Track by Track
Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) is one of the best-selling albums worldwide, with an estimated 45 million copies sold, it is Pink Floyd’s most successful and the most recognised of their albums, along with The Wall (1979).
So, how did this album become to be regarded as one of the best of all time?
Speak To Me
The album kicks off with this sound collage, the only musical instruments featured are Richard Wright’s reversed piano effect and Nick Mason’s bass drum which acts as a “heartbeat” effect. The sounds heard in “Speak to Me” act as a bit of foreshadowing to tracks later on in the album which I think is pretty cool.
The climax of “Speak to Me” is actually heard in “Breathe” before the anti-climax of Breathe’s intro. This adds to the tense atmosphere of the album, which is helped by the chord progressions and the timbre, especially the pedal steel guitar. It’s one of these songs that tense but also quite relaxing because of this (depending on your mood). I do wish the song was longer but I understand that this was the time of the LP’s so it had less space than CD’s but more of this later.
On The Run
I didn’t know what to say about this “song” at first. This track is pretty unique as it’s mainly a synth arpeggio playing with effects over the top of it rather than guitars or drums. The first time I heard it I found it a bit strange and quite haunting, I just get that vibe but it definitely lives up to its name as the synth and the footsteps heard in the background give the impression someone is “on the run”. One of the strangest Floyd songs I’ve heard but it’s a grower. It almost sounds like a retro arcade game in a way.
One of the favourites of the album, the intro has to be one of the best intros to a song I’ve heard. The music’s quite simple yet haunting. We hear some musique concrete at the start with the clocks chiming followed by a metronome before the guitar and organ come in. I think the percussion in this track is pretty cool with the reverbed toms in the background sticking to the tension of the album.
As for going beyond the intro, I think it was cool to add backing singers to the chorus as not many bands similar to Pink Floyd have used them, we also hear keyboardist Richard Wright sing lead vocals though I can’t tell him apart from David Gilmour (singing voice wise).
We then have a reprise of “Breathe”, I mentioned earlier how I wanted “Breathe” to be longer, well, this makes up for it sort of, “Time” has a similar tempo to that of the former, plus it has similar chords so why not? It ends with the same chord as “Breathe” as well. I think the instrumentation and the structure of this song is the main reason I like it so much.
The Great Gig In The Sky
This track is popular for Clare Torry’s lyric-less vocals, I think it’s pretty unique considering not many songs have just your vocals used just as an instrument rather than singing lyrics. Torry’s performance is excellent as it’s completely improvised. Not everyone’s cup of tea though, my mum skipped it as it was just annoying her but I can understand. Not much guitar in this one but a lot of piano, the rhythm section of bassist Roger Waters and drummer Nick Mason I felt added a lot to this song, especially Mason, usually the drums give way to the guitar or keyboards but I felt the bass and drums are as much to the song as the vocals are.
The first track on the second side of the album and the most popular song on the album. Musique concrete is again present at the start of the track before the bass riff starts (one of Waters’ best riffs in my opinion). The song features a saxophone solo from Dick Parry which I think works really well in this song as it’s a pretty jazzy song. Normally in progressive rock, it’s vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums but I liked the inclusion of the saxophone. The only track on the album where there isn’t a tense atmosphere. “Money” is pretty cool for not following a verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, instead, using the song to show off each member of the band’s musical ability.
Us And Them
Arguably my favourite song on the album. At 7 minutes and 51 seconds, it’s DSOTM’s longest song. It again features saxophone from Dick Parry and additional backing vocals. On the full album, I would argue that the band’s vocals are at their best here. Usually, I consider Pink Floyd’s vocals to not be as good as their instrumentation but in this song, the vocals make it, with Gilmour and Wright harmonising. The verses have jazz-influenced chords rather than standard chords as well to add to the atmosphere of the song.
Any Colour You Like
“Us and Them” than transitions into “Any Colour You Like”, the third and final instrumental of the album. This song is one of Richard Wright’s highlights, who uses three different synths on this track as well as Hammond organ in the background. The musicianship on this track, in general, is great through David Gilmour’s guitars, Richard Wright’s keyboards through the rhythm section of Roger Waters and Nick Mason.
“Brain Damage” begins the finale of DSOTM. Roger Waters sings the lead vocals this time, with Gilmour on harmonies. It’s the only song on the album to have a standard structure of verse-chorus-verse-chorus. In the chorus, the harmonies from the backing singers really help as it’s building up and building up as the song goes along.
The finale and climax of the album, I don’t know why they didn’t just have “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” as one track but I suppose “Speak to Me” was a separate track as well. The four chord progression and the crescendos make it an effective closing track. The album goes full circle at the end with the “heartbeat” effect on the bass drum which is heard on the start of “Speak to Me”
To conclude, The Dark Side of The Moon is one of the best albums I’ve ever listened to in my life so far. It’s a very unique album as there are so many different tracks, not every song is your standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus as Pink Floyd successfully experimented with different genres and concepts such as sound collage (Speak To Me), electronic music (On The Run), jazz (Money, Us and Them) and musique concrete (Time, Money). Even if you aren’t a massive fan of Pink Floyd it’s still a unique experience to listen to it the whole way through. The production is as just as good as the music as well.
It isn’t just about the music as well as the album cover is one of the coolest I’ve seen, the prism spectrum which represents the themes of the tracks. on the album
All I can say is it definitely deserved it’s place on the charts and the number of copies of the album sold worldwide to this day.