Like many of our readers, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason loves The Dark Side of The Moon. He recognises the album for its ambition, acidity, conceptual nature, and for boasting a flavour that is quintessentially English.
“Well, I think one of the things is that in order to have a record that works like that,” Mason recalled in a recent interview. “It’s not one thing that makes it. I absolutely agree, I think Roger’s lyrics are extraordinary because they’re more relevant to a 50-year-old maybe than to a 23-year-old, which was how old he was when he was writing that in 1972, I guess. However, it was actually the fact that that worked really well that engineer Alan Parsons was the new, young, hot engineer at Abbey Road and he made sure that the quality of the sound was fantastic. Apart from the music, the fact that Hypnosis did that particular record sleeve, was a really iconic image, and actually, the record company played a part in it all.”
The drummer’s maths is a little off. Bassist Roger Waters was born in 1943, which would have made him 28 in 1972, and although Pink Floyd were by no means old men by the time they recorded The Dark Side of The Moon, they were seasoned musicians who had been performing professionally for the best part of a decade. They were less the “new kids on the block”, and more, “We were kids, and now we are adults”.
But Mason is right to highlight Waters’ talents as a lyricist, a conceptual artist and a leader. Although he borrowed from John Lennon, Waters’ net casts itself much wider than the autobiographical portraitures the Beatle committed to tape. The Dark Side of The Moon celebrates the merits, functions and frivolities of social interactions, and it’s only by communicating with others that the madness of the situation becomes more apparent.
Fittingly, Brazil screenwriter Tom Stoppard wrote a radio drama in 2013 that was based almost entirely on The Dark Side of The Moon. There, the mania that drives creatures on through their daily routine made greater sense, fleshed out into a grander, more narrative-based work.
But The Dark Side of The Moon works beautifully all by itself, whether it’s by criticising the failings of the government system (‘Us and Them’), or querying the importance of the commercial sectors in an industry based on art and philosophy (‘Money’). And although Waters insists that The Wall is Pink Floyd’s greatest work, he failed to capture the failings of the human spirit as he had done with The Dark Side of The Moon. By the time Pink Floyd were ready to record The Wall in 1979, Waters was much more confident in his vocal abilities than he had been for The Dark Side of The Moon, which might also explain why he prefers the double album.
Guitarist David Gilmour recorded the majority of the vocals, and almost every guitar part, so he felt no compunctions in performing the album live. “We said we should put together Dark Side just so we had it on film for posterity, ” Gilmour recalled in the ’90s. “As I said, on our last tour, we were already playing most of the album, so we just had to pick up the instrumental package, ‘Any Colour You Like,’ then ‘Brain Damage’and ‘Eclipse.’ They are the two songs which Roger sang the lead part on the original record, which is one of the reasons we avoided them before.”
Everyone has their reason for enjoying The Dark Side of The Moon, and now I’m going to offer mine. The album is laced with urgency, spontaneity and tremendous musicianship, and the album boasts some of Richard Wright’s most distinguished contributions to the band. From the yearning of ‘The Great Gig in The Sky’ to the languishing notes that opens ‘Us and Them’, the album is rich in keyboard sonics, and it might be the only album in their canon where the focus is placed as heavily on Wright’s shoulders as it is on Waters. Pink Floyd was acting as a democratic unit in 1973, something which can’t be said about The Wall, which some argue, is a Waters album in all but name.