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Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon: It’s Brilliance Still Shines 50 Years Later

Rick Sunday

Pink Floyd Dark Side of The Moon 50th Anniversary Reflection

A Reflection of Pink Floyd’s Legendary Album on the 50th Anniversary of its Release

Roger Waters was once asked why The Dark Side of the Moon is so popular. What is it with this album? It’s “good,” sure, but good enough to be one of the most commercially successful rock albums of all time?

Five decades in, Dark Side of the Moon has sold over 45 million copies. It’s never gone out of print since its 1973 release. The iconic prism album art, created by famed designer Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis, is essentially wallpaper for garages and dorm rooms across the world.

What gives?

“The music’s quite compelling but I think there’s something more,” he said. “Maybe it’s the simplicity of the ideas that appeal to a generation going through puberty and trying to make sense of it all.”

That’s a funny statement, not just because it’s true. Dark Side of the Moon is a concept album built on a foundation of fleeting realizations of reality. Its bold lyricism, supported by excellent musicianship, untwists vague topics like the passage of time, money, and the struggle between good and evil. It wrestles with the universal human experience — taking a timeless musical approach that blends traditional rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelia, and avant-garde.

Dark Side of the Moon is bold, unconventional, pretentious, and obnoxious. But that audaciousness — the drive to create something so bold and over-the-top — might be what makes it so brilliant.

The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon took over two years to create. The record was released in March of 1973, but the idea for the concept album started in the late ‘60s. During that time, Roger Waters became fascinated with trying to directly engage with the meaning of life and began writing lyrics tackling significant subjects like greed, death, and mental illness. The time offered pureness in creative exploration, fueled by youthful energy, psychedelic drugs, and specific energy in England that’d already given the world bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

These sketches, ideas, and writings would evolve from the late 60s while the band recorded and released their first few albums, eventually becoming the backbone of Dark Side of the Moon.

The album’s actual recording process began in 1972 with producer Alan Parsons, who’d finished producing The Beatles’ Let It Be a few years earlier. Recording sessions took place in several different locations, and Parsons pushed the band to get experimental while remaining polished. This time period was the catalyst for various innovative recording techniques — spoken-word samples, sound effects, and looped recordings.

This push for “clean” experimentation created the multi-layered sound we’ve come to love about the album — haunting and eerie while bursting with brightness. One person to credit for these ideas is sound engineer Chris Thomas. These innovative approaches — such as recording and looping a literal human heartbeat — paired with Waters’ bold and inspired lyricism allowed the band to tap into… something. And that something might explain why the record has been so popular and influential.

The Impact of The Dark Side of the Moon, 50 Years Later

Pink Floyd’s approach to psychedelia is broad and inviting. It’s not simple by any means, and from a musical perspective, Dark Side of the Moon offers depth and gravity. But the band doesn’t shy away from stating the obvious. Indeed, that’s a powerful form of psychedelia. Seeing the strangeness in linear spaces is a way to tap into the in-between. To disassociate.

You can feel it in the way Waters wrote about mundanity. From “Time:”

Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

Life moves fast. And slow. We try to catch ourselves while the days move forward, the nights disappear, the kids get older, the hair gets thinner. What happened now is now gone. The human experience is specific and considered — we all wander through this big thing in our own way — but we are also all staring down the inevitable. Beyond that, we’ve all got bills to pay. We’ve all gotta work. We’ve all gotta eat. We’ve all gotta think about the shit we’ve gotta think about.

The early 70s weren’t that long ago. In the grand scheme, is 50 years really much of anything? But this sliver of time has produced some of the most innovative and transformative music that’s ever been recorded. History is written by the victors. Love it or not, The Dark Side of the Moon is a victorious album. And yet, the impact of Dark Side of the Moon never could’ve been predicted. There’s something in the harmless innocence in the album’s kitschiness.

Waters wrote the lyrics all himself, and he delivered quite well — but these are also clearly the thoughts of a creative person in their mid-20s. Greed is bad! Time slips away! Life ends! What does it all mean?

Delusions of grandeur — they offer a funny (and healthy) approach to life. An embrace of wandering and a bit of wobbling. Reach towards something. Anything. But in that quiet desperation, are you suffering? The point is — don’t resist epiphanies, even if they’re obvious. Agents of change can provide clarity, but only if you’re willing to accept it. The undeniable boldness of Dark Side of the Moon offers an uncomplicated-yet-complicated way to accept the way things are. Sometimes that’s all we need.

The Dark Side of the Moon might not be the best Pink Floyd album, but nothing else in their discography defines the band more. There’s a bit of irony in the fact that it’s such a commercially successful album. There’s no denying that the band created this piece of art in earnest, genuinely attempting to force listeners to consider grandiose critiques of the modern world and society’s role and participation.

But then that got swept away in the waves of capitalism. When Waters wrote the lyrics, “Money, it’s a crime, share it fairly, but don’t take a slice of my pie,” do you think he thought that the album would one day be a capitalistic tool used by Target to sell T-shirts?

And yet, here we are, 50 years on, still celebrating its brilliance and innovation. We live in a silly world. Sometimes you have to laugh.

Rick Sunday

Rick Sunday

Rick Sunday is a writer and a traveler who’s been writing professionally about music and culture for over a decade. His creative work has appeared in a variety of publications of note, exploring the strange while finding inspiration in the in-between. He loves driving. He loves talking to strangers. And he loves the Grateful Dead. In his spare time, he writes a newsletter called COOL MUSIC, a semi-regular outlet for experimental writing, photography, and playlists.

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