AGE 25 on March 24, DSOTM is one of the great monuments of rock history - as overwhelming aesthetically as it is statistically. That is, it's pretty dazzling that the album has sold around 29 million copies worldwide, already the biggest album by a British band ever, but is still shifting a million more every year; and that despite never reaching Number 1 in the UK, it stayed in the Top 75 for 310 consecutive weeks from the day of its release and, even now, puts in a periodic appearance during the record token season (Number 72 again just after New Year '98); that in America, where it did make Number 1 just once, it hung around the Billboard Top 200 for 740 straight weeks, more than 14 years; that when Billboard introduced an American Back Catalogue chart in the early '90s, it went straight to Number 1 and has stayed in the Top 5 ever since.
But it remains even more impressive to listen to it. What's more it's not at all a sign of age or an admission of guilt in the court of cool to admit admiring it or, perhaps, loving it. Since punk gave Pink Floyd a generational kicking, Dark Side Of The Moon has persuaded successive new waves of musical modes that their veteran credentials hold good. If anything, the '90s have regarded them with particular fondness. When dance music exploded and declared everything that went before obsolete, the chart-topping Shamen were suddenly observed, hands aloft, proclaiming Pink Floyd a major source and inspiration. When Brit pop reasserted the primacy of three-minute song, guitar and good times, there were Radiohead wafting airily through the jostling crowd with the weird, engrossing OK Computer, and a skein of reviewers enquiring who they'd been consorting with on the dark side of the moon, ha-ha.
Pink Floyd are influential yet. Dark Side Of The Moon is the reason why, their sine qua non. Without it, they might have remained a fascinating eccentricity of the post-hippy era. After all, to return to those commercial indicators of status, none of their six previous albums had sold more than 250,000. Their 1967 Top 10 single, See Emily Play, proved their last hit for 12 years. In America, their albums had never risen higher than Atom Heart Mother's Number 55 in 1970.
The question "Why Dark Side Of The Moon?" is honestly unanswerable except by generalities. The key appears to be the acute balance of opposites. It's full of electronics, technology, sound effects, synthesizers, space, intellectuality. But it's also full of soul, big emotions, voices singing and speaking from the heart, guitars and saxophones doing the same. It's full of great big noises - and quietness that's almost subsonic.
Then there's the language. Quite consciously, Roger Waters concentrated on symbols of simple, fundamental extremes: "the sun and the moon, the light and the dark, the good and the bad, the life force as opposed to the death force," as he once put it. And somehow this did not come across as an academic exercise, an ABC of poetic imagery - perhaps because of what he expressed once when explaining what the album's title, taken from the song Brain Damage, meant to him: "The line 'I'll see vou on the dark side of the moon' is me speaking to the listener, saying, I know you have these bad feelings and impulses, because I do too, and one of the ways I can make contact with you is to share the fact that I feel bad sometimes."
But plenty of artists can explain their work quite lucidly. It doesn't necessarily mean their music will touch millions for a quarter of a century. Part of the album's power must lie in the background and experience of the four members of Pink Floyd. All of them middle-class, they had been touched bv the mental discipline and orderliness of a decent education; Roger Waters and Nick Mason studied architecture and Rick Wright classical piano.
But only up to a point. Then they veered away into the electronic underground of late '60s London. Although they never lost the quintessentially English emotional reserve they all share, Pink Floyd learnt to dig out of themselves a sliver of the wildness of their friend Syd Barrett, the endless improviser, and they learnt to bring to bear some of the hard feelings they admired in R&B (Gilmour's forte) and traditional blues (which Waters grew up with via the cultural milieu of his mother's radical politics).
Beyond such rationalisation, naturally, lies an unfathomable 90 per cent of the music, the music makers and the way their listeners respond to them. For sure, Pink Floyd thought they had made a great album and then millions of other people did too. But within that satisfactory outcome, many of the detailed ramifications had nothing to do with the band's character or intentions.
Dark Side Of The moon was widely enjoyed as great drug music, the soundtrack to a perfect trip on the listener's narcotic vehicle of choice. It was widely assumed that Pink Floyd wrote and recorded the album while similarly loaded. But, interviewed by MOJO for this feature, David Gilmour insists that this is one of the great, enduring misconceptions about Pink Floyd. "Roger's and Nick's largest indulgence was alcohol, mine and Rick's might have involved the occasional reefer," he allows. "But at that time we were nothing like our image. I'm not sure Roger's ever taken LSD - it certainly wasn't on our menu after Syd left [April, 1968]. We've never got away from that reputation, though, not to this day."
By late 1971, when they started to write Dark Side Of The Moon, Gilmour was the only unmarried member of Pink Floyd. Mason and Wright both had their first children. They were serious men with serious lives making a serious album. But success took it beyond their control, beyond their plans, beyond anything they meant (or thought they meant). The fate of The Great Gig In The Sky, closing vinyl side one, perhaps best illustrates how far music can get away from its creators. Conceptually proposed as the track about death, in the '70s it was known to be the favourite backing tape for Amsterdam sex shows. Then in 1990 Australian radio listeners voted it The World's Best Song To Make Love To. And in 1994 Neurofen adopted it, through a facsimile re-recording, as their soundtrack to a godawful headache and its cure. Magic is a funny business.
NOWADAYS, THINK PINK FLOYD AND YOU THINK YEARS in the studio, hundreds of takes, weighty deliberation, obsessive perfectionism, come out to play once every five years if they can be arsed. Because of its monolithic standing, Dark Side Of The Moon has been absorbed into that picture of rock in its grand old man phase. But its true story is of non-stop tearing around.
It started in a rush. Albeit a sit-down-and-think sort of rush. A North American tour closed in Cincinnati on November 20, 1971. The band reconvened in London about 10 days later at a familiar rehearsal studio in Broadhurst Gardens, near West Hampstead tube station, with a view to writing a new album. But there could be no idle waiting on a visitation from the muse. A harsh deadline had presented itself.
Their first substantial British tour for four years was booked to start on January 20. Their concert schedule was already laden through to 1973, leaving little time for recording. Yet reviewers had been saying for some months that their shows had gone stale for lack of new material. In the ontext of the times, the band tended to agree. Indeed, in interviews earlier that year, disappointed by their last two albums Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother, they had spoken with disenchantment of their life and work in Pink Floyd. Waters pronounced himself "bored with most of the stuff we play" and Mason sighed from even more noisome depths of ennui that he was "dying of boredom".
