The making of The Dark Side of the Moon (documentary)

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The Dark Side of the Moon is the eighth studio album by the English progressive  and psychedelic/space rock band Pink Floyd, released in March 1973. The album's themes include conflict, greed, the passage of time, and mental illness, the latter partly inspired by the deteriorating mental state of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's founder member, principal composer and lyricist who left the band in 1968. The suite was developed during live performances and was premiered several months before studio recording began. The new material was recorded in two sessions in 1972 and 1973 at Abbey Road Studios in London. The group used some of the most advanced recording techniques of the time, including multitrack recording and tape loops. Analogue synthesisers were given prominence in several tracks, and a series of recorded interviews with the band's road crew and others provided the philosophical quotations used throughout. Engineer Alan Parsons was directly responsible for some of the most notable sonic aspects of the album as well as the recruitment of non-lexical performer Clare Torry. The album's cover designed by Hipgnosis and George Hardie, features a prism that represents the band's stage lighting, the record's lyrical themes, and keyboardist Richard Wright's request for a "simple and bold" design. The Dark Side of the Moon was an immediate success, topping the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart for one week. It subsequently remained in the charts for 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988. With an estimated 50 million copies sold, it is Pink Floyd's most commercially successful album and one of the best-selling albums worldwide. It has twice been remastered and re-released, and has been covered in its entirety by several other acts. It spawned two singles, "Money" and "Time". In addition to its commercial success, The Dark Side of the Moon is one of Pink Floyd's most popular albums among fans and critics, and is frequently ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time.

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Following the release of Meddle in 1971, Pink Floyd assembled for an upcoming tour of Britain, Japan, and the United States in December of that year. Bassist Roger Waters' proposed that the new album could form part of the tour and also the concept of an album unified by a single theme and all four members agreed that it was a good idea. Waters, guitarist David Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Richard Wright participated in the writing and production of the new material, and Waters created the early demo tracks at his Islington home in a small recording studio he had built in his garden shed. Parts of the new album were taken from previously unused material; the opening line of "Breathe" came from an earlier work by Waters and Ron Geesin, written for the soundtrack of The Body, and the basic structure of "Us and Them" was taken from a piece originally composed by Wright for the film Zabriskie Point.  After discovering that the title The Dark Side of the Moon had already been used by another band, Medicine Head, it was temporarily changed to Eclipse. The new material premiered at The Dome in Brighton, on 20 January 1972, and after the commercial failure of Medicine Head's album the title was changed back to the band's original preference. The Dark Side of the Moon was performed in the presence of an assembled press on 17 February 1972 -more than a year before its release- at the Rainbow Theatre, and was critically acclaimed. The following tour was praised by the public. The new material was performed live, in the same order in which it would eventually be recorded, but obvious differences between the live version, and the recorded version released a year later, included the lack of synthesisers in tracks such as "On the Run", and Bible readings that were later replaced by Clare Torry's non-lexical vocables on "The Great Gig in the Sky". The band's lengthy tour through Europe and North America gave them the opportunity to make continual improvements to the scale and quality of their performances. Studio sessions were scheduled between tour dates; rehearsals began in England on 20 January 1972 and the recording of the album began in May 1972.  More concerts in Europe and North America followed before the band returned to London on 9 January 1973 to complete work on the album. The album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, in two sessions, between May 1972 and January 1973. The band were assigned staff engineer Alan Parsons, who had worked as assistant tape operator on Atom Heart Mother, and who had also gained experience as a recording engineer on The Beatles' Abbey Road and Let It Be. Each side of the album is a continuous piece of music. The five tracks on each side reflect various stages of human life, beginning and ending with a heartbeat, exploring the nature of the human experience. Several tracks, including "Us and Them" and "Time", demonstrate Richard Wright and David Gilmour's ability to harmonise their voices. The album is particularly notable for the metronomic sound effects during "Speak to Me", and the tape loops that open "Money". Mason created a rough version of "Speak to Me" at his home, before completing it in the studio. The track serves as an overture and contains cross-fades of elements from other pieces on the album. The sound effects on "Money" were created by splicing together Waters' recordings of clinking coins, tearing paper, a ringing cash register, and a clicking adding machine, which were used to create a 7-beat effects loop.  The assorted clocks ticking then chiming simultaneously at the start of "Time", accompanied by a series of Rototoms, were initially created as a quadraphonic test by Parsons. The engineer recorded each timepiece at an antique clock shop, and although his recordings had not been created specifically for the album, elements of the material were eventually used in the track. Snippets of voices between and over the music are another notable feature of the album. During recording sessions, Waters recruited both the staff and the temporary occupants of the studio to answer a series of questions printed on flashcards. The interviewees were placed in front of a microphone in a darkened studio . The band's road manager Peter Watts contributed the repeated laughter during "Brain Damage" and "Speak to Me". Engineer Alan Parsons received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical for The Dark Side of the Moon. 

Inner cover

Track listing:

1. Speak to Me (1:30)
2. Breathe (2:43)
3. On the Run (3:36)
4. Time (includes Breathe (Reprise) (7:01)
5. The Great Gig in the Sky (4:36)
6. Money (6:22)
7. Us and Them (7:46)
8. Any Colour You Like (3:25)
9. Brain Damage (3:48)
10. Eclipse (2:03)

The video below is a 2003 Classic Albums Documentary about the making of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.


Pink Floyd line-up:
David Gilmour – vocals, guitar, synthesisers and production
Nick Mason – percussion, tape effects and production
Roger Waters – bass guitar, vocals, synthesisers, tape effects and production
Richard Wright – keyboards, vocals, synthesisers and production

Additional musicians:
Dick Parry – saxophone on "Money" and "Us and Them"
Clare Torry – vocals on "The Great Gig in the Sky", background vocals
Lesley Duncan – background vocals
Barry St. John – background vocals
Liza Strike – background vocals
Doris Troy – background vocals

Alan Parsons – engineering
Peter James – assistant engineering (incorrectly identified as Peter Jones on the first US pressings of the LP)
Chris Thomas – mixing consultant
George Hardie – illustrations, sleeve art
Hipgnosis – design, photography
Jill Furmanovsky – photography
James Guthrie – remastering supervisor on 20th- and 30th-anniversary editions, 5.1 mixing on 30th-anniversary edition
Doug Sax – remastering on 20th- and 30th-anniversary editions
David Sinclair – liner notes in CD re-release
Storm Thorgerson – 20th- and 30th-anniversary edition designs
Drew Vogel – art and photography in CD re-release