Graded on a Curve:
Pink Floyd,
The Dark Side of
the Moon

Remembering Richard Wright, born on this day in 1943.Ed.

Back in the day–and I’m talking very back in the day–Pink Floyd’s 1973 stoner masterpiece The Dark Side of the Moon played from behind the door of every pot smoke-filled room in my college dormitory. I say this with authority because I was in every one of the those dorm rooms, which meant I heard The Dark Side of the Moon a lot. And by that I mean I heard it to death, and by the time I got booted out of that dorm for smoking pot in dorm rooms, I hated The Dark Side of the Moon so much I vowed to never listen to it again. And for decades I kept that vow.

But you know how it goes. One day your curiosity gets the better of you. You think you’ve thrown The Dark Side of the Moon out with the bong water when one day you wake up and decide to give The Dark Side of the Moon another listen. This is what is commonly called failing to learn from experience. But in the case of The Dark Side of the Moon I was pleasantly surprised. I would hardly call our reunion a joyful one; it was more like running into an old friend you’d grown tired of only to discover he wasn’t the bore you remembered. Indeed, with the exceptions of “Money” and “Time” (both of which had continued to annoy me thanks to incessant radio play over the years), our reunion was actually cordial.

The Dark Side of the Moon, which was produced by the band and engineered by wizard behind the control panel Alan Parsons, is very much a “studio as band member” affair. Gone were the days when Pink Floyd, as guitarist and Syd Barrett replacement David Gilmour put it, went in for “the psychedelic noodling stuff.” Plenty of fans weren’t particularly pleased to discover there would be no more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants LPs along the lines of 1971’s Meddle, but The Dark Side of the Moon attracted a slew of new fans and made the guys in the band rich and famous. “Money” indeed.

The Dark Side of the Moon is Head Muzak so potent you can actually smell the reefer, which brings us to the LP’s second track “Breathe (In the Air ”), which is good for a contact high due to its “beanbag chair paralysis” ambience. “On the Run,” on the other hand, employs a bubbly synthesizer and what sounds like a guy running through an airport, which I suppose is Pink Floyd’s commentary on the soulless hustle bustle of modern life.

Big washes of sound and some maniacal laughter culminate in the sound of an atomic bomb, presumably because that’s where all our hustle bustle is taking us. And just to let us know time is ticking and we’d all better hurry up the band follows “On the Run” with the myriad annoying clock noises that open “Time.” The song’s a classic rock staple featuring a great guitar solo by Gilmour and a swell female backing vocal, but when it comes to shallow meditations on mortality I’ll take Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” any day. It’s funnier.

The instrumental “The Great Gig in the Sky” owes much of its genius to the soaring vocals of Clare Torry, who sings like Yoko Ono would if Yoko Ono could sing. Hers is a bravura performance, a downright miracle in fact, and it’s too bad it’s followed by the cash registers that open “Money,” which is yet another plaint by rich rock stars who profess to hate filthy lucre while making piles of the stuff. Dick Parry’s sax solo is quite nice, as is Gilmour’s guitar solo, but I’d pay money just to shut Roger Waters’ shut up.

The lullaby that is “Us and Them” is quite lovely, a still waters run deep proposition sung in a hush and employing some nice vocal echo. Its choruses are positively glorious, thanks in part to yet more excellent saxophone by Parry. It’s followed by the very pot-friendly instrumental “Any Colour You Like,” which features some nice interplay between synthesizer and guitar.

The album’s closing tracks, both of are sad tributes to Syd Barrett, constitute the true brilliance–such as it is–of The Dark Side of the Moon. “Brain Damage,” a mind-blowing (and not in a good way) number about a rendezvous with a lunatic on the lightless side of our lunar neighbor, mourns the loss of “games and daisy chains and laughs,” which is particularly poignant given Barrett’s almost childlike approach to his music. Barrett’s fate was not to die young like so many of his contemporaries; it was to live on, a tragic shade destined to dwell forever in the shadows of wasted genius. And “Brain Damage” is followed by “Eclipse,” which is just what it says it is–a song about the sudden darkness cast by mental illness upon a brilliantly talented young musician.

The Dark Side of the Moon marked Pink Floyd’s transition from psychedelic warm to clinical cold, from an improvisational band to tightly strung studio creature that put every note in its place and never varied from the script. And the same went for what was to come, culminating in 1980’s The Wall, which fans either loved or hated depending on whether they considered it bombast or a Big Artistic Statement. But it’s The Dark Side of the Moon that Pink Floyd will best be remembered for. It doesn’t merit an A, B, or C. It should be graded by bong hits. Me, I give it three and one half bong hits out of five, then return it to a dorm room where it belongs.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B-

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  • drp

    The Wall came out in 1979, not 1982.

    • MH Little

      Once again, all apologies. Sincerely.

