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The Dark Side of the Moon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Dark Side of the Moon
A prism refracting white light into a rainbow on a black background
Studio album by
Released1 March 1973 (1973-03-01)
RecordedJune 1972 – January 1973
StudioAbbey Road, London
GenreProgressive rock
ProducerPink Floyd
Pink Floyd chronology
Obscured by Clouds
The Dark Side of the Moon
Wish You Were Here
Singles from The Dark Side of the Moon
  1. "Money" / "Any Colour You Like"
    Released: 7 May 1973
  2. "Us and Them" / "Time"
    Released: 4 February 1974

The Dark Side of the Moon is the eighth studio album by the English rock band Pink Floyd, released on 1 March 1973 by Harvest Records. Primarily developed during live performances, the band premiered an early version of the record several months before recording began. The record was conceived as an album that focused on the pressures faced by the band during their arduous lifestyle, and dealing with the apparent mental health problems suffered by former band member Syd Barrett, who departed the group in 1968. New material was recorded in two sessions in 1972 and 1973 at Abbey Road Studios in London.

The record builds on ideas explored in Pink Floyd's earlier recordings and performances, while omitting the extended instrumentals that characterised their earlier work. The group employed multitrack recording, tape loops, and analogue synthesisers, including experimentation with the EMS VCS 3 and a Synthi A. Engineer Alan Parsons was responsible for many sonic aspects and the recruitment of singer Clare Torry, who appears on "The Great Gig in the Sky".

A concept album, The Dark Side of the Moon explores themes such as conflict, greed, time, death and mental illness. Snippets from interviews with the band's road crew are featured alongside philosophical quotations. The sleeve, which depicts a prism spectrum, was designed by Storm Thorgerson in response to keyboardist Richard Wright's request for a "simple and bold" design, representing the band's lighting and the album's themes. The album was promoted with two singles: "Money" and "Us and Them".

The Dark Side of the Moon is among the most critically acclaimed records in history, often featuring on professional listings of the greatest albums of all time. The record helped propel Pink Floyd to international fame, bringing wealth and recognition to all four of its members. A blockbuster release of the album era, it also propelled record sales throughout the music industry during the 1970s. It has been certified 14× platinum in the United Kingdom, and topped the US Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart, where it has charted for 957 weeks in total. With estimated sales of over 45 million copies, it is Pink Floyd's most commercially successful album, and one of the best-selling albums worldwide. In 2013, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Following Meddle in 1971, Pink Floyd assembled for a tour of Britain, Japan and the United States in December of that year. In a band meeting at drummer Nick Mason's home in Camden, bassist Roger Waters proposed that a new album could form part of the tour. Waters' idea was for an album that dealt with things that "make people mad", focusing on the pressures associated with the band's arduous lifestyle, and dealing with the apparent mental issues suffered by former band member Syd Barrett.[1][2] The band had explored a similar idea with 1969's The Man and The Journey.[3] In an interview for Rolling Stone, guitarist David Gilmour said: "I think we all thought – and Roger definitely thought – that a lot of the lyrics that we had been using were a little too indirect. There was definitely a feeling that the words were going to be very clear and specific."[4]

For the most part, all four members approved of Waters' concept for an album unified by a single theme .[4] Waters, Gilmour, 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 studio built in his garden shed.[5] 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,[6] and the basic structure of "Us and Them" borrowed from an original composition by Wright for Zabriskie Point.[7] The band rehearsed at a warehouse in London owned by the Rolling Stones, and then at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park, London. They also purchased extra equipment, which included new speakers, a PA system, a 28-track mixing desk with a four channel quadraphonic output, and a custom-built lighting rig. Nine tonnes of kit was transported in three lorries; this would be the first time the band had taken an entire album on tour.[8][9] The album had been given the provisional title of Dark Side of the Moon (an allusion to lunacy, rather than astronomy).[10] However, after discovering that title 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,[11] and after the commercial failure of Medicine Head's album the title was changed back to the band's original preference.[12][13][nb 1]

The Rainbow Theatre in London, where The Dark Side of the Moon was played for the press in 1972

Dark Side of the Moon: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics, as it was then known,[3] 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.[14] Michael Wale of The Times described the piece as "bringing tears to the eyes. It was so completely understanding and musically questioning."[15] Derek Jewell of The Sunday Times wrote "The ambition of the Floyd's artistic intention is now vast."[12] Melody Maker was less enthusiastic: "Musically, there were some great ideas, but the sound effects often left me wondering if I was in a bird-cage at London zoo."[16] The following tour was praised by the public. The new material was performed in the same order in which it was eventually sequenced on the album release; differences included the lack of synthesisers in tracks such as "On the Run", and Clare Torry's vocals on "The Great Gig in the Sky" being replaced by readings from the Bible.[14]