However, they were not despondent. They saw their latest, Meddle, just out, as a step in the right direction - especially the side-long track Echoes, described by Waters as "an epic sound poem". They fancied some more of that and, used to testing out new material on tour, they decided that the songs for their next album should be ready and roadworthy to form the first half of their live show within six or seven weeks. Nothing high-flown about their next move. "When we started on a new album we'd always dredge through old tapes to see if there was anything left over we could make use of," says Gilmour.
This was hardly a sign of desperation; a fairly prolific band, always involved in several fringe projects outside their own albums, they could generally come up with a lump or two of somewhat tarnished gold. And again it worked. Waters began to kick around instrumental called Breathe which he had written for the soundtrack of The Body (a renowned 1970 docu-movie about human biology). Wright excavated a piece Michelangelo Antonioni had rejected for the Zabriskie Point soundtrack, which later took shape as Us And Them. He also resurrected an apparently moribund sequence of piano chords - "one of those things the band just didn't know what to do with," Gilmour recalls - which, in due course, found new life as The Great Gig In The Sky.
But this was just craft and graft, knocking something together, they knew not what. They needed a Eureka! moment and they got it. "When Roger walked into Broadhurst Gardens with the idea of putting it all together as one piece with this linking theme he'd devised, that was a moment," says Gilmour. From the hubbub of the subsequent brainstorming session and the passage of memory through the years come diverse accounts of the big idea Waters presented to them. "The concept was originally about the pressures of modern life - travel, money and so on," Mason has said", but then Roger turned it into a meditation on insanity." On another occasion, the drummer cheerily reported it as a bleak prediction of a future involving "a lot more unpleasantness and general ghastliness".
Rick Wright tends to remember Waters's catalytic concept in terms of reference to his own life. On one level, he thought, it was a satirical critique "about the business". But when it came to the notion of death, and the deployment of his own The Great Gig In The Sky to cover that theme, it hit home: "For me, one of the pressures of being in the band was this constant fear of dying because of all the travelling we were doing in planes and on the motorways in America and in Europe..." In his urbane way, Gilmour will loosely remark that it was "about life, wasn't it", but then he knuckles down to express how much Waters's thinking, and writing, meant to him: "The concept grabbed me. You see, nobody back then had problems with the concept of concepts, so to speak. Their fall from grace happened later and I've never gone off the idea myself. "I didn't pull my weight when we were writing Dark Side Of The Moon - though that wasn't true when we were playing it live and recording. But I went through a bad patch, I didn't work myself as hard as I should have. Hence the credits, you see. But Roger worked all sorts of hours on the concept and the lyrics while the rest of us went home to enjoy our suppers - I still feel appreciative of that; he did a very good job. I think at that time he was finding himself as a lyric writer. He was realising that he could get to grips with more serious issues, some political and others that involved him personally [Pink Floyd shorthand for both the death of Waters's father on the beach at Anzio in 1944 when Roger was a few months old, and the mental collapse of Syd ' Barrett]. His style had developed and improved. I remember him saying ) that he wanted to write this album absolutely straight, clear and direct, for nothing to be hidden in mysteries, to get away from all the psychedelic warblings and say exactly what he wanted for the first time."
They had to get on. Time and Money, high-concept titles, came quickly enough. Then from December 13 to 21 they decamped to Paris to record and shoot more footage for the Live At Pompeii film, begun on location that October. After Christmas they switched operations to The Rolling Stones' warehouse studio in Bermondsey, writing while rehearsing their full set for the tour.
Come January 20 at the Brighton Dome, what was then titled Eclipse was still a work in progress. But that didn't bother Pink Floyd overmuch. In effect, for them, that was the point. They could change the songs on the hoof if they needed to and jam the between song segue music they planned for the album, see what fitted. As it happened, Brighton lost the retrospective honour of a world's first complete performance when the effects tape for Money snagged terminally and they had to move on to Atom Heart Mother. According full run- through ensued the following night at Portsmouth Guildhall. Pink Floyd pushed on round the circuit, enjoying the usual privations and laughs. At the Lanchester Polytechnic Arts Festival on February 3 their magnum opus was wheeled on at 2.30 a.m., immediately after Chuck Berry had left the stage. As they went they tweaked the new songs this way and that. Time had begun life much slower than in its recorded form and accelerated in performance; the vocals shifted from Gilmour/Wright harmony throughout to solo leads by Gilmour on the verses and Wright on the bridge.
But for Pink Floyd the whole tour felt like a build-up to four gigs at The Rainbow, February 17-20, featuring the re-titled "Dark Side Of The Moon - A Piece For Assorted Lunatics", as advertised. Evidently, the band had that Broadway feeling. They will still boast that no one had filled so many nights at the Finsbury Park venue before. Gilmour admits it was "nerve-wracking playing our home city again" and, in truth, remembers nothing of any live performances before they reached London, not even their Brighton debacle. Happily, they felt able to pronounce the shows terrific. The ordinarily stolid Financial Times went further, proclaiming that "the Floyd have the furthest frontiers of pop music to themselves". However, their joy was allayed, in part, when they discovered that a quality bootleg of Dark Side Of The Moon at The Rainbow had hit the racks at all bad record shops. It went on to sell an estimated 120, 000 and deterred Pink Floyd from ever developing unreleased material in concert again.
SO FAR, SO PURPOSEFUL. ELEVEN WEEKS ON FROM STARTING to write the album and they already had a hit bootleg. But they were still more than a year away from releasing the official version. Theirs was a life of distractions, some planned, some not. One of the stranger aspects of the making of this epochal record is that, once written, it seems to have been recorded in fragments, when they had a moment, on odd days, if they could tear themselves away from... recording another whole album of new music, for instance.
Given Pink Floyd's penchant for stately progress through the '80s and '90s, it's remarkable to encounter the spontaneity of earlier days. "Barbet Schroeder, whom we had made the More soundtrack album for in 1969, said would we like to work on another film with him," remembers Gilmour. "We said yes. And off we went."
