The Dark Side of the Moon is Pink Floyd's eighth studio album. It was released March 1, 1973. It is one of the best-selling albums of all time, and at the time of writing, it's only surpassed by Michael Jackson's Thriller, AC/DC's Back in Black, and Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell in sales.
It was listed at #43 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, #132 on NME's similar list, and currently sits at #19 on Acclaimed Music's compilation of various critics' lists. In 2013, it was inducted into the US Library of Congress' National Recording Registry, garnering the most public votes for any entry that year. It's also the second-highest-rated album on Rate Your Music, beaten out only by OK Computer, which fittingly is considered a modern-day equivalent. Not to mention what may be the most iconic cover ever.
The album was Pink Floyd's Breakthrough Hit, and made them a mainstream name. However, this sudden super-stardom also sowed the seeds to the band's (especially Roger Waters') later Artist Disillusionment, which became very apparent on the the band's later albums, particularly its follow-up.
In 2013, the album was adapted into a BBC radio play titled Darkside by Czech playwright Tom Stoppard of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead fame. He describes this play as a "philosophical comedy". The teaser can be viewed here.
- Speak to Me (1:13)
- Breathe (2:46)
- On the Run (3:35)
- Time (7:05)
- The Great Gig in the Sky (4:48)
- Money (6:23)
- Us and Them (7:50)
- Any Colour You Like (3:25)
- Brain Damage (3:50)
- Eclipse (2:03)
- David Gilmour - lead vocals, guitar, VCS3
- Nick Mason - drums, percussion, tape effects
- Roger Waters - lead vocals, bass, VCS3, tape effects
- Richard Wright - keyboard, backing and lead vocals, VCS3, tape effects
Troping away, the moments that make up a dull day:
- Album Intro Track: "Speak to Me" is a textbook example, as it introduces many motifs and themes that later become important on the album. Some CD versions have it indexed together with "Breathe", though.
- Album Title Drop: "Brain Damage":And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon[...]And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon
- Alliterative Title: "The Great Gig in the Sky".
- Bad Boss: Implied in "Breathe".Run, rabbit, run
Dig that hole, forget the sun,
And when at last the work is done
Don't sit down, it's time to dig another one
- Birth/Death Juxtaposition: A common interpretation of the first and last tracks. "Speak to Me" opens with a heartbeat and ends with the sound of vocalist Clare Torry wailing, which could represent a baby's birth and a mother's labour pains. "Eclipse" ends with the sound of a heartbeat gradually fading into silence, and its last line is about the sun being eclipsed by the moon, which could represent death.
- Alternatively, the end of the first side, "The Great Gig in the Sky", also represents death. Clare Torry's vocals from this song were sampled for "Speak to Me".
- Book-Ends: Opens and closes with heartbeats.
- Both sides have an instrumental track between two vocal performances in the middle of the album.
- Side one opens and closes with a One-Woman Wail.
- Vocally, it begins and ends with something to the tune of "Breathe".
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The final line of "Time":The time has gone, the song is over
I thought I'd something more to say...
- Breather Episode: "Breathe". Subverted, however, with the more upbeat "Money" due to its lyrics, albeit placed right after the rather sad "The Great Gig in the Sky".
- Call-Back: The first lines of "Eclipse", the final track on the album, do this to a line in "Breathe", the first song on the album.All (that) you touch
And all (that) you see...
- Concept Album: Word of God is that the songs are about the "pressures in life that can drive you to insanity" — in order: Life ("Breathe"), travel ("On the Run), time ("Time"), death ("The Great Gig in the Sky), money ("Money") , war and society ("Us and Them), and insanity ("Brain Damage").
- Cover Version: Several bands, including Phish, Flaming Lips, and Dream Theater, have covered the whole album.
- Easy Star Records released a reggae version called Dub Side of the Moon.
- Brian Ibbott's first full-album episode of the Coverville podcast was called "The Covered Side of the Moon"note .
- Dark Reprise: "Breathe (Reprise)", which comes in just after "Time". Compared to the relaxed, airy "Breathe", the reprise has a more tired, worn-out tempo, which fits the lyrics.Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It's good to warm my bones beside the fire...
- Inverted with its so-called "second reprise", "Any Colour You Like", a groovier beat.
- Design Student's Orgasm: It's one of the most famous album covers ever made for a reason.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Subverted. "Eclipse" seems to work itself up to some sort of acceptance of all the madness of life...And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon
- Early Installment Weirdness: Early live performances of the album (then titled Eclipse) have completely different instrumentals in place of "On the Run" and "The Great Gig in the Sky".
- In fact, the album was titled Eclipse because in 1972, Medicine Head (which featured Keith Relf of The Yardbirds on bass) released an album called Dark Side of the Moon. Pink Floyd was aware of this, and when it became clear that the Medicine Head album was a commercial failure, they decided to use that title instead of Eclipse anyway, and changed the title of "Eclipse"'s previous preceding song, "The Dark Side of the Moon", to what is now "Brain Damage".
- Echoing Acoustics: "Us and Them" employs a long repeat on the verses using a tape delay.