Pink Floyd's lengthy tour through Europe and North America gave them the opportunity to make continual improvements to the scale and quality of their performances.[17] Work on the album was interrupted in late February when the band travelled to France and recorded music for French director Barbet Schroeder's film La Vallée.[18][nb 2] They then performed in Japan and returned to France in March to complete work on the film. After a series of dates in North America, the band flew to London to begin recording, from 24 May to 25 June. More concerts in Europe and North America followed before the band returned on 9 January 1973 to complete the album.[19][20][21]


The Dark Side of the Moon built upon experiments Pink Floyd had attempted in their previous live shows and recordings, but it lacks the extended instrumental excursions which, according to critic David Fricke, had become characteristic of the band following founding member Syd Barrett's departure in 1968. Gilmour, Barrett's replacement, later referred to those instrumentals as "that psychedelic noodling stuff". He and Waters cited 1971's Meddle as a turning point towards what would be realised on the album. The Dark Side of the Moon's lyrical themes include conflict, greed, the passage of time, death and insanity, the latter inspired in part by Barrett's deteriorating mental state.[7] The album contains musique concrète on several tracks.[3]

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 and, according to Waters, "empathy".[7] "Speak to Me" and "Breathe" together highlight the mundane and futile elements of life that accompany the ever-present threat of madness, and the importance of living one's own life – "Don't be afraid to care".[22] By shifting the scene to an airport, the synthesiser-driven instrumental "On the Run" evokes the stress and anxiety of modern travel, in particular Wright's fear of flying.[23] "Time" examines the manner in which its passage can control one's life and offers a stark warning to those who remain focused on mundane pursuits; it is followed by a retreat into solitude and withdrawal in "Breathe (Reprise)". The first side of the album ends with Wright and vocalist Clare Torry's soulful metaphor for death, "The Great Gig in the Sky".[3]

Opening with the sound of cash registers and loose change, the first track on side two, "Money", mocks greed and consumerism using tongue-in-cheek lyrics and cash-related sound effects. "Money" became the most commercially successful track, and has been covered by several artists in subsequent years.[24] "Us and Them" addresses the isolation of the depressed with the symbolism of conflict and the use of simple dichotomies to describe personal relationships. "Any Colour You Like" tackles the illusion of choice one has in society. "Pick any colour you like, they're all blue". "Brain Damage" looks at a mental illness resulting from the elevation of fame and success above the needs of the self; in particular, the line "and if the band you're in starts playing different tunes" reflects the mental breakdown of former bandmate Syd Barrett. The album ends with "Eclipse", which espouses the concepts of alterity and unity, while forcing the listener to recognise the common traits shared by humanity.[25][26]


The album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, in two sessions, between May 1972 and January 1973. The band was assigned staff engineer Alan Parsons, who had worked as assistant tape operator on its album Atom Heart Mother and gained experience as a recording engineer on the Beatles' Abbey Road and Let It Be.[27][28] The recording sessions made use of advanced studio techniques; the studio was capable of 16-track mixes, which offered a greater degree of flexibility than the eight- or four-track mixes Pink Floyd had previously used, although they often used so many tracks that to make more space available second-generation copies were made.[29]

The first track recorded was "Us and Them" on 1 June, followed six days later by "Money". Waters had created effects loops from recordings of various money-related objects, including coins thrown into a mixing bowl taken from his wife's pottery studio; these were rerecorded to take advantage of the band's decision to record a quadraphonic mix of the album. (Parsons has since expressed dissatisfaction with the result of this mix, attributed to a lack of time and the paucity of available multi-track tape recorders.)[28] "Time" and "The Great Gig in the Sky" were recorded next, followed by a two-month break, during which the band spent time with their families and prepared for an upcoming tour of the US.[30] The recording sessions were frequently interrupted; Waters, a supporter of Arsenal F.C., would often break to see his team compete, and the band would occasionally stop work to watch Monty Python's Flying Circus on the television, leaving Parsons to work on material recorded up to that point.[29] Gilmour has, however, disputed this claim; in an interview in 2003 he said: "We would sometimes watch them but when we were on a roll, we would get on."[31][32]

The EMS VCS 3 (Putney) synthesiser

On returning from the US in January 1973, they recorded "Brain Damage", "Eclipse", "Any Colour You Like" and "On the Run", while fine-tuning the work they had already laid down in the previous sessions. A group of four female vocalists was assembled to sing on "Brain Damage", "Eclipse" and "Time", and saxophonist Dick Parry was booked to play on "Us and Them" and "Money". With director Adrian Maben, the band also filmed studio footage for Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii.[33] Once the recording sessions were complete, the band began a tour of Europe.[34]


