I’ve played it twice again in the last day, and am absolutely riveted by it. A few months off from hearing it has sharpened up my feelings about it, and I sat in the car, outside the gate of my house tonight, listening to the last couple of tracks and waiting for the closing heartbeat to fade into silence before rejoining the world.
Having pondered about it over my home made Pizza and obligatory glass of Sauvignon this evening, I’ve concluded that it’s simply the best Popular Album I’ve ever heard. No caveats. No Ifs and Buts.
Released in 1973, this was a record which, at a stroke, changed the face of modern pop music. This record was not about the specific story of an Eleanor Rigby, a Lady Jane or a Jumpin’ Jack Flash. It wasn’t about fancying the girl next door, Dreaming about California, being overconcerned about a Hound Dog, or being stuck Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa.
It was about the machinery of living today, the madness of everyday life and the pressures, worries and forces which mould it. It was about money, corporatism, greed, materialism and homelessness and the post juvenile disenchantment of facing these issues in the Seventies. It chewed over the place of the individual, both standing up for itself, standing out from other individuals, and also facing up to “them” – governments, and the myriad forces of the State. Over-riding the whole thing however, and stitching it all together is the idea of Lunacy and Madness.
In a nutshell, it was about the things which worry and concern all of us – when we look in a mirror, really look in a mirror, it’s about what we are. Not, you’d have thought, the most obvious and inviting subject matter for a Pop Music Album. This one however, has sold continuously for the last 35 years. After its release, it stayed, without a break, in the US Top 100 Album charts for a slightly insane 741 weeks (almost 15 years) and, since 1972, has featured there in total for more than 1500 weeks. I don’t think I actually know anyone who hasn’t had a copy at some time.
So why is that?
It’s both very complex, and exceedingly simple. The whole thing was the brainchild of one man, Roger Waters, who realised that, approaching 30, life was passing him by, and he needed to set down his thoughts about the facets of life which increasingly kept him awake at night.
... You raise the blade,
You make the change,
You re-arrange me till I’m sane
You lock the door
And throw away the key
There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.
Each set of four words tells a bit of the story, moving the idea on. But, in my humble opinion, at the same time, very chilling and very effective.
I am not an anorak about these things, but I don’t recall any album before “Dark Side of the Moon” having anything like a similar structure. Prior to its release, albums were a collection of songs – (Yes, even Sergeant Pepper). The whole thing here is created as an almost seamless, homogenous whole.
A new idea Roger Waters had was to use recordings of people around him reacting to a disarmingly simple but very leading set of questions he asked. He wanted to tease out their inner thoughts and prejudices, their opinions on things like violence and madness. He then overlayed these comments throughout the record. This gives a really dark and edgy side to the whole production, as the snippets do not always appear when you might expect them to - rather like the way our minds work, when we are suddenly hit by changes of subject in a random way we can’t control or understand.
All of that sounds a bit bleak, and, to be fair, it is a record which does not contain much optimism. You certainly don’t get DJs putting it on when they want to fill the dance floor at the wedding reception. It’s a very intimate and introspective thing actually, best listened to on one’s own, in a darkened room, with the sound up very high.
I suspect I’ve played this record more than any other I’ve ever owned. And, apart from all I’ve said above, the thing which keeps me coming back to it time and again, is that it’s an absolutely first rate collection of brilliant, memorable songs with great tunes. With David Gilmour’s soaring, and sometimes searing guitar, through the extraordinary wordless solo by Clare Torry on “The Great Gig in the Sky”, through Rick Wright’s hauntingly beautiful and introspective piano playing, there isn’t a weak link anywhere. In spite of Roger Water’s trying to “rubbish” it a bit now, calling it ”a bit Lower Sixth”, I think his overall vision was quite remarkable.
DAVE GILMOUR 35 YEARS AGO
ROGER WATERS AND DRUMMER, NICK MASON
I think it is an absolute masterpiece.
roger waters,clare torry,
dark side of the moon,