On February 23, in fact, for seven days, followed by another five days from March 23, both stints at the 'honky' Chateau D'Herouville, near Paris. The film, La Valee, concerned a bunch of hippies wandering round New Guinea in search of said lost valley and, inevitably, the meaning of life. Pink Floyd could relate to that and they set to in ultra-professional vein. "We sat in a room, wrote, recorded, like a pro-duction line,." says Gilmour, who had recovered his compositional form by then. "Very good for one to work like that sometimes - under extreme constraints of time and of trying to meet someone else's needs. " He's quite clear that Pink Floyd's seemingly artistic-butterfly approach in 1972 was far more pragmatic than it looks, reflecting the reality of their musical lives at the time: as middle-class boys from comfortable backgrounds, they still felt uncertain and insecure enough about their future in a pop group to explore other avenues which might extend their careers. "I suppose it seems silly now," he muses. "But we thought of films as one of our possible futures."
They still had to fulfil a lot of touring commitments, playing and revising the putative album as they passed through Japan (March 3-16), Manchester (March 29-30, replacing a February show aborted by a power cut), North America (April 14-May 4), Germany and Holland (May 18-22). Then, finally, just as Obscured By Clouds, the La Valee soundtrack album, was released, they moved into Abbey Road to put in a good 18 days work on Dark Side Of The Moon between June 1 and 25. The basic tracks for Us And Them were taped on June 1, Money June 7, Time June 8 and The Great Gig In The Sky June 25.
But the studio sequence was broken when they played two nights at the Brighton Dome, assiduously apologetic replacements for the unsatisfactory show on January 20. And the Dome audience got a first after all. Proving the value of roadwork, Waters came back from America with a new song to close the album, Eclipse. "The piece felt unfinished to me when we were doing it on the road," he says. "I came in one day and said, Here, I've just written the ending and this is it." Brighton heard the world premiere. At this juncture, it seems appropriate to ask how Pink Floyd coped with such a hectic, erratic, unfocused schedule. Gilmour shrugs it off: "I didn't find it a problem. Go off to America, come back, do three or four days work on an album, off again - we were used to it. Nick has the year planners from those days and every day is full. Record in the morning, drive up to Newcastle for a gig in the evening, that sort of thing every single day of the whole year."
"THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL, THAT WAS A WONDERFUL SHOW," says Gilmour, summoning up one image from their second North American tour of 1972. "We still didn't have any films to go with Dark Side Of The Moon and we couldn't sell the place out then, it's so enormous. They partitioned off the back half. But what made it was we hired a lot of those big searchlights they use at LA film premieres. We fanned them out backstage and pointed them up at the sky. It looked fantastic. There's a picture of us taken that night which I specially like. We're all pink and mauve."
Thinking back to those road-test gigs, Rick Wright's memories seem to be rather more fraught with the hazards of olde-tyme technology: "It was a bit scary. We'd always have problems with cue tracks to keep in sync with the sound effects and visuals - we were one of the first bands to use them, click tracks they're called now. It was a massive headache because the equipment was pretty unreliable. There were a lot of missed cues and struggles to get back in time, whereas today with everything digital it goes like clockwork."
After their holidays, Pink Floyd plunged back into the maelstrom of activity on which they professed to thrive. Fifteen concerts in North America through September.
Nine days on the album in October, but three more dropped so that they could play a benefit for War On Want at Wembley Empire Pool on October 21 - Sounds' reviewer noted that, "They gave the packed stadium a faultless demonstration of what psychedelic music is all about... Dark Side Of The Moon is an eerie title for an equally eerie piece of music that takes the listener through a host of different moods." No sweat with regard to completing the album, although October 27 turned out to be their last day at Abbey Road until January 18. Throughout that period, between short bursts of gigging in Europe, they gave much of their attention to a grandiose and ultimately preposa terous project proposed by Roland Petit, eminent avant-garde choreographer of Les Ballets de Marseilles.
"It started off with discussions about us doing the music for an epic ballet and movie of Marcel Proust's A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu," says Gilmour. "Again, we were interested because we thought of it as one of the possible ways to extend the scope of what we could do in the future." Naturally, Pink Floyd were expected to read the source material. Legend has it that Gilmour waved the white flag on Proust Mter 118 pages, while Waters asserts he did plough through Swann's Way Volume 2 before concluding, "Fuck this, I can't handle it, it goes too slowly for me." When this critical judgment was conveyed to Petit, he resourcefully suggested realignment to Scheherezade's One Thousand And One Nights - which still sounded like a long job.
"There were long dinners with Petit, Rudolph Nureyev and Roman Polanski which came to nothing," Gilmour recalls. More coarsely, Waters is prone to suggesting that it all ended in "much poovery" among the ballet types, but little progress on the planning front. Eventually, says Gilmour caustically, the grand design crumbled to "a bit of old ballet danced to a bit of old music". Nonetheless, Pink Floyd did their bit, rehearsing the company through a programme comprising One Of These Days, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Obscured By Clouds, When You're In and Echoes, then backing the dancers live in Marseilles, November 20-26, then again in Paris, two shows a day, on January 13-14, 1973, and February 3-4. Although Sounds' ballet correspondent pronounced himself impressed with the denouement to Echoes when the leading male dancer dragged the prima ballerina "right across the width of the stage with her in the splits position", the band emerged rather disabused of their aspirations in this particular field of high art.
"In the end," reckons Gilmour, "the reality of all these people prancing around in tights in front of us didn't feel like what we wanted to do long term." Just as well, really. They still had an album to finish - accomplished, if the most trainspotterly accounts are accurate, in 11 more days at Abbey Road between January 18 and February 1: a total of 38 days in the studio spread over seven months. A diffuse process, then, but Waters' concept held strong through all the diversions and digressions. Whenever they were at Abbey Road, the album would quickly fall back into focus again and their mutual support was never in doubt. "We were stuck in a small room for days on end and we did work very well together as a band," says Gilmour. "If we weren't playing, Roger and I would be at the mixing desk usually and grabbing the talk-back to say our piece; Rick and Nick sat in throughout and gave us their thoughts if they wanted to. They still do, even though it takes so much longer to record a Pink Floyd album now."
