Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Dark Side of the Moon: The Most Popular Album in Music History

by James R. Coffey, Knoji.com: http://popculture.knoji.com/the-dark-side-of-the-moon-the-most-popular-album-in-music-history/
 
Founded in 1965, Pink Floyd originally consisted of guitarist Syd Barrett, bass guitarist Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, and keyboardist Richard Wright.
 
While playing London’s underground music scene in the late 1960s, they developed the experimental, progressive rock that would later come to define them. 
 
Under Barrett’s creative leadership, Pink Floyd released two singles in 1967 that drew the attention of Britain’s and America’s growing pop culture, “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play,” as well as a successful d├ębut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

Fearing, however, that he may have to leave the band due to his increasingly difficult battle with mental illness, Barrett allowed guitarist/ vocalist David Gilmour to join the band in late 1967, then departed from the group the following year.

With bassist Roger Waters becoming the band’s chief songwriter and conceptual leader, lead vocals were shared with Gilmour. 

With this combination, Pink Floyd went on to become one of the world’s most innovative and successful bands in music history, achieving worldwide critical and commercial acclaim with albums like Animals, Wish You Were Here, The Wall, and the most commercially popular album in history, the phenomenal, The Dark Side of the Moon.

Pink Floyd’s eighth studio album, The Dark Side of the Moon is a “concept” album built on creative ideas explored by the band during their live performances and earlier recordings, and based on philosophical themes including conflict, greed, the passage of time and mental illness; the latter inspired in part by Barrett’s deteriorating mental state.

Recorded in two sessions in 1972 and 1973 at famed Beatles’ Abbey Road Studios in London, the group utilized some of the most advanced recording techniques available at the time, including 16-tract recording and tape loops.

Additionally, state-of-the-art analogue synthesizers were used on several tracks, as well as a series of recorded interviews with staff and band members that was infused throughout the 10 songs.

Engineered by Alan Parsons (of the Alan Parsons Project) who’d help engineer the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Let it Be albums, Parsons is credited with adding some of the most notable sound components to The Dark Side of the Moon, including the extraordinary improvised vocal performance by British singer/ song writer Clare Torry on “The Great Gig in the Sky.”


Parsons also made prominent use of flanging and phase-shifting effects on vocals and instruments, innovative use of reverb, and the then-unheard-of panning of sounds between channels (most notable in the quadraphonic mix of “On the Run,” when the sound of the Hammond B3 organ played through a Leslie speaker rapidly swirls around the listener).

Featuring the now iconic light prism on a sea of black cover, The Dark Side of the Moon was released in March of 1973, becoming an immediate success, topping the Billboard 200 and then subsequently broke all popularity milestones both past and present-day by remaining on the charts for 741 consecutive weeks from 1973 to 1988; longer than any album in history.

With an estimated 45 million copies now sold, it is Pink Floyd’s most commercially successful album, breaking record sales all over the world. 

Twice remastered using updated technology, The Dark Side of the Moon remains one of Pink Floyd’s most popular albums and is frequently ranked as one of the greatest rock albums of all times, along side such monumental masterpieces as the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers, Deep Purple’s Machine Head, and Led Zeppelin’s, Zeppelin IV (“Zoso“), outsold only by AC/CD’s Back in Black and Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Additionally, two singles, “Money” and “Us and Them” did considerably well on the record charts, with the now ultra-famous sounds of coins clinking and a cash register ringing making “Money” one of the most recognizable song openings ever.

The cuts
 

Side one
 

1. "Speak to Me" (Instrumental: Mason) 1:30
2. "Breathe" (Lead vocals: Waters, Gilmour, Wright) 2:43
3. "On the Run" (Lead vocals: Gilmour; Instrumental: Waters) 3:30
4. "Time" (containing "Breathe [Reprise]") (Lead vocals: Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour) 6:53
5. "The Great Gig in the Sky" (Lead vocals: Wright; Vocal improv: Clare Torry) 4:15
 

Side two
 

1. "Money" (Lead vocals: Waters, Gilmour) 6:30
2. "Us and Them" (Lead vocals: Waters, Wright, Gilmour) 7:51
3. "Any Colour You Like" (Lead vocals: Gilmour, Mason; Instrumental: Wright) 3:24
4. "Brain Damage" (Lead vocals: Waters) 3:50
5. "Eclipse" (Lead vocals: Waters)1:45
 

All lyrics written by Roger Waters.
 

Personnel
 

David Gilmour: vocals, guitar, synthesizers and production
Nick Mason: percussion, tape effects and production
Roger Waters: bass guitar, vocals, synthesizers, tape effects and production
Richard Wright: keyboards, vocals, synthesizers and production
 

Additional musicians:
 

Dick Parry: saxophone on "Money" and "Us and Them"
Clare Torry: vocals on "The Great Gig in the Sky,” and background vocals
Lesley Duncan: background vocals
Barry St. John: background vocals
Liza Strike: background vocals

Doris Troy: background vocals
 

Production
 

Alan Parsons: engineering
Peter James: assistant engineering (incorrectly identified as "Peter Jones" on first US pressings of the LP)
Chris Thomas: mixing consultant
George Hardie: illustrations, sleeve art
Hipgnosis: design, photography
Jill Furmanovsky: photography
James Guthrie: remastering supervisor on 20th- and 30th-anniversary editions, 5.1 mixing on 30th-anniversary edition
Doug Sax: remastering on 20th- and 30th-anniversary editions
David Sinclair: liner notes in CD re-release
Storm Thorgerson: 20th- and 30th-anniversary edition designs
Drew Vogel: art and photography in CD re-release
 

Trivia
 

One of the many unique aspects of this masterpiece are the verbal snippets peppered throughout the tracks. During the recording sessions, Waters recruited the staff to answer a series of questions printed on flashcards. 

The interviewees were placed in front of a microphone in a darkened studio and shown such questions as “What's your favorite colour?” and "What's your favorite food?" before moving on to themes more central to the album such as madness, violence, and death.
 

Questions such as, “When was the last time you were violent?” were followed immediately by “Were you in the right?” Roadie Roger “The Hat” Manifold was the only contributor recorded in a conventional sit-down interview, as by then the flashcards had been mislaid. 

Waters asked him about a violent encounter he’d had with another motorist to which Manifold replied "... give ‘em a quick, short, sharp shock.” Then when asked about death he responded “Live for today, gone tomorrow, that's me.” 

Another roadie, Chris Adamson, recorded the explicit diatribe which opens the album: “I've been mad for f**king years - absolutely years.” 

The band's road manager Peter Watts (father of actress Naomi Watts) contributed the repeated laughter during "Brain Damage" and "Speak to Me,” and his second wife Patricia “Puddie” Watts (now Patricia Gleason) provided the monologue about “geezers” who were "cruisin' for a bruisin'" used in the segue between “Money” and "Us and Them,” as well as the line "I'm not afraid of dying,” part of, "And 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 some time." 

The closing statement, “there is no dark side in the moon, really. As a matter of fact it’s all dark,” came from the studios' doorman, Gerry O'Driscoll.
 

Paul and Linda McCartney were also interviewed, but their answers were judged to be “trying too hard to be funny” and were not included on the album. Wings band member Henry McCullough contributed the line “I don't know, I was really drunk at the time.”
 

References
 

Billboard Magazine
Pink Floyd Offical Web Site
Rockstarbiographies.com
The Dark Side of the Moon, the album
Images via:
Band shots and Abbey Road Studios via Wikipedia.org
Album via Floydfans.com

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