The album features metronomic sound effects during "Speak to Me", and tape loops opening "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. A piano chord, replayed backwards, serves to augment the build-up of effects, which are immediately followed by the opening of "Breathe". Mason received a rare solo composing credit for "Speak to Me".[nb 3][35][36]

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 (later adapted to four tracks to create a "walk around the room" effect in quadraphonic presentations of the album).[37] At times the degree of sonic experimentation on the album required the engineers and band to operate the mixing console's faders simultaneously, to mix down the intricately assembled multitrack recordings of several of the songs (particularly "On the Run").[7]

Along with the conventional rock band instrumentation, Pink Floyd added prominent synthesisers to their sound. For example, the band experimented with an EMS VCS 3 on "Brain Damage" and "Any Colour You Like", and a Synthi A on "Time" and "On the Run". They also devised and recorded unconventional sounds, such as an assistant engineer running around the studio's echo chamber (during "On the Run"),[38] and a specially treated bass drum made to simulate a human heartbeat (during "Speak to Me", "On the Run", "Time" and "Eclipse"). This heartbeat is most prominent as the intro and the outro to the album, but it can also be heard sporadically on "Time" and "On the Run".[7] "Time" features assorted clocks ticking, then chiming simultaneously at the start of the song, accompanied by a series of Rototoms. The recordings were initially created as a quadraphonic test by Parsons, who recorded each timepiece at an antique clock shop.[35] Although these recordings had not been created specifically for the album, elements of this material were eventually used in the track.[39]


Several tracks, including "Us and Them" and "Time", demonstrated Richard Wright's and David Gilmour's ability to harmonise their voices. In the 2003 Classic Albums documentary The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon, Waters attributed this to the fact that their voices sounded extremely similar. To take advantage of this, Parsons used studio techniques such as the double tracking of vocals and guitars, which allowed Gilmour to harmonise with himself. The engineer also made prominent use of flanging and phase shifting effects on vocals and instruments, odd trickery with reverb,[7] and the panning of sounds between channels (most notable in the quadraphonic mix of "On the Run", when the sound of the Hammond B3 organ played through a Leslie speaker rapidly swirls around the listener).[40]

The album's credits include Clare Torry, a session singer and songwriter, and a regular at Abbey Road. She had worked on pop material and numerous cover albums, one of which convinced Parsons to invite her to the studio to sing on Wright's composition "The Great Gig in the Sky". She declined this invitation as she wanted to watch Chuck Berry perform at the Hammersmith Odeon, but arranged to come in on the following Sunday. The band explained the concept behind the album, but were unable to tell her exactly what she should do. Gilmour was in charge of the session, and in a few short takes on a Sunday night Torry improvised a wordless melody to accompany Wright's emotive piano solo. She was initially embarrassed by her exuberance in the recording booth, and wanted to apologise to the band – only to find them delighted with her performance.[41][42] Her takes were then selectively edited to produce the version used on the track.[4] For her contribution she was paid £30, equivalent to about £400 in 2021.[41][43] In 2004, she sued EMI and Pink Floyd for 50% of the songwriting royalties, arguing that her contribution to "The Great Gig in the Sky" was substantial enough to be considered co-authorship. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, with all post-2005 pressings crediting Wright and Torry jointly.[44][45]

Clare Torry in 2003

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 3,[46] and shown such questions as "What's your favourite colour?" and "What's your favourite food?", before moving on to themes more central to the album (such as madness, violence, and death). Questions such as "When was the last time you were violent?", followed immediately by "Were you in the right?", were answered in the order they were presented.[7] Roger "The Hat" Manifold proved difficult to find, and was the only contributor recorded in a conventional sit-down interview, as by then the flashcards had been mislaid. Waters asked him about a violent encounter he had had with another motorist, and Manifold replied "... give 'em a quick, short, sharp shock ..." When asked about death he responded "live for today, gone tomorrow, that's me ..."[47] Another roadie, Chris Adamson, who was on tour with Pink Floyd, recorded the snippet which opens the album: "I've been mad for fucking years – absolutely years".[48] The band's road manager Peter Watts (father of actress Naomi Watts)[49] contributed the repeated laughter during "Brain Damage" and "Speak to Me". His second wife, Patricia "Puddie" Watts (now Patricia Gleason), was responsible for the line about the "geezer" who was "cruisin' for a bruisin'" used in the segue between "Money" and "Us and Them", and the words "I never said I was frightened of dying" heard halfway through "The Great Gig in the Sky".[50]

