Pink Floyd are arguably the masters of progressive rock and have produced some of the most creative and artistic albums in history with a career spanning more than 40 years. It’s a deep shame that art like this doesn’t top the charts anymore and is instead littered with songs about love, sex and affairs rehashed in 100 different ways as oppose to the more complex and interesting themes of human life that bands such as Pink Floyd explored such as religion, mental health, mortality and war.
I am not going to write a review of one of their albums, because who am I to criticise one of the best musical masterpieces in history. Instead, I am going to pass comment on an album that has been played to me from the age of three and has always had a place in my life growing up to the adult that I am now.
Dark Side of the Moon opens with ‘Speak to Me’ a track that is meant to give the listener an overview of the album to come, featuring some of the most recognisable effects such as the heartbeat and the cash register.
The whole album flows seamlessly from one track into another with no pause in between, having ‘Speak to Me’ end and jump straight into ‘Breathe’. The third track ‘On The Run’ has a Space like introduction and the drum beat is reflective of a metronome. This track really makes you feel like you’re on a ship flying through space.
Time opens with ticking and then waterfall like crashing of a grandfather clock chiming. Deep, low pitch chord strikes open the main body of the track. The Squealing guitar solo delivered by Gilmour provides an element of travel and continues the listener’s journey through space. As with the rest of this album, the lyrical content is simple yet full of meaning and clever phrasing. Below is one of the best lines from ‘Time’.
‘Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way’ – Pink Floyd, ‘Time’.
On to perhaps the most genius song ever written, ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’, where the likes of Lemmy and Bowie are probably performing looking down on us. A song about mortality and the stunning vocals brought by Clare Torry were created by her trying to emulate the instrumental content. Her vocal recordings ended up replacing the bands original plan to have religious texts read over the track.
Known for its unique time signature beginning with 7/8 and changing to 4/4, ‘Money’ has long been my absolute favourite Floyd song from having it played to me by my mother when I was a young child and always finding the sound of the cash register to be quite a novelty. The themes of this track are also relevant in society with the exploration of wealth, greed and capitalism.
‘Money, so they say,
Is the root of all evil today,
But if you ask for a rise it’s no surprise that they’re giving none away’.
Pink Floyd, ‘Money’.
Next up is ‘Us and Them’, a track with a much deeper meaning that has some of the saddest lyrical content on the album, the example below is talking about a homeless man. The main themes look at war and civil rights and the echo on the vocals creates a depth to the track and aids in transporting the listener to the centre of the music on a journey of conflict. A Beautiful saxophone solo is also featured.
‘Out of the way
It’s a busy day
I’ve got things on my mind
For want of the price
Of tea and a slice
The old man died’ – Pink Floyd, ‘Us and Them’.
As with most Pink Floyd material there is often a strong focus on the instrumental side of the tracks as oppose to the lyrical content and ‘Any Colour You Like’ is a perfect example of this. It continues the space like theme of the album opening with a physcadelic synth solo and ending on more of a funk groove, whilst being entirely instrumental.
Written surrounding the mental breakdown of original Floyd member Sid Barrett, ‘Brain Damage’ opens with the line ‘The lunatic is on the grass’. The lyrics further in the song reading, ‘And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes’ references his tendency to start playing the wrong song which he began to do towards the end of his time in the band.
The final track ‘Eclipse’, ends on a heartbeat sound effect with Gerry O’Driscoll, the doorman for Abbey Road studios, speaking these words, ‘There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark’.
There is an exhibition available until October at the V&A, ‘Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains’, which takes a look at the history of Pink Floyd and provides an insight into their creative genius.
Details can be found here: https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/pink-floyd.