years to write… and tonight was the night.
“And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear… You shout and no one seems to hear..
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”