Perhaps the most notable responses "I am not frightened of dying. Any time will do: I don't mind. Why should I be frightened of dying? There's no reason for it – you've got to go sometime" and closing words "there is no dark side in the moon, really. As a matter of fact it's all dark" came from the studios' Irish doorman, Gerry O'Driscoll.[51] Paul and Linda McCartney were also interviewed, but their answers were judged to be "trying too hard to be funny", and were not included on the album.[52] McCartney's Wings bandmate Henry McCullough contributed the line "I don't know, I was really drunk at the time".[53]


Following the completion of the dialogue sessions, producer Chris Thomas was hired to provide "a fresh pair of ears". Thomas's background was in music, rather than engineering. He had worked with Beatles producer George Martin, and was an acquaintance of Pink Floyd's manager, Steve O'Rourke.[54] All four members of the band were engaged in a disagreement over the style of the mix, with Waters and Mason preferring a "dry" and "clean" mix that made more use of the non-musical elements, and Gilmour and Wright preferring a subtler and more "echoey" mix.[55] Thomas later claimed there were no such disagreements, stating "There was no difference in opinion between them, I don't remember Roger once saying that he wanted less echo. In fact, there were never any hints that they were later going to fall out. It was a very creative atmosphere. A lot of fun."[56] Although the truth remains unclear, Thomas's intervention resulted in a welcome compromise between Waters and Gilmour, leaving both entirely satisfied with the end product. Thomas was responsible for significant changes to the album, including the perfect timing of the echo used on "Us and Them". He was also present for the recording of "The Great Gig in the Sky" (although Parsons was responsible for hiring Torry).[57] Interviewed in 2006, when asked if he felt his goals had been accomplished in the studio, Waters said:

When the record was finished I took a reel-to-reel copy home with me and I remember playing it for my wife then, and I remember her bursting into tears when it was finished. And I thought, "This has obviously struck a chord somewhere", and I was kinda pleased by that. You know when you've done something, certainly if you create a piece of music, you then hear it with fresh ears when you play it for somebody else. And at that point I thought to myself, "Wow, this is a pretty complete piece of work", and I had every confidence that people would respond to it.[58]


The album's artwork depicts the light refracting from a triangular prism.
The album's artwork depicts the light refracting from a triangular prism.
It felt like the whole band were working together. It was a creative time. We were all very open.

– Richard Wright[59]

The album was originally released in a gatefold LP sleeve designed by Hipgnosis and George Hardie. Hipgnosis had designed several of the band's previous albums, with controversial results; EMI had reacted with confusion when faced with the cover designs for Atom Heart Mother and Obscured by Clouds, as they had expected to see traditional designs which included lettering and words. Designers Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell were able to ignore such criticism as they were employed by the band. For The Dark Side of the Moon, Richard Wright instructed them to come up with something "smarter, neater – more classy".[60] The design was inspired by a photograph of a prism with a colour beam projected through it that Thorgerson had found in a photography book.

The artwork was created by their associate, George Hardie. Hipgnosis offered the band a choice of seven designs, but all four members agreed that the prism was by far the best. The final design depicts a glass prism dispersing light into colour. The design represents three elements: the band's stage lighting, the album lyrics, and Wright's request for a "simple and bold" design.[7] The spectrum of light continues through to the gatefold – an idea that Waters came up with.[61] Added shortly afterwards, the gatefold design also includes a visual representation of the heartbeat sound used throughout the album, and the back of the album cover contains Thorgerson's suggestion of another prism recombining the spectrum of light, facilitating interesting layouts of the sleeve in record shops.[62] The light band emanating from the prism on the album cover has six colours, missing indigo compared to the traditional division of the spectrum into red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Inside the sleeve were two posters and two pyramid-themed stickers. One poster bore pictures of the band in concert, overlaid with scattered letters to form PINK FLOYD, and the other an infrared photograph of the Great Pyramids of Giza, created by Powell and Thorgerson.[62]

The band were so confident of the quality of Waters' lyrics that, for the first time, they printed them on the album's sleeve.[8]


Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[63]
Billboard5/5 stars[64]
Christgau's Record GuideB[65]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[66]
MusicHound Rock5/5[67]
Q4/5 stars[69]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[70]
Uncut4/5 stars[68]
A monochrome image of members of the band.
A live performance of The Dark Side of the Moon at Earls Court, shortly after its release in 1973.
(left to right) David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Dick Parry, Roger Waters

