Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Dark Side of the Moon

The Dark Side of the Moon  42:56
Studio recording June, October 1972 and January 1973 
* Released 24 March 1973 * 
Re-released in the Shine On boxed set, 1992; and in a Twentieth Anniversary edition by Capitol, 1993

David Gilmour — vocals, guitars, VCS3 (Synthesiser)
Nick Mason — percussion, tape effects
Richard Wright — keyboards, vocals, VCS3
Roger Waters — bass guitar, vocals, VCS3, tape effects
Saxophone on Us and Them and Money by Dick Parry
Vocals on The Great Gig in the Sky by Clare Torry
Backing vocals — Doris Troy, Leslie Duncan, Liza Strike, Barry St John

Produced by Pink Floyd
All lyrics by Roger Waters
Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London
Recording details: 1-3 June Abbey Road studio 3; 6-10, 13-17 June Abbey Road studio 2; 20-24 June Abbey Road studio 3; 10-12, 15-17, 25-27 October; 9, 18 January Abbey Road studio 2; 19-21, 24-27, 29 January Abbey Road studio 3; 1 February Abbey Road studio 3.
Engineer Alan Parsons
Assistant Peter James
Mixing supervised by Chris Thomas
Sleeve design by Hipgnosis
Sleeve & stickers art by George Hardie NTA
Photography by Hipgnosis

UK: Harvest SHVL 804  Reached #2 on the UK charts
US: Harvest SMAS 11163  Reached #1 on the US charts

The Dark Side of the Moon, considered by many to be the Floyd magnum opus, was a first in many ways. The first to employ vocalists other than the band, including the now-traditional female backing vocalists. The first album for which Roger wrote all the lyrics, the first to be recorded on 24 tracks, and the first #1 LP in America for the band.

The Floyd had already employed the technique of rehearsing a piece live before they recorded it, to a limited extent, with Atom Heart Mother Suite and Echoes. Dark Side, however, would be performed live for over a year before it was released on vinyl. Writing for the album began in early December 1971, in preparation for a British tour which began on 20 January 1972. Roger quickly came up with the concept for the album during these sessions.

Roger Waters: "It had to be quick because we had a tour starting. It might have been only six weeks before we had to have something to perform. We went to somewhere in West Hampstead — Broadhurst Gardens — for a couple of weeks and we got a lot of little pieces together. No lyrics — like the riff of Money came out of it. There was a meeting in Nicky's kitchen and I said, 'If you want a theme that runs through it: life with a heartbeat an' that. Then you can have other bits: like all the pressures which are anti-life an' that...'" [Miles] "[We wanted to] come down to earth a bit, get a bit less involved with flights of fancy and a bit more involved with what we as people are actually involved in." [Schaffner 171]

Nick Mason: [Re: the state of their act] "I'm not in a state of depression about it — which can happen. At the moment we are writing some great new stuff. I'm happy." [Miles]

Rehearsals for the tour, including the new piece, were conducted in Bermondsey, London, 3-15 January 1972.

Nick Mason: "We started with the idea of what the album was going to be about, the stresses and strains on our lives." [Miles]

Dave Gilmour: "We sat in a rehearsal room... and Roger came up with the specific idea of dealing with all the things that drive people mad." [Miles]

Roger Waters: "We thought we could do a whole thing about the pressures we personally feel that drive one over the top... the pressure of earning a lot of money; the time thing, time flying by very fast; organized power structures like the church or politics; violence; aggression." [Schaffner 171]

However, as Roger said, it took a long time to "sit down with pencil and paper and start writing the fucking words." Rehearsals continued 17-19 January at the Rainbow Theatre, where the official premiere of the new song cycle would take place the following month. The tour began, ending up at the Rainbow on 17 February for four days. The piece was going by the working title of Eclipse (A Piece for Assorted Lunatics) during this early period. Next the band went on a three-month world tour, allowing them to further perfect the Dark Side song cycle.

Nick Mason: "It was a hell of a good way to develop a record. You really get familiar with it; you learn the pieces you like and what you don't like. And it's quite interesting for the audience to hear a piece developed – if people saw it four times, it would have been very different each time." [Schaffner 173]

After returning from the tour, recording for the album began on 1 June.

Dave Gilmour: "Dark Side was actually performed live on stage for a while before we went in and recorded it. Most of the work was done ahead of time so we were a little more together in the studio. Generally speaking, we put the bass and drums down together and tacked everything else on afterwards." [Guitar for the Practicing Musician, Jan 1985]

Richard Wright: "I think every album was a step towards Dark Side of the Moon, in a sense. We were learning all the time, the techniques of the recording, and our writing was getting better." [Schaffner 170] "We approached this album in exactly the same way as any other album that we'd done, except that this album was a concept album. It was about madness — it was about one's fear. It was about the business." [Miles]

After another US tour, recording continued in October. Dave talked about the theme of the album.