  • DavidAyer

    The fact that the band made wheelbarrows full of cash is some kind of freak occurrence accorded by the times, surely a heady confluence of events. It’s not like the lads were angling for material gain apart from whatever came out of the music.

    • MH Little

      my my

      • MH Little

        As much as I hate to admit it, you could be right about that–to an extent. Perhaps they didn’t expect to make themselves millionaires. On the other hand, that “angling for material gain apart from whatever came out of the music” makes no sense. Apart from whatever came out of the music? Where else would the money have come from? T-shirt sales?

  • C. A. Martin

    B-…?

    This masterwork is among the greatest ever. Maybe One Direction would be more appropriate for you.

    • MH Little

      One Direction? Nah. Cows and Killdozer are more my speed. And the Stooges and Pissed Jeans of course. Getting the idea? Progressive rock annoys me. But to each his or her own.

  • James Neubeck

    The greatest recording ever

    • MH Little

      That’s cool. I’m truly glad you feel that way.

  • Matt Culpepper

    Fact check: Roger Waters does not have any vocals on ‘Money’ (even the spoken words at the end are from production/touring members) so not sure what you mean by “…pay money just to shut Roger Waters’ shut up.” Did you mean his bass? This is poor grammar and/or proofreading at best. At worst, you actually get paid to do this for a living. The only thing old and tired about this is your shallow review of an album that has been reviewed thousands of times.

    • Goose Cat

      Maybe he was referring to shutting Waters up as lyricist,which just proves the author of this feeble review is a moron.

      • Matt Culpepper

        Yeah, I sure hope a review of Animals is not in his future. Minds may explode!

        • Goose Cat

          Oh, I’m sure it would!
          Mine almost explodes every time I listen to it!
          (Mainly just implodes,tho.)

        • MH Little

          So long as they don’t explode around me. It’s hard to get brain stains off of clothes.

      • MH Little

        I don’t like the term “moron.” It’s so much less colorful than “Idiot who wouldn’t know a masterpiece if it fucked him up the ass.” See? That’s what makes me a good writer and you a guy incapable of going beyond “moron.”

        • Goose Cat

          Same result…less wordage.

          • MH Little

            I humbly disagree. Although I have used “moron” plenty of times. So there you go. Can we agree to call it a draw?

          • Goose Cat

            Agreed.
            And,as you say, your comment is colorful.

          • MH Little

            Thanks for the interaction. And thanks for being so cool. Have a good one, pal.

    • MH Little

      I apologize for the factual errors–and the typo. And I do! I get paid! And you don’t! As for reviewing an album that has been reviewed thousands of times, is there some sort of statute of limitations I don’t know about? And of course I’m shallow. I don’t want people drowning in me.

  • Lance Robert Hough

    Verbose moronic stupidity; I hope they don’t actually compensate you for your lack of critical thinking skills. Not only do you lack intellectual understanding of breakout recording techniques, but also you are musically quite nescient. And my latter comment comes not from my Pink Floyd fandom but rather proceeds from my bachelor’s degree in music composition and performance.

    • MH Little

      I love that first sentence. Seriously. It’s anything but verbose. As for my lack of critical thinking skills, I blame all of the pop I smoked while being forced to listen to the album. To say nothing of all of the pot I smoked while not listening to the album. But a word of advice: a guy who uses a word like “nescient” should be careful when he calls another guy verbose. I’m impressed by your degree. Did you have to take a course on progressive rock? I shudder. I majored in English Literature, with a minor in writing flippant and insulting reviews of records that irk me. And one last thing: I’m not much impressed by “breakout recording techniques.” Personally, I’m more impressed by Steve Miller’s invention of the word “pompatus.” But to each his own. Thanks for the input, my friend.

  • David Leadbetter

    Maybe you should do research before you review an album. And your sixth paragraph at the end you state that Gilmore solo is nice, but you would pay money if Rodger Waters would shut up. Attention oh great music reviewer, money was sung by David Gilmour.

  • David Leadbetter

    Maybe you should do some research before you review an album. In your 6th paragraph you state that Gilmour’s solo is nice, and that you would pay money if Roger Waters would shut up. I’m not that much of a fan of Roger myself, but I do know that David Gilmour sang “Money”. Roger Waters only song the final two tracks on the album, two tracks I might say that you enjoyed. Hypocrite much.

    • MH Little

      As always, I apologize for all factual errors. It’s not always easy to determine–even with some cursory research–to determine who’s doing what. But that’s no excuse. Thanks for the correction.

  • David Leadbetter

    Maybe you should do some research before you review an album. In your 6th paragraph while reviewing the song “Money”, you state that Gilmour’s solo is nice, and that you would pay money if Roger Waters would shut up. I’m not that much of a fan of Roger myself, but I do know that David Gilmour sang “Money”. Roger Waters only sang on the final two tracks on the album, two tracks I might add that you enjoyed. Hypocrite much. Apparently smoking too much pot in college hindered your ability to learn how to do proper research.

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