As the quadraphonic mix of the album was not then complete, the band (with the exception of Wright) boycotted the press reception held at the London Planetarium on 27 February.[72] The guests were, instead, presented with a quartet of life-sized cardboard cut-outs of the band, and the stereo mix of the album was played over a poor-quality public address system.[73][74] Generally, however, the press were enthusiastic; Melody Maker's Roy Hollingworth described side one as "so utterly confused with itself it was difficult to follow", but praised Side Two, writing: "The songs, the sounds, the rhythms were solid and sound, Saxophone hit the air, the band rocked and rolled, and then gushed and tripped away into the night."[75] Steve Peacock of Sounds wrote: "I don't care if you've never heard a note of the Pink Floyd's music in your life, I'd unreservedly recommend everyone to The Dark Side of the Moon".[73] In his 1973 review for Rolling Stone magazine, Loyd Grossman declared Dark Side "a fine album with a textural and conceptual richness that not only invites, but demands involvement".[76] In Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), Robert Christgau found its lyrical ideas clichéd and its music pretentious, but called it a "kitsch masterpiece" that can be charming with highlights such as taped speech fragments, Parry's saxophone, and studio effects which enhance Gilmour's guitar solos.[65]

The Dark Side of the Moon was released first in the US on 1 March 1973,[77] and then in the UK on 16 March.[78] It became an instant chart success in Britain and throughout Western Europe;[73] by the following month, it had gained a gold certification in the US.[79] Throughout March 1973 the band played the album as part of their US tour, including a midnight performance at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on 17 March before an audience of 6,000. The album reached the Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart's number one spot on 28 April 1973,[80] and was so successful that the band returned two months later for another tour.[81]


Much of the album's early American success is attributed to the efforts of Pink Floyd's US record company, Capitol Records. Newly appointed chairman Bhaskar Menon set about trying to reverse the relatively poor sales of the band's 1971 studio album Meddle. Meanwhile, disenchanted with Capitol, the band and manager O'Rourke had been quietly negotiating a new contract with CBS president Clive Davis, on Columbia Records. The Dark Side of the Moon was the last album that Pink Floyd were obliged to release before formally signing a new contract. Menon's enthusiasm for the new album was such that he began a huge promotional advertising campaign, which included radio-friendly truncated versions of "Us and Them" and "Time".[82] In some countries – notably the UK – Pink Floyd had not released a single since 1968's "Point Me at the Sky", and unusually "Money" was released as a single on 7 May, with "Any Colour You Like" on the B-side.[72][nb 4] It reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1973.[83][nb 5] A two-sided white label promotional version of the single, with mono and stereo mixes, was sent to radio stations. The mono side had the word "bullshit" removed from the song – leaving "bull" in its place – however, the stereo side retained the uncensored version. This was subsequently withdrawn; the replacement was sent to radio stations with a note advising disc jockeys to dispose of the first uncensored copy.[85] On 4 February 1974, a double A-side single was released with "Time" on one side, and "Us and Them" on the opposite side.[nb 6][86] Menon's efforts to secure a contract renewal with Pink Floyd were in vain however; at the beginning of 1974, the band signed for Columbia with a reported advance fee of $1M (in Britain and Europe they continued to be represented by Harvest Records).[87]


The Dark Side of the Moon became one of the best-selling albums of all time[88] and is in the top 25 of a list of best-selling albums in the United States.[45][89] Although it held the number one spot in the US for only a week, it remained in the Billboard album chart for 736 weeks from 1973 to 1988.[90][91] The album re-appeared on the Billboard charts with the introduction of the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart in May 1991, and has been a perennial feature since then.[92] In the UK, it is the seventh-best-selling album of all time and the highest selling album never to reach number one.[93]

... I think that when it was finished, everyone thought it was the best thing we'd ever done to date, and everyone was very pleased with it, but there's no way that anyone felt it was five times as good as Meddle, or eight times as good as Atom Heart Mother, or the sort of figures that it has in fact sold. It was ... not only about being a good album but also about being in the right place at the right time.

– Nick Mason[74]

In the US the LP was released before the introduction of platinum awards in 1976. It therefore held only a gold disc until 16 February 1990, when it was certified 11× platinum. On 4 June 1998 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album 15× platinum,[45] denoting sales of fifteen million in the United States – making it their biggest-selling work there (The Wall is 23× platinum, but as a double album this signifies sales of 11.5 million).[94] "Money" has sold well as a single, and as with "Time", remains a radio favourite; in the US, for the year ending 20 April 2005, "Time" was played on 13,723 occasions, and "Money" on 13,731 occasions.[nb 7] Industry sources suggest that worldwide sales of the album total about 45 million.[64][95] "On a slow week" between 8,000 and 9,000 copies are sold,[88] and a total of 400,000 were sold in 2002, making it the 200th-best-selling album of that year – nearly three decades after its initial release. The album has sold 9,502,000 copies in the US since 1991 when Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard.[96] To this day, it occupies a prominent spot on Billboard's Pop Catalog Chart. It reached number one when the 2003 hybrid CD/SACD edition was released and sold 800,000 copies in the US.[45] On the week of 5 May 2006 The Dark Side of the Moon achieved a combined total of 1,716 weeks on the Billboard 200 and Pop Catalog charts.[58] One in every fourteen people in the US under the age of 50 is estimated to own, or to have owned, a copy.[45] Upon a change in methodology in 2009 allowing catalogue titles to be included in the Billboard 200,[97] The Dark Side of the Moon returned to the chart at number 189 on 12 December of that year for its 742nd charting week.[98] It has continued to sporadically appear on the Billboard 200 since then, with the total at 957 weeks on the chart as of January 2021.[99]