At this apogee of co-operation, they brought out the best in each other. Waters felt free to explore with words and sounds, while Gilmour diligently rummaged through his extensive library of rockist ideas - he enjoys confessing to the theft of Eric Clapton's Leslie speaker sound from Badge for Any Colour You Like, and borrowing the alternation of echoey and dry sounds on Money from Elton John. Engineer Alan Parsons notes that Gilmour took several hours to prepare his guitar sounds for each track, but then recorded straightforwardly with one mic, very fast and at "wall-shaking" volume. It was important too that, despite their collective confidence, Pink Floyd were able to enlist and inspire spectacular contributions from outsiders who were recruited from beyond the usual session elite roster.
When, during the October sessions, they wondered whether a sax might do the trick for Money and/or Us And Them, they were uncertain, says Gilmour, because they had never used the instrument solo before. So he persuaded the band to try his old mate Dick Parry, who he had played with in a Sunday night jazz band at the Dorothy Ballroom in Cambridge. Although this was not necessarily a world- beating credential, Gilmour says, "It's nice to involve your friends, people you have empathy with. There were several big names we could have gone to, but it can be tedious bringing in these brisk, professional sessionmen. A bit intimidating."
Conversely, when Waters suggested that a drop of vocal might set the seal on The Great Gig In The Sky none of the band had heard of Clare Torry. They simply accepted a recommendation from Parsons. "We'd been thinking Madeline Bell or Doris Troy, and we couldn't believe it when this housewifely white woman walked in," says Gilmour. "But when she opened her mouth, well, she wasn't too quick at finessing what we wanted, but out came that orgasmic sound we know and love." Pink Floyd were in their youthful prime. They stretched themselves, they stretched others, they stretched the technology. Curious about the latest gizmos, they made the VCS3 synthesizer a feature of Dark Side Of The Moon after Gilmour had visited the inventor, former BBC Radiophonic Workshop stMfer Peter Zinovieff, at his home in Putney: "He built this thing in his garden shed. He showed me the original machine, masses of wires and hundreds of components all around the walls, floor to ceiling, which he had miniaturised down to a briefcase model. I've still got one and we used it on the last album."
But they were also determined to improvise and try to achieve whatever they heard in their imagination, no matter how donkey-cart the equipment available to them then. Their click track was a miked-up metronome. An unorthodox vibrato effect could be created by a patient band member wiggling an oscillator with his finger throughout a track. To produce certain echoes or delays, tape could be spooled around a mikestand on the other side of the control room and hand-fed into the Studer recorder. "The Floyd were famous for using every machine in the studio, with wires trailing down the corridors and mangled tape strewn over the studio floor," says Parsons. Even so, perhaps the crucial factor that elevated Dark Side Of The Moon to the rock pantheon was the yearlong summer of love between Waters and Gilmour. Parsons watched them cheek-by-jowl in the control room and found it impossible to deduce which one was the leader. So relaxed were they that "they produced each other - Roger would produce Dave playing guitar and singing and Dave would produce Roger doing his vocals."
One of Gilmour's sweeter memories of his erstwhile colleague concern his lead vocals on Brain Damage and Eclipse: "He'd rarely sung leads before and he was very shy about his voice. I encouraged him. On occasions, he would try to persuade me to sing for him and I wouldn't. The truth is that our working relationship remained very good even through making most of The Wall. There were many moments when we were really talking well together and told each other so. We had huge rows, but they were about passionate beliefs in what we were doing. Roger is a very intelligent and creative person and I am very stubborn and pig- headed, but I think I have a good musical sense. Sometimes he would be willing to sacrifice all sorts of musical moments to get his message arross. Our roles were complementary, at least in theory. We recognised each other's strengths and weaknesses. We would prevent one another's worst excesses and indulgences."
Gilmour recognises the insight behind an oft-repeated Waters remark about Pink Floyd being divided between architects (himself and Mason) and musicians (Gilmour and Wright): "That's fair. Roger believed he could bring to bear on our work elements of what he had learnt about structure and dynamics." He's equally acquiescent when it comes to an apercu from another Pink Floyd sound engineer, Nick Griffiths, who said that "Dave made people enjoy it and Roger made them think". "I wouldn't argue with that," nods Gilmour. "A bit simplistic, but it'll do. It's a great combination if you can please both minds and hearts."
"THERE WAS A MOMENT WHEN IT ALL CAME TOGETHER," says Gilmour, insouciance quivering a little for once at the magnitude of this memory. "Eventually we'd finished mixing all the tracks, but until the very last day we'd never heard them as the continuous piece we'd been imagining for more than a year. We had to literally snip bits of tape, cut in the linking passages and stick the ends back together. Finally you sit back and listen all the way through at enormous volume. I can remember it. It was absolutely É"He teeters on the edge of some precipitous adjective, but at the last second Englishness tugs him back to safety -and bathos. "It was really exciting," he sighs. While Pink Floyd had chance to display their capacity for hauter when only Rick Wright turned up for Dark Side Of The Moon's press launch because EMI had failed to install a quadraphonic system for the play-back at London's Planetarium, they could not remain aloof when, on March 31, it topped the American album chart, boosted by Money reaching the singles Top 20 and a revived promotional shove from Capitol. As Mason succinctly put it, "That changed everything."
Andy Warhol came to see them at Radio City Music Hall, New York, on March 17; 20,000 came to see them at Earls Court on May 18-19 (where a plane swooped down from the roof to crash on stage and the band appeared to fire a barrage of rockets into the audience). Suddenly Pink Floyd were both chic and enormous. "I think we were underground until Dark Side Of The Moon," says Mason. "Before, we were seen as some form of intellectual rock'n'roll. But its success was our defining moment. You can draw a direct line from the release of that album to our current global scorched-earth policy."
"It was Money that made the difference rather than Dark Side Of The Moon," says Gilmour. "It gave us a much larger following, for which we should be thankful. But it included an element that wasn't versed in Pink Floyd's ways. It started from the first show in America [Madison, Wisconsin]. People at the front shouting, 'Play Money! Gimme something I can shake my ass to!' We had to get used to it, but previously we'd been playing to 10,000-seaters where, in the quiet passages, you could hear a pin drop. One always has a bit of nostalgia for the days when we could perform without compromise to that level of dynamics. "I think that tendency is what culminated for Roger in the famous Montreal incident at the end of the Animals tour when he spat at a fan. Something's lost and something's gained in living every day, you know - Joni Mitchell said that."
