An Eye On Culture
'Dark Side' Is Influential
Published: Sunday, September 23, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
A few weeks ago, I engaged in a heated debate with some close friends: What is cooler, the moon or the sun? I was (as usual) alone in defending the moon as the superior celestial being. My friends came at me with utterly confused looks and random facts, pointing to the sun as “giving life,” something that “we’d all be lost without,” etc. But my stubborn mind wouldn’t give in. That wasn’t the question. The question was what’s cooler, not more essential.
I’ve always been kind of obsessed with the moon. One of my favorite things about elementary school science, which I was not usually enthralled by, to say the least, was our brief introduction to the phases of the moon. I always thought it was cool that Islamic civilization uniquely followed a lunar calendar, and kind of wished we did the same. The moon efficiently and amazingly controls the tides. It’s dark, beautiful, and mysterious.
After the debate ended, I realized that maybe when I was a young, impressionable youth, I simply associated moon science with a pivotal moment in my childhood: listening to Dark Side of the Moon. Cheesy, I know, but that would be the psychoanalytic explanation for my seemingly random obsession: simple word association.
Last year in my Perspectives II class, my professor had “Breathe” passively playing in the background as we all trickled in. I was initially confused, but quickly realized the reason he was playing it. Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd’s eighth studio album, released in 1973, was greatly influenced by Miles Davis’ groundbreaking album Kind Of Blue. Sure, only a nerd like me would know that. But when the song ended, I was shocked to find out that only I, and one other person, knew what the song was.
I remember the first time I listened to Dark Side of the Moon on a CD (now I can ironically include the “back in my day ….” sprinkle on a story with this dated technology). I listened to the entire thing while lying on the floor. I was about 11 years old and not high, as many people feel the need to be while listening to the masterpiece. I was still entranced.
Some say the album, one of the best in music history, exposes the hidden truth about fame, but that is too exclusive an explanation for me. The concept album is about the human experience as a difficult journey, right from the opening heartbeat in “Speak to Me” to the climactic “Great Gig in the Sky.” The world sometimes makes it hard for people to exist, and Pink Floyd is expressing that in their magnum opus. Both sides of the originally released record (I would kill to have been alive when it first debuted) is one uninterrupted piece of music, and express themes of greed, internal conflict, and coping with the unrelenting passage of time. It was immediately successful upon its release, which is rare with music now considered to be classic. Dark Side was a phenomenon. If your parents were around during its release, I guarantee they locked themselves in their room to get lost in it.
A captivating feature of Dark Side is one that might be overlooked. While it’s certainly not an album famous for its lyricism, the lyrics are necessarily poignant and thought-provoking. Quietly and strategically recorded over certain tracks are interviews with Pink Floyd’s members, crew, or philosophical quotes that add another dimension for a conscientious listener.
Some have compared Dark Side to Radiohead’s OK Computer, as they both express how individuals can tragically lose their individuality and get lost in the modern world. I’d say it’s a fair comparison, but you gotta love the original. If you think you’re the only one who worries about your immortality, listen to “Time.”
What’s so important about this album is what it did and meant for music during its time and beyond. Pink Floyd used the most advanced production technology for this album, including tape loops, multi-track/multi-voice recording and analogue synthesizers. What would electro music today be without such techniques?
One of my close friends hadn’t ever heard this album. So naturally, we drove to the nearest public library and rented the CD. It was raining torrentially when we got back in the car. I pushed the disc into the player and turned up the volume. We weren’t high, but we were hooked.