Dave: "The heartbeat alludes to the human condition and sets the mood for the music, which describes the emotions experienced during a lifetime." [Schaffner 176]

One of the brilliant ideas which was hit upon during the sessions was making up flashcards with various questions on them, and wandering about Abbey Road asking people who happened to be there to talk about madness, death, violence, and other themes of the album. Though they recorded quotes from Pete Watts, Paul McCartney, and Henry McCulloch, by far the most used voices were those of freelance roadie Roger the Hat and Abbey Road's Irish doorman, Jerry Driscoll.

Roger Waters: "We did about 20 people. The interviewees all have cards with questions printed on them like: 'Have you ever been violent?' 'When was the last time you thumped someone?' 'Were you in the right?' and so on." [Miles]

Examples follow:
Waters: "What's your personal opinion about why a lot of bands split up?"
Roger the Hat: (sound of joint being heavily sucked upon) "... I would say mainly egotistic... I mean, you should know what musicians are like."
Waters: "That was a very good answer."
Waters: "Have you ever been violent?"
Roger the Hat: "I'm into that! ...dig it!"
Waters: "When was the last time you thumped someone?"
Roger the Hat: "It was the other day, as a matter of fact."
Roger: "And you think you were justified? You put one on him?"
The Hat: "Definitely. Because the thing is, man, is like when you're drivin' on the road, I mean, like, you get a person who's that rude, I mean they're gonna kill ya." [Miles and Schaffner 176-7]
[see 'Us and Them' for the rest of the quote — in reference to a difference of opinion with another driver on the road who endangered The Hat's truck, then called him 'a long-haired git.']

Dave: "Roger tried definitely, in his lyrics, to make them very simple, straightforward, and easily assimilable — easy to understand. Partly because people read things into other lyrics that weren't there." [Schaffner 171]

Recording continued until early 1973. The album's press premiere was set for Tuesday, 27 February 1973 at the London Planetarium, Marylebone. Critical reaction follows.

Peter Jenner: "Dark Side of the Moon is undoubtedly one of the great rock records. Though it was largely about him, that was the record where they escaped from Syd." [Schaffner 171]

Clive Welham: "That was the first Pink Floyd album that I had liked, that I thought was a total package. To me that was the emergence of four years of Dave being with them, and having gotten their music a bit more rounded, a little less esoteric. And the lyrics were marvelous, real one-liners which really strike home." [Schaffner, 172]

Dave Gilmour [re: reaching number one in the US]: "Yes, it is nice, isn't it? We've never really been above 40th position before, but even so we're still selling more albums there than we would in the English charts. I don't think it'll make any change, I mean, we've never had any problem selling out even the largest halls and I don't really see how that can change. We can still sell out the Santa Monica Civic two nights in succession and I'm not sure that the album will make any difference to that." [Miles]

Roger Waters: "Dark Side of the Moon was a very important point because all our dreams were realized — because it was a pinnacle." [Miles]

Nick Mason: "There was a point after Dark Side where we might easily have broken up — well, we've reached all the goals rock bands tend to aim for... perhaps we were a bit nervous about carrying on — problems of a follow-up..." [Miles]

The Dark Side of the Moon was an international #1 hit, and did not leave the Billboard charts for good until 23 April 1988, making it by far the longest charting album ever. All the members of the band have been asked countless times why they thought Dark Side was so successful and so enduring...

Rick Wright [1989]: "No idea at all. After we'd made it, actually sitting down listening to it for the first time in the studio, I thought, 'This is going to be big. This is an excellent album.' Why it goes on and on selling, I don't know. It touched a nerve at the time. It seemed like everyone was waiting for this album, for someone to make it." [Schaffner 181]

Nick Mason: "I think when it was finished, everyone thought it was the best thing we'd done to date, but we didn't think it was five times as good as Meddle or eight times as good as Atom Heart Mother which is how it sold... a question of being in the right place at the right time." [Miles]

Dave Gilmour [1989]: "It hit a chord, obviously. It still doesn't sound dated; it still sounds good when I listen to it. But I can't really say why it should achieve that longevity over some of the other great records which have been out. We always knew it would sell more than we had sold of anything before, because it was better than anything we had done before — more complete and more focused. A better cover. Every detail was well-attended to." [Schaffner 181-182]

Rick Wright [1974]: "It's been in the English charts ever since it was released which is quite amazing. We all felt it would do at least as well as the other albums, but not quite as well as it did. All our albums have done well in this country but Dark Side was number one in the US and we never dreamed it would do that. Even though it was so successful, it was made in the same way as all our other albums and the only criteria we have about releasing music is whether we like it or not. It was not a deliberate attempt to make a commercial album. It just happened that way. Lots of people probably thought we all sat down and discussed it like that, but it wasn't the case at all. We knew it had a lot more melody than previous Floyd albums and there was a concept that ran all through it. The music was easier to absorb and having girls singing away added a commercial touch that none of our other records had." [Miles]