Additional Information: Classic Albums ed. John Pidgeon, BBC; Pink Floyd: An
Illustrated History by Patrick Humphries, Chameleon; Pink Floyd: In The Flesh
- The Complete Performance History by Glenn Povey/Ian Russell, Bloomsbury; Pink
Floyd The Visual Documentary by Miles/Andy Mabbett, Omnibus; Pink Floyd Through
The Eyes Of...The Band, It's Fans, Friends And Foes ed. Bruno MacDonald,
Sidgwick & Jackson; Saucerful Of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey by Nicholas
Schaffner, Sidgwick & Jackson.
The tension of opposites would pull Pink Floyd apart. But 25 years ago it struck sparks. Laying bare the creative process, for the first time ever Roger tells Peter Henderson the track-by-track story of Dark Side Of The Moon.
"I WAS GETTING STRONG URGES," SAYS ROGER WATERS, excitedly. But, of course, this is perhaps the most decorous Englishman ever to become a rock star. Clintonian inferences are not to be drawn. Nor is he a great one for the fine art of the double entendre. No, his urges were intellectual. They expressed themselves in concepts and - since he is a musician avidly recalling the early '70s and one of his lifetime's creative apogees - in concept albums.
But, for all its fevered implications, "urges" is obviously the right word. Nothing cold or passionless about the Waters intellect. Nothing cold or passionless about all the thinking, probably agonising, he put into creating the backbone of ideas which gave Dark Side Of The Moon its durability. Musically, to Pink Floyd he was both architect and brickie. He built to last. At least, he had always intended to. And by 1971, within the context of the band's leaps-and bounds development via Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother to Meddle, his ability matched his ambition. He says: "I was getting strong urges to make extended pieces with segues between tracks and also to develop pieces where the songs have relationships. Echoes, which was one side of Meddle, was very much the father and mother of Dark Side Of The Moon in that it had a lot of similar techniques. It's difficult to remember the exact chronology, but I think we had already started improvising around some pieces at Broadhurst Gardens, and after I had written a couple of the lyrics for the songs I suddenly thought, I know what would be good: to make a whole record about the different pressures that apply in modern life."
The suggestion proved a powerful catalyst to the others. Together they drew up a list of themes: travel (On The Run), the encroachment of old age (Time), death and religion (The Great Gig In The Sky), money (Money), violence (Us And Them) and madness (Brain Damage). Insofar as these subjects were to be drawn together by words, Waters took sole responsibility, though with little competition at the time particularly because the writing phase in December 1971 caught Gilmour creatively off-colour. After his acrimonious departure from the band over a decade later, Waters was given to scornful dismissals of his colleagues' lack of lyrical input on Pink Floyd's most successful album.
For instance, in a 1993 interview with the Washington Post's Richard Harrington he scoffed: "Nobody else in the band could write lyrics, there were no other lyricists after Syd left. David's written a couple of songs, but they were nothing special. I don't think Nick ever tried to write a lyric, and Rick probably did in the early days but they were awful."
But on this occasion, for once, he seems inclined to give good work and good times their due. "When we were making Dark Side Of The Moon I was definitely less dominant than I later became. We were pulling together pretty cohesively," he allows. As he works towards the minutiae of track-by-track reminiscence, this unusually positive reflection is only in keeping with the philosophy he chewed ragged then stitched back into shape over the course of 14 months writing, touring and recording the album. As he explains, the ideas racing as urgently as ever, it goes: "We all fight small battles between the positive and the negative in our everyday lives, and I'm obsessed with truth and how the futile scramble for material things obscures our path to a more fulfilling existence. That's what Dark Side Of The Moon is about. And despite the rather depressing ending with Brain Damage and Eclipse, there is an allowance that all things are possible, that the potential is in our hands." Big stuff. As so often, such weighty ruminations probably proved communicable, digestible and even meaningful for an audience from all nations and backgrounds only because they were conveyed amid the emotional messages of music. But perhaps the masterstroke that broke down the barriers between Waters's intensely personal world view - largely preoccupied, judging by the creative evidence, with his father's death in the Second World War and with Syd Barrett's decline into mental illness - and an infinitely diverse every person was that, right at the end of recording, he hit on the notion of adding the fragments of dialogue which became such a feature on the record.
Far from the randomly 'found sounds' which they would also use on occasions, these were carefully elicited, then edited by Waters. "I still glow with pleasure at how well that worked," he enthuses. "I devised a series of about 20 questions on pieces of card. They were in order and ranged from obscure questions like, What does the phrase 'the dark side of the moon' mean to you?, to a series of questions that related to each other like, When was the last time you were violent? and then, Do you think you were in the right? We asked people to just go into an empty studio, look at the top card, respond to it, move on to the next card and respond to that, and so on until they'd done all the cards. We showed them to everyone from Paul McCartney to Jerry Driscoll, the Abbey Road doorman." In fact, Driscoll hit the spot with his man-in-the-street yet unique responses such as his answer to the question, Are you frightened of dying?, "I'm not frightened of dying. Any time will do, I don't mind." A couple of years later the band actually agreed to pay him a session fee.
Still glowing, Waters launched into his detailed breakdown of the album - abetted
here as relevant by separate interviews with other participants including
engineer Alan Parsons, mixer Chris Thomas and The Great Gig In The Sky singer
"I thought the album needed some kind of overture and I fiddled around with the heartbeat, the sound effects and Clare Torry screaming until it sounded right." Waters has often said he gave the credit as a gift to Nick Mason - an account supported by Gilmour - though, after his relations with the band curdled, he came to express bitter regret for his generosity. The album's opening sound is a heartbeat fading up, an idea dating back to Pink Floyd's work on the Zabriskie Point soundtrack in 1970. Live, it would start while the auditorium lights were still on and build up over several minutes. Artistically, it seems to have done the job as a shrewdly, perhaps crudely, direct route to the pulse of any listener. But, technically, Alan Parsons, who had previously worked with Pink Floyd in more lowly roles on Atom Heart Mother and Ummagumma, recalls it with little joy because the bass drum tape loop which creates the heartbeat illusion became "rather crappy" as it passed through "a lot of tape generations" and acquired "this nasty modulation of noise".
