Skip to main content

Collector's Corner: The many sides of ?Dark Side of the Moon?

Sort out the various versions of the classic Pink Floyd album on the market.

Record collectors. They’re a funny lot, really. Just ask yourself, for example, how many times you have replaced a particular disc in your collection. Once? Twice? Five times?

Any other collector, a philatelist or numismatist, for instance, might go a lifetime without ever again touching a particular favorite in their album… maybe upgrading if a better conditioned example comes along, but otherwise content in the knowledge that the space is filled, the gap is plugged, and it doesn’t matter how many brightly colored replicas come along, their original acquisition remains inviolate.

Record collectors, on the other hand…. You buy an album in 1973. A couple of years later you upgrade your sound system to quadraphonic, in the days when that was considered the wave of the future. So, you buy the album again. Quad withers and dies, and your old stereo copy is looking a little worn. You pick up a new copy, and, somewhere around the late 1970s, you maybe grab the picture disc as well, just because it looks so nifty.

The mid-1980s arrive, bearing with them, CD. Out with the old, in with the new. Except the CD doesn’t sound half as good, so you pick up the latest vinyl repressing, then upgrade the CD when the remaster arrives.

Another copy arrives as part of a box set, another turns up in SACD. An anniversary edition promises the best sound quality ever, and a DVD-Audio projects pretty images across your widescreen TV… a picture disc with a superiority complex! And so on and so forth until the fateful day when you’re browsing through a Pink Floyd discography, and you realize, to your horror, that you have now owned no less than a dozen different versions of Dark Side Of The Moon, and not one of them sounds as vital as the first one you ever purchased, all those decades before. But, whereas a stamp or coin collector would still have his copy filed neatly away, yours went to the used store long ago.

Thirty-five years is a long time in the life of a gramophone record, which is one reason why the above analogy doesn’t work. Most collectors dread the day when they find they have to physically touch their collectibles and would never dream of actually using them for the purpose for which they were intended.

Record collectors, on the other hand, cannot help but play with their purchases, because what would be the point of owning them in the first place? And some records are simply born to be played and played and played again, until the stylus carves great chasms through the grooves, and the clicks and scratches are as loud as the music, the sleeve becomes tattered and the inserts get lost.

Of course you have to buy it again, and there’s something you’ve probably never thought about. Science has spent lifetimes trying to create a perpetual motion machine, without ever realizing that the music industry got there years ago. It’s called… us.

There again, Dark Side Of The Moon is one of those albums that does inspire undying loyalty. From the moment it was released, on March 17, 1973 (March 24 in the U.K. and Europe), Pink Floyd’s sixth studio album (ninth if you count soundtracks) was regarded as a cut above anything the band had ever released in the past and a monumental achievement by anybody’s standards.

Stereo salesmen in particular adored it, and it’s still difficult, all these years later, to pass a hi-fi showroom without hearing an excerpt from Dark Side Of The Moon wafting out of the door. And, if it was good enough for them, then it was good enough for everyone. You would search long and hard to find anybody who was content to keep their copy of the album once it developed a scratch or two, because what is the point of pristine reproduction if it’s scarred with extraneous surfa