"The combination of words and music hit a peak," explained Gilmour. "All the music before had not had any great lyrical point to it. And this one was clear and concise. The cover was also right. I think it's become like a benevolent noose hanging behind us. Throughout our entire career, people have said we would never top the Dark Side record and tour. But The Wall earned more in dollar terms."[100] As one of the blockbuster LPs of the album era (1960s–2000s), The Dark Side of the Moon also led to an increase in record sales overall into the late 1970s.[101]

Re-issues and remastering

1978 transparent vinyl edition, playing on a Technics turntable
1978 transparent vinyl edition, playing on a Technics turntable

In 1979, The Dark Side of the Moon was released as a remastered LP by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab,[102] and in April 1988 on their "Ultradisc" gold CD format.[103] The album was released by EMI and Harvest on the then-new compact disc format in Japan in June 1983,[nb 8] in the US and Europe in August 1984,[nb 9] and in 1992 it was re-released as a remastered CD in the box set Shine On.[104] This version was re-released as a 20th anniversary box set edition with postcards the following year. The cover design was again by Storm Thorgerson, the designer of the original 1973 cover.[105] On some pressings, a faintly audible orchestral version of the Beatles' "Ticket to Ride" can be heard after "Eclipse" over the album's closing heartbeats.[45]

This stained glass interpretation of the prism motif was used for the 2003 reissue.
This stained glass interpretation of the prism motif was used for the 2003 reissue.

The original quadraphonic mix,[nb 10] created by Alan Parsons,[106] was commissioned by EMI but never endorsed by Pink Floyd, as Parsons was disappointed with his mix.[28][106] To celebrate the album's 30th anniversary, an updated surround version was released in 2003. The band elected not to use Parsons' quadraphonic mix (done shortly after the original release), and instead had engineer James Guthrie create a new 5.1 channel surround sound mix on the SACD format.[28][107] Guthrie had worked with Pink Floyd since co-producing and engineering their eleventh album, The Wall, and had previously worked on surround versions of The Wall for DVD-Video and Waters' In the Flesh for SACD. Speaking in 2003, Alan Parsons expressed some disappointment with Guthrie's SACD mix, suggesting that Guthrie was "possibly a little too true to the original mix", but was generally complimentary.[28] The 30th-anniversary edition won four Surround Music Awards in 2003,[108] and has since sold more than 800,000 copies.[109] The cover image was created by a team of designers including Storm Thorgerson.[105] The image is a photograph of a custom-made stained glass window, built to match the exact dimensions and proportions of the original prism design. Transparent glass, held in place by strips of lead, was used in place of the opaque colours of the original. The idea is derived from the "sense of purity in the sound quality, being 5.1 surround sound ..." The image was created out of a desire to be "the same but different, such that the design was clearly DSotM, still the recognisable prism design, but was different and hence new".[110]

The Dark Side of the Moon was also re-released in 2003 on 180-gram virgin vinyl (mastered by Kevin Gray at AcousTech Mastering) and included slightly different versions of the posters and stickers that came with the original vinyl release, along with a new 30th anniversary poster.[111] In 2007 the album was included in Oh, by the Way, a box set celebrating the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd,[112] and a DRM-free version was released on the iTunes Store.[109] In 2011 the album was re-released as part of the Why Pink Floyd...? campaign, featuring a remastered version of the album along with various other material.[113]


It's changed me in many ways, because it's brought in a lot of money, and one feels very secure when you can sell an album for two years. But it hasn't changed my attitude to music. Even though it was so successful, it was made in the same way as all our other albums, and the only criterion we have about releasing music is whether we like it or not. It was not a deliberate attempt to make a commercial album. It just happened that way. We knew it had a lot more melody than previous Floyd albums, and there was a concept that ran all through it. The music was easier to absorb and having girls singing away added a commercial touch that none of our records had.