However, Parsons did have the satisfaction of christening the piece when, testing voice levels for the questionnaire recordings, he would habitually bark down the talk back mic, "Speak to me". The piece is a collage, developed late in the sessions. The heartbeat is eventually joined by a fast-ticking clock, a slower clock and a halfspeed clock from Time, and the intro loop from Money. The first voice heard - saying, "I've been mad for fuckingyears" - is Floyd's then road manager Chris Adamson. Then it's Jerry Driscoll announcing, "I've always been mad. I know I've been mad like the most of us have." The crazed laughter is from Peter 'Puddy' Watts, Floyd's late executive road manager, who was recorded on a previous session. A VCS3 synthesizer supplies the helicopter noise, while towards the end there is a skin-prickling build-up of two backwards chords and screams taken from Torry on The Great Gig In The Sky which accelerate and crash into Breathe's downbeat.
Composer: Mason. Track sheet: Chris Adamson's madness, Jerry's madness, money,
Clare scream, VCS3 buzz, faster clock, slower clock, 1/2 speed clock, heartbeat,
backward chord, backward chord with echo, Peter's loony laugh, click.
"This is one of the pieces that developed out of the writing sessions at Broadhurst Gardens. The rundown in the chorus sounds very Rick-like and I wrote the lyrics and the top line. It's so simple, only two chords. The lyrics, starting with 'Breathe, breathe in the air, Don't be afraid to care', are an exhortation directed mainly at myself, but also at anybody else who cares to listen. It's about trying to be true to one's path." The lengthy introduction features Gilmour on what sounds like a according to the guitarist's recollection that's exactly what it was - he reckons he bought one just before recording Dark Side Of The Moon. However, Waters remembers that he improvised the lap-steel effect by playing an open-tuned Stratocaster across his knees. Whatever, the sound floats, with occasional use of volume pedal, over the bass, drums, electric piano and rhythm guitar backing track. The arrangement ensures a real feeling of space, even after organ, Leslie'd guitars and guitar swells have been added. Gilmour's lead vocals are double-tracked and he sings all the harmonies as well, the two-part chorus vocals echoing Echoes.
Waters: "Dave sang Breathe much better than I could have. His voice suited the song. I don't remember any ego problems about who sang what at that point. There was a balance. You'd just say, How does that sound in your range?"
Parsons: "The vocals would never take very long. Dave's a great singer, it would never be more than a couple of hours, except that sometimes he might give it up and come back another day."
Composers: Waters, Gilmour, Wright. Track sheet: Bass, drums, rhythm guitar,
vocals Dave, harmony vocals Dave, Leslie guitar, slide guitar, swells, intro
"This came together in the studio. What's interesting and gratifying from my point of view in trying to claim ownership of this stuff is that some of Adrian Maben's film Pink Floyd In Pompeii was shot while we were making Dark Side Of The Moon, and there's quite a long shot of me in the studio recording On The Run with the VCS3 [a 'briefcase' model with a sequencer in the lid]. "Trying to find out how the sequencer works, I played something into it and speeded it up and out came the part. I thought, That's quite good. It added a certain tension." Gilmour has a co-writing credit, and his recollection (confirmed by Parsons) is that he first extracted an eight-note sequence from the VCS3 and Waters then got interested and replaced it with one of his own, creating one of the earliest sequences on a record - The Who's Baba O'Reilly, from 1971, being generally accepted as the first notable example.
Parsons: "The whole thing is live, one synthesizer played live. The click in the sound is just a recycling of the sequence that wasn't meant to be there, but it works well." Waters: "Zinovieff VCS synthesizers all had a filter driven from a VCO [oscillator] that would sweep in a very narrow band and the 'shhhhhhhhhheeee' noise is one of those filters sweeping over the basic signal." Until this version emerged, the On The Run slot was filled by various concert jams under the catch-all title of The Travel Section and, to express this area of modern day stress and strain, appropriate sound effects were laid over the VCS3 sequence. Airport noises and a final explosion came from an Abbey Road library sound effects record. The 'train' is simulated by guitar feedback. The spoken line, "Live for today, gone tomorrow", and the subsequent manic laugh came from road manager Roger The Hat after he turned over a Waters card enquiring, Do you fear death?, while Parsons came up with the footsteps.
Parsons: "Often I'd carry on experimenting after they had gone. The footsteps were done by Peter James, the assistant engineer, running around Studio 2, breathing heavily and panting. They loved it when they heard it the next day."
Composers: Waters, Gilmour. Track sheet: Roger the roadie, rhythm VCS3,
heartbeat, swish, explosion, footsteps, VCS3 IJR main, guitar explosion, start
VCS3, boom VCS3.
Parsons: "I had recorded them previously in a watchmaker 's shop for a quadraphonic sound demonstration record, I went in with a mobile and recorded each one separately, ticking then chiming. "The solos were all improvised. Dave used to play at deafening volumes and he had a guitar processor, a Hi-Fly, made by Zinovieff like the VCS3, which was used a lot for guitar sounds throughout the album. It introduced some of the distortion effects and had good phasing and ADT. [Gilmour, incidentally, is convinced he didn't use the Hi-Fly on Time.] He used Hi-Watt amps usually and occasionally Twin Reverbs, but I don't think he ever brought more than one cabinet into the studio, and then the famous Binson Echorec and a Fuzzface fuzzbox. "He wasn't particularly interested in mic placement or EQ on guitar. I would use just one microphone, about a foot away." Gilmour sang lead, with Doris Troy, Lesley Duncan, Liza Strike and Barry St John on backing vocals, which were processed through an early pitch-changing device called a Frequency Translator, built originally as a feedback avoidance unit, which was invented by Abbey Road technician Keith Atkins.
Parsons: "These inventions were never used in the way they were intended. We made this discovery that if you fed it back into itself it made this wonderful swishing noise. "Towards the end of the recording, almost as an afterthought, the heartbeat was added to the song. This was added by Nick Mason playing along with his bass drum." Waters made a late lyric change when he introduced the phrase "Tired of lying in the sunshine" at the start of the second verse,replacing the earlier live version's "Lying supine in the sun". In the '70s and '80s it was impossible to go into a hi-fi shop to try out speakers without being played the beginning of Time - the leisurely pace of which once drew Waters to observe, "I get the feeling there was a serious lack of panic about losing the listeners' interest there." Its open sound and detailed low end perfectly demonstrated the potential of the vinyl LP, making whatever system it was played on sound more impressive.
