Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon turns 50

Virgin Radio

1 Mar 2023, 15:02

Credit: Harvest / Capitol / Getty

Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon was released half-a-century ago!

The band's eighth studio album came out in the US on 1st March 1973, and a couple of weeks later in the UK, on 16th March. 

Having been recorded at EMI Studios (now Abbey Road Studios), it’s safe to say the record struck a chord, as it has shifted in excess of 45 million copies worldwide, and it spent an incredible 736 consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200 Top Albums chart. That’s over 14 years!

The record was developed during the band’s live performances, with singer-songwriter Roger Waters creating the early demo tracks at his Islington home in a small studio built in his garden shed. Along with Waters, Pink Floyd was made up of guitarist David Gilmour on vocals, drummer Nick Mason, and organist Richard Wright. Original frontman and primary songwriter Syd Barrett had left the band by then.

The 1973 record focuses on the pressures faced by the band during their arduous lifestyle, as well as dealing, in-part, with the mental health of Barrett, who departed in 1968.

In a recent interview with The Telegraph, it was reported that Waters has re-recorded the whole of Dark Side Of The Moon “from scratch”. He said: “I wrote The Dark Side of the Moon. Let’s get rid of all this ‘we’ c**p! Of course we were a band, there were four of us, we all contributed, but it’s my project and I wrote it.”

Each side of the 1973 album is a continuous piece of music, and lyrical themes include conflict, greed, the passage of time, death and insanity. In an interview with Rolling Stone, guitarist David Gilmour said: “I think we all thought – and Roger definitely thought – that a lot of the lyrics that we had been using were a little too indirect. There was definitely a feeling that the words were going to be”

Lead-single Money takes a swipe at greed and consumerism. The song features sound effects of coins, tearing paper and the iconic sound of ringing tills. It would go on to become one of the band’s most commercially successful songs.

“Money, it's a gas / Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.”

As well as being a commercial smash, the album landed well with critics too. Rolling Stone declared the LP to be “a fine album with a textural and conceptual richness that not only invites, but demands involvement.”

A review in Sounds said that it would “unreservedly recommend everyone to The Dark Side of the Moon.”

AllMusic said: “What gives the album true power is the subtly textured music, which evolves from ponderous, neo-psychedelic art rock to jazz fusion and blues-rock before turning back to psychedelia.”

The second single to be lifted from the album was Us And Them. At nearly eight minutes long, the track is the longest on the record. 

In a 2018 interview with Classic Rock Magazine, Waters explained that the song is about “going to war” as well as “civil liberties, racism and colour prejudice”, while the last verse is “about passing a tramp in the street and not helping.”

The Dark Side of the Moon often appears in greatest album lists. In 1997, The Guardian ranked the record 37th in The Guardian's list of the 100 Best Albums Ever.

In 2006, ABC viewers in Australia voted it their favourite album, while in a poll in the same year, NME readers voted it the eight best ever album. 

Meanwhile, the iconic album artwork is also acclaimed, with VH1 rating it as the fourth greatest album cover in history.

The Telegraph says that Roger Waters is planning a “lavish vinyl release” for the aforementioned re-recorded album, but that it might “prove tricky” given that his ex-bandmates, Gilmour and Mason, own the band’s name.

What is confirmed though is that, with the LP hitting its half-century milestone, Pink Floyd will release a 50th anniversary reissue of The Dark Side Of The Moon on 24th March, featuring a live recording of their Wembley Stadium gig from 1974.

All the way back in February 1973, EMI Records held a press conference for the debut play of the new album at The London Planetarium. An array of stars, constellations and images of the cosmos were displayed while the music played. Now, five decades on, the band will pay tribute to the launch with a full dome experience, whereby stunning visuals of the solar system and beyond will be played out to 42 minutes of The Dark Side Of The Moon in Planetariums around the world.