True 5-Star Albums: Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’

By Susan Sliwicki

IF EVER THERE WAS AN ALBUM THAT HAS IT ALL, it’s “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

The iconic cover design by Hipgnosis makes the album’s outer package appealing, but it’s the music on the record inside that’s kept generations of listeners coming back for more. The album’s 15 straight years on the Billboard charts bears testament to the quality of the music. While the “Wizard of Oz” urban legend may have boosted sales a bit, you don’t get multiple generations to buy your music if it’s crap.

From the clever lyrics about mundane things to intricate instrumentals and rock-steady beatkeeping, the musicianship is impeccable. Clare Torry’s vocal solo on “Great Gig In The Sky” is so nuanced, no words are needed. That’s fortunate, as none actually were written for the part.

Clocking in just shy of 43 minutes — not exactly modus operandi for a prog-rock album, let alone concept album — “Dark Side” is a masterpiece in economy. When the album ends, you hunger for more (unlike “The Wall,” where I’ve found myself checking my watch because I’ve tired of the overblown filler.)

Above all else, the music sounds as fresh today as it did when it was released in March 1973. Nothing dates the songs or makes the album feel like some embarrassing fad you’ve long since outgrown.

The first time I heard “The Dark Side of the Moon,” I was 5 or 6, and I was driving my big brother batty in the way little sisters who adore older siblings often do. In a last-ditch effort to get me to stop chattering and give him some peace, he put “Dark Side” on the turntable.

I was spellbound.

I didn’t understand all of the lyrics — something made crystal clear when I wandered around singing parts of “Brain Damage,” which likely freaked out my mom to no end. Young me loved “Money” for the sound effects and “Time” for the cool percussion, which, unfortunately, you cannot replicate at home using pencils, upside-down trash cans and empty oatmeal canisters, no matter how hard you try.

These days, my trash bins are upright, my pencils stay mostly in their can, and, if pressed for a favorite track, I’d pick “Great Gig In the Sky.” But Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon” remains a constant companion. I suspect that 40 years from now, I’ll jack my hearing aid into the music player of the day, and I’ll clop down the hallway with my walker while I belt out “the lunatic is on the grass.” At least I won’t freak out my mother.

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