Composers: Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour. Track sheet: Intro: bass, Farfisa
organ, Rototoms, guitar, electric piano, heartbeat, VCS3, clocks 4 tracks.
Main track: bass, Farfisa organ, drums, guitar, electric piano, harmonies,
vocals, girls d/t, VCS3, solo guitar, stereo solo, heartbeat, translated girls.
"The decision to place Breathe Reprise after Time arose during the process
of working the piece up live before we started recording." Referred to as
"Home Again" during the recordings, it was simply the third verse of Breathe,
detached for structural/emotional reasons.
"Are you afraid of dying? The fear of death is a major part of many lives, and as the record was at least partially about that, that question was asked, but not specifically to fit into this song. I don't remember whose idea it was to get Clare, in but once she sang it was great. One of those happy accidents. The slide guitar was just something that Dave was into at the time. A brilliant sound." Early tags for the piece while the concept was being developed were "The Mortality Sequence" and "Religious Theme". Early live versions incorporated taped Bible readings and a Malcolm Muggeridge speech. Based around a Rick Wright chord progression, it remained an instrumental (with some spoken inserts) until a couple of weeks before the album was finished.
Parsons: "The song sounded really good even before vocals were added to it. It was recorded with Rick in Studio 1 while the rest of the band were in Studio 2. We put a little practical joke over on Rick, making him think the band were playing live when he was actually listening off tape, and when he looked up at the end of the song all of us were standing watching him from the door. They were great ones for carefully planned practical jokes." But eventually (Gilmour's recollection) Waters suggested trying a vocal "to make it more interesting" and Parsons suggested bringing in Clare Torry to sing over it. The resulting improvised vocals surpassed everybody's wildest expectations to provide one of the emotional high points of the record.
Parsons: "I had worked on a session before with Clare and suggested that we try her out on this track. I think one has to give Clare credit; she was just told to go in and 'do your thing', so effectively she wrote what she did. She wailed over a nice chord sequence. There was no melodic guidance at all apart from 'a bit more waily here' or 'more sombre there'. The vocal was done in one session - three hours - no time at all, then a couple of tracks were compiled for the final version." Torry was an EMI staff songwriter, straight out of school, who had just started doing a few vocal sessions: "I received a phone call to come in and do a session for Pink Floyd. It didn't mean much to me at the time, but I accepted and was booked: 7-10pm, Sunday, January 21, Studio 3. "When I arrived they explained the concept of the album to me and played me Rick Wright's chord sequence. They said, 'We want some singing on it.' But didn't know what they wanted, so I suggested going out into the studio and trying a few things. I started off using words but they said, 'Oh no, we don't want any words.' So the only thing I could think of was to make myself sound like an instrument, a guitar or whatever, and not to think like a vocalist. I did that and they loved it. "I did three or four takes very quickly, it was left totally up to me, and they said, 'Thank you very much.' In fact, other than Dave Gilmour, I had the idea they were infinitely bored with the whole thing, and when I left I remember thinking to myself, That will never see the light of day. "If I'd known then what I know now I would have done something about organising copyright or publishing. I would be a wealthy woman now. The session fee in 1973 was X15, but as it was a Sunday I charged a double fee of £30...which I invested wisely, of course." After Jerry Driscoll's stoic rebuttal re fear of dying, comes Puddy Watts's defiantly insecure, "I never said I was frightened of dying."
Composer: Wright. Track sheet: Bass, Jerry, Puddy, kit, piano, ambience, organ
2 tracks, steel 2 tracks, Clare 2 tracks. Recording began: June 25, 1972
"I was just fiddling around on the bass at Broadhurst Gardens and I came up with that riff, seven beats long. The rest of the song developed after I thought, Let's make a record about the pressures that impinge upon young people in pop groups, one of which is money. "It doesn't sound to me like a song that just started to pour out of me, it doesn't feel close enough to the nature of my being, so I'm sure it was written to become specifically part of Dark Side Of The Moon. "I then thought it would be good as an introduction to create a rhythmic device using the sound of money. I had a two-track studio at home with a Revox recorder. My first wife [Judy Trim] was a potter and she had a big industrial food mixer for mixing up clay. I threw handfuls of coins and wads of torn-up paper into it. We took a couple of things off sound effects records too. "The backing track was everyone playing together, a Wurlitzer piano through a wah wah, bass, drums and that tremolo guitar. One of the ways you can tell that it was done live as a band is that the tempo changes so much from the beginning to the end. It speeds up fantastically."
Parsons: "The core of the song is a bass riff with a guitar an octave apart in 7/4. It's quite magical in that you don't really notice it. The vocal is Dave; it was a quick vocal, he sung it no more than twice. "The effects loops at the start of the song were re-recorded in the studio and this took a long time. Each sound had its own loop which we had to measure, using a ruler, to keep it in time. There was a tearing paper sound, a telephone Uni selector from a sound effects tape, bags of cash literally being dropped on the studio floor and a cash register ringing. The loop itself became the click. Once we'd got the loop they went out and played to it and I faded it out in their ears. It comes back once but that's just a happy coincidence, it's actually not quite in time. "The track has a really good feel. They laid most of it down together, but Nick overdubbed the tom toms in the middle section. The arrangements were all worked out before, except the dynamics of the long solo when it breaks down to nothing. The solo came together in the studio but once he had it, he always replicated it note for note in concert." The first two guitar solos were played on a Stratocaster going through a Hi-Watt amp, the first being ADTed (automatically doubled) on the mix. For the third solo Gilmour switched to a Lewis guitar with a two octave neck, making it easier to play higher notes. For the solo section Gilmour suggested changing the time signature from 7/4 into 4/4, before returning to 7/4 for the rest of the song. The sax was added late in October by Gilmour's friend from Cambridge pub jazz days, Dick Parry. Gilmour says he gave Parry the daunting instruction to play like the sax man in the cartoon band who did the theme music for Pearl Dean's ad sequence at the cinema in those days. Like the backing vocals on Time, Parry's solo was fed through a Frequency Translator.
Composer: Waters. Track sheet: Bass, drums, Wurlitzer, vocal, sax, guitar
doubling bass, tremolo Kepexed guitar, guitar solo, solo ADT, money FX.