- Epic Instrumental Opener: "Time" has 2½ minutes of instrumental buildup before any vocals; "Us and Them" has no vocals until about the 1:30/1:40 mark.
- Epic Rocking: "Time" (7:05), "Money" (6:23), and "Us and Them" (7:50).
- Everything Is an Instrument: Clocks ("Time"), cash registers / coins / paper ("Money"), helicopters ("On the Run"), and heartbeats ("Speak to Me", "Breathe note ", "On the Run", "Time", "Brain Damage", "Eclipse").
- Existentialism: Arguably a large theme.
- "Breathe":All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be
- "Time":And then, one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun..
- "Eclipse" too, as noted in Earn Your Happy Ending above.
- Fading into the Next Song: The transition between all songs is seamless, except for the side flip between "The Great Gig in the Sky" and "Money" on the vinyl pressing, naturally. The final chord of "The Great Gig" is still barely audible under the first sound effect of "Money", and this transition was boosted when the album was remastered for CD. In fact, because of its introductory nature, many CD pressings place "Speak to Me" and "Breathe" on the same track.
- Feelies: Most vinyl copies of the album come with two posters and a set of two sticker sheets.
- Foreshadowing: All of the sound motifs note appear in "Speak to Me" (the very first track) before being featured individually in later songs.
- Freedom from Choice: The title of "Any Colour You Like". Waters named that song after Londoners who would come to his hometown of Cambridge and attempt to sell various items from their trucks, specifically one who attempted to hawk sets of china by saying "Any colour you like, they're all blue". The title also harkens back to a quote from United States automative maker Henry Ford, who said in 1909 about the Ford Model T note , something to the effect of, "A customer can have a car painted any colour he wants as long as its black."
- Gratuitous Panning: The "dueling guitars" section of "Any Colour You Like".
- Guest-Star Party Member: Clare Torry, who sang the One-Woman Wail in "The Great Gig in the Sky".
- Heartbeat Soundtrack: See Bookends. It also appears in "Breathe", "On the Run", "Time", and "Brain Damage".
- Humans Are Bastards: Some of the quotes that appear and reappear on the album feature people's answers to the questions "When was the last time you were violent?" and "Were you in the right?". Everyone quoted seems to firmly believe he or she was in the right except for Henry McCullough, who's unsure.note
- "Us and Them" is a plea against human conflicts for what are generally stupid reasons and makes the observation that the machinations of the powerful hit the small people the hardest.
- Instrumentals: "Speak to Me", "On the Run", "The Great Gig in the Sky", and "Any Colour You Like".
- Jump Scare: All of the clocks spontaneously chiming at the start of "Time".
- List Song: "Eclipse" lists a series of actions one has done, is doing, and will do in its lifetime.
- Long Runner: 741 consecutive weeks — 14 straight years — on the Billboard 200 album chart. To put that in perspective, Dark Side was still on the charts when Pink Floyd released A Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987. When Billboard began allowing recurrent albums back into the chart in 2009, the album returned to the chart within two weeks and passed 950 non-consecutive weeks in May 2020. No album has ever come close to being on the chart for that long in the history of the Billboard 200.
- It's estimated that the album still sells around 8,000 copies per week, in spite of (and because of) digital streaming.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The album is filled with low-key jazz textures, but the lyrics are quite bleak.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: As you can see in the page picture, it is pretty basic. That is because keyboard player Richard Wright asked for something "smarter, neater more classy".note The end result is pictured above. The rainbow continued through the inner part of the gatefold, where the green line zigzagged in mimicry of the heartbeat heard throughout the album; the back cover featured another prism returning the beam of light to its origin point on the front cover.
- For the 20th Anniversary release in 1993, the iconic cover image was replaced by a photograph of an actual prism separating light◊.
- For the 30th Anniversary in 2003, the image was decidedly less minimalist: It was a photograph of a stained glass window◊ that replicated the album cover, shot at night with trees visible outside, and a small smattering of light from the camera setup.
- Money Song: Subverted with "Money". It's about the evils of money and the excess it brings.
- Mushroom Samba: "Any Colour You Like".
- Non-Appearing Title: The instrumentals and "Brain Damage".
- Not Afraid to Die: Gerry O'Driscoll says this in the spoken part of "The Great Gig in the Sky".
- Nothing Is Scarier: Before the aforementioned heartbeat, there is 15 seconds of complete silence.
- One-Woman Wail: "The Great Gig in the Sky" is one long female wail.
- One-Word Title: "Breathe", "Time", "Money", and "Eclipse".
- Precision F-Strike:
- The album opens with one the very first spoken words of "Speak to Me":I've been mad for fuckin' years...
- "Money":Don't give me that do goody-good bullshit...
- The album opens with one the very first spoken words of "Speak to Me":
- Product Placement: "Money":I think I need a Lear Jet...
- Pyramid Power: Invoked with the cover art, as well as the accompanying poster and stickers.
- Rainbow Lite: The prism's rainbow doesn't have indigo in it. Invoked, as it turns out the album's central motif is madness and a sense that something's incomplete.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The line "And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes" was inspired by the fact that Syd Barrett sometimes played a completely different song than the rest of the band during a concert; it was mostly due to his declining mental state, which was the main reason for his removal from the band.