Roger Waters: "It's very well-balanced and well-constructed, dynamically and musically, and I think the humanity of its approach is appealing. It's satisfying. I think also that it was the first album of that kind. People often quote SF Sorrow by The Pretty Things as being from a similar mold — they were both done in the same studio at about the same time — but I think it was probably the first completely cohesive album that was made. A concept album, mate! I always thought it would be hugely successful. I had the same feelings about The Wall. Towards the end of the studio work, at about the time I'd be putting the tracks together, there was a very good feeling of satisfaction on both records. You'd stand back from them and they'd each feel very complete. But of course, Dark Side of the Moon finished the Pink Floyd off once and for all. To be that successful is the aim of every group. And once you've cracked it, it's all over. In hindsight, I think the Pink Floyd was finished as long ago as that." [Salewicz interview, June 87, via Internet]

Nick Mason [1989]: "I don't think there is a clear reason for it. It's almost certainly a number of different things, which comprise the record itself and what's contained in it. Plus being the right record at the right time — and generating its own momentum, because it was in the charts for so long people start to think, 'oh, that's the one that's been there awhile.' We haven't suffered from any misapprehension that it's the best album ever made. I think it's a very good album and I'm very proud of it, but there are other albums that equally deserve that longevity — Dylan albums, Sgt. Pepper. It's a variety of things that just happened to pack well into the bit of luck. A message that the storyline, or ideas, contained has lasted very well — that sort of peculiar sixties message." [Schaffner, 182]

Roger Waters: "[I think it's] comforting to people because it gives you permission to feel it's all right to be going crazy... it's a musical version of that kind of truism, 'Today is the first day of the rest of your life.' There's all this stuff in it about how this is your life and it's all happening now, and as each moment passes — that's it. It talks about the illusion of working towards ends which might turn out to be fool's gold. The philosophy that's embodied in it has got a little meaning for a lot of human beings. It deals with the Big Picture." [Schaffner 182]

Chris Charlesworth: "It's a great record to fuck to. Millions of people across the globe have fucked to Dark Side of the Moon." [Schaffner 183]

The VCS3 stands for Voltage Controlled Synthesizer, with 3 oscillators for waveform generation.

Roger Waters: "It was a synthesizer that was invented and manufactured by a man called Peter Zenoviev. It was called the Putney VCS3 because he lived in Putney. I was just a bank of three oscillators that generated sine wave, square wave and sawtooth wave signals which you could program through a ring modulator, or a series of filters, or a simple envelope generator, in different combinations. And that's all it is. I still use mine." [In the Studio 28 Mar 93]  For explosions and wind effects, among other things.

Album Package
Hipgnosis designed the cover so that it went in a circle (through the gatefold with the heartbeat and around
to the back cover).

Storm Thorgerson: "There were seven roughs submitted to the Floyd for Dark Side. A meeting was held in a very ordinary room in a very ordinary rehearsal studio and the seven ideas were placed against the wall a bit like a formal showing. The whole meeting actually took about three seconds, in so much as the band cast their eyes over everything, looked at each other, said in unison, 'That one' and left the room. It was the shortest design meeting on record, and to think the Silver Surfer was one of the rejected pieces. The idea of the prism came from a series of conversations with the band, especially with Roger and Rick. Roger spoke about the pressures of touring, the madness of ambition... and the triangle is a symbol of ambition. Rick wanted something more graphic, less pictorial, something, as he put it, more stylish than before. Floyd's lighting show was regarded as very powerful and the prism seemed a good way to refer to that, and be more graphic at the same time. Real moons were not wanted. It was Roger's idea to incorporate the heartbeat, on the inner spread, as part of the design. A larger physical representation of the triangle was the pyramid... perhaps it could be seen as a testament to madness, more 'vaulting ambition.' Filming the Pyramid on a night of a full moon was, of course, the thing to do, but it turned out to be a scary experience. Apart from the grandeur, what was particularly frightening was the sense of eerieness. Especially since we had inadvertently strayed into an Egyptian army shooting range in order to get the best angle. Across the desert strode three officers. They looked very threatening in the moonlight. They arrived and started to berate us, pointing at the great pyramid, and then at their rifles. Perhaps we had transgressed some spiritual and sacrosanct law, but it turned out that what they actually wanted was some money. In order to avoid a horrible and unimaginable fate there in the moonlight, we forked out a little bukshee. What price art, eh?" [Shine On] 

Storm: "That was very spooky. Going up to the pyramids at night, under a full moon. Very scary. But great." [Schaffner 177]

Speak to Me
On the Run
Time incl Breathe Reprise
Great Gig in the Sky, The
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
Brain Damage

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