– Richard Wright[114]

The success of the album brought wealth to all four members of the band; Richard Wright and Roger Waters bought large country houses, and Nick Mason became a collector of upmarket cars.[115] Some of the profits were invested in the production of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.[116] Engineer Alan Parsons received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical for The Dark Side of the Moon,[117] and he went on to have a successful career as a recording artist with the Alan Parsons Project. Although Waters and Gilmour have on occasion downplayed his contribution to the success of the album, Mason has praised his role.[118] In 2003, Parsons reflected: "I think they all felt that I managed to hang the rest of my career on Dark Side of the Moon, which has an element of truth to it. But I still wake up occasionally, frustrated about the fact that they made untold millions and a lot of the people involved in the record didn't."[32][nb 11]

Part of the legacy of The Dark Side of the Moon is its influence on modern music and on the musicians who have performed cover versions of its songs; moreover, the record gave rise to the "Dark Side of the Rainbow" theory, according to which the album matches up perfectly with the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz when they are played simultaneously. The album's release is often seen as a pivotal point in the history of rock music, and comparisons are sometimes made with Radiohead's 1997 album OK Computer,[120][121] including a premise explored by Ben Schleifer in 'Speak to Me': The Legacy of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (2006) that the two albums share a theme that "the creative individual loses the ability to function in the [modern] world".[122]

In a 2018 book about classic rock, Steven Hyden recalls concluding, in his teens, that The Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin IV were the two greatest albums of the genre, vision quests "encompass[ing] the twin poles of teenage desire". They had similarities, in that both album's cover and internal artwork eschew pictures of the bands in favor of "inscrutable iconography without any tangible meaning (which always seemed to give the music packaged inside more meaning)". But whereas Led Zeppelin had looked outward, toward "conquering the world" and was known at the time for its outrageous sexual antics while on tour, Pink Floyd looked inward, toward "overcoming your own hang-ups" and seemed so sedate and boring that, Hyden commented, the scene in Live at Pompeii where they take a lunch break at the studio might well have been the most interesting part of recording The Dark Side of the Moon.[123]

In 2013, The Dark Side of the Moon was selected for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[124]


The Dark Side of the Moon frequently appears on professional rankings of the greatest albums.[125] In 1987, Rolling Stone listed the record 35th on its "Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years",[126] and in 2003 the album was number 43 on the magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time",[127] maintaining the ranking in a 2012 revision (their highest charting album on the list).[128] Both Rolling Stone and Q have listed The Dark Side of the Moon as the best progressive rock album.[129][130]

In 2006, it was voted "My Favourite Album" by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's audience.[131] NME readers voted the album eighth in their 2006 "Best Album of All Time" online poll,[132] and in 2009, Planet Rock listeners voted the album the "greatest of all time".[133] The album is also number two on the "Definitive 200" list of albums, made by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers "in celebration of the art form of the record album".[134] It ranked 29th in The Observer's 2006 list of "The 50 Albums That Changed Music",[135] and 37th in The Guardian's 1997 list of the "100 Best Albums Ever", as voted for by a panel of artists and music critics.[136] In 2014, readers of Rhythm voted it the seventh most influential progressive drumming album.[137] It was voted number 9 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums 3rd Edition (2000).[138]

Based on such rankings, the aggregate website Acclaimed Music lists The Dark Side of the Moon as the 21st most acclaimed album in history, the seventh most acclaimed of the 1970s, and number one of albums from 1973.[125] The album's cover has also been lauded by critics and listeners alike, with VH1 proclaiming it the fourth greatest in history.[139]

Covers, tributes and samples

One of the more notable covers of The Dark Side of the Moon is Return to the Dark Side of the Moon: A Tribute to Pink Floyd. Released in 2006, the album is a progressive rock tribute featuring artists such as Adrian Belew, Tommy Shaw, Dweezil Zappa, and Rick Wakeman.[140] In 2000, The Squirrels released The Not So Bright Side of the Moon, which features a cover of the entire album.[141][142] The New York dub collective Easy Star All-Stars released Dub Side of the Moon in 2003[143] and Dubber Side of the Moon in 2010.[144] The group Voices on the Dark Side released the album Dark Side of the Moon a Cappella, a complete a cappella version of the album.[145] The bluegrass band Poor Man's Whiskey frequently play the album in bluegrass style, calling the suite Dark Side of the Moonshine.[146] A string quartet version of the album was released in 2003.[147] In 2009, The Flaming Lips released a track-by-track remake of the album in collaboration with Stardeath and White Dwarfs, and featuring Henry Rollins and Peaches as guest musicians.[148]

Several notable acts have covered the album live in its entirety, and a range of performers have used samples from The Dark Side of the Moon in their own material. Jam-rock band Phish performed a semi-improvised version of the entire album as part their show on 2 November 1998 in West Valley City, Utah.[149] Progressive metal band Dream Theater have twice covered the album in their live shows,[150] and in May 2011 Mary Fahl released From the Dark Side of the Moon, a song-by-song "re-imagining" of the album.[151] Milli Vanilli used the tape loops from Pink Floyd's "Money" to open their track "Money", followed by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch on Music for the People.[152]

Dark Side of the Rainbow

Dark Side of the Rainbow and Dark Side of Oz are two names commonly used in reference to rumours (circulated on the Internet since at least 1994) that The Dark Side of the Moon was written as a soundtrack for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Observers playing the film and the album simultaneously have reported apparent synchronicities, such as Dorothy beginning to jog at the lyric "no one told you when to run" during "Time", and Dorothy balancing on a tightrope fence during the line "balanced on the biggest wave" in "Breathe".[153] David Gilmour and Nick Mason have both denied a connection between the two works, and Roger Waters has described the rumours as "amusing".[154] Alan Parsons has stated that the film was not mentioned during production of the album.[155]

Track listing

All lyrics are written by Roger Waters.