Recording began: June 7, 1972.
"Rick wrote the chord sequence for this and I used it as a vehicle. I can't remember when I wrote the top line and the lyric, but it was certainly during the making of Dark Side Of The Moon because it seems that the whole idea, the political idea of humanism and whether it could or should have any effect on any of us, that's what the record is about really - conflict, our failure to connect with one another. "The first verse is about going to war, how in the front line we don't get much chance to communicate with one another, because someone else has decided that we shouldn't. I was always taken with those stories of 'the First Christmas' in 1914, when they all wandered out into no-man's land, had a cigarette, shook hands and then carried on the next day. The second verse is about civil liberties, racism and colour prejudice. The last verse is about passing a tramp in the street and not helping." Wright's instrumental track, working titled The Violence Sequence, had been recorded and submitted for Antonioni's 1970 movie Zabriskie Point as a backdrop to slow-motion riot scenes at Berkeley. The band thought it worked well, but Antonioni left it on the cutting room floor.
Parsons: "The speaking voices are Jerry and Pete Watts. I remember Pete Watts's wife did the, 'That geezer was cruising for a bruising,' in response to the question, When did you last thump someone? When Henry McCullough, Wings' guitarist, was asked the same thing, he said, 'New Year's Eve.' The next question was, Were you in the right?, and he said, 'I don't know, I was drunk at the time.' His wife was also asked, When did you last thump someone? She said 'New Years Eve' too."Gilmour again sings the lead vocals with delayed echoes generated by using both sides of a two-track recorder running at seven and a half inches per second vari-speeded right down to give a lag of around a second and a half. On the triple-tracked backing vocals by Troy, Duncan, Strike and St John, what sounds like an effect is actually their own vibrato. The "short sharp shock" remark is Roger The Hat. This time, when Dick Parry was approaching his solo (a fixture on lists of all-time sax-in-rock greats ever since), Gilmour urged him to think of Gerry Mulligan's contributions to Gandharva (1971) by American electro-adventurers Beaver And Krause - "Very breathy," he says. Waters: "The sax on this and Money is just Dick improvising with a little guidance from us - 'Breathier Dick, less breathy; more notes, less notes' - normally less notes is the deal with saxophone players."
Composers: Waters, Wright. Track sheet: Bass, drums, fuzz bass, piano, organ,
extra piano middle 8, original guitar, sax, vocal, vocal, girls.
Recording began: June 1, 1972.
"A little instrumental fill. Apart from the songs that are credited to one person, it's all a bit of a grey area. Money, Eclipse and Brain Damage which are credited to me were mine. Us And Them was clearly Rick's tune and I wrote the lyrics. Great Gig In The Sky was Rick's. Breathe and Any Colour You Like are grey areas and so is Time, because it was close to a real collaboration of all four members. "The distributions got divided up in strange ways afterwards because we were being very egalitarian and group-like in those days. I regret it furiously now, of course. I gave away a lot of the publishing and I wish I hadn't, but these things happen and that's how it is and that's how it will always be." Linking Us And Them and Brain Damage, this was known as "Scat" during recording. The lead instrument is a VCS3 synthesizer with a very long tape echo, backed by a tremolo guitar, bass, drums, Uni-Vibed guitar, organ and scat guitar. The final title came from Chris Adamson's catch-phrase, "You can have it any colour you like."
Composers: Mason, Gilmour, Wright. Track sheet: Bass, drums, Uni-Vibe guitar
rhythm, organ, scat guitar, VCS3 lead, VCS3 repeat, VCS3.
"That was my song; I wrote that at home. The grass [as in 'The lunatic is on the grass'] was always the square in between the River Cam and Kings College chapel. I don't know why, but when I was young that was always the piece of grass, more than any other piece of grass, that I felt I was constrained to 'keep off '. I don't know why, but the song still makes me think of that piece of grass. The lunatic was Syd, really. He was obviously in my mind. It was very Cambridge-based that whole song." Brain Damage was known as "The Lunatic Song" during recording, though some sources suggest that an early version was written during the Meddle sessions in 1971 and that the song was originally called The Dark Side Of The Moon (its final line being, of course, "I'll see you on the dark side of the moon").
Parsons: "The question, Do you think you're going mad?, was asked and it was used in other parts of the album because Jerry's response was so magnificent: 'I've always been mad like the rest of us have, sometimes I don't know if I'm mad even if I'm not mad.' Something like that."
Composer: Waters. Track sheet: bass, drums, heartbeat, Pete Watts laugh,
guitar, organ, vocal high, vocal low, girls, silly synth, Leslie guitar, lead
guitar and VCS3.
"This was interesting because it was something that I added after we'd gone on the road. It felt as if the piece needed an ending. It's just a run-down with a little bit of philosophising, though there's something about its naive quality that I still find appealing. "In a strange way it re-attaches me to my adolescence, the dreams of youth. The lyric points back to what I was attempting to say at the beginning. It's a recitation of the ideas that preceded it saying, There you are, that's all there is to it. What you experience is what it is. The rather depressing ending, 'And everything under the sun is in tune/but the sun is eclipsed by the moon', is the idea that we all have the potential to be in harmony with whatever it is, to lead happy, meaningful and right lives." The whole song has an uplifting feel, with Gilmour's arpeggiated Leslie guitars and Wright's organ building to a sustained crescendo before giving way to Jerry Driscoll's wisdom and a last fade to heartbeat. Waters sings lead, with Gilmour harmonising thirds and fifths and Doris Troy wailing.
Waters: "I remember when Doris Troy had done her bit she said, I'm only going to charge you a hundred pounds for my thing on the end." The final words are Jerry Driscoll's. His original words were, "There is no dark side of the moon really. As a matter of fact it's all dark... and the thing that makes it look alight is the sun." His closing phrase, astronomically accurate yet artistically anticlimactic, was edited out.
Composer: Waters. Track sheet: Bass, drums, guitar, organ, 1st harm, 2nd harm Roger vocal, girls, bass run, double-tracked Leslie guitar, lead guitar, Jerry at end, heartbeat.
[Ed: note- Sidebar articles: 'Pack Up Your Burbles', 'Equilaterally Yours',
and 'Back To Earth' which accompanied this main article, can be
found in Articles & Review section under the title 'Mojo Sidebars'