Pink Floyd’s 1973 double album The Dark Side of the Moon remains one of the most iconic and popular releases in rock music history. With global sales of over 45 million copies, Dark Side of the Moon will likely stand for all time as one of the most commercially successful albums ever made.
At the time Dark Side was made, many rock artists produced record albums that were meant to be heard from start to finish, connected by a unifying musical or lyrical theme. Albums were meant to take the listener on a musical journey, not simply be a vehicle for the next Top 40 hit single. Despite that trend, Dark Side of the Moon was still something of a bold sonic experiment.
It was bassist and songwriter Roger Waters who first proposed that Pink Floyd make a concept album in the aftermath of the release of the group’s LP Meddle in 1971. The band was feeling exhausted after extensive touring in the UK, Japan, and the US and felt strained and disillusioned by the rock and roll lifestyle. Waters was also in a reflective mood during this time due to the deteriorating mental condition of his friend, founding Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett.
In late 1968, the group had decided to start recording and performing shows without Barrett, whose behavior had become increasingly erratic, partly as a result of heavy psychedelic drug use. Many of the ideas for Dark Side of the Moon– particularly the album’s fascination with disillusionment and madness– were direct reactions to Barrett’s personal decline. Waters explained that the song Brain Damage, which contains the album’s titular lyric “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon,” was meant as a message to his old friend, letting Barrett know that he wasn’t all alone in the universe.
The Making of the Album
The entire band liked Waters’ idea for a concept album and began pulling together and writing new material in late 1971 and early 1972. They landed on Dark Side of the Moon as a title for the album early on in the process but considered changing it after discovering that it had already been used by another band– Medicine Head. For a time, the album was ultimately known as Eclipse or Dark Side of the Moon A Piece for Assorted Lunatics. But ultimately, the band decided to go with the original title.
The album was produced in London between May 1972 and February 1973 at the legendary EMI Studios, which have since been renamed Abbey Road Studios after both its location and the other very famous album that was recorded there– that one with those four guys crossing the street. In terms of the album’s overall sound, and particularly its audio experimentation, Dark Side of the Moon built on the band’s previous work throughout the 1970s. Engineer Alan Parsons had a huge role in making the album sound the way it does, experimenting with sound effects, tape loops and other sound manipulation techniques to create an immersive and atmospheric listening experience.
The Dark Side of the Moon remains one of the most iconic and popular albums in rock music history, it’s timeless sound and innovative production techniques continue to inspire new generations of musicians and fans. The album’s themes of disillusionment and madness, inspired by the band member Syd Barrett, give the album a deeper meaning and helped solidify Pink Floyd’s place in music history.