Side one
No.TitleMusicLead vocalsLength
1."Speak to Me"Nick Masoninstrumental1:13
2."Breathe" (listed as "Breathe in the Air" on the original LP label)Gilmour2:43
3."On the Run"
  • Waters
  • Gilmour
4."Time" (containing "Breathe (Reprise)")
  • Waters
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
  • Mason
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
5."The Great Gig in the Sky"Torry4:36
Total length:19:27
Side two
No.TitleMusicLead vocalsLength
2."Us and Them"
  • Waters
  • Wright
3."Any Colour You Like"
  • Gilmour
  • Mason
  • Wright
4."Brain Damage"WatersWaters3:49
Total length:23:42


Pink Floyd



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[250]
certified in 1991
2× Platinum 120,000^
Argentina (CAPIF)[250]
certified in 1994
2× Platinum 120,000^
Australia (ARIA)[251]
4× Platinum 60,000^
Australia (ARIA)[252] 14× Platinum 980,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[253] 2× Platinum 100,000*
Belgium (BEA)[254] Gold 25,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[255]
5× Platinum 50,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[256] 2× Diamond 2,000,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[257]
Immersion Box Set
Gold 50,000^
Czech Republic[258] Gold 50,000 
France (SNEP)[260] Platinum 2,084,500[259]
Germany (BVMI)[261] 2× Platinum 1,000,000^
Germany (BVMI)[262]
Gold 25,000^
Greece 45,000[263]
sales 1977–1989
Italy (FIMI)[265]
sales since 2009
5× Platinum 250,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[266] 16× Platinum 240,000^
Poland (ZPAV)[267]
Warner Music PL Edition
Platinum 100,000double-dagger
Poland (ZPAV)[268]
Pomatom EMI edition
Platinum 100,000*
Portugal (AFP)[269]
Silver 10,000^
Russia (NFPF)[270]
Platinum 20,000*
Spain 50,000[271]
United Kingdom (BPI)[272]
Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[274] 14× Platinum 4,300,000[273]
United States (RIAA)[275]
3× Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[276]
certified sales 1973–1998
15× Platinum 15,000,000^
United States
Nielsen sales 1991–2008
Worldwide 45,000,000[64]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history

Country Date Label Format Catalogue no.
Canada 1 March 1973 Harvest Records Vinyl, Cassette, 8-Track SMAS-11163 (LP)
4XW-11163 (CC)
8XW-11163 (8-Track)
United States Capitol Records
United Kingdom 16 March 1973 Harvest Records SHVL 804 (LP)
TC-SHVL 804 (CC)
Q8-SHVL 804 (8-Track)
Australia 1973 Vinyl Q4 SHVLA.804


Informational notes

  1. ^ "At one time, it was called Eclipse because Medicine Head did an album called Dark Side of the Moon. But that didn't sell well, so what the hell. I was against Eclipse and we felt a bit annoyed because we had already thought of the title before Medicine Head came out. Not annoyed at them but because we wanted to use the title." – David Gilmour[13]
  2. ^ This material was later released under the title Obscured by Clouds.[14]
  3. ^ Mason is responsible for most of the sound effects used on Pink Floyd's discography.
  4. ^ Harvest / Capitol 3609
  5. ^ According to Paul McCartney in a 1975 interview, Capitol executive Al Coury suggested that the band issue the single. McCartney recalled: "Al Coury, Capitol's ace plugger, rang up and told us 'I persuaded Pink Floyd to take "Money" off Dark Side of the Moon as a single, and you want to know how many units we sold?'"[84]
  6. ^ Harvest / Capitol 3832
  7. ^ According to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems[88]
  8. ^ EMI/Harvest CP35-3017
  9. ^ Harvest CDP 7 46001 2
  10. ^ Harvest Q4SHVL-804
  11. ^ Alan Parsons was paid a weekly wage of £35 while working on the original album (equivalent to £500 in 2019[43]).[119]
  12. ^ All post-2005 pressings including "The Great Gig in the Sky" credit both Wright and Torry for the song, as per her successful court challenge.[40]


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External links

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