40 Years Ago: Pink Floyd Release ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’
The numbers attached to âThe Dark Side of the Moonâ are pretty impressive. More than 50 million copies sold worldwide. Fifteen straight years on Billboardâs album chart. Consistently ranked in the Top 10 of many best-albums-ever-made polls. But Pink Floydâs achievements with their eighth LP go deeper than that. In a way, their 1973 epic changed the way people made and listened to albums. Forty years after its release, thereâs still no better head trip — legally at least — available.
Following original leader Syd Barrettâs breakdown and departure from the band in the late â60s, Pink Floyd took off in a different direction. The psychedelic tones Barrett brought to the music were still there, but the albums became headier — sturdier in ways that the always-delicate Barrett couldnât conceive or articulate. Through a series of musically complex and exploratory records, the four remaining members of Pink Floyd connected personal themes to space age freakout music.
Everything leading up to âThe Dark Side of the Moonâ was mere prep work. With their 43-minute opus, Pink Floyd delivered a masterpiece on death, madness and the post-war problems of kids who came of age in the â50s. In a way itâs a tribute to Barrett, whose mental breakdowns were well-known and well-documented at that point. But itâs also a tribute to a generation of young twenty-somethings searching for reason and purpose. âThe Dark Side of the Moonâ doesnât necessarily have the answers; the best it can muster is a weâre-all-crazy-here shrug. And maybe thatâs enough.
But the albumâs 10 songs land with a massive force. From the opening heartbeat instrumental âSpeak to Meâ to the soul- and mind-cleansing closer âEclipse,â âThe Dark Side of the Moonâ made deep, heavy records — ones without obvious radio singles, even though âMoneyâ almost hit the Top 10 — a commercial mainstay for the rest of the decade. Its influence still resonates indirectly (think Radioheadâs string of artsy, musically complex records) and directly (the Flaming Lips covered the entire album a few years ago) with artists. It set up Pink Floyd for the rest of their career. It made headphone listening a required luxury. Itâs the aural equivalent of â2001: A Space Odyssey.â And itâs still blowing minds.
Shine on, you crazy diamonds.
Hear ‘Eclipse’ by Pink Floyd