- Recurring Riff: Harmonic elements of "Breathe" are later reprised (obviously) in "Breathe (Reprise)" but also, less obviously, in "Any Colour You Like".
- Refrain from Assuming:
- The second song is "Breathe", not "Breathe in the Air". This wasn't helped by some CD reissues in the 80s and 90s which labelled the song "Breathe in the Air", sometimes with the final three words in parentheses.
- It's "Brain Damage", not the Title Track. There isn't one.note It's also two songs ("Brain Damage" and "Eclipse" run into each other), not one.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Brain Damage", which is at least partially about Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett, who's famous for his own Sanity Slippage that led to his departure from the band.
- There's a snippet of an orchestral version of The Beatles' "Ticket to Ride" in the fade-out of "Eclipse".
- Richard Wright based his compositions and keyboard work on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, particularly Bill Evans' piano work.
- "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" from The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique samples "Time", while "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" from the same album samples "Breathe".
- Siamese Twin Songs:
- "Speak to Me" and "Breathe", inseparable enough that they are sometimes issued as one track on certain CD pressings note .
- "Time" and "Breathe (Reprise)". "Breathe (Reprise)" is short enough compared to "Time" that it is always issued with that song, and is officially considered the coda of "Time" on Wikipedia. Even the original vinyl only mentioned "Breathe (Reprise)" on the lyric sheet◊ and not in the tracklist.
- "Us and Them" and "Any Colour You Like" are connected by a delayed part of the last word on the former track. The delay continues into the beginning of the track, and is actually faintly heard as the synth begins. However, unlike the other three, only the former is played on the radio.
- "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse" are so inseparable they're often collectively mistaken for the title track of the album, which doesn't exist.
- In general, it can be said that there are only two distinct tracks on the entire album: "Side A" and "Side B."
- Spoken Word in Music: Some songs include samples of people talking, who were answering questions such as "When was the last time you were violent?", "Were you in the right?", "Are you afraid of death?", or "What is the dark side of the moon?". Among the people interviewed were: Wings band-mate Henry McCullough (who supplied the "I don't know, I was really drunk at the time" heard in the segue between "Money" and "Us and Them"), roadie Chris Adamson (the Precision F-Strike at the start of the album), the band's road manager Peter Watts (whose crazed laughter is heard in "Brain Damage" and "Speak to Me") and his wife Patricia (who says "I never said I was frightened of dying" in "The Great Gig in the Sky" and describes a violent encounter in the segue between "Money" and "Us and Them": "that geezer was cruisin' for a bruisin'"), Roger "The Hat" Manifold (who appears in "Us and Them" and says "live for today, gone tomorrow, that's me. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA" in "On the Run") and Abbey Road Studios' doorman Gerry O'Driscoll, responsible for some of the more iconic quotes (the one at the bottom of the page that ends the album, and the discussion about death in "The Great Gig in the Sky").
- Paul McCartney and his then-wife Linda were also interviewed, but their answers were considered generic and/or trying too hard to be funny, so they were left unused.
- Stiff Upper Lip: Referenced and lampshaded in "Time":"Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way."
- Stock Sound Effects: The coins and cash-register sounds from "Money" are used a lot these days.
- Take That!: When "Brain Damage" was performed during the Pulse concert, the circular screen showed images of 20th-century world leaders (e.g. Ronald Reagan, Idi Amin, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, Saddam Hussein, Bill Clinton...).
- Textless Album Cover: One of the most iconic in history. Some CD pressings, however, include the circular sticker that was on the vinyl's shrinkwrap.
- The "The" Title Confusion: Surprisingly to many, its actually called The Dark Side of the Moon.
- Title Drop: Aside from the lyrics in "Brain Damage", Gerry O'Driscoll says at the end of the album: "There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, its all dark."
- Uncommon Time: "Money" is in 7/4, save for the guitar solo, which is in 4/4 because David Gilmour kept getting thrown off by the weirder time signature of the rest of the song.
- Urban Legend: The supposed "synchronisation" between this album and The Wizard of Oz, marketed as Dark Side of the Rainbow.
- All of the band members and Alan Parsons, the engineer for the album, have stated that this is a coincidence.David Gilmour: Some guy with too much time on his hands had this idea of combining Wizard of Oz with Dark Side of the Moon.
- They do have quite a few moments that match well with each other, but it wasn't on purpose. Besides, deliberately synchronising the album in production would have added a not-inconsiderable amount of effort and expense, since the early 1970s was rather short on convenient ways to play movies in the recording studio.
- All of the band members and Alan Parsons, the engineer for the album, have stated that this is a coincidence.
- Ur-Example: "On the Run" is a trance techno number recorded in 1973.
- War Is Hell: "Us and Them":Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died
And the general sat, and the lines on the map
Moved from side to side
- We All Die Someday: Gerry O'Driscoll says as much during the intro to "The Great Gig in the Sky".I am not frightened of dying. Any time will do, I don't mind. Why should I be frightened of dying? There's no reason for it — you've got to go sometime.
- Went to the Great Gig in the Sky
- Your Head A-Splode: From "Brain Damage":And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon