First released on March 1, 1973, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” remains one of the has best-selling albums of all time.
The album marked a creative turning point for the band’s members: bassist/vocalist Roger Waters, guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour, keyboardist/vocalist Rick Wright and drummer Nick Mason. According to Rolling Stone, “Dark Side of the Moon” secured Pink Floyd’s place as “a top echelon rock act characterized by its rich songwriting,” and in 2017 it was voted the best rock album of all time by Classic Rock readers.
Here are some facts you may not already know about the famous album.
It Was Nearly Called ‘Eclipse’
The album’s original title was “Dark Side of the Moon,” but an album of the same name, released in 1972 by British band Medicine Head, threw a spanner in the works. Pink Floyd began to refer to their in-progress project as “Eclipse,” but reverted back to the original title after the Medicine Head album flopped and was quickly forgotten.
“We weren’t annoyed at Medicine Head,” Gilmour told Sounds magazine. “We were annoyed because we had already thought of the title before the Medicine Head album came out.”
Fans Got A Very Early Live Preview
Unknown to Floyd fans who attended the Brighton Dome gig on Jan. 20, 1972, they heard “Dark Side of the Moon” (then called “Dark Side of the Moon — A Piece For Assorted Lunatics”) in its entirety, with the songs in the same sequence they would later appear on the album, more than a year before its official release. Throughout the rest of the 1972 live tour, the band (which is widely considered to be one of the best live bands of all time) performed the song cycle in the same way, taking advantage of numerous chances to tweak the tracks.
It’s All About Modern Life Leading To Madness
In the book “Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey,” Waters revealed that the whole album was about the pressures of modern life.
“We thought we could do a whole thing about the pressures we personally feel that drive one over the top…” he said. “The pressure of earning a lot of money; the time thing, time flying by very fast; organized power structures like the church or politics; violence; aggression.”
It’s Also About Death
In an interview with Mojo magazine in March 1998, Wright said the track “The Great Gig in the Sky” was about life gradually descending into death.
“For me, one of the pressures of being in the band was this constant fear of dying because of all the traveling we were doing in planes and on the motorways in America and in Europe,” he said. “The second half is gentler, as the dying person gives in to the inevitable and fades away.”
Booker T And The MGs Influenced The Track ‘Money’
“Money,” the band’s first top 20 hit in the U.S., was rooted in Memphis R&B.
“Getting specific about how and what influenced what is always difficult,” Gilmour told Rolling Stone in 2003. “But I was a big Booker T fan. I had the ‘Green Onions’ album when I was a teenager … it was something I thought we could incorporate into our sound without anyone spotting where the influence had come from.”
Old Pennies And A Mixing Bowl Added Something Extra
For the tape loop for “Money,” put together by Waters and Mason in their home studios, the band got inventive. Mason drilled holes in old pennies and threaded them onto strings to provide one of the sounds on the loop of seven. Sounds for the other loops including coins swirling around in a mixing bowl Waters’ wife Judy used for pottery, and paper being ripped right next to a microphone.
The ‘Lunatic’ In ‘Brain Damage’ Was Syd Barrett
Waters told Louder Sound that the grass referenced in the lyrics was the square between the River Cam and King’s College chapel in Cambridge, and the “lunatic” was Syd Barrett.
“He was obviously in my mind,” he said. Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett was one of the founding members of Pink Floyd. Barrett — who was undiagnosed but might have been dealing with schizophrenia, Waters told the BBC — left the band in 1968 due to mental health problems.
The Beatles Made A Surprise Appearance On The Record
“Dark Side of the Moon” was recorded at Abbey Road studios, and Waters came up with the idea of including interviews with a range of people working at the studio, covering every topic from favorite foods to death, in the final cut. Even Paul McCartney was interviewed, but Waters decided his answers weren’t usable.
“He was the only person who found it necessary to perform, which was useless, of course,” Waters said. However, the album’s closing track “Eclipse” features part of an orchestral version of the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” toward the end.
An Abbey Road Doorman Made An Important Contribution
Gerry O’Driscoll delivered the lines, “There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark. The only thing that makes it look light is the sun.”
“Stuff like that, when you put it into a context on the record, suddenly developed its own much more powerful meaning,” Gilmour told Louder Sound.
The Laughter Came From A Road Manager
The laughter heard on the tracks “Brain Damage” and “Speak to Me” came courtesy of Peter Watts, a Pink Floyd road manager and sound engineer. Watts, who was the father of Hollywood movie star Naomi Watts, died of a heroin overdose in 1976, two years after he stopped working with Pink Floyd. However, the band provided financial support for Naomi and her brother Ben.
It Wasn’t Written For ‘The Wizard Of Oz’
One of the craziest theories about “Dark Side of the Moon” is that it was written with “The Wizard of Oz” in mind. Apparently, if you play the album at the same time as watching the 1939 movie, the music and the visuals synch perfectly. But in 1997 Mason dispelled the “Dark Side of the Rainbow” theory, telling MTV, “It’s absolute nonsense, it has nothing to do with ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ It was all based on ‘The Sound of Music.'”
The Iconic Cover Could Have Been A Surfer
The unmistakable album cover of “Dark Side of the Moon,” featuring a graphic of a prism breaking white light into color, was created by English graphic designer George Hardie, with help from Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis, the team behind most of the band’s album covers. The band was unanimous in their decision to go with the prism design, but an entirely different cover was also offered by Hipgnosis: an image of Marvel’s Silver Surfer.
Thorgerson told Rolling Stone that the alternative design, which was thrown out by the band, “would be a man on a surfboard,” adding, “I was more interested in the wave, actually. I was interested in a tiered wave, because I thought it was a very good representation of the Floyd and the fans.”
Album Sales Helped Finance ‘Monty Python And The Holy Grail’
The huge success of “Dark Side of the Moon” helped bring another British cultural marker to fruition. The members of Pink Floyd spent a lot of their downtime during recording sessions watching the BBC2 TV series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” so they were more than willing to contribute 10 percent of the initial budget for the first Monty Python full-length feature film. In a 2002 interview with The Guardian, “Holy Grail” director Terry Gilliam said they “turned to rock stars for finance … Elton John, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, they all had money, they knew our work and we seemed a good tax write-off.”
After The Release, Everything Went Wrong
After the huge high of the album’s success came many lows for the band, including a creative struggle and their ultimate, acrimonious collapse. “‘Dark Side of the Moon’ was the last willing collaboration,” Waters told Louder Sound. “After that, everything with the band was like drawing teeth; ten years of hanging on to the married name and not having the courage to get divorced, to let go. Ten years of bloody hell. It was all just terrible. Awful. Terrible.”
If You Don’t Have A Copy, Someone You Know Does
“Dark Side of the Moon” was the best-selling album in the world for a while and is currently the third-best-selling album of all time. More than 15 million units have sold in the U.S. alone; an estimated one in 14 Americans owns a copy. In 2013, the album was selected for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”